Ghostbusters and Ruined Childhoods

Let us travel back in time. Back to a period of time before the dawn of the age of mankind. At a time in history, humanity was just crawling out of the swamp filled bogs of our primordial ooze, growing legs and wandering bleary eyed into a new age of wonder and excitement never before realised.

1984.

Important things were happening in the world of entertainment. Peter Davidson was regenerating into the under-appreciated Colin Baker on TVs Doctor Who. Roger Moore was preparing to film his final Bond movie before regenerating into the under-appreciated Timothy Dalton. And there was a very real risk of dogs and cats, living together, MASS HYSTERIA!

I speak of course, of Ghostbusters. There are two types of people in the world. People who love Ghostbusters as if it were their child and people who fail at life. When I was a child I was obsessed with Ghostbusters (GB from hereon in) and used to rent the movie on video during lunch breaks from school. I never got the chance to see much further than the first half an hour during my lunch breaks so spent much of the 1980s believing the climax of the movie was the Ghostbusters rushing off to fight Slimer for the first time in an epic cliffhanger.

It was a great time to be alive. Of course I had the proton pack- a cheap plastic thing that made me feel like I was carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on my back. I had the traps that you threw out and opened with a crude foot-pump, the figures, the t shirts, the cartoons, I even had this awesome proton gun projector that allowed you to project a ghost image and bust it, which I used to play with when running around a darkened nightclub in the mornings that my nan cleaned. On a side note, that nightclub had a store room like Raiders of the Lost Ark with boxes, hundreds of old typewriters and numerous damn sarcophagus! So perfect for busting, which as we all know makes us feel good.

When GB2 came out I was excited, and despite it being judged harshly today I still consider it one of my favourite movies. When it was released I remember seeing an advert on the TV for a kids Burger King menu that was similar to a Happy Meal- burger, fries, drink and toys. One of those was a ghost in a can. The trailer for the kids meal showed a kid with the ghost can opening it and a Scoleri brother flying out. As a kid I totally believed there was a ghost in the can and when I got it I was equal parts terrified and sad. Terrified because have you seen the Scoleri brothers? And sad because I thought it was cruel to keep a ghost locked up in a can. So I went outside into my nans backyard, dragging my mum with me for safety and opened the can at arms distance, immediately dropping it and running away. I didn’t see a Scoleri brother, I can only assume it was an invisible ghost in there.

I remember one of my favourite games at the time was GB2 on the Commodore C-64. I never got past the first level which was a vertical scroller where you played as Ray dangling down a hole, trying to make it to the bottom. Another GB game was a top down game. When I wasn’t making a Three Amigos costume out of bin bags and milk bottle tops I was a Ghostbuster. I knew the movie, I loved Peter Venkman. For years I wanted a GB3. I kept reading movie magazines, interviews with the cast hoping for some glimmer of hope. Once I got access to the internet I eagerly scoured its pages seeking out reports and was constantly getting my hopes up whenever Dan Aykroyd said “Its got a script, we start filming in a few months” only for nothing to materialise, like with my ghost in a can. In 2009 a new game was announced, written by the movie writers, featuring the movies cast of the four main protagonists, Janine, the dickless Walter Peck (who was totally in the right) and even Vigo made a cameo. It was touted by many as the next best thing to a GB3 and its true. The plot follows on logically from GB2, takes some elements from Aykroyds third movie idea of a dark, twisted ManHellton and is fully immersive. It is one of the best games I have ever played and neatly follows on from GB2. For me, I was content, I was no longer bothered about a movie version of GB3 because I HAD my GB3.

Add to this the increasing ages of the cast, the sad loss of Harold Ramis, the retirement of Rick Moranis and the absolutely-not-getting-involved-in-any-way-so-stop-asking-me attitude of Bill Murray. If a new Ghostbusters movie were to be made clinging to the cast, crew and continuity it would consist entirely of Winston and Ray- now imagine the first scene of Ghostbusters 2 only stretched to 2 hours, and add in Aykroyds trademark certifiability. Still a movie you want to watch? Aykroryd, despite being the originator of the franchise needs reigning in and really shouldn’t work unsupervised. His original concept was a bit like a National Lampoons movie focusing on him, John Belushi and maybe Eddie Murphy travelling through time and space, catching monsters with the use of wands and calling themselves The Ghost Smashers. Could it have been a good movie? Maybe, a little bizarre and crazy, but it might have been watchable in the same way National Lampoons Vacation is watchable if you appreciate the 80s attempt at sexualised slapstick. The addition of Ivan Reitman and Ramis, along with the untimely death of Belushi, gave us the Ghostbusters we know and love. Without those occurrences I can’t imagine Ghostbusters being the phenomenal franchise it is today. Maybe a cult movie, but one that would sit on the shelf with Vacation, Porkies and Revenge of the Nerds.

Which is why, when the new movie was finally green lit and the news Aykroyd was out of the picture, it actually made me feel more confident for a new GB film than if Aykroyd was attached. Not to be too hard on old Dan, it is after all because of him we even have GB in the first place, but the impact of Reitman and Ramis cannot be dismissed. I admit to being a little mixed about the prospect of a new GB film. I was already starting to lose interest before the game came out, but when it did I was happy to see the franchise put to rest and leave the repeats, existing games and continuing comic books to be our memories of Ghosbusters. The longer talks of a new movie went on, the less I was interested. As Murray once said “No one wants to pay money to see fat, old men chasing ghosts!” and I’m with him on that. The whole reason, for me, that the GB game worked is because it was set only a couple of years after GB2 when they were still in their prime. Making a GB3 and forcing Murray et al into the suits, even if the framing story is them training newbies like in the game, would be at best a cash grab and at worst an embarrassing cash grab.

So when it was announced there would be a reboot I was, and am still, having mixed feelings. I don’t really want a new GB film in any form. I don’t need one, the franchise doesn’t need one, the story doesn’t need one. But it isn’t going to go away and after years of pushing it is finally going to happen. My misgivings about the new GB film have nothing to do with it “ruining my childhood” as some people say it will. The whole “ruined my childhood” argument is pretty poor in all regards. When Rolf Harris was imprisoned for crimes related to molestation and abuse people said it ruined their childhoods- I’m betting it didn’t ruin their childhoods as much as it did for the victims. And Ghostbusters, as a franchise, as far as I know has never inappropriately touched anyone because it doesn’t have a body. Because it’s a movie. And it always will be a movie. No matter what happens with the new GB film you will still have GB1 and 2, you will still have the games, the comics, the action figures. None of that is going away. This film wont retroactively erase them from history nor your memory.

Now would I rather have seen a new movie with the original cast? Sure, but in their peak and all together. After around 2005 there was never any chance of a new movie with the same crew and producers recapturing that spirit of the old movies because they and society had changed too much. GB1 would never be made today- it is too slow at times for a modern movie, the humour is not as in your face and obvious, it was a movie of its time and it holds up well but if GB is going to move forward it needs to do so for a new generation. And that’s a key point, this movie isn’t really for the fans, the game accomplished that. This is about getting new people in to the franchise. There are problems with it- the directors previous movies have never really appealed to me, and I have a dislike of Melissa McCarthy- not as a person, I just don’t enjoy watching her work. Ivan Reitman is involved as a producer but he is the only one from the original production and “Producer” is such a vague title it might be little more than just lending his name to it. But we don’t know yet how the movie will turn out. One thing is for certain, my issues with it have nothing to do with an all female team of Ghostbusters. My concern is I haven’t seen many Hollywood comedies in the past decade I actually like, even Anchorman is pretty difficult to watch once the novelty of the bizarre one liners wears off. And though I liked the Hangover on first viewing, its not something I’m going to be rewatching any time soon. So for me, my main concern is it wont be my cup of tea based on recent Hollywood trends and the involvement of people whose work I am not a fan of.

But will I watch it? Hell yes. Because despite my concerns it is still way too early to judge. It might be amazing, it might endear McCarthy to me and I’ll become her biggest fan. We simply cannot judge the quality of it yet. Look at the backlash against Michael Keaton when he donned Batman’s cowl – he doesn’t look right, he isn’t bulky enough, he doesn’t look like Batman. Then the backlash against Heath Ledger before he delivered what many now believe to be the definitive Joker. Then look the other way at how amazing Man of Steel looked, how right for the role Henry Cavill was and then look how badly it turned out. Look at Marvel, deciding to bring one of their less commercial characters- Iron Man- to the silver screen. Holy hell, that decision has made Marvel the number one superhero movie making behemoth. We simply cannot judge the new GB film until the end credits roll. It may well be awful, I admit to not being enthusiastic, but I am cautiously optimistic and though I don’t really want a new GB film I am interested to see what happens because we are getting a new Ghostbusters movie after 25 years.

But the gender of the cast has nothing to do with my concern, in fact, it’s the one thing that could actually save the franchise and the sexist attacks leveled at the movie are disgusting. There has been a lot of talk in recent years and a lot of people complaining about switching the typical white, male, traditions seen in certain characters and playing around with them. When the new Johnny Storm for Fantastic Four was announced as being played by a black actor there was uproar, yet when Jessica Alba portrayed the oh so very white Sue Storm in the previous FF franchise there was hardly a peep about her Latin American background and looks. But then shes hot and DudeBros want to nail her. Another recent non argument has revolved around James Bond. Leaked emails suggested the heads of Sony wanted Idris Elba to be the next Bond. A black Bond? Sacrilege many cried. Yet Bond is a Scotsman and we’ve only had one Scotsman play him- we’ve also had English, Welsh and Australians play him. But they were white- so does this mean the need to stick to cannon only relates to colour? The nationality of the character can be changed without a second thought? But then some Bond fans are weirdly demanding in what they want for Bond. When Daniel Craig got the role there were complaints because he was blond. Yet he is now one of the most successful Bonds of all time, his movies smashing box office records. Nothing about Bond in 2015 requires him to be white. People like to argue that you wouldn’t make Phil Mitchell from Eastenders female or black, and of course you wouldn’t. Because in the shows current continuity the character is a balding white guy, if Eastenders were to be rebooted you could absolutely have a female Phillis Mitchell. Or hell, even in the current continuity you could have him transition as someone who is Trans* (No, I am not suggesting that should happen because the character wouldn’t do that- its just raising a point of how it could happen in continuity).

Bond is constantly being rebooted, though some minor story elements and actors carry over I think you would be hard pushed to suggest Pierce Brosnans movies are not at least a loose reboot, the same with other Bonds. New Bonds, New Directions. Brosnan in Die Another Day cannot be the same Bond as Connery in Dr. No, unless he has a serious anti aging cream addiction.

Then there is The Doctor. People complain the idea of a female Doctor would ruin it, that there has never been a female Doctor before etc. Well, the reason for that is because of the period when the show was made. We live in an era now where woman are (in theory at least) not just the sexy sidekick. We have seen in canon that Time Lords can change gender with The Master switching to Missy. We have had throw away lines referring to gender changes. In the classic series we saw Romana trying on a variety of possible new Regenerations including very bizarre non human aliens. Are we really to believe Time Lords can change entire species but a gender swap is an impossibility? Well no, because we have now seen it in canon. Even the expanded DW universe has had female Doctors. Arabella Weir played an incarnation of the Doctor in a radio drama looking at potential Doctors.  We’re now at a stage where the Doctor becoming female at some point isnt a question of if, but of when.

If the actor is good, the scripts well written, and the production tight I can see zero good reasons not to have a black Bond, or a female Doctor.

And this Ghostbusters reboot, which I repeat we know nothing at all about yet, has even less reason for why they can’t switch up the genders. This is not likely to be the same characters only played by women, it is four Ghostbusters, in a rebooted film, that happen to be female. There are reasons to be cautious going into this new movie, but none of them relate to the gender of the actors in the lead roles. If the idea of female Ghostbusters is so off putting then don’t watch. It wont ruin your childhood, you can still play with your action figure in the bath and you can still watch Bill Murray spinning around in joy after securing a date with Sigourney Weaver. Lets wait and see the end credits roll before we dismiss what could be an amazing movie viewing experience.  But one thing is for sure, this film isnt going to ruin your childhood, and there is no reason the Ghostbusters shouldn’t be female- in fact, the female cast is the only thing actually getting me excited.

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