I Ain’t Afraid of No Movies
Saw the new Ghostbusters on Thursday night. I want to get my thoughts down, but of course, I want to be decorous about spoilers.
We’ll start with my own memories, expectations, everything I was trying like mad not to bring into the movie with me. Ghostbusters the first is one of my go-to, happy childhood, nostalgia and smiles and watch anytime at all, movies. (The fact that original Ghostbusters and E.T. share a place in my heart with the Muppets as formative media probably says a lot about me.) I must have seen Ghostbusters for the first time when I was no more than seven, because I remember having a Ghostbusters logo T-shirt when we were living in California, and I remember running all over the kindergarten schoolroom and playground with my friend Eva, playing that we were Ghostbusters. As far as memory serves, the rules of playing Ghostbusters involved running around, making scowling “important scientists looking for ghosts” faces, and inside the classroom, a sign of ghosts was when the fluorescent lights of the classroom flickered. Kids are weird.
I must have seen original Ghostbusters before we moved from California. I know the scary monster parts with Zuul didn’t scare me nearly as much as seeing Disney’s Fantasia a few years earlier. (“Night on Bald Mountain” made me sleep with the hall light on for years. Brr!) And, as with the Muppets or the lyrics of Rolling Stones songs, the innuendo sailed over my head at the time. When I watched original Ghostbusters again as a teen and a grownup, I laughed with delight at so many of the parts I remembered of manic energy and spooks and wildness. And I got all the jokes.
Here’s something odd: Moving from San Francisco to New York was the Big Major Life-Change of my childhood. And I know I must have seen Ghostbusters right around then. I also know that, as a recently-arrived West Coast Transplant Kid, I didn’t connect New York to The City Where Ghostbusters Happened, and Now I’m Living Here. I remember being completely culture shocked by things like constant traffic noise, and knowing that our floor was someone else’s ceiling. And I remember seeing The Muppets Take Manhattan and feeling the connection of knowing that it took place in the city where I was now living. Maybe if my parents had taken me to the Schwartzman Building of the NYPL at an earlier age, I would have made the connection.
Or I might have decided to be a librarian at a much earlier age.
Trivia I am currently spouting at every opportunity: When the Ghostbusters question Alice, the librarian who gets spooked by the card catalog above, about any insanity in her family, she tells them that her “uncle thought he was St. Jerome.” St. Jerome is the patron saint of librarians!
I was probably destined to be a librarian.
But I digress, I think, from my original digression. Which was to say that I didn’t connect my love of Ghostbusters to moving to the city where it was set, at the time.
And this visitation of my memories is more of a review of the current Ghostbusters movie than it might originally appear.
I hadn’t thought about playing ghostbusters in the playground, not for years. I hadn’t thought about how connected to New York the original Ghostbusters movie was, or how much the first movie was part of my childhood.Seeing smart, funny women, celebrating friendships and wonder and zaniness and busting ghosts, gave me a happy nod to the young Elizabeth running around the playground busting imaginary ghosts with Eva. And a giant, validating middle-finger to any and all boys who told us girls “only boys can be Ghostbusters.” (Some of whom, I know, are whining in movie reviews and comments of their own. None of which I’m linking here, because this is my happiness and nostalgia post, and my playground, so there.) Ladies have the science and the proton packs now. And a generation of girls drawn to science? We can hope.
The new movie is full of sly jokes that made me laugh with recognition. Cameos and references to my beloved original movie, both in plot arc and in sly guest appearances that made the entire theater cheer. References to the realities of living in New York: the rent is too damn high, you get loyal to that one delivery guy, subways. And to the reality of seeing a movie set in, and talking about a city you love: debating where that “Seward” subway station on the 6 line is, recognizing a facade that’s absolutely not-the-Chrysler-building-we-promise.
It wasn’t a perfect movie. There were entire problematic plot threads where I was mad at the jokes to the point of not finding them funny, annoyed at the cheap-lazy jokes made at the expense of a promising character. Writers, do better! It matters!
Let this be my spoiler-free movie review, then. It made me remember being a kid watching the original. It made me laugh with recognition.
It was a love letter to the original movie. It was a grumpy, grudging, sweary love letter to New York, this difficult and weird and haunted city I call home.
But most of all and best of all, it was a love letter to friendship, and to the girls on the playground dreaming of proton packs.