CNN Interview: Laura Pennace on “Ghostbusters” and Sexism in The Paranormal

The new “Ghostbusters” reboot opened in theaters yesterday, and along with the nostalgia came a lot of controversy, namely a ton of negative, sexist backlash against the movie and its all-female cast (comprised of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon). Of course, there were plenty of people who were against this movie for other reasons – because nothing could ever live up to the original, or because the original cast was not included, or because the lackluster “Ghostbusters II” already showed us that we were totally fine without any more “Ghostbusters” movies – but as in most cases, the dumbest criticism became the loudest.

Laura Pennace sexism in Ghostbusters on CNNThose criticisms sparked a lot of discussion in our group, the New York Paranormal Society, which is comprised mostly of women. We’ve always taken pride in the fact that in our group, everyone is equal. We all have a say in where we investigate, what we do, and how we do it. Unfortunately, this is not the norm in the paranormal community, or in the world in general. Far too often, we’ve seen women take a back seat to the male “leaders,” whether it is in other paranormal groups we have come into contact with, or on the TV reality shows. Think about this: how many ghost hunting shows out there on major networks have female lead investigators? Zero. And even if there were one, you know it would be on Destination America and be called Ghost Chicks or Ghost Girls or Ghost Broads or some other offensive nonsense (see also: Ghost Brothers and Mountain Monsters). It’s just a shame that there are so many men out there who don’t believe that a woman can be a skilled and accomplished Bigfoot hunter because she’s not a big, strong man, who are apparently the only ones who can survive a night in the woods (and let me direct those fellas to my friend, Melissa Hovey-Larsen, who would promptly change those men’s minds). It’s embarrassing that there are male paranormal investigators who won’t trust a woman to handle expensive equipment, lead an investigation, or talk to a client. But we have witnessed and experienced these things.

So when CNN contacted our own Laura Pennace to talk about sexism, especially as it pertains to the new “Ghostbusters” reboot and the paranormal community as a whole, she jumped at the chance. She sat down with CNN’s Frank Pallotta at one of New York City’s most famously haunted restaurants, One if by Land, Two if by Sea, and shared her thoughts. We think she did an amazing job! You can watch the clip below, and read a lengthier text version of the interview as well.


A real female Ghostbuster on new film, sexism, and planning for a marshmallow man

Ghostbusters” takes place in a fictional world of spooks, spectres, and ghosts. But there’s a whole real life profession tasked with hunting something strange in your neighborhood.

So how do actual ghost hunters feel about the series and the upcoming reboot?

To find out, CNN spoke with Laura Pennace, an investigator with the New York Paranormal Society, about the new film and what the series gets right about ghost hunting. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

You’re a paranormal investigator. Can you describe what that is? Do you take calls about ghosts?

Yeah, we have a lot of people in private residences who reach out to us if they think their house is haunted. We will often open a case file for them. We will talk to them on the phone. If we think that there might be something going on, we will conduct an investigation.

Have you ever experienced something paranormal?

Yes. For the most part, nothing happens, and you’re just trying not to fall asleep in a dark room that’s totally quiet in the middle of the night, but I’ve had a few things I cannot explain. I am the first person to say, “Oh, this must be what’s causing it. This is a totally normal thing that is happening.” I have seen things move on their own. I’ve been touched.

But no one’s gotten slimed or anything like that?

Not yet. Leave that door open. Maybe it’ll happen. Highly unlikely, and I feel like if that were to actually happen, I would just run, honestly. What can you do at that point?

Okay, let’s talk about the film series. Does “Ghostbusters” properly portray ghost hunting?

No, I wish we had proton packs. That would be really cool, just to run around and catch ghosts.

Obviously, it’s a movie, so it’s way more exciting and a lot more things are happening. That’s not real life. It’s good in that it opens up a wider audience to the idea of investigating the paranormal, and the idea that the paranormal is even a thing. It’s a movie. If we did encounter a giant marshmallow man, I don’t know what I would do.

There’s no plan for a 100 foot Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?

There’s no action plan… Get in a taxi.

“Ghostbusters” returns to haunt theaters this weekend with new female cast.

The new film has an all female ghostbuster cast. Do you take pride in seeing fellow women do what you kind of do on the big screen?

I do, absolutely. I think it’s awesome. Part of me wishes it weren’t such a gendered thing, because why should it matter? Is it all male? Is it all female? Is it a mix? People across the board are interested in the paranormal.

It’s faced a lot of backlash online from people who are really upset that it’s an all female cast. What do you think about that?

Oh, that’s totally stupid. It shouldn’t matter… A woman is just as capable of being a ghostbuster or a paranormal investigator as a man. I know that some people just don’t like the idea of a reboot at all. Ghostbusters was a perfect little movie in its own time. I think it’s going to be good… You need to come into it with an open mind and just know that, while it has the same name, it’s not really related to the first movie.

Have you experienced any sexism in your field?

I have been really lucky in that my team members have been amazing, so no I personally haven’t… I have known people who have experienced it, female team members on other teams who just have had very negative reactions or negative experiences with the men on their team. It happens.

It’s an unfortunate reality for women in any field doing anything, that you might hit some sexism. You might experience it at some point. I don’t want to say it’s inevitable because that makes that seem like it’s acceptable. It’s not, but it’s something that you have to learn to work around.

What are you hoping that the new Ghostbusters brings to the field of paranormal investigation?

I want it to raise awareness of the paranormal community… There are a lot of teams all across the country, but there are a lot of people who aren’t involved in the paranormal community who don’t know that it’s a thing. Plus, the fact that it is an all female cast, it might show people, “Oh, I can do this regardless of if I’m a man or a woman.”

CNNMoney (New York)First published July 14, 2016: 10:08 AM ET

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