Ghostbusters’ New Villain Is Straight out of Reddit, and It’s Glorious
G'busters *tips hat.*
Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot hits theatres this Friday, and if you believe the IMDB ratings—LOL sorry, sprained something laughing—it’s an unmitigated clusterflick of a film. However, if you take the bold and somewhat controversial step of listening to people who have actually seen the movie (I know—take a pause—that’s a big thing I just said), you’ll come away with the impression that Ghostbusters, with its 77% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is … pretty good.
Indeed, that’s my take on the film. It’s by no means perfect, and it’s not within sliming distance of the original in terms of quality, but it is a very solid, entertaining film. Considering this is the summer that’s so far given us Warcraft, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and The Legend of Tarzan, “doesn’t make me want to disappear into a lead-lined bunker to live out the remainder of my days with only a cat food bowl and small bits of string for company” is practically a ringing endorsement.
VAGUE GHOSTBUSTERS PLOT SPOILERS FOLLOW.
There is one thing, however, that Ghostbusters absolutely has going for it, and that is Kate McKinnon, who makes my Kinsey scale go haywire like whoa. This post is not about Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters, because if it were, it would just be ASDAHUISVGSIUCHAIU and the winking gif over. And over. And over.
This post is about one of the other great things about Ghostbusters, which is this: The villain of the piece? Played by Neil Casey, wants to kick off a poltergeist-y apocalypse? Yeah, him. As I wrote in my review, he’s like if the worst parts of Reddit were a person. (Except PG-13 rated, so ix-nay on the rape threats.)
Rowan is a person we all know, by virtue of having been on the Internet for any length of time. He’s the toxicity of nerd culture personified, a person who feels like his own ill treatment at the hands of mainstream society entitles him to mistreat others. He feels he is owed—owed respect, owed obedience—from people he believes to be stupid and therefore lesser than himself. He is bullied-turned-bully.
That’s not me reading too much into things, by the way. Here, read some of Rowan’s dialogue. To confirm: Yes, these are taken from the movie and not from some particularly cringeworthy, Return of Kings-lite subreddit:
- “You have been bullied your entire life. Now you will be the bully.”
- “They always ignore you. They are walking sewage concerned only with trivial matters.”
- “Trust in your abilities and the universe shall bend to your will.”
- “This world cannot be cleansed fast enough.”
- “I am a genius. I see things that no one else does, and for it, I am rewarded with nothing but scorn and mockery.”
If you’re wondering whether one particular trademark of the sexist Reddit set—the belief in women as a commodity whose affection is inherently owed to them—is present in Rowan as well, the answer is “sort of.” There is some casual sexism built into Rowan’s character. He tells the Ghostbusters that they “shoot like girls” and chides them for taking a while to get somewhere by saying they must have been picking out their clothes, and in a small moment that rings all too true, two waitresses argue over which of them has to take his table. It’s never outright stated, but the subtext is there for anyone who has … you know, existed. Rowan is a creep to women. If at this point you’re wondering, yes, Ghostbusters was co-written by a woman: Katie Dippold, of Parks & Recreation and Paul Feig’s The Heat. If Rowan doesn’t go into full-on Nice Guy territory, his needling of the Ghostbusters due to their gender not expanding beyond a few stray comments, that’s mostly because the movie itself doesn’t make much of an issue of the fact the Ghostbusters are women. They just … are, and no one much thinks it’s weird.
Rowan’s sense of entitlement is made even starker when contrasted against the character arc of Erin Gilbert, played by Kristen Wiig. Not to go into too much detail, but like Rowan, Erin also feels underappreciated by society at large. She also craves validation, at times to a fault. It’s something she wrestles with and eventually overcomes, realizing that it’s what you do that matters, not what other people think of what you do. Use your passion and intellect for good, and you’ll reap the rewards. Complain about how you should be rewarded because of how brilliant you are, and SPOILER .
“For me, a big message that we were trying to [include] was believing in yourself, and having a passion and sticking to it,” Dippold has said of writing the Ghostbusters script with Feig. “Everyone’s so worried about getting validation, whether it’s through Instagram or whatever it is. Who cares about any of that? Just follow your passion and find like-minded, strange people.” This Ghostbusters, as its predecessor, is a love letter to being a geek, specifically to geek culture—to finding people who are obsessed with the same things as you, and using that passion and sense of community to make the world a better place. Erin represents the light side of that, and Rowan the dark, his resentment twisted into something evil.
Nerds: Use your powers for good. Don’t be a Rowan. Be a Ghostbuster!
[Editor’s Note: After thoughtful feedback from commenters, this piece was edited to remove the use of the word “neckbeard.” The Mary Sue apologizes for any offense.]
(featured image via Columbia Pictures)
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