This blog post was inspired by a request to comment on the 30th anniversary for an article on the momentous event. You can find the entire article that utilized my quotes here. What is reflected below is an expansion of those thoughts.
I was a young girl when the movie came out — only 6 at the time, so unfortunately I did not see the movie in the theatre. But I do remember watching it shortly thereafter, and I can easily recall it terrifying me — especially the Gray Lady ghost that attacks the librarian in the beginning. I was hooked. To this day, the theme song remains one of the few that will literally have me dancing for joy.
I grew up on the cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters, and preferred to play with those action figures than anything more geared to me from the “girlie cartoons” of the 1980s. When my dad made me a dollhouse for Christmas, it was far more likely to be inhabited by the Ghostbusters than any Barbie. I still have a collection of episodes from the cartoon series, as well as a Venkman action figure thanks to my brother, and the Nintendo Wii game that was released as a semi-sequel to the movies. The movie easily remains one of my favorites, and it is perhaps a nearly flawless movie.
For me, the reason for its staying power is due to the comedic genius on and behind the screen as well as the originality of the concept and the special effects. The melding of minds of Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Rick Moranis produced some of the best one-liners, gags, and scenes that have ever been written — this truly was a pinnacle of comedy for these geniuses. However, those immensely quotable one-liners would mean nothing if the movie that contained them did not somehow tap into the perfect moment.
Growing up in the time, my generation was being treated to some of the most original and inventive storytelling — a rebirth in cinematic fantasy and science fiction storytelling, mostly due to the success, financially and technically, of Star Wars (which remains my all time favorite film). Having been amazed by what Lucas could do with cinematic storytelling, we were hungry for me, and we received many more great stories. From Indiana Jones to The Goonies to Labyrinth, the stories built upon one another in what they were able to do and show us.
Ghostbusters also fit into this time by giving us a story no one had ever told before in what was a relatively unheard of genre: people stopping a ghostly takeover of the world in a horror comedy. As kids, we would sneak looks at the horror films our parents would watch, and there were horror elements being brought into our movies (thanks to the formation of the PG-13 rating). But here was a comedy about a subject traditionally meant only as horror — ghosts. The Ramis, Reitman et al gave us the scares and thrills we love from horror (even if they do keep us up at night scared of our dark bedroom) with the adventure and comedy of the big movies we were being groomed on.
That is why the movie meant so much to us: it gave us our scares, but it also gave us a way to laugh at them. And that is a lesson I think everything little boy and girl needs to learn: how to face down the thing that scares us and laugh in its face. A lesson also taught in Harry Potter, in how to handle a Boggart. The best childhood entertainment teaches without preaching. That is why we grow up loving it.
The one-liners have stuck with us to this day because of this lesson, because of how well the movie fit into our lives, because of how we were the first generation to truly grow up on a diet of pop culture. The movie’s staying power lies in that intersection of the comedic genius, the originality, and the psyche of a child.
Could it happen again? Could another film have as long last an impact?
Of course! I think it happens all the time. Harry Potter‘s impact on the world is an example of one that does such. Frozen may be a current example. When I see young people at fan conventions, I can see them growing up the same way I and my generation did — only with a lot more options for things to love! As long as you have the intersection of storytelling genius, originality, and the ability to understand the mind of a child, you can produce a movie that will become the one that young person grows up quoting.
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