Ghostbusters: You Just Got Holtzmann'd, Baby

I really do want to talk about this scene, because I've NEVER seen anything like it before or since.

I love action movies. And I have plenty of movies where thin willowy River Tam does slender ballet moves as she gracefully carves up enemies in a skinny way. And that's nice? It has its place? But this isn't fight-ballet. It's not pretty waif-fu. Nor is it the polar opposite, the rarer Atomic Blonde "everyone gets their face smashed in, including the heroine" response to that trope. This is a different third thing.

Holtzmann is competent and fully in control in this scene (much like the waif-fu, less like the gritty inversion) but in a very SOLID way. She's not a man, but she's allowed to move like we let men move. She STRIDES. She takes LONG STEPS, the kind of long steps which really can't be taken in River Tam skirts. When she kneels, it's just a normal knee on the ground, not a pretty aerobic stretch that juts her boobs out.




She gets to have facial expressions. Grimaces. Not perfect still serenity (because facial expressions make girls "ugly") and not pain. Just the grimace of YAAARGH I'M USING A MUSCLE TO DO A THING. And she gets to celebrate and gloat after!! Women never get to do that? Because it'd make them less likable or less in control? They're supposed to be calm and quiet and like well yes obviously I was going to win.

It's the difference between this and that. And it's SUCH a big difference.

I'd say it's the difference between a female gaze and the male gaze.

The female gaze presents Holtzmann as a person first, and deeply sexually attractive second. The male gaze positions River as sexually attractive first, and a person... distantly second. I don't even see the utility of that pose River is doing; her foot is so extended that she can't put any weight on it. She'll have to bring it back in just to stand up.

That scene, the sheer UNIQUENESS of that scene, was what moved Ghostbusters from "great" to "one of the best" for me. The movie isn't perfect and I hope we get more and better and my "best" list continues to shine. I need more scenes like that. I spent a long time not realizing I'm queer because while I'm attracted to women, the "willowy River Tam is broken at you" character does nothing* for me.

(*I am really suspicious of guys who live for the "willowy River Tam is broken at you" character. The girl needs meds, counseling, and hot soup in her; not dick! Which are you hoping to provide, buddy? My internal reaction to "willowy River Tam is broken at you" is to brush her hair and to locate the one psychiatrist available in the 'verse.)

Honestly, one of Firefly's biggest failings is that the lady characters all pretty much stayed in their own Bechdel-failing corners and never banded together to cuddle River and counsel her and feed her hot soup.

While I have you here, read my favorite Firefly rant.

[Random Commenter] River’s fight scenes were amazing tho, the whole tone of the movie is better actually. Sometimes women that fight get hurt, a movie like Ghostbusters will never dare show that.

As noted in thread, that exists. A good example is Atomic Blonde and I enjoyed it very much. But I also enjoy movies where women can be effortlessly in control of the situation in ways reserved for men. (Also, the women in GB *do* get hurt in that fight? Just not Holtzmann.)

"Women who fight get hurt" is always a faintly threatening statement when coming from men, and it's one reason why we CAN'T just have WaifFu Versus Atomic Blonde. Because when it's a binary choice, then it reads like women are hurt as PUNISHMENT for not being waifs.

Waif-fu is fine. GrittyFight is fine. But if it's either/or, then they're positioned in opposition to each other, and the violence experienced in the latter looks like a punishment for not being the former. Ghostbusters, by taking the "effortless skill" from Waif-fu and combining it with "masculine moves" from GrittyFight, provides for a third option which is a vital addition to the genre.


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