|My boyfriend as Vinz Clortho, Halloween 2010
The number of times I’ve seen Ghostbusters is in the high double digits; I finally saw it, after 27 years, in an actual theater this past October. The special effects that were cutting-edge in 1984 were not at all diminished on the big screen, not for this fan girl, at least. I’m not really joking when I say that Ghostbusters is one of the films by which I measure other human beings’ worth. If you don’t like it, I will have to question our friendship. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy about the film. With its loveable cast of characters thrown into a hilarious plot influenced by traditional ghost stories, Cold War-era apocalyptic paranoia, and Japanese daikaiju films, it is a deserved classic. Add a romantic subplot and an iconic theme song, and you’ve got a recipe for success. As a result of both its brilliance and my personal love affair with it, the task of writing about Ghostbusters from a critical and analytical viewpoint has proven difficult at best. And to think, I was going to write a paper on it! (Someday I will. You watch.)
In 1984 I was 8 years old and convinced that the human race was going to nuke itself into oblivion. I became obsessed with Revelations even as it terrified me, and with films like Ghostbusters, The Terminator, etc. Looking back I can see that this was the genesis not only of my love affair with apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction and film, but my obsessive-compulsive and anxiety disorders. Thus, as a child one aspect of the film disturbed me, while as an adult it now fascinates me. Ray and Winston are in the Ecto-1, driving toward the city at twilight, discussing the reasons why NYC is suddenly plagued by so many ghosts. The conversation turns to the Book of Revelation and Judgment Day; though Ray is a non-believer, he acknowledges that Winston may be on to something. The impending apocalypse is not the work of God, however, but of Ivo Shandor’s doomsday cult which, through the building of 55 Central Park West, intended to summon Gozer, a Sumerian god of destruction. Both Dana Barrett and Louis Tulley, tenants of the building, have been possessed by Gozer’s demi-god heralds, Zuul and Vinz Clortho, respectively.
That someone could judge humanity “too sick to survive” was a concept a bit too high for even a gifted child to contemplate, but these days I think we can all acknowledge that Ivo Shandor had a point, whether you agree with his ultimate solution or not. Shandor passed his judgment after World War I; since then we’ve had WWII and the Holocaust, the Korean War, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, Bosnia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, numerous genocides and skirmishes in nearly ever corner of the world. For all the good things that we have accomplished as a species, there are at least twice as many examples of human cruelty and outright depravity. We are also the only creatures, outside of parasitoids, that willfully destroy their own habitat. Few may wish to admit it, but there does seem to be something fundamentally wrong with the human race as a whole.
And so Gozer the Gozerian, in its chosen form, is unleashed upon NYC to bring about the apocalypse. In a nod to Japanese giant monster movies, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man stomps through the city like Godzilla through Tokyo (Gojira being a film that, while superficially silly like Ghostbusters, possesses a socially conscious message). My terror forgotten, I embraced him as one of my all-time favorite villains, right up there with Darth Vader and The Joker. In the end, there are many things that made me love Ghostbusters–from its adorable villain to the fact that scientists, not some meathead on steroids, were the heroes who saved the world. Somewhere in my misanthropic heart, I hope they still can.