The question “what is Ghostbusters?” is one that would seemingly have a direct, straightforward answer. But a new box set has thrown the question to the winds yet again. The Ghostbusters Ultimate Collection, a new collection of Blu-rays that recently became available for pre-order on Walmart, has stirred controversy for what it doesn’t include: Paul Feig’s 2016 reboot, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call.
With no details included in the listing yet, here’s what the box appears to include: the 1984 Ghostbusters movie, a reprinting of the 1985 book Making Ghostbusters by Don Shay, which details the production of that original movie right down to notes accompanying the script (and is described by the Patreon Ghostbusters News as a “highly rare, holy grail” for collectors), the 1989 sequel Ghostbusters 2, 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and what appear to be two discs of bonus content.
Add up the two discs presumed to come with each movie, all packaged within a box made to resemble a proton pack, and the Ultimate Collection stands as a fairly comprehensive Ghostbusters package for a person who would spend $145 (or $14 per month on layaway) on a comprehensive Ghostbusters package. But can it be the “Ultimate” listing without Feig’s movie, which starred Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth?
Feig doesn’t think so. “I know this must be a mistake,” he tweeted at Sony Pictures, after reading the news on SlashFilm. He notes in the tweet that the movie has its own fans, boasts cameos from the original crew, and won the Kids’ Choice Award for Best Picture in 2017. “So, I guess this was just an oversight?” (The Hamden Journal has reached out to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for clarification and will update this story when comment is available.)
Responding to Feig’s tweet are both fans and detractors of his movie, which is now often referred to as Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. “This is why I don’t participate in Ghostbusters fandom anymore. The complete disregard for women. I know where I’m not wanted…,” reads one tweet, which is met with a multitude of responses pointing out that actually, Afterlife had a female protagonist.
While some argue that Answer the Call’s absence is due to it taking place in a different universe than the other three Ghostbusters movies, the battle lines on Feig’s films have been set since January 27, 2015 when the all-female Ghostbusters crew was announced.
The backlash was intense. “In the weeks after the announcement about the movie, I was so inundated with hate, that I almost went, ‘Maybe I should just not do this, maybe this is a bad idea’,” Feig told Yahoo! Movies a few months later. Wiig told the Los Angeles Times that “it didn’t make me mad, it just really bummed me out.”
The vitriol continued into 2016, when Answer the Call’s trailer was flooded with dislikes, quickly becoming what appeared to be the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube history.
As noted by Alissa Wilkinson in Vox, the intensity of the backlash against Answer the Call was reminiscent of “Gamergate, which began with the bizarre and misogynistic harassment of a number of women in the gaming world, grew into a full-blown online troll onslaught, and eventually became a blueprint for recruiting mostly young men to the burgeoning alt-right. The Ghostbusters backlash was also perpetuated largely by a violently vocal minority and took some of the same shape as Gamergate, particularly in the ways it targeted women and people of color.”
A movie whose hype cycle was dominated by the culture war, Answer the Call was left without many natural allies and several vocal enemies. Some saw it as destroying their childhood, others saw it as an easy cash-in reboot. But that didn’t stop it from making money — it ultimately made over $200 million worldwide.
Of course, it’s unexpected for a movie to have “allies” and “enemies” in the first place. Speaking in 2017 at the Vulture Festival, Feig regretted that Answer the Call “became so much of a cause. I think for some of our audience, they were like, ‘What the fuck? We don’t wanna go to a cause. We just wanna watch a fuckin’ movie.’”
But for anyone hoping to just watch the 2016 Ghostbusters for what it is, Sony’s new box set, as it stands from the listing, won’t be answering the call.