Tag Archives: Amy Poehler

“Moxie”, Anti-Racism, and the Millennial Gap

“Moxie” is a lot of things, including a generational letter of outrage from Gen X to Gen Z. It centers on 16 year-old Vivian. She’s shy and stays out of the limelight. Lucy is a new transfer to her school. She refuses to simply look the other way when boys at the school harass, abuse, and assault. Vivian is also increasingly aware of her mother’s history of 90s riot grrrl feminism. She decides to start anonymously publishing a zine that calls out the double-standards, hypocrisy, and very real danger posed to women at her school.

I’ll get the typical review stuff out of the way because I think “Moxie” is doing something complex that’s worth getting to – yes, it’s good. It’s funny, it’s moving, it’s pointed and poignant. It’s just about everything you want from the experience of watching a movie like this. It immediately fits right into any list of classic teen movies, and it’s more important than a good chunk of them.

I don’t think comparisons are all that useful, because what made films like “The Breakfast Club”, “Pump Up the Volume”, “10 Things I Hate About You”, “Mean Girls”, and “Lady Bird” so good is that they were all breaking new ground. Each of them was a film that wasn’t very comparable to what came before because they set the groundwork for what came after. Some are more recognizable as products of their time now, but each was incisive and confrontational to a set of norms at the time it came out.

You’ll notice that list is awfully white, because the films that also belong here – “Girlhood”, “The Half of It”, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”, “Pariah” – they usually get compartmentalized into subgenres or considered as the B-team on Greatest-Of lists so that they don’t take up the same space. I think “Moxie” recognizes that history and its responsibility not to repeat it to some extent. How it does so informs a lot of what the film’s trying to do.

Truly Intersectional or Just Diverse?

First off, I’m a guy. There are some boundaries I should recognize when it comes to assessing “Moxie”. Mine is not the most important voice when it comes to declaring whether it’s doing something well when it comes to feminism. Director Amy Poehler hardly needs my approval. I do think the film is successful in most things across the board, so understand that’s a bias I’m writing with. I’m going to focus on the intersectional aspect, and how I think “Moxie” acknowledges and backfills a significant gap in the 2000s when it comes to mainstream feminist and anti-racist teen movies.

I can discuss intersectionality to a good extent – “Moxie” is inclusive. I am beyond pleased that Alycia Pascual-Peña continues to find success after the surprisingly good 2020 “Saved by the Bell” continuation. There aren’t a lot of major roles where an Afro-Latina gets to play an Afro-Latina. Just witness all the different roles in major franchises where Zoe Saldana gets painted blue or green.

Josie Totah is another actress shared with “Saved by the Bell” (technically, “Moxie” filmed first). Her role here is significantly smaller than it is there, but she’s an exceptional comic actress. There aren’t a lot of Palestinian or Lebanese performers in the industry who get offered anything but the most deeply stereotypical roles. Totah is also trans and she continues spearheading roles in projects that embody the reality that she’s a woman without bullshit, equivocation, or a need to justify or explain it. I hope she never stops.

Lauren Tsai plays a larger role as Vivian’s no-nonsense foil Claudia. Nico Haraga is the skaterly love interest Seth who doubles as an example of a solid male ally. Sydney Park and Anjelika Washington enjoy supporting roles as Kiera and Amaya – members of the school’s overlooked women’s soccer team.

If there’s one piece of representation that deserved more focus, there’s a disabled character who I would have liked to have seen involved more. Meg, played by Emily Hopper, really has no story agency. It would have been so good to see her fit into the film as a whole. While there are cutaways where she’s shown enjoying time with the group, she always seems to be on the outside of it, or somewhat silent within it. Her role feels somewhat tokenized. Everyone else seems to get a moment or makes a major decision except her, and at the very least this feels like a missed opportunity.

A lot of what “Moxie” contends with in talking about how feminism steps forward is its past history as specifically white feminism. Hadley Robinson plays Vivian and Amy Poehler plays her mother Lisa – there’s a frank conversation between the two where Lisa describes the 90s riot grrrl movement as making mistakes when it came to inclusion. Vivian also makes her own oversight borne from privilege, and is called out for it later in the film.

“Moxie” gives a lot of focus to Lucy and Amaya as leaders of the school club that forms around Vivian’s anonymous zine. Vivian may be creating and publishing the magazine, but she doesn’t try to claim leadership. That works in some ways because it lets others lead. It doesn’t work in other ways because when the school and peers look to hold someone accountable, it’s the girls of color they punish first. There’s also an undercurrent where Lucy and Amaya push Kiera into a role she doesn’t want to take.

These elements breathed a lot of subtlety, texture, and reality into the film. They give it more complexity and acknowledge that activism is a messy process that constantly needs to look inward as well as out. At the same time, I wanted the film to do more with these aspects. They sometimes give flavor to the film’s story about Vivian, without becoming an equal focus. I’ve seen an ongoing conversation about whether the film is truly intersectional, or simply diverse. Both are good, both are steps forward on progress, both push the genre, but when you get a landmark film like “Moxie”, this is a conversation that needs to be had because it clarifies the next landmark that pushes further.

I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. It tackles intersectional concepts as a movie about activism, but it’s also a coming-of-age story that’s determined to keep its runtime under 2 hours. It’s a meld: one part intersectional film, one part coming-of-age film that’s diverse but doesn’t focus fully on those intersectional concepts. The crux of the matter is that the film is confrontational, celebratory, and critical when it comes to Vivian and her journey – it’s a three-dimensional portrayal. The intersectional elements don’t get the same dimensionality because it’s still ultimately a film about Vivian. They get more than a lot of films give them, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t more room for them to get the focus. It’s one part representing these fights themselves and discussing them on their own terms, and it’s one part these fights being repurposed to texture what is ultimately Vivian’s story.

The film’s wildly successful and moving, and I don’t think it’s a massive criticism to say this is how far it goes, and this is how much further we can go. “Moxie” deserves both praise at its inclusive elements and its consideration and criticism of white privilege and racism, and at the same time it’s such a fully realized film that I think it could have successfully explored other elements it brings up in greater depth.

Gen X to Gen Z and the Millennial Gap

I started this article by mentioning the film is something of a letter from Gen X to Gen Z. Why would there need to be a generational letter from Gen X to Gen Z? Because the 2000s dropped the ball. I’m a Millennial – look back at what was made for our consumption: shows like “Scrubs”, “That 70s Show”, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, “The IT Crowd”, the list goes on…they all feature horrendous levels of misogyny. I’m not saying we can’t like those shows, but there’s a reason the term “problematic fave” exists – so that we can still talk about where they fell so short.

Of course, they all utilized the trick of making us laugh at a misogynist or harasser instead of with them. They all utilized it so much that they lost what the difference was. It disarmed harassment – in the hands of Dr. Kelso on “Scrubs” it was framed as endearing, in the hands of Matt Berry’s Denholm Reynholm on “The IT Crowd”, it was posed as ultimately harmless. The Todd’s handsiness on “Scrubs” was chastised; J.D.’s handsiness on the same show was a constant running joke that every woman he was interested in laughed off. The message was that so long as you were a sad, sensitive manchild about it, groping was OK. There were no consequences; it was just a quirk. In 2000s comedy, harassment was consistently posed as something to laugh off. Since it was an antiquated norm we could be sure was evaporating, shows decided it was OK for it to continue ad nauseam.

The popular media we consumed in the 2000s was in many ways a step back from cultural progress that had been made in the 1990s. As a Millennial interested in screenwriting, the regular casual harassment on “Scrubs” and shows like it was positioned as a shining city on a hill of comedy writing. It wasn’t. It was shitty.

What happened on TV doesn’t even begin to tackle the treatment of women in other mediums, such as in music or film. Sirin Kale wrote “’I was worried Lindsay, Paris or Britney would die’: why the 00s were so toxic for women” just this Saturday in The Guardian. I highly recommend the article. It goes into detail on how the early internet transformed media coverage into an instrument to project abuse onto women. It’s not something the internet changed into; it’s a foundational element of it. Moreover, it influenced and licensed media both old and new to follow suit.

No generation makes the content that’s being fed to it as they become adults. These shows and this coverage wasn’t being produced and written by 18 year-olds; they were being produced and written by older generations. They still have an impact on that generation; they still do damage to it. The shit we got fed as we became adults did not make talking to us men about it any easier for women. Your job – hell, something that shouldn’t have been only your job in the first place – became much more difficult because of the obsessive cruelty of the 2000s.

Whatever progress we could make got delayed. Millennials eventually shifted content made for us toward intersectional feminism, but that was making up a huge amount of ground that had been lost rather than building on top of the foundations of 90s feminism, and a lot of it is due to Gen X taking over some media production from the Boomer generation.

Insofar as a single film can, “Moxie” makes a bridge where there wasn’t one in the mainstream. Gen X had access to popular culture that made advancements on this, and they were doing it uphill against some really Stone Age concepts. Gen Z is lighting the whole place on fire, thank whatever god got sacked with reality this week. Gen Y – Millennials – the mainstream that was introduced to us only advanced on this after taking a huge step back. Something like 2004’s “Mean Girls” wasn’t the norm in coming-of-age storytelling, it was the distant exception. Today, it would be much more of a norm. I think there’s an argument that feminism in our media and storytelling got delayed a decade because of the 2000s. How much more difficult has that made everything since?

“Moxie” makes that bridge we never got to have, initially between Vivian and her mother, but also as a theme of the film as a whole. That’s needed now and it was needed in a place and time where Millennials really didn’t get it. And to say Gen X is bridging to Gen Z, firstly that’s a generational translation that’s difficult to make. Screenwriters Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer, Jennifer Mathieu who wrote the original novel, director Amy Poehler – they’re all translating something across multiple generations and I don’t know that they’re going to get the credit for just how tough a job that is.

Secondly, that doesn’t mean Millennials aren’t part of that translation. We can’t have access to that mainstream bridge if it doesn’t exist in the first place. We’re a generation that was often baited into fighting against itself to make up that ground rather than build something on it. Though “Moxie” might primarily center on Gen X and Gen Z realizations of feminism, the generation that might be most in need of seeing that bridge – of having access to it – is Millennials. At least when it comes to Millennial men and the mainstream dismantling of feminism that we were fed in media, there’s a developmental step that as a generation we skipped and have had to go back and make up, even as we take new steps forward.

Is “Moxie” too Idealized?

That brings us to one of the bigger criticisms about “Moxie”. I wouldn’t say any direct plot spoilers follow, but I will refer to the general tone of how the film concludes.

Reviews are generally positive, but many also highlight that the film is too neatly wrapped up. They have a point. They’re not wrong. It’s way too neatly wrapped up for a depiction of activism. I’m just not sure “Moxie” is only a depiction of activism. I think it’s also a fantasy representation of that – not a fantasy as in something that’s inaccurate, but the kind of cinematic fantasy that embodies the ideal of something, that lends the power of storytelling, of heroes overcoming something and celebrating that act, having things work out because they acted like heroes.

“Hero’s journey” is a term that’s problematic in and of itself. It’s too often applied reductively to a global history of indigenous stories that can’t be boiled down so simply. At the same time, there’s no denying that the concept is a major component of modern Western storytelling. There aren’t many heroes’ journeys when it comes to portrayals of feminism or activism. Conclusions often show protagonists suffering or hopelessly witnessing that the change they made is a drop in a wider sea. Those are absolutely necessary and real and legitimate presentations. They speak to a long history of women sacrificing to make any step of progress.

Yet no one complains when Han and Luke get medals around their neck while Vader and the Empire are still out there and more powerful. Why? They sacrificed, changed for the better, and completed one lap of the hero’s journey. They have a new community now, and they lead within it. As a culture, we reward that and want to see it rewarded. It’s an element of power fantasy.

Yet if a woman is successful at one step of activism – if she has a moment of progress, change for the better, is accepted by those she loves, forms a community, yet still faces a range of repercussions and even potential prosecution, that’s too saccharine for our norms? Really?

I could be missing something coming to it as a man, but I think that sort of mythic power of the heroes marking a space of progress and being acknowledged that it should be recognized and valued by society? We need that in some of these films, too. We’re fine with it when men engage in any kind of power fantasy in a movie, no matter how fantastical, and they’re rewarded. But when women reach that point as they’re fighting for their own agency, suddenly it’s a flaw in a movie?

Furthermore, not every movie about activism should end in everybody being broken and demoralized, because movies are supposed to be about aspirations sometimes. And certainly there are moments in activism where you celebrate, where you breathe a sigh of relief and recognize a community has coalesced where there wasn’t one before. It doesn’t mean that the job’s done or you’ve reached the end goal, or that you deserve a proverbial cookie. It doesn’t mean that activism has reached its apex and is no longer needed. But it absolutely means you take a breath and celebrate and inhabit that moment as one success – because otherwise, the next one is that much harder to reach.

As a guy who came of age in the 2000s, I needed to see this movie. We needed to see it in the form of multiple mainstream movies and shows every year. We didn’t get it. It’s important that it’s there. It’s important that it recognizes that gap and seeks to bridge it. It’s important that representations of activism can be realistic and messy and tragic and unfinished because the work obviously is, and that’s what activism is. And it’s important that representations of activism also get their heroes’ journeys and idealistic moments and cinematic stories where a success gets to be – even in that moment – a success.

“Moxie” is part of a larger movement that got delayed. “Moxie”, “Never Have I Ever”, “The Half of It”, the new “Saved by the Bell”, “Love, Victor”, the list goes on – the last few years have been revolutionary when it comes to mainstream teen and coming-of-age projects that focus on feminism, anti-racism, and LGBTQ equality, works that call out and educate about bigotry and even discuss how it can be disarmed.

That doesn’t mean this moment is perfect or that it’s come close to any kind of apex or what’s needed. What we needed was the moment that’s currently happening in coming-of-age film and TV to have happened 15 years ago. Part of me wonders how the U.S. as a whole might be different if we were getting these projects regularly in the mainstream then. I’m just happy that moment is finally here for the genre, and that there’s one more immediate, funny, and moving classic in it.

You can watch “Moxie” on Netflix.

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New Shows + Movies by Women — March 5, 2021

Last week featured two new series and no movies. This week, it’s seven new films and no series. That’s a weird back and forth. Part of me wonders if we’re getting to a point in the pandemic slowdown in production where streaming services can’t saturate every week. The other part of me recognizes that as I go through titles every week, that doesn’t seem to be a major problem for titles overall.

The truth is, projects by women still make up only a small portion of the number of overall shows and movies. A momentary shift that would be imperceptible in a larger sample size – such as the number of movies men get to platforms – suddenly becomes noteworthy in a smaller sample size.

If I was doing this series for new shows and movies made by men, there wouldn’t be a single week that even approached fewer than 40 titles. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it on a weekly basis. Centering it around women filmmakers means that I’m relieved there are seven films after a week with zero.

It’s a strange signifier of just how much the goalposts are moved. I realize saying that is pretty privileged. Women see that every day, in every aspect of their lives. I see it when I’m putting focus into, well, actually seeing it – and even then I’m just observing, I’m not experiencing it. If I feel deflated at that realization, I have no comprehension of what it must feel like to live it every day.

I’ve worked in politics, as a journalist, as a critic – you can see double-standards for miles in what those jobs cover, and in the industries doing the coverage. Yet even covering it, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt betrayed by the feeling of relief like I was when there were seven films this week after zero the last – as if that was some sort of victory instead of staring down an ongoing disaster. I guess it’s rare to step outside a moment of damaging normalization and realize how you’re trained to feel relieved about it.

If men had only 7 films come out in a week, it would be an unprecedented drop. Women have seven films coming out this week, and it’s a relief that it’s that many. That feeling of relief is such a lie. What that says about how inured men are – what we’re normalized to treat as equal when it’s only just a fraction of the space…. That normalization and rationalization can often convince us fixing it all is simple steps, and even then the fight is over just being able to do those. We barely understand that that fight is just a first layer, that it’s not a fix, that it’s just holding down the symptoms enough to start getting at the root causes.

So much of what men debate over in allying is just forcing harmful normalizations to fall back from Plan A to Plan B – so much of what we fight over accepting isn’t even a fix, it’s just levels of survival patriarchy is prepared to accept. I realize none of this is news to women, but I know some men read this, too. So many of the frameworks we work with on this fight come pre-negotiated for our comfort. So many of the new norms that we’d feel successful about are only the barest half-measures. We often frame this work as feeling good about what we do, rather than as recognizing a change has been accomplished and secured. Our best allyship is often what we’re trained to feel is a noteworthy accomplishment, a success we’ve taken as far as we can, a plateau of allyship rather than a first step on which other steps now have to be built.


Moxie (Netflix)
directed by Amy Poehler

A girl comes across her mother’s records of high school protest. In the face of the boys’ annual rankings of who’s “most bangable” and her school’s double-standards and plausible deniability, she’s inspired to follow suit by publishing a feminist magazine. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu.

One thing I’ll note is the proven comedic pairing of Alycia Pascual-Pena and Josie Totah in supporting roles. The two were superb as leads in the genuinely surprising “Saved by the Bell” continuation last year.

Director Amy Poehler is co-creator of “Russian Doll” and “Upright Citizens Brigade”. She also starred in “Saturday Night Live”. Most famously, she was the star of, as well as writing and directing on, “Parks and Rec”. She also directed 2019 comedy “Wine Country”.

You can watch “Moxie” on Netflix with a subscription.

The World to Come (VOD)
directed by Mona Fastvold

Two neighboring families run struggling farmsteads. Things are rough – it’s the 1800s and the living is difficult. To stave off isolation, the two wives keep each other company. As they do, they gradually fall in love.

Director Mona Fastvold is primarily known as a Norwegian writer and actress. This is her second film as a director.

Note that this does feature Casey Affleck, who also produced on the film. He has been sued twice for repeated sexual harassment and disparagement. (I’m not able to track the major names and their histories on all projects, but when an obvious one comes up like this, I will try to mention it. )

See where to rent “The World to Come”.

Lucky (Shudder)
directed by Natasha Kermani

May is a self-help author who finds herself being stalked. A man comes to kill her every night, no matter how many times she kills him. People around her recognize it, understand what’s happening, and treat it as completely normal.

Natasha Kermani has directed the surreal “Imitation Girl” before this. “Lucky” is written by Brea Grant (who also stars). Grant recently directed horror comedy “12 Hour Shift”.

You can watch “Lucky” on Shudder with a subscription.

Summerland (Showtime)
directed by Jessica Swale

Gemma Arterton’s made a name for herself in a few franchises, but it’s always been the under-the-radar work where she’s shown an incredibly complex range. “Summerland” tackles the story of a novelist during World War 2. She unexpectedly has to take in an evacuee from London. His father’s at war, and London became untenable for children during the London Blitz bombing campaign. Many rural families were asked to take children in and care for them during this time. Arterton’s Alice hides the secret that she couldn’t be with her great romance – another woman.

This is writer-director Jessica Swale’s feature debut.

You can watch “Summerland” on Showtime with a subscription, or see where to rent it.

The Broken Hearts Gallery (Starz)
directed by Natalie Krinsky

Dealing with a recent break-up, Lucy starts a gallery. Anyone can leave a memento of a past relationship there, creating an ever-changing landscape of closure.

This is the first film directed by Natalie Krinsky. She also wrote the film, and she’s worked as both writer and story editor for “Gossip Girl” in the past.

You can watch “The Broken Hearts Gallery” on Starz with a subscription.

Sophie Jones (VOD)
directed by Jessie Barr

Sophie is in high school and struggling with depression and aimlessness after her mother’s death.

“Sophie Jones” is directed by Jessie Barr, not to be confused with her co-writer Jessica Barr (a cousin). Both are coming at the project from personal experience, as both lost their mothers to cancer when they were just 16. This is the first feature for either one. Both have worked as actresses before this.

You can rent “Sophie Jones” on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, or YouTube.

CW: pregnancy loss, image of a dead animal

Undertow (VOD)
directed by Miranda Nation

Claire is coping with the loss of her baby when she begins to suspect her husband’s having an affair. She becomes close to the newly pregnant woman, even as her reality starts to unravel.

This is the first feature film from writer-director Miranda Nation.

You can rent “Undertow” on Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, or YouTube.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Full Review: “Inside Out” Ranks Among Pixar’s Best

Inside Out Sadness and Joy
via Collider

by Gabriel Valdez

#Note: I’m still writing for AC, but I’ll be focusing more on social and political commentary there, so more of my movie reviews will be appearing in full on this website again, starting with this one:

There’s a famous montage in Pixar’s Up that tells the life story of a man and woman, from their meeting as children to his losing her of old age. It never fails to draw tears from any viewer.

Imagine zooming in on that montage and watching a briefer piece of it. It has the same effect for viewers, but the story’s in much more detail. This is what happens in Inside Out, which many are calling a return to form for the studio that created Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Toy Story, and Wall-E. I’ll go one step further: this is one of Pixar’s best films. Inside Out meets and perhaps even surpasses some of the movies I just listed.

Pixar always has a way of getting at the emotions housed inside of certain stages of life. Here, those emotions become characters. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust operate 11 year-old Riley’s brain. Joy (Amy Poehler) runs the crew because up until now, everything has gone pretty well having a childhood focused on happiness.

But Riley’s family is moving from the open, rural wilds of Minnesota to the cramped confines of San Francisco. This coincides with Joy and Sadness getting swept out of headquarters, leaving only Anger, Fear, and Disgust to cope with being the new kid at school, figuring out the new town, and trying out for the local hockey team.

Inside Out Riley looking scared
via Pixar Post

We see glimpses of Riley’s life, particularly in how her relationship with her parents worsens. Most of the film focuses on Joy and Sadness’s journey back to headquarters, through places like Long-term Memory, Imaginationland, and even Dream Productions.

By speaking about the imaginary things we lose and by focusing on the tug-of-war between Sadness and Joy, Inside Out actually begins to recall the bittersweet messages of 80s fantasies like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, or The Last Unicorn. Those were films that dealt with the loss of childhood and innocence in a similar way: by threatening the metaphorical with real repercussions. Although the style is completely different, Inside Out has many moments that would fit very neatly into those films, including a few that may make you cry. The 60 year-old biker with the tattoos and motorcycle jacket to my right cried. The six year-old and his mother to my left cried. I cried.

Inside Out works. It really, really works because it feels like the rare film that arrives straight from a storyteller’s heart. That Riley is compellingly realized, that it’s filled with slapstick humor, that the animation is filled with color and imagination – these are delightful bonuses. At its core, Inside Out could work without any of them, and it could do so better than any other Pixar movie. I won’t call it the best of their films – I’m not sure that it is. I will call it their most honest one.

In part, this is because Inside Out takes place on a much smaller scale than most Pixar films. It’s not humanity that’s at stake, or even a loved one’s life. All that’s at stake is the emotional wholeness of a young woman. And yet, directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen give those stakes more importance, tension, and emotional impact than all the worlds that have been saved this summer put together.

Inside Out Fear Joy and Disgust
via Collider

Is Pixar back? That’s a silly question; they never left. When most major studios have two or three subpar films in a row, it’s called a rough month. Since Pixar only makes a feature film every year or two, what would be the blink of an eye for most studios is for Pixar turned into a narrative about how far they’ve diminished.

Call Inside Out what you like – a recovery, a comeback, a return to form. Just make sure you call it a masterpiece.

It’s a great film for kids, especially because it doesn’t shy away from the kind of complex, emotionally involved storytelling that kids really do love. Sometimes we simplify children’s stories much more than we have to. We underestimate just how invested they can become in a movie that demands their full attention. Oftentimes, they’re even better at it than adults are – they don’t have to break through walls of cynicism to treat what’s happening on-screen as important. Inside Out puts faith in children’s ability to comprehend what’s at stake. It also speaks to the way children analyze emotions and deal with the world around them.

Adults will be taken back to emotional struggles we had at that age and – let’s face it – sometimes still experience. Children will get the first film in a long time that treats their emotions as something complex and worth talking about. And it all happens in a colorful, energetic cartoon that may be Pixar’s funniest yet.

Does it Pass the Bechdel Test?

This section uses the Bechdel Test as a foundation to discuss the representation of women in film. Read why I’m including this section here.

1. Does Inside Out have more than one woman in it?

Yes. Riley is voiced by Kaitlyn Dias and her mother is voiced by Diane Lane. Joy is voiced by Amy Poehler, Sadness is voiced by Phyllis Smith, and Disgust is voiced by Mindy Kaling. A variety of other characters and their emotions are voiced by Paula Poundstone, Paula Pell, Rashida Jones, and a sizable supporting cast of professional women voice actors.

2. Do they talk to each other?


3. About something other than a man?

Yes. There are some hilarious moments when boys and men are discussed by emotions, but aside from that it’s really all about the women. It’s a credit to lead screenwriter Meg LeFauve (Josh Cooley and Pete Docter also contributed) that each of the women in this film seems whole. Even the emotional homunculi (the characters inside Riley’s head) who are portrayed by women are more than simple caricatures.

I can’t speak to many experiences or pressures as a young woman growing up that this film may address. I can say that Riley and her emotions are some of the most fleshed out characters that Pixar has put to film, and it manages this through more than just the dialogue. Not only is the screenplay incredibly layered, but the animation is nuanced enough to ask you to read each character on multiple levels.

I also appreciate that Riley is a complex character. This takes place with surface elements: she dreams about unicorns and she kicks butt at hockey. It also takes place on a number of deeper levels: Riley struggles with her own emotions but can occasionally manage those of her parents in ways that defuse their loss of emotional control. She has expectations and struggles with anger when those expectations aren’t met. She can revert into her own private world. She is caught in the midst of becoming more independent. This is a complex portrayal of a young woman, which is something we don’t get to see very often on film.

Let’s Cast! “Ghostbusters”

Ghostbusters Emma Stone

Introduction by Kevan Tucker

Ghostbusters is a movie near and dear to my heart. It was one of my first obsessions as a kid and I’m still convinced it’s near-perfect. And how can something like that be improved on? That said, I am ecstatic about the news of a Ghostbusters reboot, and I think Paul Feig’s idea for an all-female cast is fantastic.

The funny thing about Ghostbusters is that it was a huge success that didn’t produce a stream of knockoffs. The only movie in the 30 years since that comes close to capturing the same blend of comedy, thrills, and characters is Men in Black. It’s hard for me to come up with any other movie (excluding parodies like Shaun of the Dead) that strikes the same tone. Ghostbusters pretty much stands alone, which is unique for such a cultural touchstone.

There has been much handwringing in Ghostbusters Fanboy Land about what a catastrophe this movie is going to be because the magic of That Cast at That Time can never be reproduced. And also, women (?!?) or something. But Paul Feig’s decision to do a hard reboot of the franchise negates those fears. He’s not aiming to reproduce that magic. He’s going to find new magic with These Comedians in These Times using what is sure to be a cast of the most powerhouse female comedians out there. You won’t be able to compare them to Bill Murray at his most charming because the franchise will be something different.

Ghostbusters is a fun idea that still feels original, but there are a few core things that I hope will remain in the reboot. The first is that it’s ultimately a character-based comedy. It’s not a parody, it’s not referential. It totally stands on its own. There is also something so deliciously New York about it. There’s a kind of grime and grittiness to it that adds so much to the texture of the movie. It’s that kind of specificity and attention to detail that makes the movie soar. It’s the cheap local commercial they make, the headlines they get in the New York Post and the old, beat up firehouse they use to set up their business. That, to me, is the flavor of Ghostbusters that can’t be lost. And Feig, as the creator of Freaks and Geeks and director of Bridesmaids, is the perfect person to create a detailed, character-based comedy. But with ghosts in it.

That said, the structure of this article actually goes against everything I’ve been saying in that the esteemed Mr. Valdez has asked me to choose actors based on equivalent parts in the original cast. [Yeah, sorry about that, everyone disobeyed anyway – Gabe] I don’t think Feig is going to do that. And it’s going to be a better movie for it. But I’ll do my best to distill what was great about the original cast.


Gabriel: Joining me are actress and filmmaker S.L. Fevre, filmmaker Ben Kahn, actress Rachel Ann Taylor, filmmaker Kevan Tucker, and our creative director Vanessa Tottle. Everyone’s written here before, I believe, except for Ben, who joins us for the first time.

Ghostbusters Tig Notaro

THE LEAD (The Bill Murray)

Gabriel: The biggest question of all is, Who’s our Bill Murray? He played Dr. Peter Venkman, and was the comedic core of the original Ghostbusters. There aren’t many actors capable of his legendary deadpan – who can replace that?

Kevan: Peter Venkman worked so well because he always had a healthy dose of skepticism about the whole ordeal and also served as the romantic lead. I think Emma Stone would be a perfect choice. She’s the only person I cn think of who is deft enough to come close to the blend of charm, cynicism, and anarchy of Bill Murray. She wouldn’t be Bill Murray at all. But she’s someone you can hang a movie on. And goddamn it’s just about impossible to dislike her.

SL: I think it would be fun to have Mindy Kaling. I don’t care that she’s casting against type. I want the funniest comedienne around. She leads ensembles better than anyone else.

Vanessa: Tig Notaro. A 43 year-old lesbian with a double-mastectomy? Yeah, I get why Hollywood would never do it, and that’s why most comedies today suck. They choose for celebrity instead of ability. Notaro is the best choice to fill Murray’s shoes.

Ghostbusters Aubrey Plaza

Rachel: I love Ellen Page. I imagine her leading this group while she doubts what’s happening and whether she should even be there.

Gabriel: I couldn’t find anyone I was happy with until my brain struck on Parker Posey. The deadpan, the cynicism. Everything about her was perfect. Could she hold the audience at arm’s length? Could she be a little too aloof for mass appeal? That’s always a danger, and at the last minute I realized a better solution: Aubrey Plaza. She can communicate that same easygoing disaffection, she has her own uniquely dry delivery, and she can do aloof, but she also offers that everyman accessibility – especially with her work in smaller films like Safety Not Guaranteed and Life After Beth, in which she marries that dry delivery to a great deal of underlying heart.

[Ben was a bit inundated and couldn’t discuss at length, but he got off a list for us.]

Ben: Sandra Bullock.

Ghostbusters Jessica Williams


Gabriel: How about the rest of the team, played by Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson in the original? Ackroyd served as the straight man, charmingly translating the exposition to which Murray and Ramis reacted. Ramis was the most bookish of the crew, taking scientific readings even as he issued dire supernatural warnings. Hudson was Winston Zeddmore, brought on to help the team when they become inundated with calls about the supernatural.

Kevan: (joining Emma Stone) I would love to see Amy Poehler in the Dan Ackroyd role. He ended up being more of the straight man in the original. But character-wise, he was the entrepreneur. He was the one who pushed everyone to get the company off the ground. I would love to see Poehler being the driving force of the operation. The one who cares a little too much.

The other two comedians I’d love to see in the movie are Kristen Wiig and Jessica Williams. Kristen Wiig has such a fantastic deadpan that would really round out the group. And Jessica Williams, who I admittedly haven’t seen act outside of The Daily Show, has a brilliant pushy New York energy that the movie needs.

You could go either way with them. In the original Ghostbusters, Harold Ramis was the scientist who added the modicum of scientific legitimacy that was needed in the group. And Ernie Hudson was the outsider who had no business being a Ghostbuster, but was dragged along when the shit hit the fan. With this cast, either Wiig is the nerdy scientist and Williams is the young intern who joins the group. Or you could also switch it up and have Williams be the brilliant, fast-talking scientist and Wiig be the person you never expected to be a Ghostbuster who rises to the occasion.

SL: (joining Mindy Kaling) I guess I’m not trying to fit the type. The quality I want is being able to make me laugh. Mindy Kaling has a bite, so Krysten Ritter is a perfect pairing. Sour and sweet. Ritter was amazing in Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23, but she showed a completely different side of herself on Breaking Bad. I think she’s the most dynamic comedienne around.

Charlize Theron was so good in Arrested Development that I wish she did more comedy. I really like the idea of her being the group’s nerd and scientifically laying down why ridiculous things are happening in a way that seems simple but that no one else understands.

For the normcore woman, Nasim Pedrad. She has so much range. She deserves so much better than the crappy sitcom she’s in.

Ghostbusters Amy Poehler

Vanessa: (joining Tig Notaro) The Ackroyd is so obvious I’ll be really pissed off if anyone chooses different: Amy Poehler. She is the beacon of frustrated idealism on television, why not do the same on film? I also like the idea of her having to cope with Tig Notaro.

For the scientist, Sarah Silverman. I want her to explain make-believe to everyone as if they’re dumbasses for not getting it, and then casually mention the end of the world so briefly it’s barely noticed.

I really remember vividly that scene where Ernie Hudson talks about the Bible and the End of Days. When I was young, that scared me. There’s no one I want bringing down the group and giving it a reality check more than Sandra Bullock. I get why that’s not what she normally plays in a comedy, but does anyone doubt she can play whatever role she wants to? I also like that she enters partway through as the outsider and isn’t the focal point.

Rachel: (joining Ellen Page) I like Emily Blunt. She can deliver exposition and give drive and focus to the group. Jessica Williams could be a great scientist. She already tells me how the world’s ending four nights a week on The Daily Show. I like Krysten Ritter for the Hudson role. Very innocent, no idea what she’s getting herself into. I like it.

Ghostbusters Krysten Ritter

Gabriel: (joining Aubrey Plaza) I switched back and forth between two women for the Ackroyd role: Emily Blunt and Kristen Wiig. Ultimately, though, I think Wiig’s the woman for it. She’s worked with Feig before, but I don’t actually put a high priority on that. It’s more that she’s often slotted into the kookiest, showiest roles, and on the rare occasion where she’s gotten to play the more down-to-earth straight man, the cleverness of her humor shows through and lends her a touching humanity.

Comedy that reveals humanity…I guess that’s what I’m going for across the board, because I think that’s what the original Ghostbusters communicates beautifully. Jessica Williams is my choice for the scientist of the group. I really didn’t expect so many others to share that view, but I think she could be the force of the group, the deliverer of dire consequences who dives head-first into doing the riskiest thing anyway.

Finally, Krysten Ritter. I’m really pleased so many people are listing her. She’s been my favorite screen (i.e. non-standup) comedian since her lead role in Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23, and for good reason – she’s hilarious. She can do very charming, human comedy, and she can pull off absurdism as well as any comedian I know. And what’s Ghostbusters, if not a set of comedians looking at the absurd and responding in the most deadpan way possible? Her and Wiig are, I think, the most complete comedians in my group.

Ben: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Mindy Kaling, Olivia Munn.

Ghostbusters Michael Ealy 2

THE LOVE INTEREST (The Sigourney Weaver)

Gabriel: Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett plays a major part as the love interest, later possessed by a demon named Zuul whose chief diabolical power seems to be showing off her legs. In keeping with the theme, let’s assume this is gender-switched. What hunk fills Sigourney’s shoes?

Kevan: Bradley Cooper (or Jon Hamm). You need someone who’s a bit of a heartthrob and can be a legit aspirational love interest for Emma Stone. But they also need to be game and have comedy chops.

SL: I don’t know how well-known Michael Ealy is, but I love pairing him with Mindy Kaling. He’s so easygoing and sweet. He’s accepting, but his beauty makes him feel hard to get no matter how nice he is. And he can do comedy.

Vanessa: I’m pairing off Tig Notaro, so I want someone complex and intimidating in the same way. David Duchovny. That gives me some older actors, but I don’t care – he’s still hot and he can show off his legs all day long.

Rachel: Bradley Cooper. Not even a competition.

Gabriel: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the king of cool in my book. He’s suave, he’s dapper, he’s nice, he’s old-fashioned, he can do comedy in his sleep, and it’s easy to be invested in him.

Ben: Love Interest(s) for Sandra, Melissa, and Maya – Keanu Reeves, Chris Pratt, and Jon Hamm.

Ghostbusters Natasha Leggero


Gabriel: Oh boy, Rick Moranis. The role of Lewis Tully was originally written for John Candy to provide Bill Murray with ineffectual competition for Dana’s (Sigourney Weaver) affections. When Moranis took the role instead, he converted Tully to a geekier stereotype, and he’s possessed halfway through Ghostbusters by a demon referred to as the Keymaster. Who takes over this role, full of facial and physical comedy?

Kevan: (competing with Emma Stone for Bradley Cooper’s affections) Paul Feig shouldn’t make anything and leave Melissa McCarthy out. And as much as I’d like to see her suit up in a Ghostbusters uniform, she might actually be better in the smaller, showier role that Rick Moranis killed in the original.

SL: (competing with Mindy Kaling for Michael Ealy’s affections) There’s no way this movie should be made without Aubrey Plaza in it. She needs an opportunity to show off and go nuts in some movie. I think she’d kill it.

Vanessa: (competing with Tig Notaro for David Duchovny’s affections) Emma Stone. Maybe that creates a Lolita situation, but why not? That’s nothing new for Duchovny (as a character). The only thing not on Stone’s resume is a dark comedic role. I like her for that.

Rachel: (competing with Ellen Page for Bradley Cooper’s affections) OK. People won’t like this. I could be adding too much narrative, but take a deep breath, everyone: Alektra Blue. The porn star. I like Ellen Page encountering someone so perfected, and who completely outclasses her in every physical way. In 80s movies, the class nerd always got the girl when the mean jock proved too inhuman. Why not invert that, especially when inhuman is something you can literally become in Ghostbusters? Blue is also a great physical comedian in many of her movies and I can’t imagine anyone pulling off Rick Moranis as aggressively.

Gabriel: (competing with Aubrey Plaza for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s affections) Man, and I thought I was being edgy with Natasha Leggero. I want someone in that cast who’s a dangerous comedian, who has a threat to her and can unbalance an entire cast with a look. Leggero wouldn’t seem it – she’s a petite brunette – but she’s my favorite acidic stage comedian, and I think that level of digging under someone’s skin could bring out Plaza that much more. Leggero has guested in nearly every counter-culture comedy there is, but most recently, she’s left a swathe of boozy, passive-aggressive destruction through Garfunkel & Oates. She can also shift from hyper-aware to oblivious at the drop of a hat, from judgmental to easygoing. She has a sociopathic charm that has just enough wink to it to make you realize it’s a put-on, but in her roles, that translates to never being sure what the hell she’s about to do.

Ben: Cameron Diaz.

Ghostbusters Martin Short


Gabriel: Any other recastings you’d like to see? Secretary Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) delivered a ton of personality in a small role. There’s the demon Gozer (Slavitza Jovan), set on ending the world. EPA suit Walter Peck (William Atherton) shows up and shuts the Ghostbusters down partway through the original. Will we see the Paul Reubens Gozer originally planned?

Kevan: I’d love to see Louis CK as the frustrated guy behind the desk or the put-upon maintenance guy they hire to keep the place running. I can’t see anyone other than Parker Posey as the slimy government agent trying to shut them down…although I heard that Gillian Anderson is vying for a role in the movie and this would be a pretty awesome place for her.

SL: I want to see Martin Short as the secretary so bad it’s not even funny. It’s a compact way for him to play off the cast without interrupting them. Mel Gibson as Gozer, because I can’t think of anyone who would be so evil and hilarious to see. Janeane Garofalo should be the EPA chief.

Vanessa: Kevin Spacey should answer phones. Tig Notaro can put him in his place if he acts out too much, and he’ll be happy for it. I want to see Amy Adams as Gozer. I can see her taking the role so many different places. Katey Segal for the EPA guy.

Ghostbusters Parker Posey

Rachel: I’ve always wanted Sam Rockwell to answer my phone. Make him the Ghostbusters’ secretary. Crispin Glover for Gozer. Who else? And Ellen Degeneres would be hilarious for the EPA suit.

Gabriel: These are all such amazing answers. Alan Arkin to answer the phones. He could get that same energy Annie Potts had, of not wanting to take any of your shit but also being super-supportive and happy for the Ghostbusters. Gozer = Crispin Glover, why are we even still talking about it? And since I bumped her from the lead for Aubrey Plaza, Parker Posey as the EPA threat, with agents Garfunkel and Oates choosing some very special moments to bumble around in the background.

Ben: Villain – Sigourney Weaver (surprise cameo). Assistant – Bill Eichner. Cameos by Meryl Streep, Will Smith, and Robert Downey Jr. as hauntees/ghosts.

Kevan: And I’m sure that Paul Feig will come up with something way more amazing than that. There are so many people who would be amazing. I mean, don’t we all kind of want to see Maria Bamford trying not to cross the streams? Or Tina Fey being slimed? The possibilities are endless on this one. I can’t wait.


Ghostbusters Emma Stone 2

Kevan’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Emma Stone
The Entrepreneur – Amy Poehler
The Scientist – Jessica Williams
The Normcore – Kristen Wiig
The Love Interest – Bradley Cooper
The Rick Moranis – Melissa McCarthy
The Secretary – Louis CK
The EPA agent – Parker Posey

Ghostbusters Mindy Kaling

SL’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Mindy Kaling
The Entrepreneur – Krysten Ritter
The Scientist – Charlize Theron
The Normcore – Nasim Pedrad
The Love Interest – Michael Ealy
The Rick Moranis – Aubrey Plaza
The Secretary – Martin Short
The Demon Lord – Mel Gibson
The EPA agent – Janeane Garofalo

Ghostbusters Tig Notaro 2

Vanessa’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Tig Notaro
The Entrepreneur – Amy Poehler
The Scientist – Sarah Silverman
The Normcore – Sandra Bullock
The Love Interest – David Duchovny
The Rick Moranis – Emma Stone
The Secretary – Kevin Spacey
The Demon Lord – Amy Adams
The EPA agent – Katey Segal

Ghostbusters Ellen Page

Rachel’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Ellen Page
The Entrepreneur – Emily Blunt
The Scientist – Jessica Williams
The Normcore – Krysten Ritter
The Love Interest – Bradley Cooper
The Rick Moranis – Alektra Blue
The Secretary – Sam Rockwell
The Demon Lord – Crispin Glover
The EPA agent – Ellen Degeneres

Ghostbusters Aubrey Plaza 2

Gabriel’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Aubrey Plaza
The Entrepreneur – Kristen Wiig
The Scientist – Jessica Williams
The Normcore – Krysten Ritter
The Love Interest – Joseph Gordon-Levitt
The Rick Moranis – Natasha Leggero
The Secretary – Alan Arkin
The Demon Lord – Crispin Glover
The EPA agent – Parker Posey (with agents Garfunkel & Oates)

Ghostbusters Sandra Bullock 2

Ben’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Sandra Bullock
Ensemble – Melissa McCarthy
Ensemble – Maya Rudolph
Ensemble – Mindy Kaling
Ensemble – Olivia Munn
Love Interest – Keanu Reeves
Love Interest – Chris Pratt
Love Interest – Jon Hamm
The Rick Moranis – Cameron Diaz
The Secretary – Billy Eichner
The Demon Lord – Sigourney Weaver