“You know what, though?” my husband said on the way home from seeing Ghostbusters last night. “I think the best thing about the whole movie was Holtzmann. She was funny and weird and smart and badass. I think she’s my new girlfriend.”
“I called her first.”
“I call her harder.”
“This is Abbie Mills all over again.”
Little did we know at the time that the entire internet is abuzz with Holtzmann love. Homegirl is a sensation. And Ghostbusters: Lady Balls Be Blowin’ Up is a triumph.
But I don’t want to talk about FILM and analyze FILMMAKING and psychoanalyze and criticize and jazzercise this piece. I want to tell you how it made me feeeeeeel.
I spend a lot of time in introspection because I am an introvert and what I’ve been working on lately is how my upbringing led to some of my not so great decisions, some of my unfortunate delusions, and a lot of misconceptions about confidence, power, and relating to others. Oh and how Ghostbusters could have helped.
I had She-Ra growing up and the original sucky movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but otherwise, most of the women I saw in movies and TV were of the super hot trophy variety and what power they had came almost entirely from their appearance and how the possibility of possessing them (in whichever way was most appropriate to the rating of that show) was a main motivator for the males in the story.
The cartoon Heathcliff was one of my inspirations for this concept of using appearance/sex appeal to control others way back before I knew what sex even was or what “suggestive” meant in relation to my body and the use thereof. It was that poofy-chested, pink leg warmer-wearing bad guy’s girlfriend who made me think all I needed to do was drape myself across a picnic table and wait for a boy to make goo-goo eyes and do whatever I wanted. Because that’s what all the girl cartoons did. Even Bugs Bunny in girl clothes had power in his prettiness. And I got it in my elementary school mind that that’s all I had to do too. In fact, that’s all I thought I could do because there were no Doc McStuffins or Sophia the Firsts or mothereffing badass women Ghostbusters having adventures and effing shizz up without showing off their boobies or midriffs.
She-Ra and Teela and Cheetara and Buffy were all babes in tight clothes. There were no female Transformers. Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite had no power or influence. For a domineering girl in the 80s, the only way I could see to affect the world was through sexy manipulation of males.
As you can imagine, that kind of understanding of power dynamics made adolescence very difficult, especially since I was not, in fact, a super attractive sexy girl who boys tripped over to do my bidding. Dating was incomprehensible from that point of view and so never worked out well. Friendships with boys were fraught with misunderstanding. And having self-confidence when you don’t look the way you think you need to in order to have any agency was near impossible.
We’ll save all the ways I overcompensated, my family and friends’ contribution to my insecurities, and The College Years for my memoir and how I escaped the cycle for my self-help book. I’ll let you know when they’re available on Amazon. I imagine sometime after I start actually writing them.
I keep trying to imagine my childhood with Rey from The Force Awakens or Holtzmann and the gang as my role models. I’m no gun-licking, ghost-punching genius scientist or anything but even having someone like me now, an adult woman who teaches respect and compassion to the kids in my after school program while building confidence in one’s own strengths and patience and diligence in overcoming one’s weaknesses could have made a major impact.
Instead, I grew up with all those internet trolls who threaten sexual violence on women who challenge the misogynist status quo as my classmates and peers. I was made to feel small and inconsequential by my lack of sex appeal because that’s the only value I was told I could hold. I dated boys who treated me like a third place trophy and suffered condescension from male authority figures who just assumed I’d never amount to much.
Ghostbusters felt like vindication. It felt like who I wanted to be when I grew up: a strong smart woman who could take care of herself and effect change the world without exposing her body. My inner child rejoiced and my outer adult swaggered out of that theater feeling like girlz do rule the world. And also like sex appeal has nothing to do with boobies and bellybuttons and everything to do with being your weird wonderful brilliant badass self.