The Perverted Ghosts of Ghostbusters (2500 words)
I was surprised to spot, very early in the trailer of the upcoming Ghostbusters, several references to sexual… stuff: an ejaculation, a vagina dentata and well, Kirsten Wiig acknowledging that “it went in every crack.”
I must admit that I’m very curious to see what the subtext of this new movie will be. If you’ve read my long commentary on CareNorway’s video about… about what actually ? About not being mean to girls if you’re a boy I suppose… Well, if you’ve read my commentary about it, you certainly know how much I believe in the importance of women being allowed/given space to express their sexual urges. So, when I see this Ghostbusters’ trailer filled with sexual references, I’m quite curious what the subtext of the film will be.
However, the franchise didn’t wait for this reboot to dwell into sexuality.
In the original film, the ghostbusters team is constituted of three frustrated losers who are trying to satisfy or to find a substitute for their sexual urges. Ghosts represent repressed sexuality. When the movie starts, an old librarian is attacked by a ghost in the basement of the city library. Librarians, women who hide in books, are easily associated with repressed sexuality and this one bears this meaning. The ghost she comes across is her repressed libido and it puts her basement upside down. Ah ah ah ! I didn’t write that on purpose. But actually, that’s exactly what the movie means. The basement is her vagina, and the slimy goo isn’t there by coincidence, it refers to vaginal secretion. So, her "supra natural experience" is just her being unexpectedly aroused while she was innocently reading a book. During this first intervention of the ghosbusters, humour arises from the fact that the guys have no idea what to do when confronted to a ghost and that they react exactly like intimidated men trying to hit on a girl. (I like the fact that in the female version Kirsten Wiig should try to hide behind her degrees).
Venkman is researching on paranormal psychology, and what do his researches aim at on a practical level ? They aim at sleeping with young and beautiful female students (and we can see by the comment on his door that his behavior is not appreciated by rival male students). Officially it’s about the existence of the supernatural but the ghosts he is looking for are quite specific. His two partners, Stantz and Spengler, are more serious but truly, their goal is the same, they just repress it even more. No wonder they are all fired in the following scene after having been told how incompetent they are and their theories unscientific (and it's true, fans tend to forget that the ghostbusters are not heroes but incompetent irresponsible losers).
After the scene in which they chose the building of their headquarters because it has a huge “pole,” we’re introduced to Dana Barrett and Louis Tully. These two characters embodies (near) asexuality. Both of them repress their sexual urges to a point that they might even be unaware of them and that these urges target random objects of their everyday life. Louis’ obsession with vitamins and sport is an attempt at getting rid of his libido or making it clean, acceptable (See Nathan in Ex-Machina, or John Matrix in Commando for other examples of the type).
“Wanna come a minute for a mineral water or something.” He wishes his seminal fluid was mineral water. In movies inviting someone “inside” is most of the time a metaphorical invitation for sex. Just like invitations to "come" are rarely innocent either.
Dana Barrett has a TV that turns itself on, and very loudly, on its own => She unconsciously screams for attention. She rejects Louis when he asks for permission, but she wishes he would “force her door.” Yes, she wishes he would take her without asking for her consent. She does not want to be raped, she wants him not to ask her to acknowledge her consent because she is too ashamed of her sexual urges (if this idea scares you and you're starting to realize I'm a dangerous pervert, read some literature about women's fantazies and you'll see even rape is a very common one => Nancy Friday Women on Top or the movie The Little Death).
So yeah, poor nice Louis is miles away from having a chance as he needs Dana to explicitly acknowledge her desire. Also, Dana is a cello player. In order to play cello, she has to spread her legs but to hide what’s between them. It might seem too far-fetched but characters' tools, like Indiana Jones’ whip (quick, adaptable, intelligent, hurts a lot in one hit) or the Ghostbusters’ proton packs (wink wink), are not chosen randomly. Dana wants to be recognized sexually but won’t dare admit it plainly. She spreads her legs to point at what's between them but at the same time, she hides it and needs an excuse to behave that way. She can't spread her legs simply as an invitation to penetrate her.
As soon as she’s seen the Ghostbusters' ad, she witnesses supernatural manifestations in her kitchen. Coincidence ? No. She is sexually stuck in a dead-end and the Ghostbusters trigger some hope, they ignite a spark in her.
Keep in mind Ghosts busters => the guys who (pretend to) sort out your repressed sexuality (ghost sexuality).
Dana thinks it means by making love, she'll be disappointed. Her kitchen becomes a metaphore of her interiority for some reasons. It is clean, perfectly ordered and in that asepticized/neutralized environment suddenly emerges something => thus the boiling eggs and warm animalistic evil inside of the fridge. She was cold, now she is warm. Her libido has awaken and is coming to possess her. What a terrible threat.
Janine, the Ghostbusters’ secretary, looks frigid hidden behind her giant glasses and her sleeveless gilet and intellectual chat. Except that she is not. (Ghostbusters 2 shows it even better).
Venkman states explicitly that she has nothing on her hand and won’t even think of considering her sexually, instead he just tells her to “type something.” How humiliating. Poor Janine.
When Egon emerges from under the desk, she feels a surge of sexual arousal and act upon it: “You’re very handy I can tell.” And actually, isn’t it part of the joke to bring the audience to think just for one second that he was performing a foot massage or pleasing her sexually while she was speaking to Venkman ? Sadly, Egon has redirected his sexuality towards science: “I collect spores, molds and fungus.” If it doesn’t sound like sexual frustration, what does it sound like ? He cannot realise that she is interested in him and that her little chit chat about hobbies is not innocent.
Same thing when the police brings possessed Louis at the headquarter and Egon tells them to bring him in. Janine goes “oh, you’re a real humanitarian” trying her luck again, and Egon goes “I don’t think he is human” completely missing the point of her remark. These guys are not aware of how simple it is to trigger a woman’s libido. That’s what it is to live in a culture that shames them for it.
That’s why when Dana Barrett arrives, Venkman stands up abruptly, jumps above the little wooden door and rushes to her. Her soothing voice and feminine attitude make him think she is an eligible sex partner (because he naively believes not all women are ready for it). Except that she is not (yet).
Their exchange is very interesting. Dana describes what she has to tell as “quite unusual.” We’re here considering that the ghosts represent repressed sexuality remember, so Dana thinks it is unusual for a female to have sex urges, which is what we’ve said about her so far. To this, Venkman answers: “That’s all we get, day in, day out, around this place.” And Janine looks at him as if she did not condone that lie. She works for the Ghosbusters and Dana is their first client, she should smile and give Venkman a conniving look. Instead, she simply takes his behaviour on the level of “tsss, he’s trying to impress her because he fancies her.”
Janine is bitter because she is not concerned by “ghosts,” she is perfectly aware of her sexual urges and has no problem with them. It is thus exasperating for her to witness this immature guy being all excited about a woman on the basis that she might believe in “ghosts.”
So, Dana Barrett is confronted to Egon and Raymond’s delirium. She thought she was going to meet experts who would believe her and know what she is talking about, instead, she finds virgins who are fascinated by what she is saying because it is their first experience. Venkman, the most motivated of them, decides "to check her out… check out her apartment." Poor Venkman fails at awakening Dana’s libido again with his “little stick,” certainly because he is more mouth than anything. “That’s the bedroom, but nothing ever happened in there” (Dana). She is a virgin. “Look at all the junk food” (Peter). Consumption society as a substitute for sex ? Well, not in 2016 anymore, now that sex has been totally commodified. “Are you sure you’re using that thing correctly ?” (Dana).
So, Peter and Dana's little sex experimentation is a failure. I’d say because Peter is intimidated. Humiliated by his failure, he interprets it as having fallen in love. He suddenly thinks that he has to prove his worth (which he actually doesn’t, she only wanted him to prove he could make love to her). She throws him in the corridor and he finds himself on the same level as poor Louis: frustration.
I am not sure of how to interpret the first intervention of the Ghostbusters. It’s the first time they use their “guns” ok. So, does it mean they are masturbating ? Possibly. Peter is the one who gets “slimed.” Would it mean he ejaculates early on ? Mmm… Egon and Raymond are the ones who ejaculate early on. Also, I wonder if the owner of the hotel is homosexual. It would explain why his sexuality is repressed and why Janine is surprised. Obviously, she is surprised because someone is calling a ghosts agency for help but there is also a need to justify her surprise on a metaphorical level. So, I’d say she is surprised to hear a man complaining about ghosts (repressed sexuality) as in our culture at the time, men were in a better position to take responsibility for their sex urges. (Actually it's a lie but I'll dwell on that in another article).
Anyway, they capture the ghost and become popular: “Ghost fever grips New York.” Note the relation to the body and to sex, like in “jungle fever.” Suddenly everybody in New York shouts their sexual frustration. Dana Barrett follows the evolution of the team on TV and on the radio and laughs when she hears about their flirting attitude. And of course, Stantz dreams about a ghost giving him a blowjob.
Then a bored to death Janine asks Winston about his belief in the paranormal. She doesn’t believe in it, he doesn’t believe in it. He is the mature experienced guy, another black man playing the role of the skilful lover (no need for ghosts). As soon as he sees him Stantz hires him because he knows he is more experienced than them. (Why would he hire a guy without even asking him if he believes in ghosts in the first place ?)
Now, there is one question I’m still unable to answer. What does it mean, if the ghosts are people’s repressed sexual urges, what does it mean to store them the way the ghostbusters store the ghosts ? Is the storage of the ghosts responsible for the huge amount of psychokinetic energy storming on the city at the end of the film ? People repressed their sexuality and worse, the ghostbusters trapped these repressed urges and made them even more remote from consciousness and thus, they’ve merged into something huge and unstoppable.
Louis eventually has his party. He saw Venkman leave Dana’s apartment and is giving all he’s got to attract her inside his when he should try to penetrate hers… which is why he keeps on locking himself outside. Dana rejects him again.
Her mum calls and she explains that she has a date with a “ghostbuster.” She’s referred to Venkman using “scientist,” “old friend” and “ghostbuster,” all these different ways to designate him are attempt at getting rid of the guilt she feels of being attracted to him. She is then abducted by the monster dog, swallowed by her libido; same thing for Louis who actually has an obvious opportunity with a pretty blonde and is confronted to his incapacity to truly go for it.
Venkman arrives at Dana’s apartment; she asks him if he is the keymaster. She is Zuul the gatekeeper. Obviously, we’re talking about penetration here and loss of virginity. It is very understandable that Venkman will not have sex with a possessed woman. If the ghosts are repressed sexuality, being possessed means letting your libido take control. I think it is a very interesting way of presenting women’s position when it comes to sex at the time. If she is completely honest about her desire, the guy is scared, makes jokes, is overwhelmed and talks to her as if she wasn’t herself. And when her arousal is at its highest (when she floats above the bed) Venkman just asks her to “please come down.”
Walter Peck has all of the ghosts released and the ghostbusters are arrested. Funnily their human enemy they attack by saying he has no penis, which would explain his jealousy. (edit: I'm really confused by this character because in the end Walter Peck could actually be right as dislikeable as he is. What the Ghostbusters do is wrong and dangerous, why should the guy who tries to stop them be the bad guy ?).
Louis, the keymaster escapes and meets the gatekeeper at her apartment, FINALLY, he enters. Good for you buddy. And euh… she kisses him. Well, I guess he did enough.
Yep, she totally kisses Venkman with the exact same passion at the end of the film. No no, he is not using the public as a mean to pressure her, neither is he forcing her to climb into the Ghostbusters' car. And it's not strange that he cared about Louis' health when they were on the roof, but that once at the bottom of the building Louis is completely forgotten.
Then the ghostbusters climb up to the roof and try to prevent the gatekeeper and the keymaster to copulate, but they fail (at least I prefer to think that way). The androgynous Gozer, Louis and Dana being one after having let their animalistic urges overwhelm them, nearly projects them off the roof and then call up Stay Puft Man to destroy them. That’s when Venkman finds a solution. Stay Puft Man is a sailor man, all they need to do is to make him happy and get him laid. I don’t understand why this idea is transformed into crossing the streams but, the final solution is, metaphorically, to have sex instead of capturing desire. Everything explodes in a giant orgasm I suppose, and they wake up covered in white moth (do I need to explain ?). It’s over.
Haven't you ever wondered about the ending of the movie ? I mean, yeah, they've kicked Gozer's ass but what about all of the ghosts that were freeed earlier ? It's an element completely independant from the arrival of Gozer on Dana and Louis' building. At the end of the film, the ghostbusters still have to recapture all the ghosts, except that they don't because what happens with Gozer somewhat makes everybody feel good about their sexuality. So there's no ghost anymore, except for the one of gluttony "slimer."
edit: I'm now wondering whether Venkman could be homosexual and slimer would be his frustrated libido.