What Are You Reading…On Comedy Movies and Misogyny

An image created by the online movement.
An image created by the anti-Ghostbusters movement that has been spreading online.  Click the image to see a larger version.

The reboot of the 1984 movie Ghostbusters was released nationwide last Friday. While it has received mostly positive reviews, there is a contingent of the online community who find the movie’s whole concept objectionable. A principal reason for this is that the movie’s cast is all female, which these critics equate with “butchering a remake of a beloved classic” by infusing it with “awkward political posturing,” putting the whole movie in service of a “hysterical” and “progressive feminist” ideology. The pushback against this movie has been so intense that its YouTube trailer has become the most disliked in YouTube history.

Putting aside the sillier arguments in support of this position (ex. “But how can I [hate women]? My daughter is one.”), one of the issues raised by the movie is how pop culture’s treatment of women—and the role humor plays in particular—can perpetuate sexism. More than jokes with sexist stereotypes, one of the outcomes of this debate is the resurgence of the idea that only men can be funny (a common refrain in comments on the trailer). While the comment may seem laughable at first given the number of popular female comedians, it is worth asking whether our perception of humor is gendered. In other words, are the people claiming this movie is unfunny because it stars women in bad faith, or are they socialized to only perceive something as funny when it comes from a man? Intrigued by what research has shown about this topic, I did a search to see what has been published. Here’s what I found:

What are you reading?

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