Ghostbusters has highlighted another example of inequality in Hollywood

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Isn't it strange that a non-comedic actor has one of the funniest roles in Ghostbusters?

Aside from Kate McKinnon playing a bonkers scientist with endless facial tics, Kevin -portrayed by Chris Hemsworth - delivers most of the biggest laughs.

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He plays the ghoul-shooting quartet's idiotic secretary. He's not much of an assistant - an 8 year-old would probably do a better job - but he's so nice to look at that he gets the gig.

His stupidity is kooky and bizarre. It's also funnier than all of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy's lines put together.

Part of the joke is that Hemsworth isn't known for being funny. He's known for being Thor.

Chris Hemsworth is known as Thor so switching him to a comedic role makes him a scene-stealer.
Chris Hemsworth is known as Thor so switching him to a comedic role makes him a scene-stealer.

The idea behind the casting was clearly surface-level feminist stuff. After years of seeing hot women subjected to the male gaze, Ghostbusters set out to even the playing field. How does it feel to be ogled, Chris?

The difference, of course, is that he's not just there for his looks; he also gets some choice lines. So much for equality.

Hemsworth's role continues a long legacy of stunt casting in which movies deliver unexpectedly comical performances from actors who are almost exclusively male.

The shtick goes something like this: Take a serious, usually burly actor - or basketball player, wrestler, boxer - and give him some wacky lines so that audiences have the chance to see him in a new, funnier light.

The question is why it's almost always guys who get these gigs.

Chris Hemsworth ended up being such a comedic scene stealer, it defeats the purpose.
Chris Hemsworth ended up being such a comedic scene stealer, it defeats the purpose.

The surprisingly funny cameo has a long history, but it feels like it's on the rise, and Ghostbusters director Paul Feig - undoubtedly a champion of women - is a big fan of the gimmick.

In Spy, Jude Law played a silly James Bond-type alongside Jason Statham, who really stole the show with a hilariously over-the-top spin on his usual invincible persona.

While McCarthy was no doubt a scene-stealer in Bridesmaids, she wasn't well-known enough to be playing against type. Instead, that job went to Jon Hamm: The debonair cad from Mad Men got cast as a comically smarmy version of his TV character, complete with one grotesque facial expression after another.

It's not like Feig is the only one doing it. You remember Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder and Chuck Norris in Dodgeball, Alice Cooper in Wayne's World and Gene Hackman in Young Frankenstein. When Neil Patrick Harris had his cameo in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, he was still Doogie Howser to most people.

Mike Tyson racked up the laughs in The Hangover. Photo / Getty Images
Mike Tyson racked up the laughs in The Hangover. Photo / Getty Images

Then there are the athletes. Think about Mike Tyson doing his best Phil Collins impersonation in The Hangover or John Cena in Sisters. The wrestler also had a humorous part in Trainwreck, though it wasn't easy to steal the show when NBA superstar Lebron James was delivering so much funny.

The overwhelming feeling that emerges from all this is that, with the right writers and improv coaches, just about anyone can be funny. Well, any guy anyway.

The list of women who get to be the surprising scene-stealer is a lot smaller. Comedic cameos usually go to funny ladies we'd expect to see - Rebel Wilson in Absolutely Fabulous or Wiig in Zoolander 2, Sarah Silverman in A Million Ways to Die in the West and Leslie Mann and Elizabeth Banks in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

There are exceptions. Tilda Swinton got to prove her comedy chops in Trainwreck and Rose Byrne, who spent years moping around in movies like Troy and the television show Damages, basically altered her career with her riotous turn in Bridesmaids. Now, with two Neighbours movies under her belt, plus Spy, I Give it a Year and Adult Beginners, she's known more for her comedy than her drama.

Rose Byrne was known for serious roles until Bridesmaids. Photo / supplied
Rose Byrne was known for serious roles until Bridesmaids. Photo / supplied

Should the inequality be surprising? Of course not. After all, we know that more men than women get roles on the big screen, and the discrepancy between the number of lines male and female actors get to say onscreen is particularly egregious.

But wouldn't it be nice if, before someone gives the sad-eyed Kit Harington the chance to prove he can send us into a fit of giggles, someone lets Kate Winslet, Lupita Nyong'o or Serena Williams have their chance? A movie-goer can dream.

- Washington Post

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