bazin cloth

This woman tho. important person in resistance. looking amazing. damn.

Who You Gonna Call? (And Who Will Take the Message)

This is a story about Ghostbusters. Kind of. It’s a story about growing up as a girl in the ‘90s and playing with boys.

I was born in 1987, let’s get that out of the way first: by the time I was a kid old enough to understand games and interpersonal play, there were a few options for I-saw-this-on-TV-let’s-reenact-it games at recess and play-dates, but they were not great if you were a girl.

There was Star Wars, for one:

Because here’s how it was to play Star Wars, when the boys got to chase each other with rulers and breathe through their hands to be Darth Vader: you were Princess Leia, because she was a princess, so the boys were being nice by letting you play at all if you got to be a princess.

(NOW HERE’S THE THING: LEIA IS THE BEST PART OF THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY, but if you’re steeped in being taught Star Wars by six-year-olds who learned Star Wars from dads who were jet-propelled into puberty by the Metal Bikini of Oppression scene, playing Star Wars at recess meant sitting in the corner with your head down near the kid who got to play Jabba the Hutt and not being allowed to talk, and then the kids who got to play Luke and Han burst in to save you – which I would not find out is not actually how that scene goes for years, because boys don’t really like that Leia saves herself. So in play, she didn’t. Eventually I wangled my way into being allowed to play Oola because I took dance lessons, but that wasn’t really any better.)

There came Jurassic Park in 1993:

But my GOD was it too scary for this kid. I tried to get the other kids to play Ghostwriter with me, but no one else knew how to read and write very well and it was kind of hard to solve mysteries unless you had someone set up a mystery, and it was no fun to both set up and solve your own mystery. Defeats the purpose.

And, mainly, there was Ghostbusters.

When I played with my cousin, who is a year older and an only child and a boy, we had Ghostbusters. (And Ninja Turtles. Spoiler for how this story goes: when we played Ninja Turtles, he was all four Ninja Turtles and my job was to sit somewhere and be very quiet and distressed until he could save me. So. I did not love playing Ninja Turtles.)

Now, I’m gonna be honest: I had never seen Ghostbusters, because if Jurassic Park was too scary then good lord were my parents NEVER gonna let me see Ghostbusters. My knowledge of it came from commercials for the cartoon on Saturday mornings when I watched Garfield and Beekman’s World, and from being forced to choke down lukewarm Ecto Cooler at every class party.

But my cousin LOVED Ghostbusters. Loved it. He thought it was the coolest thing in the entire world, and I thought he was the coolest person in the entire world, so that made Ghostbusters cool, too.

Here’s how you played Ghostbusters, if you were a girl in 1992: you sat upstairs in your grandfather’s home office and answered the phone when your aunt and grandma would call to have a ghost busted. You’d write a message on a Post-It. And your cousin would go downstairs to fight the ghosts.

I tried to follow downstairs a few times to at least watch him do the playing part by fighting imaginary ghosts, but he worried that the agency would miss a call if no one was there to answer. The fact that my aunt and grandma clearly would not call if he was already there escaped us both, to be fair.

Who you gonna call?

Literally me. They were calling me to tell me about the ghost in the kitchen pantry or the downstairs powder room. Me.

But I knew it wasn’t actually me.

That wasn’t how games worked, if you played with boys. Playing games with boys meant sitting quietly and in some distress until they did something exciting and saved you, or the city, or a set of stuffed animal hostages.

And it never crossed my mind to be like, “Hey, can I put on the Proton Pack and go bust a ghost?” because why would it? The Ghostbusters weren’t girls. They didn’t wear the proton packs and they didn’t fight the ghosts. My understanding of movies, really, even then, from coed games was: girls don’t wear much of anything and they never fight. They don’t even get to talk unless it’s to ask what someone else needs the boys to do and then thank them for doing what they’re supposed to.

So of course when it came to playing on my own or with other girls, we were going to be drawn to American Girls and Barbie and The Little Mermaid (another movie in which the main female character does not speak until/because of a man, js). The girls did things. They were there, and they spoke, and they more or less wore clothes, which is important when you’re six, frankly. But they weren’t play-date games or recess games or games for the park, because American Girls were so expensive and Barbies were full of tiny shoes that were easily lost and there weren’t many ways to play The Little Mermaid outside of a kiddie pool. You needed STUFF to play girl games. You needed to have the dolls in your hands. Or a pool.

Girl games were separate. And had their time and place. And otherwise, you played the boys’ games, because they could be played anywhere and with anything and – ahem – they were for everyone. Ahem.

Because, I suppose, if you’re being called a princess, it’s okay that all you’re allowed to do is sit silently and wait to be told what to do. That’s a good game for everyone involved. Or, you know, you’re being a secretary and that’s a working woman and it’s liberated! Or something. (I mean, in real life, sure, but not so much when it’s all you can do for a fun time.)

I don’t love Ghostbusters – I actually think the 1984 movie’s kinda boring and the cartoon show is just goofy – but you bet your ass I’m seeing the reboot at least twice. Because the girls wear the proton packs and they fight. And they’re scientists!! OH MY GOD, THEY’RE SCIENTISTS, I’M CRYING. I’m so excited.

I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens 12 times in the theater because Rey wields the lightsaber and flies the Falcon and not only saves herself, but Finn overtly and the galaxy implicitly. And she, and Leia, and even Bazine Netal, wear clothes and speak.

I will physically fight anyone who thinks that it’s overboard to reboot all of these classic franchises with increased, starring, active, rich roles for women. Because I am a girl, and I’m not going to sit silently until it’s time to thank a guy for doing what he’s fucking supposed to do.