Since it was announced, people (if men actually count as people) have been losing their shit over the new Ghostbusters reboot simply because the Ghostbusters are all women this time around. If a particularly shrill segment of the male population can’t deal with the notion of proton guns as functioning ghost-capturing tools and not just neon penis extensions, could they possibly deal with a gay female Ghostbuster? A real, you know, lesbian type?
We won’t find out any time soon, because Ghostbusters director Paul Feig (also responsible for Bridesmaids and Freaks and Geeks) talks right around the subject in an interview with The Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato, even as he assures us that he hates doing so. Says the Beast, of Kate McKinnon’s character in the movie, Holtzmann:
But while [Kate] McKinnon is SNL’s first openly lesbian cast member, Ghostbusters offers only hints on Holtzmann, who spends her free time shamelessly flirting with Erin. I ask Feig: Is Holtzmann gay?
He pauses, smiling. “What do you think?”
I’d like to think yes, I say. He offers a grinning, silent nod. “I hate to be coy about it,” he offers. “But when you’re dealing with the studios and that kind of thing…” He shrugs apologetically.
“You know, Kate is who she is and I love the relationship between Kate and Melissa’s characters,” he says. “I think it’s a very interesting, close relationship. If you know Kate at all she’s this kind of pansexual beast where it’s just like everybody who’s around her falls in love with her and she’s so loving to everybody she’s around. I wanted to let that come out in this character.”
Does it really matter if any given fictional character is gay or straight? Well, not really, on its face—it’s not like Holtzmann being openly one thing or another will help her or hurt her as she goes about the rest of her life, since that life is confined to what makes it to the screen. Anyway, ambiguity can enhance fiction, giving the illusion of depth to a two-dimensional character (and if there’s anything blockbusters are short on it’s ambiguity and depth).
But by the same token, if what we’re talking about isn’t a big deal, then why shouldn’t Holtzmann be gay? If she was, in fact, conceived that way, but Feig is trying to obscure that through coy hedging because Columbia Pictures (owned by Sony) is concerned that a gay character will be unmarketable, or offensive to idiots, or maybe reach out from the screen to molest the children sitting in the theater, then that’s fucked up. Ambiguity is fun until it exists to service those who are still uncomfortable with the idea that a good guy can be gay. What this creative decision, alongside Feig’s apparent admission of it perpetuate, is covering, the notion that in order to be socially acceptable, a queer person must tone down her sexuality.
It seems that given the lack of LGBT characters in major movies, the dearth of out actors, the overall avoidance of gay subject matter in Hollywood, Feig & co., had the opportunity for easy diversity and forfeited it to take the safest route possible.
Feig is coy on the matter of his character’s sexuality, but elsewhere in the interview, he pats himself on the back for what his movie’s representation represents:
“I’m proud of the fact that you have four women starring in a movie and three of them are in their forties,” he beams. “I really credit [former studio head] Amy Pascal and Sony for letting me do this. It’s crazy that that would be a big thing now, and it’s sad that it is. But thank god.”
I reached out to Sony for clarification on Feig’s “But when you’re dealing with the studios and that kind of thing…” comment and will update this post if/when I hear back.