Nuggets of Wisdom

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why Ghostbusters Really Is That Good

A while ago, film and media critic Bob “Moviebob” Chipman was let go from his position at The Escapist. Depending on your general feelings towards him, you either feel sorry for him or you’re glad that "the giant tub of feminazi lard" finally got the boot.

Personally, while I’ve never cared for his political opinions—and in many cases, really never cared for his political opinions—I do admire his insight in and extensive (almost encyclopedic) knowledge of film, gaming, and media in general. (It’s just a pity that he’s never applied his critical thinking skills to politics.)

Recently, he started a new film review series, Really That Good, where he examines classic beloved movie and reveals just why, as the name suggests, they’re really that good.

His first entry, which he released earlier today, is on Ghostbusters, wherein he elucidates on the movie’s overall theme about how just a little bit of courage and knowledge combined is powerful enough to overcome even the biggest and scariest of monsters:

The world of Ghostbusters is a world where big cosmic horrors are omnipresent but always just out of sight, where that creeping feeling of dread of an otherwise unfamiliar house, or something off about the benign zaniness of a hotel hallway at night, or the unsettling staleness of an old library are evidence of lurking malevolent horrors, where that rustling in the bushes at night really is something evil out to get you, and that creepy stranger is more than just creepy, where something really is going bump in the night, hiding under the bed, lurking in the shadows, and yes, where there is a monster in the closet.

But if they scare you, you're likely to be told that it's all in your head, or not really all that scary, or that you should get over it, which in turn is going to make you feel not only frightened, but alone. To children, that world is also known as the real world day-to-day. Kids don't need to make much of a logical leap to understand a movie where people live at the mercy of seemingly malevolent forces beyond their understanding or control. Most of them feel like they are already living like that day-in and day-out; but in the Ghostbusters world, there is something that can checkmate all that scary stuff: you.

The subtext that underlines and empowers the narrative of Ghostbusters is science and technology overcoming superstition and the supernatural, but the practical surface text is monsters and ghosts being overcome by cool gadgets--and not cool gadgets powered by the same indeterminate scary stuff that the bad guys are made of, or cool gadgets that are rare and hard to find, or cool gadgets that only certain special people can use--it's made unmistakably clear that the Ghostbusters thought up, made, and maintain the proton packs, traps, PKE meters, and containment units themselves, and that is all important for understanding the power of this power fantasy.

The unique powerful fantasy idea at the heart of Ghostbusters isn't that ghosts and monsters and demons and things that go bump-in-the-night are real, and it also isn't that they can simply be busted, it's that with the right equipment and a little bit of know-how, you can bust them...[and] the appeal to the mindset of kids is far more potent, more obvious, and more powerful. With cleverness and determination, you can take control of what scares you, assert your power of what lurks in the dark, and beat back the things that frighten you, and that core idea make Spengler, Stantz, Venkman, and Zeddemore more than just movie heroes, it makes them the spirit animals of every kid who ever set a trap for the monster under their bed or even stayed awake trying to catch a glimpse of the Tooth Fairy.