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Chris Hemsworth, Male Privilege Heartthrob

In praise of his ‘Ghostbusters’ role as some extremely dumb — and instructive — eye candy

Columbia
Columbia

At this point in the Ghostbusters all-female reboot hysteria, it’s safe to say the discussions about feminism, sexism, gender politics, trolls, haters, Reddit, the performances of McCarthy/Wiig/Jones/McKinnon, and the new theme song have been exhausted, or are at least in need of a timeout. So let us turn our attention to more pressing matters: the eye candy.

In the original Ghostbusters, Annie Potts played the role of agency receptionist with a sharp tongue and dry wit — so dry you almost didn’t mind the stereotypical female role. (Almost!) In the 2016 version, Chris Hemsworth, he of Thor and People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive fame, plays the same receptionist, but his interpretation is … different. It’s an excellent performance, but less, uh, intellectually driven, shall we say. More just “hot and dumb.”

To say receptionist Kevin is a “big dumb puppy dog” is an insult to puppies everywhere, none of whom are this dumb. Just the broad strokes: He wears glasses without lenses because he can’t keep them clean. He can’t answer a phone, he can’t make coffee, he doesn’t understand what an aquarium is (“Like a submarine?”). He can dance butt-first to DMX’s “Party Up (Up in Here),” and he does have an extremely casual relationship to the buttons on his button-down. (Like I said: hot.) When the damsels are answering the calls, he’s the one in distress. He’s a dodo.

So, yes, bless Kevin’s big hot idiot heart — but also appreciate it for a second. There’s something more to Kevin’s stunning lack of intellect (which Hemsworth commits to admirably, I should say). Unlike stupid, handsome male assistants before him (think: Rachel Green’s beautiful, ditzy P.A. Tag in Season 7 of Friends), Kevin doesn’t just exist for our unthinking objectification. Kevin is here to teach us a lesson. He’s bad at his job, yes, but why? Because he doesn’t have to be good at it. Trivial job duties like answering the phone, greeting clients, and following the directives of his female bosses do not register for him — his pretty, pretty masculinity entitles him to more in his mind. And when, at the end of the film, his lady Ghostbuster bosses have busted all the ghosts, he still feels like he can claim all the responsibility even though he literally just stood there eating a sandwich. It’s a majestic portrait of male privilege that’s made 95 percent more tolerable by his perfect, scruffy jawline and tight butt (oh my god, I did it again. So embarrassing!).

If the movie’s villain, Rowan, represents one sort of toxic masculinity — a pasty outcast plotting revenge from the sanctity of his weird basement lair — then Hemsworth’s hot ’n’ dumb combo represents your classic fedora-wearing douche bag: overconfident, casually misogynistic, and blissfully unaware. Both are problematic, as the kids say, and the new Ghostbusters is a savvy testament to the many different ways in which a man can screw things up for women, especially professionally. (See also: Andy Garcia, the mayor who asks them not to take credit for their ghostbusting ways; Bill Murray as a paranormal investigator who doesn’t believe that women can do what he does; the legendary Charles Dance as a Columbia University dean who critiques Wiig’s wardrobe choices as he denies her character tenure; all the aforementioned trolls.) So remember: When you are fixated on Hemsworth’s big, vascular biceps and the gentle curve of his calves in tight jeans, those muscles serve a higher purpose. They are reminding us what a handsome, entitled, extremely stupid white dude can still get away with in this world. Also, they are beautiful.