Just a few years ago, when you could actually go and sit in a movie theater, Hollywood was busy plumbing their archives in order to turn old intellectual property into new films. But over time, many fans who had grown attached -- arguably too attached -- to these original films became upset at the seemingly relentless string of reboots, prequels, and sequels being forced down their throats. And in 2016, a certain trailer for a certain film became a flashpoint for this audience backlash. As a result, it became arguably the most hated movie trailer on the Internet. And that trailer was the all-female Ghostbusters reboot.
The first trailer for 2016's Ghostbusters film hit the Internet on March 3rd. Within 24 hours, it had been viewed more than 24 million times on YouTube, and within a week it had racked up some 60 million views across various platforms. But unfortunately for the people behind the film, all of that attention didn't translate into anything positive.
Within the first 24 hours on YouTube, the trailer received nearly 14,000 “dislikes” compared to only 12,000 “likes.” Since then, more than a million viewers have clicked the “dislike” button, making it the most disliked trailer on the platform. At one point, it was the ninth-most-disliked YouTube video overall, although it no longer holds a spot in the top 20.
Why was a trailer for a reboot of Ghostbusters so polarizing? Part of it had to do with good old-fashioned sexism. A very loud subset of professed fans of the original film took issue with the all-female cast of Paul Feig’s reboot. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon replaced the original quartet of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. But to be clear, they were not supposed to be female versions of the original film's male characters. The 2016 Ghostbusters was intended as a reboot that existed in a different continuity from the original film, and many members of the original cast made cameos as different characters. But these cameos did little to convince angry, skeptical fans.
As trolls tend to do, they devoted a ton of energy to waging war on the film. That extended far beyond simply clicking “Dislike” on YouTube, and involved a full-on multi-front assault on the movie's marketing. That included, naturally, Twitter, where director Paul Feig took a stand against trolls who were particularly pointed in their insults of cast member Leslie Jones.
While some of the backlash emanated from sexist, racist trolls, many fans of the original Ghostbusters made legitimate gripes about the reboot, and resented being lumped in with the rest. Director Ivan Reitman (who made the original film) alluded to this fact in a Mashable interview.
"I think there’s way too much talk about gender [in the discussion of the new film]", Reitman said. "I think that many of the people who were complaining were actually lovers of the [original] movie, not haters of women.”
Oftentimes widespread controversy can be good for a film’s commercial performance, but in the case of the Ghostbusters reboot, that wasn't the case.
"I think it kind of hampered us a little bit because the movie became so much of a cause," director Paul Feig said at the Vulture Festival. "I think for some of our audience, they were like, 'What the f*ck? We don't wanna go to a cause. We just wanna watch a f*ckin' movie.'"
In any case, the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot has come and gone, and there’s already a new Ghostbusters film on the way: Ghostbusters: Afterlife (trailer below). This latest entry seems to promise a greater level of respect and reverence for the original film. It’s even directed by Jason Reitman, the son of the first film’s director. The first trailer for that film came out in December of last year, and failed to ignite the kind of negative controversy generated by 2016’s reboot. But only time will tell whether that will translate to greater commercial appeal.