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The Average Hero(ine)

Coveralls. Literally designed to cover all. Everything. All of you. Ghostbusters, male and female, have cast aside the notion that anyone needs to look “sexy” to be a hero. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost that. We’ve sort of created this mindset that sexy and hardcore go hand-in-hand. You’re either cute and quirky or you kick-butt in expensive-looking clothes and a perfectly toned body. James Bond. Cat Woman. Captain America. Wonder Women. These are hot people in spandex or perfectly tailored suits…or both. I would like to argue that coveralls are sexy…

Sexy is not generally used to describe someone’s natural, just-woke-up state. Maybe beautiful or cute, if you’re lucky. “Hot mess express” if you’re not. Being sexy generally involves a lipstick called something like “Vicious Trollop,” a nail polish called “Red-dy and Willing” and mascara that lengthens without clumping. High heels are also required–because one can’t deny they make your legs and butt look more toned. Some sort of effort in getting clothes that flatter your body just right or at least an outfit that all matches with accessories that sparkle in some way. Do you know how complicated finding a good bra is? And then finding another one so you have something to wear when the first one needs to be washed? This doesn’t just happen without thought and effort. Looking put-together at a Hollywood level of sexy is not an everyday occurrence…unless you have a stylist team or are some kind of makeup magician. I’m not one of those people, I cannot relate to Hollywood level sexy. But I can relate to the Ghostbusters.

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Image via.

In the actual film these ladies aren’t even wearing matching boots. They’re wearing whatever rubber boots or shoes they had at home. The characters feel like real people, with real homes where they have rubber boots. Boots that they maybe bought at Target on clearance or inherited from their mom. That, for me, 27-year-old, middle-class, white-with-a-hint-of-Middle-Eastern girl, is relatable. They get to pull their hair up! There were straight-up PONY TAILS. I can tell you right now that you will never see me save the world with my hair down. Yet, somehow, most females in action movies are not afforded that luxury. Hair flips and whips are pretty. They look good on camera. They don’t look good in real life when your hair is stuck to your chapstick.

There is no point in Ghostbusters where the nerdy girl takes off her glasses, lets her hair out of the bun and is magically attractive to everyone around her. In fact, Kristen Wiig’s character casts off her heels when she joins the Ghostbusters and gets to wear a sweatshirt and sneakers. Literally. While she does a job and uses her brain, she gets to wear a sweatshirt. This is a luxury formerly only granted to actors who play Mark Zuckerburg or Steve Jobs or the “homely girl” character who eventually gets a makeover.

In Ghostbusters there are even jokes about it like, “How does it feel to walk in those heels all day?” and “Where did you find the world’s smallest bowtie.” Fashion is beautiful, but it can also be ridiculous and it should reflect something about the character and not just “look good.” Now, stepping in green goo while in heels? That’s relatable.

10 Cloverfield Lane is another pretty good example of a movie being made up of entirely “average looking people with realistic amounts of facial hair” but there was the fact that her bra was always perfectly peeking out from her tank top in a way that just doesn’t realistically happen to a person fighting for their freedom from a crazy bunker hostage situation. If you are reading this and know the secret to perfect bra peekage under stressful situations please reveal.

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I know movies, I know it’s someone’s job to make sure all the clothes stay in place and it’s another person’s job to make sure every hair stays in place. Actors can wear 6-inch heels in situations that a normal girl wouldn’t because there’s a chair just off-camera where they can sit when the take is over. Actresses can be sewn into their clothes each day because they have someone to assist them when they need to go to the bathroom. They deal with all the pain and suffering because actors are amazing and suffer for their art.

We go to the movies to see pretty people. We can see average people on the street or on television…until those television people get ripped for movies. An entire team of people spend hours planning, buying, and sewing to make sure these actors look good and they do a great job.

I also know there are brave women out there who wear heels all day everyday. I’ve heard some of them even enjoy it. Some of them can even run in heels or walk on cobblestone roads in heels. But I’m sitting her typing this as a woman who has recently converted almost exclusively to Crocs and Vans. And I can only write what I know.

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I’m not saying people should wear coveralls head to toe, cover their ankles and shoulders, and never get glammed up. There is a time and place for sexiness and sometimes in movies it is absolutely motivated by character or situation. I just want to acknowledge that there is a movie (which I have seen twice now) that I can watch, in its entirety, without ever feeling uncomfortable for any of the characters or sad about myself and my own lack of put-together-ness. I have a healthy self-esteem, but when I think about how I am not trained in martial arts, can’t walk in heels more than 1.5 inches tall, and will never be Emily Blunt, it is just too much sometimes.

Maybe I notice things too much because I’ve done wardrobe and production design before. Just today I spent 11 hours straight buying clothes for a commercial. For every minute of a commercial, hours are spent looking and thinking about clothes. Studying film has made it almost impossible to suspend my disbelief while watching a film, but I get really excited when a character has chipped nail polish. It’s so real.

Somehow, in a movie about ghosts, I was able to feel like I could relate to all of the characters.

Here’s what I’m thinking during most movies:

“Holy crap, how does she run in those heels in the snow/while stealing that diamond/running through NYC as it’s being destroyed.”
“Is she going to catch a disease by sitting in a public place in that short of a dress?”
“Can she breathe in that?”
“How much tape/butt glue is holding that together/whose job is it to watch and make sure she doesn’t expose herself on camera?”
“Why is she wearing a tank top when she should be protecting herself from explosions/the elements/road rash/the burning sun/all men around her are fully clothed?”
“Oh, here comes the part where he takes his shirt off and just happens to do pull-ups or push-ups.”
“How long in makeup to get that no-makeup makeup look?”
“How many hours in makeup to get his nose to look like that?”
“Would my eyeliner look like that while in the middle of fighting for my life? I wonder what brand that is.”
“Are his cheekbones naturally that defined?”
“I wish I looked like that. I wonder what his/her diet and exercise routine is, who am I kidding I would never do it.”
“How many hair extensions is she wearing?”
“I’m surprised his dress shoes have that much traction.”
etc.

What I thought during Ghostbusters:

“Dang, they all look so cute and comfortable. I wonder if that’s from Melissa’s own clothing line. Kate McKinnon wore a crop top and overalls and when she bends over you can see that there is like, some percentage of body fat on the side of her body.” I was actually shocked that that clip didn’t somehow get cut somewhere in the editing process because you can see bare skin that gets a crease in it when it bends. Creases are unbecoming. A woman’s options are to be perfectly toned, not ever move, or cover up. That’s just what usually happens on the big screen.

It’s brave of actors to put themselves out there. I often wonder if I would want to hide behind fabric and good angles and photoshop if I was in the spotlight. Everyone is judging your looks. It’s in magazines and on social media. I would give a standing ovation to any film that had an actor with a zit on their face, though it would be hard for continuity’s sake and I would never volunteer to be that actor. I’m actually not sure I would ever go out in public in coveralls…But these women are brave. Even when the world showed how cruel it could be to someone just because of how they look.

Other thoughts were, “All these women and Paul Feig and whoever did the wardrobe–I should look that up–are amazing.  Kristen Wiig wore an MIT sweatshirt. How cool is it that these people are saving the city with their BRAINS?”

It could’ve been that I was distracted by the humor and the ghosts but I love Batman for the same reason. He’s just a normal guy…who lives in a cave and works out a lot and has a great, old friend who knows how to make cool things. Realistic. If I lived in a cave and worked out and had a smart old friend I could be like him. I know there is some psychological reason why we’re all obsessed with super-heroes but I like regular heroes. People like me who aren’t fit have to hold on to the fact that maybe having a brain can be good enough to do some good in the world.

It’s also fun to see ladies getting to hang out together to change the world. I love my lady friends and I like the idea of hanging out together and saving the world. You know, when we’re not doing our nails, taking photos of our food, and talking about celebrities we love.

I didn’t miss the high heels. I didn’t miss the hair flips. I didn’t even notice they weren’t there until I started thinking about it. I’m not even upset that Chris Hemsworth never took his shirt off (there’s Google for that). All I noticed that some cool ladies and their unjustifiably confident secretary were saving the city they love, no thanks to the government, and they looked natural while doing it.

Confession: I did lie about never comparing myself while watching it. I did get a little jealous that I can’t pull off the hoop earrings and a necklace with my name in rhinestones like Leslie Jones can. Don’t tell anyone but she was my favorite #loveforleslieJ. I also thought, “Man, why is it so cool to wear glasses now that I got LASIK.”

The layers were amazing. The coats, the graphic tees, I wish I had screenshots so I could invite you all over for a slideshow where I present to you, with a laser-pointer in hand, all the things I loved.

So shout-out to the following people who made our heroines look effortless in Ghostbusters. I tip my metaphorical hat to you. Get it? I used a phrase with “hat” in it because you’re hair and wardrobe people. And to my readers, like when you see a film, you can go ahead and walk away from this post before you read the credits. xoxo

Costume Design By

Jeffrey Kurland (He designed Inception, Ocean’s 11 among many other films)

Costume and Wardrobe Department

Jose Bantula costumer: New York unit
Ken Busbin tailor
Penelope Cariolo costume stitcher
John Casey costume supervisor
Robin Chalfin Tailor
Keith Christensen concept artist
Jillian K. Clark costume assistant
Elizabeth Clifford key costumer
Hillary Derby costumer
Coco Dunaway costumer
April Dunlap costumer
Caroline Errington tailor
Krista Guggia costumer
Meg Gustafson costumer
Amanda Hannan set costumer
Chelsea Jenney costume production assistant: additional
Virginia Johnson wardrobe supervisor
Maili Lafayette costumer
April McCoy cutter/fitter
Joanna Murphy costume shopper
Oksana Nedavniaya costume illustrator
Clinton E. O’Dell ager
Sara O’Donnell shopper
Laura Cristina Ortiz costume assistant
Dana Pacheco costumer
Amy Pickering costumer
Kelly Porter costumer: reshoots
Lara Quinlan costumer
MacKenzie Rawcliffe costume assistant
Dianna Reardon ager/dyer
Hannah Rhein set costumer
Gina Rhodes stitcher
Sarah Hill Richmond stitcher
Erica Suzanne Scott set costumer: New York
Jennifer Starzyk assistant costume designer
Jill Thibault ager/dyer / head textile artist
Jennifer Lynn Tremblay stitcher
Cesha Ventre set costumer
Patricia Villalobos costumer
Aidan Vitti costume assistant: Los Angeles
Rose Westerman costumer: Boston
Dawn M. Williams costumer: Melissa McCarthy
Tricia Yoo set costumer: Los Angeles reshoots

Makeup Department

Dennis Bailey key hair stylist
Alan D’Angerio hair stylist: Sigourney Weaver
Tom Denier Jr. makeup effects designer
Linda D. Flowers hair stylist: Melissa McCarthy
Raul Hernandez hair stylist
Juliet Loveland makeup artist
Brenda McNally department head hair
Nichole Pleau key makeup artist
Janine Rath make-up: Melissa McCarthy
Vincent Schicchi special makeup effects designer
Trish Seeney makeup department head
Jeremy Selenfriend prosthetic lab technician
Heba Thorisdottir makeup artist: Kristen Wiig
Jennifer Traub makeup artist
Raquel Vivve key makeup artist: New York
Pamela S. Westmore makeup artist: Melissa McCarthy
L. Sher Williams makeup artist

 And also to Paul Feig. I’ll always #keepthefeigth.

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