How Busting Made Me Feel Good

I just got back from seeing Ghostbusters.

This is my face.



That was my face for much of the movie, to be honest.

I want to talk about why.

First, though, I want to say: it’s OK if you didn’t like the new Ghostbusters. That’s fine. Don’t even want to see it? That’s fine! People interact with entertainment differently and in no way do I advocate people spending time and money on something they are pretty sure they wouldn’t enjoy. It’s cool. We’re still cool. J

I interacted with this movie *very positively*, though. On the drive home I tried to articulate to Lucas why it impacted me so much and I started crying.

You know what? I’m more comfortable framing this in the form of fiction, so let’s just roll with that. Once upon a time, then…


…once upon a time there was a little girl who was fat and who had a low voice and a string of bad haircuts and loved fiction.

(…yeah, that’s me…)

Once upon a time there was a little girl who couldn’t understand what there was to enjoy about being a girl. Boys got all the fun jobs, boys had all the cool roles. Boys were the heroes, boys fought dragons, boys saved the world. Boys busted ghosts.

Girls got kidnapped. Girls needed saved.

I fed my brain with every scrap of text I could find — fantasy books, when I had my preference, and when I didn’t I read PA Game News and The Old Farmer’s Almanac and orchard magazines and my mom’s Dean Koontz novels. Whatever I could get my hands on, I read. I read like it was going out of style. I read like I needed it to survive.

I did need it, too.

And maybe it’s because I didn’t have a lot of direction when I was reading, maybe it’s because I didn’t have anyone to give me the right books, but my perception of what it meant to be a girl was this:

Girls need saved. Girls are thin and beautiful. Girls wear beautiful dresses. Girls are princesses.

Y’all, I’m not a princess. I’m just not. I’m not thin and I’m not beautiful and until *very very recently* I haven’t enjoyed wearing dresses and I am certainly not a princess. Princesses need saved because evil men want to force them into marriage, or a dragon demands a perfect sacrifice, or a queen is jealous of their beauty. I need saved because I’m clumsy and incompetent and just basically don’t know what I’m doing most of the time.

I don’t even know where I am in space most of the time. I have no spatial awareness. Ask my husband, he’ll confirm it.

So anyway, once upon a time there was a little girl who hated being a girl, who hated wearing dresses, who hated makeup and clothes and hair and not being able to sing soprano because no one ever thinks to teach you the alto line in VBS, who hated that she wasn’t like other girls and hated herself for hating that and yeah. Childhood was a fun ride.

It got better, a little bit, in middle and high school. Ali helped. We could be not normal girls together, and that was pretty awesome.

I ruined it, of course, because see above about my incompetence. But it gave me some hope that there were others out there like me.

And then I went to college, and LO and Lynn and Jill were the absolute perfect roommates for me. They did not seem to care how girly or not girly I was. They did my hair for dances and helped me get ready for dates with Lucas and we giggled about boys and they waited right along with me for the day that Lucas finally (finally!) proposed.

(They were all in my wedding.)

But we also all played Urban Ops together, and shooting terrorists was even more fun with Jill up on the top bunk holding her teddy bear and giggling. We played RPGs together. We saw geeky movies and complained about normal girls and had a super ton of fun being just us.

And I became OK with being a girl.

And I got married, and being a girl was AWESOME.

And I had kids, and being a girl was EVEN MORE AWESOME because I MADE PEOPLE, y’all, and fed them, and there is no sweeter name to me right now than “Mama” even when it’s said one million times in five minutes. I cherish it.

But OK, back to Ghostbusters.

I liked the first movies. I liked the cartoon show. I had a massive crush on Egon just like every other nerdy girl out there. The original Ghostbusters is great and so fun and wonderful.

But this Ghostbusters is for me.

If I had seen this movie when I was twelve…what a world of difference it would have made.

That goofy grin on my face up there? That started the first time we saw the shot of all four ladies powering up in a row, one after another, and it didn’t go away until we were driving home and I started crying.

Because here’s the thing. Somewhere there are girls that need this movie. Somewhere there are girls that have never seen themselves on screen, being the hero, not needing rescued by men, not being princesses. Somewhere there is a little me, who is fat and not very girly and certain only that she’s not a princess, and she can see a fat woman being a scientist and fighting off ghosts and being funny and competently leading a team and having important close friendships *and being a woman*.

Look at this Ghostbusters team. There’s a fat girl and a tall girl and some middling height skinny girls. There’s a black girl and a nerdy girl and a really offbeat girl. And they are scientists and normal people and they are fighters and they are brave and they are smart and they are determined and they are friends — real friends, not catty high school clique friends, but real grownup friends — and they are amazing.

Look, I’ve made it out. Thank goodness I’m not a kid anymore. I’m in my 30s, I have two kids, a wonderful husband. I’m a stay at home mom. I’ve been reaching for a skirt or dress more days than not this summer. I actually like being a girl now, because I’ve seen the world, I’ve seen outside small town PA and I know that I can be a girl while still having super short hair that is currently a quarter blue. I know now that I can still be a girl while wearing jeans, or leggings, or men’s tshirts, or dresses. I can still be a girl even though I pretty much never wear makeup. I can still be a girl even though I have never been, and never will be, a princess.

There are *lots* of ways to be a woman, and I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to realize that.

And that’s why I started crying on the way home: because this movie is what is going to tell some girl that they, too, will make it out. That no matter how they’re a girl, they’re doing just fine.

Was it a perfect movie? Nope! Do I have quibbles with parts of it? Yep!

But when those ladies pulled out their proton packs and powered them up, I was twelve again, and I felt all the empty places, the places where I felt inadequate with my femininity, the places where the only friendships modeled were fake friendships, the places that made me wonder what there was to enjoy about being a girl, all those places got filled up with four ladies, on the big screen, busting the heck out of some ghosts. Saving each other. Saving the world.

And it was good.



(But that fight scene with Holtzmann, right? DANG.)


2 thoughts on “How Busting Made Me Feel Good

  1. Good essay! I used to go to a lot of movies before Geoff and I started using up all our spare time stabbing people, but I really was sorry I didn’t see the new Ghostbusters (I guess they just call it Ghostbusters? No II on the end?). Maybe we’ll rent it. Of course we’re two years behind on watching Doctor Who. Re your theme in this entry: I was disappointed they never had a woman Doctor. But maybe with Capaldi quitting, they’ll do that. Of course, they never had a Black doctor, either. I hesitate to bring this up with my Whovian buds, but it is something to ponder.


    1. Even doing something like bringing back a great female Time Lady (for example, The Rani) to fill the companion role would be a great step forward. I would also love to see Richard Ayoade fill the Doctor’s shoes, although I suspect we all have our favorites. 😉


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