Ghostbusters – Unapologetically Dorky
The new Ghostbusters movie had fountains of digital ink spilled through violent debate of its worth before the first teaser had been released. I have chosen to wait until after seeing the film to make any formal comment.
In short, I quite liked it. I would even venture to say that it was good.
As a quick, spoiler-free review: it’s fun and silly and self-aware. Everyone involved looks like they’re having a riot, while managing to sell the hell out of their characters. It had enough nods to the original to honor it, without trying to copy it. The many cameos were a bit forced, but mostly charming. And the ending is a bit weak, but not enough to spoil an otherwise delightful movie.
It isn’t flawless, but it’s genuinely funny, surprisingly scary in parts, and an overall good time.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s dig into the main controversy.
Who is it for?
A lot of the pre-release “discourse” about Ghostbusters was about who the movie was “for.”
Sulky fanboys felt betrayed that it wasn’t a nostalgia property aimed at their wallets, while many ladies seemed enthusiastic that it might actually be a genre comedy made with them in mind.
I certainly fall into the former demographic. I grew up with the cartoon and toys being an important part of my childhood. I remember the movie fondly as one of the first adult films that meant something to me. I did my best to leave my nostalgia at the door and enjoy the movie for what I thought it was, a comedy about women for women.
It was not.
At least it wasn’t only that.
This film evoked way more feelings from me than I expected.
Whether or not it was meant for me, this movie is very much about me and my people. Ghostbusters is about nerds. It speaks to many of the shared experiences of nerds, regardless of gender. I have been each of the five main characters in it at some point in my life. I found myself identifying with all of them.
Each of them is a profoundly dorky human trying, in their own slightly dysfunctional way, to navigate a world that doesn’t quite fit.
Erin is the closeted nerd, trying desperately to fit the mold defined by her career. She hides the things she loves, pretends to be what she imagines normal looks like, but it’s a skin that doesn’t fit.
Abby is the closest thing to a well adjusted dork the film presents. She’s found people who share her passion. She’s still awkward and obsessive and a little out of step with “normal” society but she’s come to terms with it.
Holtzmann wears her weird on her sleeve. She’s the nerd that went all in on her hobby and has invested more time, thought, energy, and money into it than is at all rational.
Patty is one of the many invisible, blue-collar nerds. She has a passion and enthusiasm for a subject that is lost on the community and culture that she’s surrounded by.
Finally there is our villain, Rowan. He is in many ways the dark reflection of each of the other characters. He’s locked in a dead-end job, surrounded by people that do not understand him. He’s been the weirdo and the outsider his whole life, mistreated, demeaned, isolated. The main difference between Rowan and Abby, is that Rowan never found his Erin.
Each of these characters embodied parts of me and the people I love. I have been all of them and I have known them all. I have been Patty, feeling like an alien in the world of working-class conformity. I’ve been Erin, hiding my stripes and hoping that my weird will go unnoticed. I’ve been Holtzmann, oh, I’ve been Holtzmann, diving headfirst into the deep end and drowning in my own oddities because fuck the world. On a good day, I’ve been Abby. I’ve been surrounded by people that understand me and encourage me and keep me balanced slightly off-centre. On my bad days, I’ve also been Rowan. I’ve been alone, angry, isolated, bullied. I’ve wanted to hurt people.
Ghostbusters is a modern tale of managing the world as a nerd, which is not at all what I was expecting. It does it well. The characters and the performers embody their varied flavours of nerdery with conviction and joy. It may not have been intended for me, but it certainly spoke to me.