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Favorite old movies: how might they be viewed today?

Some+older+movies+such+as+Ace+Ventura%2C+Ghostbusters%2C+and+Grease+may+be+criticized+by+todays+world+for+their+portrayal+of+certain+societal+perspectives.
Aileen Hu
Some older movies such as “Ace Ventura,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Grease” may be criticized by today’s world for their portrayal of certain societal perspectives.

As time progresses, the world’s view of what is and is not acceptable can shift drastically. Movies that were beloved when they came out over twenty years ago may have been fine at the time, but some may fall in the face of today’s cancel-culture and changed perspectives. Cult classics such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Ghostbusters have scenes that may seem unacceptable today, and even classic movie musicals like Grease may be criticized by today’s society.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective revolves around Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey), a private investigator in Miami. He faces consistent mockery by the police department, led by his rival, Lieutenant Lois Einhorn. After the Miami Dolphins’ mascot, Snowflake the dolphin is kidnapped (dolphin-napped?), the Dolphins’ publicist contacts Ventura to find her. Within the movie, Ventura finds clue after clue, shares a steamy kiss with Einhorn, and is attacked by a shark. Eventually, Ventura gets led to Ray Finkle, a disgraced kicker who missed the Super Bowl winning kick a decade earlier. 

 He later learns that Einhorn was actually Ray Finkle, and that she had transitioned genders many years ago. The film then delves into layers of transphobia/homophobia. When Ventura realized he kissed a man, there is an entire one-minute montage of him showering, brushing his teeth, and ultimately trying to “rid” himself of having kissed Einhorn/Finkle. 

The film showcases transgender people in a negative light, as the people who are “fooling” others. Today, films like this would likely not be made, or at least, would be portrayed very differently. 

To quote Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) from Brooklyn-99: “Classic film, one of my childhood favorites. And it only gets overtly transphobic at the very end, so a win.”

Ghostbusters (1984)

Yet another beloved old film, Ghostbusters showcases a misogynistic outlook and the refusal to take no for an answer. 

Ghostbusters’ flashy effects and humorous commentary offset the way many characters, especially Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), make sexist comments throughout the film. When Venkman goes to Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver)’s apartment due to reported supernatural activity, he doesn’t take her word seriously. At the end of his investigation, he professes his love to a woman he barely knows. She tells him to leave, but he continues to try to “woo” her. 

In the movie, Venkman’s behavior is played off as a joke, but today, it’s anything but. Some may argue that it’s an example of “boys will be boys,” but others will simply say it’s creepy behavior. If the original Ghostbusters was released today, it would be attacked for putting Dana Barett as lesser than the male lead, and for writing a male lead who doesn’t listen.

Grease (1978)

Even the classic coming-of-age musical movies have their flaws. Despite the famed and celebrated music, with songs like “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One That I Want,” the underlying theme of Grease is that people must change who they are to fit in and have a significant other like them. 

Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), a rather innocent and wholesome girl, tries to conform herself into the “greaser girl” stereotype. She does this to seem like a better match to Danny Zuko (John Travolta), a stereotypical greaser. Sandy makes herself sick while drinking, tries a cigarette, and pierces her ears to change herself for Danny.

Nowadays, with the strong emphasis on messages such as “you’re perfect the way you are” and “never change yourself for anyone,” this classic film would be scrutinized for implying that people must change themselves in order to be happy.

As trends change over time, so do the expectations of what is socially acceptable. The factors that contribute to our view of the world also contribute to our view of media. Our view of the media then influences what Hollywood views as acceptable.

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