Chris Hemsworth's 'Ghostbusters' Character Is An Enlightening Role In The 2016 Reboot
It's been less than a week since the U.S. premiere of Ghostbusters, marking the ostensible peak of speculation about this reboot. "Will it be good?" "Will it flop?" "Will the fanboys be proven right or wrong in their dislike of the reboot?" It seems that these questions have now gotten a rousing reply: Ghostbusters is a damn good summer movie. Since it was officially announced in 2014, it has undergone more scrutiny than reboots are often prone to. The biggest bone of contention for some (but hey, don't look at me) was that there would be an all-female cast taking the place of an originally male cast. As a result, Ghostbusters has gone to further-than-necessary lengths to prove that it's a film focused on flipping the script.
Where the original film celebrated its protagonists as scientists capable of using their nerdiness and machismo to save the world, a female-powered cast took their places. This version of Ghostbusters creates a space for women to be just as heroic, brainy, and lovable as men without dumbing them down. What's even more delightful is how Ghostbusters continues to unfold itself to us in new and surprising ways.
Take Chris Hemsworth's role as Exhibit A of this notion. Hemsworth plays Kevin, the lovably daffy, muscle-bound secretary at Ghostbusters HQ. Hemsworth calls him "a big, dumb puppy dog." Co-star Kate McKinnon says he's a, "Ken doll with the insides scooped out." OK, McKinnon, that's a bit of a graphic visual, but I get it. Kevin's the hunk with the funky junk who's kind of a lunk. Sure, Kevin can't answer phones and doesn't grasp how glasses really work; that's his charm. One-note, brainless, eye-candy prop supreme and perhaps just a bit undercooked, Kevin is as generic as they come. While Kevin may not be super functional in his role in the film, his function in the narrative of the film is actually essential to keeping the "flipped script" vibes of Ghostbusters alive.
Hemsworth is playing a character with qualities frequently bestowed upon women in comedy. Heck, let me edit that: women in a sweeping variety of genres. If we only consider recent comedies, glaring examples pop up. Whether it's playing the out-of-touch wife (Christina Applegate in Vacation or Linda Cardellini in Daddy's Home), the love interest (Olivia Munn in Ride Along 2) or just a sex object (Jennifer Aniston in We're The Millers and Horrible Bosses), women get the short end of many a stick. There's obviously so many more, but these kinds of roles seem deeply ingrained in our consciousness.
Kevin gives credence to what female filmgoers have been saying for decades: Stop giving women half-baked versions of ourselves. It it a bit of relief to see a man in a role so decidedly objectified that it's hard to be annoyed. Kevin provides a channel for male Ghostbusters audiences to get a reflection back of what's really wrong when a character is little more than set dressing. In doing so, Ghostbusters continues to comment on the male backlash with outwardly stating it. Amusingly, this has left some critics reacting just how you would expect:
The biggest parallel here might be Magic Mike XXL. The men being objectified were also protagonists acting as conduits for female empowerment ideologies. In Ghostbusters, Kevin, as Allison P. Davis at The Ringer puts it, "doesn't just exist for our unthinking objectification. [He]'s here to teach us a lesson. [Kevin] is a majestic portrait of male privilege that’s made 95 percent more tolerable by his perfect, scruffy jawline and tight butt."
While both films repurpose objectified men, it's Kevin who is made as an example of objectifying gone awry. In some ways it's tough to watch Kevin, because it's quickly made plain that he's not going to develop much as the film progresses. What's a funny turn for female viewers is a (possibly) uncomfortable but necessary (in my opinion) role-reversal for male viewers.
Kevin is just another major reason Ghostbusters is such an important film, especially in 2016. The reversal of tradition is what makes this reboot so iconic. It's reshaped the way we watch female heroes in action; now, with Kevin, Ghostbusters has also revealed Hollywood's tendency towards overly objectified characters.
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