Happy 30th birthday, Ghostbusters!
I saw the 30th anniversary rerelease of Ghostbusters last week and man, that movie is still freaking gold. It’s hilarious. Catch your chance to see it on the big screen while you can. I’d even go so far as to call Ghostbusters one of the formative movies of my life. It’s had a very definite effect on the development of my sense of humor, for sure. I watched it when I was still young enough to think the ghost in the library was the scariest thing in the world, but it was just. So. Funny. My whole family still quotes lines from it at each other. My older brother’s ambition was once to attain a coffee mug that said Back off man, I’m a scientist.
There’s one thing bothering me about it now, though: the way Venkman just creeps on Dana. Venkman basically makes it clear from moment one (“I’m going to go to Ms. Barrett’s apartment and check her out. I mean check it out.”) that he is trying to get up her skirt. Dana throws him out of her apartment, (“Mr. Venkman, would you please leave.”) and is very obviously not interested… at first. And then, inevitably, she ends up finding him charming as he refuses to go away and by the end of the movie Venkman basically assumes she’s his girlfriend and there’s no indication to the contrary.
I think it says a lot about the amazing timing Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver have that it’s all pretty darn funny and charming. And really, there’s a lot of creeping that goes on in that movie, to hilarious effect. Louis also creeps (very unsuccessfully) on Dana. Janine, frankly, creeps on Egon.
But Venkman gets the girl.
I mentioned how I felt icky about this to my housemate as we left the movie, and she said “Yeah, that didn’t age so well.” Except it’s not an age problem for Ghostbusters. The creeper model of relationship development is still a mainstay in film. I’d almost argue the average creepy relationship in movies has, if anything, only gotten creepier.
Ghostbusters was always like that. The movie didn’t change, I did, and now it just bothers me. Now I can’t help but think, Jesus, if someone was that resistant about leaving my house after I told them to go, they’d get pepper sprayed or put in an armlock. It’s not okay behavior. It’s creepy. And yeah, you can excuse a lot of this stuff as comedy. Except for this: I remember how I felt about this movie when I was a kid. I thought Dana and Venkman were super romantic (as super romantic as you can get in a comedy movie that involves a giant, evil, marshmallow man at least) and an amazing couple.
Confession: I was a total creeper, in high school. I basically tried to hang around guys (because I didn’t realize or admit girls were an actual option, not that I would have been less creepy at girls) and refused to go away under the belief that if I just stuck around long enough they would suddenly realize just how wrong they were to not want to kiss me. I even complained about how boys only wanted to date bitches instead of nice girls like me. No really.
Movies aren’t reality. I get that. They’re art. They’re commentary. They’re a reflection. They’re wish fulfillment. They’re a lot of things. Movies—stories—also have a lot more meaning than we like to admit. Stories instruct, and stick with us, and in ways we don’t necessarily realize. In reality, you do not obtain a significant other by refusing to go away until they decide that maybe they do like you. Relationships are not created by erosion.
So why do we keep telling ourselves stories where they are?