Ghostbusters, the spirit world, and politics
In the mid-2010s, an attempt to revive the film series Ghostbusters provoked a skirmish in what is popularly called “the culture war”, but, in reality, is more like a culture rape. What I mean by this is that there is no culture war as such, since a war implies two sides in contention; rather, the bureaucratic states that dominate the West impose various changes to the culture; and these changes are “resisted” in an ineffective and self-defeating way by conservatives, masochists intent on a virtuous birching and a cold shower at their opponent’s hands in return for the dubious honour of being “definitely not Hitler”. It is not really a war, so much as a rape; with the conservatives there to provide the howls of pain—or are they pleasure?
In this case, Milo Yiannopoulos, a man who genuinely deserves the much over-used designation “narcissist”, objected to a Ghostbusters reboot that retrofitted the series to feature four women and, in turn, promoted the usual tropes popular in the hegemonic ideology. Yiannopoulos correctly pointed out that the film was not funny and, due to various Twitter antics at the expense of the film’s black star, he incurred a Twitter ban that, for a while, boosted his popularity. He was last seen, the consummate conman, engaged in an effort to convince the Catholics that he is a “reformed homosexual”, an act that caused me to heave in mirthless laughter—obviously, the Catholics he has seduced must know, at some level, it is all a game. They are being played because they want to be played.
What about the original Ghostbusters series, though? The first film came out in the year I was born, so I suppose I feel some cultural kinship with the series; though I was not much aware of it when young, except through cartoons and the like. At second glance, the films are quite atypical Hollywood fare. For a start, the main villain in the first film is a man from the Environmental Protection Agency, the most compleat bureaucrat; an arrogant and envious man who looks to be some East Coast blue blood, possibly educated at Harvard. It is his arrogant actions—shutting down the “ghost prison”, the Containment Unit—that literally unleashes Hell on New York. He does so in the face of resistance from the Consolidated Edison blue-collar worker charged with cutting the power supply and the eye-talian cop who warns the stuffed-shirt pen pusher, when he commands the arrest of the Ghostbusters, “You do your job and I’ll do mine.” The bureaucrat’s intrusion on the small private business causes catastrophe.
The Ghostbusters, to judge from their crude television ads, work in the same domain as furniture warehouses and second-hand car dealers. They are small businessmen, squeezed between the state and the yuppies, and they cannot catch a break—until they do. At first, the team works at university: Venkman, Spengler, and Stanz live a marginal life as parapsychologists, until they are thrown out as a drain on the university budget and a disgrace to respectable science. There is some truth to this: the most deviant Ghostbusters—Venkman and Stanz—fear the cold world of private enterprise, where actual results are expected; they much prefer to seduce their students and trade on parapsychology’s dubious glamour. Yet out into the private world they go and in the private world they make it.
My contention is that what makes Ghostbusters a charming film is that it is reality-adjusted, or, for a leftist activist, it is a “right-wing” film; and this is true in more than the economic dimension. The films charm because the main writer, Dan Aykroyd, genuinely believes in ghosts, ghouls, and UFOs—if not actual crystal skulls. The general sensibility in most Western films is secular materialist; it is common, in the style of Scooby-Doo, for the paranormal villain to be unmasked, “Turns out it wasn’t Blackbeard’s ghost after all, Scoobs. It was old Mr. Garrison in a rubber mask! Zoiks!” “Thsh wright Shwaggy. Scooby, Scoooby-Doooo!” In Ghostbusters, by contrast, it is the secular materialists who become the fools. Sceptical hotel managers are forced to hire the Ghostbusters (“Please be discreet”) to flush out the ghosts—the truth cannot be told in the nine to five hours.
Ghostbusters even features a believing Christian who quotes the Bible without irony or disdain; actually, the biblical quotations are treated with awe. This figure is Winston, the fourth Ghostbuster, recruited when business hots up. Now, Winston, being black, possibly a Barbadian or Jamaican immigrant named after Churchill, represents the typical soulful black man portrayed in Hollywood films—notably by Morgan Freeman. He is there to provide soul for the white characters, who are scientists and technologists; even if engaged in the spiritual world. This is the role usually designated for black characters in American storytelling; it is a recognition that the black population does not fully engage in America’s techno-industrial success—and yet they do have a role to play, to bring the techno-scientific white man back down to earth; to remind him about spiritual matters. In Jungian terms, Winston’s arrival on the team creates a quaternary; he is the fourth element that releases the fifth—the black (Luciferian) fourth, the black unconsciousness that is denied.
Accordingly, when first interviewed to work with the Ghostbusters, Winston is presented by the hard-bitten and sarcastic secretary, the Brooklyn girl Janine, with a long list of paranormal phenomena that he should believe in if he is to get the job: ESP, telekinesis, Atlantis—on and on. Winston replies that he will believe in anything, if it gets him a regular paycheck; and this is a Luciferian reply, a worldly reply. Yet, conversely, he is the only Ghostbuster who is also a whole-hearted Christian; except, perhaps, for Stanz (Aykroyd himself), who quotes the Book of Revelation at length with Winston. If you examine Hollywood films you will find that it is pretty rare for a Christian to be presented as an uncomplicated hero, and for the Bible to be quoted at length without sarcasm or irony or a mocking tone; perhaps this is due to Jewish influence in Hollywood, a disdain for Christianity—yet Aykroyd co-wrote Ghostbusters with a Jewish man, and many Jews worked on the films. Perhaps the real problem is that Hollywood has a generally materialist and secular humanist outlook, an outlook that consumes Jews and gentiles alike.
Other Christians appear in Ghostbusters: the mayor, in keeping with the times, is an Italian; and when spiritual troubles erupt in the city he calls in a cardinal—a man who seems to have groomed him since parochial school. The cardinal is really a politician too; as spirits walk the earth he refrains from comment on the spiritual world’s actuality. As we watch the machinations of Pope Francis, we cannot help but feel that he too would recuse himself should the dead be seen to walk the earth; for he is more a politician and secular humanist than a man interested in the spiritual. Indeed, in line with what could be called the libertarian or classical liberal thrust of the films, City Hall is, along with the EPA, the enemy—a source of cynicism and materialism that opens the door to Hell. Where is the lie?
Ghostbusters also expresses scepticism toward the press; or at least, in a brief montage that charts the team’s rise to fame, satirises various publications. The Ghostbusters appear on the front cover of The Atlantic magazine, a storied publication for upper-middle-class Americans, and the headline reads: “Do ghosts have civil rights?” Now, today, you will often hear rightists lament that The Atlantic has “gone woke”, become horribly politicised and lost all standards. Yet here is proof that even in the 1980s The Atlantic was already “woke”, regime-compliant we might say. Its first response to the proven existence of the paranormal is to turn it into a political issue, a civil rights issue—and probably to virtue-signal about the spectres. Today The Atlantic headline would read: “White supremacy: are ghosts intersectional?” Yet, of course, the Ghostbusters reboot would not have the wit or self-awareness to skewer contemporary trends in this way.
Aside from its sympathy for Christianity, Ghostbusters is probably one of the few films to mention Jungian racial memories embedded in the collective unconscious as an illustrative point in the plot. The comment comes from the arch-scientist in the group, Spengler. Again, his name is significant; he is named for Oswald Spengler, author of Decline of the West and a rightist figure. Spengler would, in the unlikely event he would watch it, have had much to say about Ghostbusters; for it instantiates, particularly in Aykroyd’s beliefs, his view that as a civilisation declines it enters a second mysticism—an affection for seances, poltergeists, and Tarot. This is contrasted to the healthy mysticism that a culture experiences in its earlier stages: Ghostbusters fits Spengler’s pattern very nicely; it depicts the moment a civilisation forgets its high and rational religion and returns to a more childish spirituality in its senescence.
As a character, Spengler also demonstrates the difference between the nerd and the scientist. Spengler is a true scientific genius—somewhat otherworldly—whereas the hapless comic relief is provided by the nerd, Louis Tully, an accountant who holds a party to which he invites clients for tax purposes and is obsessed with the then-novel Nintendo, party games, and house prices. He is Taleb’s intellectual-yet-idiot, a man-child and prototypical soy boy, who lives with his mother (until she moves to Florida for her retirement) and yet is the type often confused for the genius because he is smart, though without erudition or real depth. Ironically, the Ghostbusters remake was made for the Louis Tullys of the world—for the hapless comic relief.
The second Ghostbusters film features the primal fear for all right-wing dissidents: in order to protect the mayor’s reputation, the Ghostbusters are declared insane and locked in the city’s asylum. The left likes to talk about mental health; it likes to play the victim, but it also likes to treat its opponents as psychopathological; hence “homophobia” and “Islamophobia”—pseudo-scientific extensions into politics. The implications is, in line with scientism, that people who object to the left are mentally ill; there is no need for a court case, since to criticise the system itself is obviously insanity—and, indeed, this was what many Soviet dissidents discovered.
The rightist feels partly mad because he continues to state what he perceives to be true according to his eyes and yet is unsettled, being a conformist concerned about social norms, to be thought outside the norms, even if those are perverted—so leading to self-conscious and semi-humorous remarks about “schizo posting” or “paranoia”.
Ghostbusters II gets to the nub of the issue: for secular humanist regimes, whether Soviet or liberal, it is psychopathological to assert that there is anything more than matter—be that God, gods, or ghosts. If those assertions interfere with the bureaucracy, with City Hall, then you will be carted off to the city asylum. Before they are committed, the Ghostbusters are put on trial in an attempt to stop them through straightforward criminal law: the prosecutorial team is led by a woman seconded by a black man. In other words, the Ghostbusters are put on trial by “diversity”; not by black men and shoulder-padded women as such, but by America’s ideology—as was already more than apparent in the 1980s. The characters are there not to support the ideology but to mock it.
Indeed, by the second film, the main romantic interest, a musician played by Sigourney
Weaver, is a single mother; the baby’s father has fled for an orchestral appointment in London. The baby, though cute enough, is to be used as a portal by which a Satanic entity, somewhat modelled on Vlad the Impaler, intends to take over the world. At a time when the professional single mother or divorcee was on the rise—heavily promoted, anyway—Ghostbusters II suggests that such bastard unions may allow demons into our world. It does so in such an agreeable and comedic way that it is merely a suggestion, as with the prosecutorial team. The second film is, to me, genuinely disturbing and very sinister for a family film; and I have always found it so, and I think it gets its edge from Aykroyd’s genuine belief that there is more to life than matter—few such people work in films today; we shall not see the like of Ghostbusters again. Who you gonna call? There will be no answer.