Without a doubt, the most bizarre movie controversy of 2016 is the disturbing and vehement attacks on Ghostbusters from what we can only assume are man-babies foaming at the mouth over Sony’s audacity to activate and monetize the corporate product that is somehow so central to their otherwise hollow cores.
The film’s trailer was the most disliked on YouTube, and people were trying to down-vote the shit out of the movie on IMDb before it even came out. If we give the benefit of the doubt to the haters, that they’re not just sexist, and somehow consider the existence of this new Ghostbusters as an insult to their childhoods, then we’re hitting a logical fallacy. Your childhood can’t be ruined by something that has no connection to your childhood. Assuming of course, that you are, in fact, sane.
While many fans will insist the legacy of Ghostbusters was previously messed-up by 1989’s Ghostbusters II, almost no one I’ve run into at Comic-Cons, bars, or Facebook has anything negative to say about the 1986-1991 cartoon series, The Real Ghostbusters. In fact, if you identify as an OG Buster like me, then you grew up while the Ghostbusters cartoon was actually on the air. This means that your childhood was largely informed by a Saturday morning TV show that featured the beloved character of Peter Venkman (Bill Murray in the film) being played by the guy who did the voice for Garfield the Cat (Lorenzo Music) and then, in the bulk of the later seasons, Dave Coulier, more relevantly known as Joey from Full House.
I could honestly stop right there. Uncle Joey played Peter Venkman more times than Bill Murray did in the 80s. This means during the time when haters would tell you that Ghostbusters was sacred and clean, it seems to me, that its faux-reverent classiness was already being tarnished. I hate to mention the fact that Winston was also not played by Ernie Hudson on the cartoon, and in fact, lost out to Arsenio Hall. Arsenio in the 80’s was deemed more Winston than real Winston for a cartoon that was called The Real Ghostbusters. Again, I feel like I could stop at any point and drop a slime-covered mic. Nothing about the Ghostbusters brand has ever been sacred. Particularly not back in its original heyday.
But maybe youre not in your 30’s or 40’s. Maybe you’re a little bit younger. Or maybe you’re just the variety of fan who didn’t watch the cartoon, but instead became hip to the awesome aesthetics of the original film and worship that exclusively. Here, the idea of the original film might seem more fixed: a perfect comedic jewel which can’t be messed-with or replaced. Maybe you’re the kind of ‘Buster who gets reflexively hostile when the words “George” and “Lucas” are mentioned to you at certain times of day or after a particular number of drinks. To this person (who might fit the profile of someone down-voting the new film on IMDb) I have the following two statements for your consideration.
1. The original Ghostbusters was not a children’s film.
The notion that Ghostbusters is part of one’s childhood, and therefore, somehow warrants sentimental protection, is one of the worst argumentative premises of all time. It’s like saying Animal House is part of your childhood, and therefore shouldn’t be remade or modified in anyway. This becomes doubly true when you consider most people don’t feel the need to defend the ridiculous cartoon, which, was, in fact, made for children.
In many ways, Ghostbusters is basically just a very successful SNL movie. It was a racy/raunchy comedy for adults that has been co-opted by out-of-control 80’s nostalgia as belonging to someone’s “childhood.” Yes, I watched Ghostbusters as a child. Yes. I loved it. But you know, if Top Gun got remade I wouldn’t be upset. Similarly, I didn’t feel my childhood being harmed by the remake of National Lampoon’s Vacation. I did what a normal person would do when they saw such a thing: yawn.
2. The original Ghostbusters is not as important as you think it is.
Here’s some news for you: The original film is a little sexist. The plot doesn’t really make any sense, particularly in the third act. And, because we live in a world of Ghostbusters cosplayers far more numerous than Ghostbusters movies, the novelty of the concept of the film has been eroded by virtue of the fact that it was very popular. This is a movie that is very good and original, but its popularity has made it a victim of its own success. The standard we’re holding the new film to isn’t a real standard, because Ghostbusters is cool, but not important. Ghostbusters is not like Star Trek or Star Wars or James Bond, or Spider-Man or Sherlock Holmes or Wonder Woman. There isn’t a ton of political or cultural relevance which can connect this pop culture thing to tons of cultural analysis, other than seemingly, sexist outrage culture, which is not unique to fans of Ghostbusters.
Further, Ghostbusters also did not influence a bunch of good movies like it, so its cinematic legacy is fairly self-contained. From a fan speculation standpoint, its fictional universe was designed to deliver some decently clever jokes and create an original adventure film. That’s about it. It’s not like Harry Potter or Tolkien. Pretending to understand the Ghostbusters canon the same way one might with any of the aforementioned properties would be like trying to deconstruct the plot holes in Zoolander.
In the 1984 film, Peter Venkman says to Ray Stanz, “I guess they don’t make them like the used to.” To which Ray replies by slapping Peter and saying, “No! Nobody ever made them like this!” Right here is how we should view any nostalgia we might have for the original Ghostbusters. It’s a weird aberration: the original Ghostbusters is popular because it is unique, original, highly creative for its time, extremely funny. It’s one of a kind. But, it’s also not deep or profound in a way that warrants all of the protection. This was a popular comedy that aberrantly managed to sell some toys and spawned a weird cartoon.
With the new film opening this weekend, there’s one thing to keep in mind: Let. It. Go. Kristin Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon and Melissa McCarty can’t destroy your childhood because that particular childhood is a deranged mixed bag. We’re not kids anymore. And this generation’s Ghostbusters looks like it’s not going to do any harm to anyone. Let’s let the new kids have their fun while getting over something we should have gotten over a long time ago.