Sep. 18th, 2017

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As a writing exercise, I've chosen the ten books, albums, movies, and games that were most important in defining me as a person, and challenged myself to explain why. With the movies, I'm going chronologically, and this is number 3.

Ghostbusters (1984)

I was eight years old when this movie came out. I already loved all things Halloween, and a mashup of ghosts with sci-fi contraptions and nerdy jokes was perfect for me. The visual effects were great too, and it set the template for what I thought ghosts should be like: Gassy neon light shows, drifting around doing their own thing. If you got in their way they would attack at you. Then if you didn't run away, something awful and mysterious would happen and you'd never be seen again. So basically, ghosts were like elephants. Except they were more colorful, and made less noise going through a wall.

Also, scientists were fun, and could act like total weirdos as long as they got their work done. That weirdness got injected into my own life as pile of catchphrases, like, "Dogs and cats, living together; mass hysteria!" and "There is no [insert random thing here], only Zuul!" and "I love this plan! I'm excited to be a part of it! LET'S DO IT!" and of course, "Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say YES." And so many others. My friends and I swapped these around endlessly until they were part of our grammar. There were also quotes that I didn't get until much later. I was in my 30's before I really understood, "You've never been out of college. You don't know what it's like out there. I worked in the private sector. They expect results!" And now I find it hilarious that Louis invited all his work clients to a party and called it a "promotional expense."

The music was fantastic too. I bought the soundtrack on cassette and played it on the living room stereo, and danced and rolled around on the carpet. My favorites were the "Ghostbusters Main Theme", and then "Dana's Theme" which immediately followed it.

Ah yes, and Sigourney Weaver was in this movie, and I immediately liked her. Not because her character got possessed by a demon and acted all vampy - which I found incomprehensible as an eight-year-old - but because she projected a sort of comfortable maturity. Looking back, I have to say that if she knew what she was doing as an actor - which she probably did - it was very smart to take what was really a "damsel in distress" and "love interest" role and rearrange it to say "I'm perfectly fine on my own and I have my shit together, but circumstances made me reach out to these Ghostbuster guys, and Peter is a goofball but I am allowing myself to be charmed by him because he is being a gentleman at the same time." Some other actress could have taken her scenes and lines, and been flirty and jumpy and clingy, and then just swooned into Peter's arms at the end of the film, but Sigourney chose to deliver something else, and it managed to show how her character might honestly be attracted to someone like Peter in the first place, and vice-versa.

So, take that over to me, the preteen goofball in the audience: Here's a classy lady who might actually want to be your girlfriend some day. Wow!

My crush on her got a huge boost, of course, when I saw Aliens two years later.

So why was this movie so influential to me, aside from the endless quoting? Why is Ghostbusters on this list, when Return Of The Jedi (which came out just the year before) didn't make it? Mostly because of a statement it makes with its characters.

This movie came out in 1984, the same year that "Revenge Of The Nerds" was in theaters. It's hard to understand now, but back in 1984 "nerds" were actually seen as a minority group that needed some kind of "revenge." How the times have changed! Ghostbusters made a different statement to nerds: It's not you versus "jocks". It's not you versus anyone. If you don't feel like you "fit in", don't worry about it. Stick with your friends, feed your obsessions, and try to have fun -- because you can be aggressively weird and still command respect when your weirdness makes you very good at your job.

That was the key idea. Even if I wasn't going to save New York City from an apocalypse, I could still find some way to make my weirder nature useful, whether that took the form of being a hardcore scientist like Egon, an excited collaborator like Ray, a steady hand like Winston, or a goofball like Peter. Like the Ghostbusters, my friends were an ensemble of nerds, and perhaps the future could be bright for us... Or at least better than the confusion and sense of rejection we felt from most other kids our age. This movie whispered to me that perhaps our "revenge" for suffering as nerdy kids could be to thrive as nerdy adults.

Also, when someone asks you, if you're a god, you say YES !!!

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