I’ve spent a lot of years examining every detail of Ghostbusters as a cinematic phenomenon and along the way, over everything else I’ve learned about the film, if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s these two things.
1) There isn’t some aspect of Ghostbusters that isn’t in some way special, either as a best-example-of, or set-the-standard.
2) Like all movies, not everyone will love it, though many will and do.
It’s for this reason that I’m really choked at The Onion’s AV Club.
A favorite read of mine since it first budded off its satirical parent site, it’s been a place for excellent interviews, reviews, and pop culture deconstructions as long as I can remember. But content is king, and the king demands volume, and volume can lead to trouble. In this case, this week’s Better Late Than Never? column, in which a film that many think should be seen, hasn’t been seen by the reviewer, and in viewing it, they comment on if they hype is deserved or not.
Watching and commenting on Ghostbusters, Genevieve Koski writes the worst kind of review possible, though it is very popular; it is the easy path, or perhaps a better description would be, the slippery slope. It is easier to go negative than be positive. And regardless of whether the negative is deserved, Genevieve, fearing the Internet she writes for, or perhaps just being a typical product of it, decided to attack before she could be attacked.
I’ll leave it to you to read the review, which if nothing else is supposed to be a unique chance to hear the thoughts of someone new to the film, though I wish she’d done more of that. She raises the fair point that some of Ghostbusters’ long-lived popularity is due to nostalgia – this is entirely correct, and in fact, I think many of us older fans have admitted as much.
She puts forth an excellent suggestion, that a great deal of kids – born around the time Ghostbusters was in theaters – who had older siblings, were introduced to the film by those brothers and sisters, increasing the number of wistful nostalgics beyond only those that saw it at the cineplex. She takes it a step further and says in some cases, parents that enjoyed the film will play the same role. This is all entirely true, something we as fans understand all too well, because we know this effect didn’t stop in the 80s – parents who saw the movie as kids are now introducing their own kids to the film. It is for this reason, she argues, that lone children like herself were more likely to have missed out on the film. Right on. Excellent stuff.
Next it’s deconstructing the film, examining the weaker points of the film to her – the effects (yes, they’re old, but honestly, they weren’t exactly cheap examples of the technology of the time – perhaps she’d like to complain about black and white films next) and the comedy (which is all Murray, she says), and the story (which, essentially, ranges from non-existent to stupid.)
Fair enough, she wasn’t head-over heels about the movie – that’s OK. A lot of people aren’t. Some people didn’t like Star Wars. Some people don’t like Citizen Kane. Films are art, and art is subjective, so yeah, to each their own.
Then it all goes to crap when Genevieve opts to defend her points by going on the offensive; She didn’t hate the movie, but if asked how much she enjoyed, it wouldn’t be a lot (fair enough) “and it would surely incur the wrath of hordes of Ghostbusters fans”…
…really? That’s unkind. Sure, it’s the Internets, Jake – and sure someone might take her to task – it wouldn’t be the first time online – but as a carpet-bomb, preemptive strike, on ALL fans, that’s kinda cruel.
What’s odd is that she makes her original, not entirely wrong point about the role of nostalgia in the film’s legacy, and turns it into The Only Reason This Movie Is Popular. Highly arguable, but why bother, since she manages to do so herself in the same article, by pointing out that;
– The film has a 93% Freshness rating at Rotten Tomatoes
– It has glowing reviews at IMdB
– It was “the top-grossing film of 1984 (and 31st highest-grossing in history)”
And that last one is the kicker. You can argue that it’s childhood fond memories that keep it popular today, but you don’t get to be a top-grossing film in a year, and top-grossing film of all time, for the same reason. A film reaches that level because a lot of asses, many of them adult (as the film was PG – the P means “Parental”) went and saw it.
If she’d just left it at “I didn’t like it”, it would have been fine. If she’d gone a bit further, but stopped at “I think it’s popular because people are holding onto their childhood”, sure, whatever.
But she didn’t. She decided to make her summation thus;
If you look past the memorable lines you’ve quoted your whole life and the effects that wowed you when you were a kid, you’d probably find that what’s left of Ghostbusters is a wisp of a film, enjoyable in fits and starts, but ultimately kind of clumsy and forgettable. But why would you want to do that? You go right on ahead and keep loving Ghostbusters if it makes you happy, guys, I’m not here to stop you. Just don’t be disappointed when the next person you foist it upon doesn’t share your love.
I’ll paraphrase for easier understanding;
Ghostbusters isn’t the hot shit everyone thinks it is. But if you love it, you keep on loving it. By the way, I’m assuming if you do love it, you’re an asshole.
Thanks Genevieve Koski. You should have kept it impersonal.
I’m leaving the comments open – try not to prove her right, please.
Thanks, Dan, for the link.
Lost in a sea of 1000+ comments, Koski did take a moment to address the main thing I was huffed over;
At the risk of restirring the shit storm, I’m going to address just one quick thing about this piece, because I think it’s where most of our problem is stemming from. To everyone who found this condescending, that is honestly, truly, 100 percent not what I was going for, and if it came off that way, I am sorry. I never meant to imply that viewing Ghostbusters or any other movie through a nostalgic lens changes its worth to you personally or to society as a whole. I was just addressing the fact that as someone who doesn’t view it that way, this is what I saw, and establishing where I was approaching the movie from: someone with no emotional ties to the movie whatsoever. I was well aware when I wrote this that I would be in the minority not liking it, and perhaps that’s where the defensive tone came from. But that final paragraph really was intended to be genuine and not at all mocking. I mean it when I say you should keep right on loving Ghostbusters. The point of this wasn’t to convert anybody, or even to “review” the movie objectively… that’s not what BLTN is about, as Tasha said. It’s one person’s experience with the movie, mine, and while I wish it had been as great as all of yours, it wasn’t. Trust me, I wish it had been. It would have made this a lot easier.