When there’s something strange (sexism!) in the neighborhood, when there’s something weird (online trolls!) and it don’t look too good, who you gonna call?
When you need some brightly lit damage control and a worrisome narrative to redirect, who you gonna call? Ellen!
Served up as a buffet feast for online critics who, according to fans and supporters, have launched gender-based attacks against them, both the all-female cast of Ghostbusters and Hillary Clinton appeared on Ellen Thursday afternoon.
As the objections of Ghostbusters purists incensed at the idea of a reboot of the classic film with all-female cast members reached a critical point—their Internet megaphone has sprayed the summer blockbuster with noxious negative buzz and reportedly sent Sony into crisis mode ahead of its July release—the film’s stars appeared together on TV for the first time, dutifully drowning out some of those less positive headlines with fawning over how funny they were on DeGeneres’s show.
Hillary Clinton herself joins the talk show host in a bit of an inauspicious position. She’s all but certain to win her party’s presidential nomination, which would see her leveling her policy expertise against Donald Trump, but her approval ratings are at a historic low for a presidential frontrunner. And so she finds herself grinning and bearing (and who knows, maybe even having some genuine fun!) a game of “Would You Rather?” on TV.
Hillary Clinton likes Beyoncé everyone! Future presidents, they’re just like us. They, to quote Clinton, “really believe in making lemonade out of lemons.” Or, at the very least, know better than to say they don’t like Beyoncé on national TV.
Whether or not she intended it to be a firing shot, DeGeneres’s welcome to the Ghostbusters cast was a powerful one. “I can’t imagine a different cast for a Ghostbusters!” she said as stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones sat down on the couch.
She, presumably, meant it as a deserving compliment to the murderer’s row of Hollywood’s funniest actresses—a potentially lethal comedy combination when gathered together for Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids, Spy) gender-flipping spin on the 1984 film.
But the problem for so many of the film’s critics, sight unseen (there’s not even been a press screening yet), is that they literally can’t imagine a different cast for Ghostbusters.
The Fab Four of Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Dan Aykroyd is so untouchable that any film in the franchise without them in the leads destroys the film’s legacy, betrays the spirit of nerds-will-rise “guy comedy” that fans hold so dear, and ruins childhoods for those who never want to hear the word “Ghostbusters” without thinking about the original cast.
There’s an underlying misogyny that many (including The Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato) have pointed out to this: Why can’t girl movie fans experience the same watershed satisfaction of watching hilarious female scientists battle the supernatural that nerdboys had in the ’80s? And the presumption that the film will be an abomination purely because of the clever, progressive casting conceit assumes that the women aren’t talented enough to make a worthwhile reboot.
Anyway, that’s all been written about exhaustively, to the point that Sony is starting to actively combat it, starting with posting the film’s second trailer on Facebook, rather than YouTube, in what The Hollywood Reporter characterized as “a deliberate effort to combat a cacophony of negative reaction emanating from a very vocal minority online.” (That minority had bullied the trailer into being the worst-reviewed of all-time.)
Putting the cast on Ellen to combat the critiques with their humor and charisma, and leveraging them against the spotlight of Clinton’s appearance—despite the former secretary of state’s own issues with polarization—seems to be phase two of the plan.
As far as a promotional appearance goes, the cast could not have been armed with a more effective slime to wipe out their critics. They were hysterical.
Melissa McCarthy joked about how she got cast in the film: “I just kept stalking back and forth in front of Paul’s house. ‘I can do it! What about McCarthy?’”
Leslie Jones revealed that she was a telemarketer for Scientology before she became famous: “It was an easy interview. I just acted crazy.” Kate McKinnon said her weirdest pre-fame job was a Little League umpire. Kristen Wiig’s answer: “I was an umpire for a Scientology baseball team.” As the audience ate. it. up., she looked sheepish that her answer wasn’t as strange. “I sold peaches at a farmers’ market,” she shrugged.
McCarthy even slyly assuaged some of the Ghostbuster purists’ biggest fears, clarifying that it’s not a remake or a sequel, but a reboot. “With all the love we have of the original ones, we’re taking it with new people and new circumstances,” she says. DeGeneres then seemed to confirm what had already been speculated, that most of the original cast will appear in the film.
“Did I give that away?” she apologized, when the cast seemed shocked at the reveal. “Let’s storm out!” McCarthy joked. They then played a game of heads up that had McCarthy and Wiig bumping and grinding on each other, and the world laughed.
In fact, a scan of Twitter as the episode aired in New York revealed a break from the incessant vitriol and “not gonna see this garbage” obstinacy that typically populates the #Ghostbusters hashtag. Obviously, nothing will validate the film and its all-female concept like proof that it’s actually good when it’s released. But a gut-busting Ellen appearance seemed to at least redirect the conversation toward the cast’s talent, which is a win for sure—even if a fleeting one.
Whether Clinton was successful or not, as always, is more complicated.
It shouldn’t matter (and yet it always does) but Clinton looked spectacular, dressed in a creme-colored top, navy plants, and a relaxed, confident visage that radiated—is that… why yes it is!—some real warmth.
She tackled the expected talking points—Bernie staying in the race, the meanness of the campaign, Trump’s issues with women—and confronted them with the usual brew of superficial bite and infallible, if not exactly rousing, logic.
On Sanders’s refusal to leave the race: “I think he has to do what he chooses to do. I understand that. I ran all the way to the end against Senator Obama. When it was over, because we had a much closer race than the one between Senator Sanders and myself, I endorsed him.”
On the meanness of the campaign: “I’m so tired of it. I’m so tired of the meanness and the insulting and the finger-pointing and the scapegoating... We oughtta show respect for each other. We oughtta work together.”
And on Trump’s insistence that he will be “better” on women’s issues when the general election starts: “I would need more information, based on what I’ve heard him say. He has been derogatory about women. He has called women by name and insulted them. He doesn’t think that equal pay is a real issue… I’m sure there is somebody somewhere that he would be good for. But overall there is no evidence that he has an understanding of what women’s lives would be today.”
She expressed the same amount of surprise she always musters when DeGeneres asked if she’s surprised that Trump has lasted this long, ticking off his laundry’s list of campaign offenses and outlandish, arguably problematic claims, eventually insisting that, “Once the seriousness of the general election really hits people he has to start being held accountable.”
Then came the “fun” part, the PR rehab part, the “like me, please like me” part. And you know what? Though still ridiculous and barely able to disguise instances of pander—which were no doubt theorized about on Twitter immediately—it was the most successful of the silliness she’s been tasked with weathering in the long slog towards relatability.
DeGeneres staged a game of “Would You Rather” where she’d choose between two famous people she’d—jokingly, of course!—choose as a running mate.
Actor Tony Goldwyn from Scandal had a good showing, as did George Clooney. Sticking to those talking points, Hill! Yes, these are indeed two things you have publicly expressed liking.
She fawned over Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyoncé, and Michelle Obama. She made an aww-worthy comment about needing Chelsea Clinton as her support system more than a running mate.
We’ve come a long way since Bill Clinton blared that sax on Arsenio Hall’s show, and Hillary Clinton is, as is her eternal lot, lying in a bed of her husband’s making. Who’s to say if Clinton actually enjoys these diversions, or if she’s as increasingly frustrated with them as we expect her to be. But the fact of that matter is, at least, she’s getting better at them.
As the celebrity PR machine continues to turn to the reigning queen of daytime, DeGeneres once again proves her worth. In the battle between online trolls and their female targets—this time at least—Ellen doesn’t just merit the call. Put her on speed dial.