The Ghostbusters gender debate: which side are you on?

If anyone should have an axe to grind with the new Ghostbusters reboot, it’s me.

I have lived and breathed Ghostbusters for pretty much my entire life. Watching both original movies hundreds of times, consuming more comic books and episodes of The Real Ghostbusters than I care to count, and continuing to cherish my worryingly extensive collection of action figures inspired by the franchise well into my adult life, it’s a very big deal to me.

In fact, I’m writing this now wearing one of three ’Busters t-shirts that I currently own (it would be many more, if my better half would allow it).

I once even made said wife accompany me on a long and sprawling tour of New York City’s public transport system to find the actual Ghostbusters fire station in Tribeca. It was awesome.

For yours truly, and countless thousands of others like me around the world, Ghostbusters isn’t just a movie. It’s not just a cartoon.

For us it’s, well, a bit of an obsession.

And die-hard fans, for decades, held out hope for just one thing. The four original spook-busters reuniting once again for Ghostbusters III.

A third instalment of the franchise was the only thing we wished for. As the years passed, it became more and more unlikely. But we never gave up.

Then two things happened.

Harold Ramis, co-creater of the concept and the film’s beloved Egon Spengler, passed away aged just 68. And then Paul Feig, best known for directing 2011 comedy smash Bridesmaids, announced that he was at the helm of a Sony reboot. With an all-female cast.

The internet exploded with the news, as Feig’s declaration sent shockwaves through the Ghostbusters community. If the idea of a franchise ‘refresh’ wasn’t enough of a shock to absorb, the concept was being completely flipped on its head with a full-on gender reversal.

Initially, I was among the outraged. Not necessarily because the new movie would centre around four leading ladies, but rather because the film would be going ahead without Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. In my mind, these four were irreplaceable. They were the Ghostbusters.

But the deal was done, and shooting was going ahead. There were two options: either embrace it or fight it.

I chose neither. Instead, I sat back, firmly on the sidelines, and spent one full year trying as hard as I could to avoid any spoilers, so that I could eventually watch it myself without the opinions of others influencing my view.

The big plus-side of taking this approach was that I deftly avoided having any part in the big ‘gender debate’ or being sucked into a campaign that saw the 2016 Ghostbusters’ official trailer become the most disliked in YouTube history.

I’m really glad I managed to avoid watching this until after I’d seen the movie in full. It’s a complete misrepresentation of the film as a whole (a point that the show’s lead, Melissa McCarthy, even referenced in a recent interview).

Had I watched it in isolation, it would have confirmed all of my worst fears. I would have been right in thinking that Feig had foregone much of the franchise’s core essence in favour of cheap gags and girl power.

Which, having now had the pleasure of seeing the new Ghostbusters, I can happily confirm is not the case.

Yes, that’s right. The pleasure. Without giving anything away (in a truly bizarre turn of events, Ghostbusters has launched in UK cinema four days ahead of the US), it’s an absolute joy to behold. I’m so relieved to be able to say that.

Dripping in nostalgia and with enough cameos, references and iconic set-pieces to please even the most ardent of fans, it’s a hugely fun family blockbuster and one that is set to make the franchise relevant to a whole new generation.

And at the end of the day, that’s what matters.

I can say that the new Ghostbusters is good, great even, because I actually bit the bullet and paid my money to watch it. Despite my reservations, which were many, I gave it a chance and went in with an open mind.

Unfortunately, there’s an entire community – now being dubbed The Ghostbros - that seem committed to seeing the film fail. It’s sad to see, and seems to be driven wholly by the fact that the reboot champions four women in what has always been regarded as distinctly male roles.

I hope, with time, that many of these will also watch the movie, and will change their stance. Because, at its heart, this film isn’t really for us - the thirty-somethings looking to relive our youth.

It’s for today’s youth, giving them new heroes to believe in and look up to.

This is a movie that my son, when he’s a bit older, will be able to watch and enjoy with me. I’ll savour that experience, and take great joy in showing him the originals too. The fact that the movie is fronted by four leading ladies won’t diminish his enjoyment of the film; if anything, it will enhance it for him. While for my generation it was only the boys that got to be Peter, Ray, Egon or Winston, girls and boys of this new generation will have the opportunity to play the part of spook-hunters together, drawing on the best that the old and the new era has to offer.

2016′s reboot is making Ghostbusters relevant, and exciting, for a whole new audience, and has thrust the franchise back into the mainstream.

It’s helping a whole new generation to understand just how good bustin’ feels.

And that’s all most fans have wanted for years.

I hope that fact – coupled with the movie’s plentiful and respectful nods to its origins – will prove enough to end the big gender debate. Once and for all.