The Original Ghostbusters: More Than Just Busting Ghosts?

ghostbusters_ver3_xlg-2It’s hard to believe a full-fledged Ghostbusters film hasn’t been in theaters since 1989, but it’s now 2016 and they’re back…sort of.  Whether or not you’ve embraced the franchise’s reboot, it’s worth paying tribute to the fact that many consider the original 1984 film to be one of Hollywood’s most libertarian blockbusters.

After losing their jobs at Columbia University, paranormal investigators, Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Egon Spengler start their own extermination service known as the “Ghostbusters.”  Naturally, no one takes them seriously, until a rise in paranormal activity begins to threaten New York.

As their service becomes more in demand, the Ghostbusters do what any successful business does: expand.  They purchase an office in the form of a firehouse, make a cheesy advertisement, and hire extra staff: receptionist Janine Melnitz, and a fourth buster, Winston Zeddemore.  The Ghostbusters new found fame and success, however, is short lived when the Environmental Protection Agency has them arrested and their business shut down for operating unlicensed waste, deactivating their spirit containment system and inadvertently releasing hundreds of ghosts, who begin terrorizing New York.

The situation escalates even more when the ghosts successfully summon Gozer, the god of destruction, to bring about the end of the world.  The government, having no means of combating the supernatural threat, releases the Ghostbusters from custody to battle Gozer.  When our heroes finally come face to face with the god of destruction, it allows the Ghostbusters to choose the form of the destructor.  Trying to think of something completely harmless, Ray envisions his favorite corporate mascot, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, which arrives in giant form and begins to destroy the city.

Using their proton packs, the Ghostbusters cross their energy streams, creating a reverse particle flow, which causes an explosion that destroys the marshmallow man and saves New York from destruction.  In the end, the small business owners do what the larger government and EPA couldn’t and become the heroes.

Ghostbusters is so iconic, because it has all the ingredients of an iconic movie: memorable characters, quotable dialogue, originality, etc. What may perhaps be another draw to the film is that it’s about individuals standing up to the big man.  We know how much America loves its underdog stories.

A lot of public frustration over the government bureaucracy tends to stem from its inaction or overaction resulting in the loss of an individual’s ability to control his or her own decisions.  In the case of Ghostbusters, the EPA, which represents bureaucracy, ends up interfering and shutting our heroes down.

A recent New York Times poll found that 54 per cent of Americans believe over regulation has stifled economic growth.  Furthermore, the poll showed that less Americans now believe that a poor individual can become rich through hard work.

For an enthusiastically pro-capitalist film, Ghostbusters seemingly takes a stab at big business with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man.  The cute marshmallow sailor man represents the quintessential American brand mascot that has now become the size of Godzilla and is destroying everything.  Perhaps the intention was to show the Ghostbusters as capitalism done right, while Stay-Puft was meant to come off as big business simply becoming too big.

Ghostbusters isn’t just a comedy; it’s a people-power movie. It takes on the American mindset that individuals can be the hero and rise to success.