So as you might have noticed, I didn’t post yesterday. I’m only committing myself to Monday-Wednesday-Friday posts now that I’ve returned, but on the other days, I might have a full entry, or nothing, or something inbetween, such as more Casefile pieces. I’d meant to have one of these run yesterday, but here they both are today, completing what has now become Ghostbusters Week.
Another interesting thing I noticed when re-watching Ghostbusters was how muted and subtle the character arc was. Our hero, Bill Murray, never has a midpoint disaster or a spiritual crisis. He never seems to doubt himself or get humbled. He seems like the same cocky rogue all the way through…or is he?
He does in fact change quite a bit, and it’s set up very nicely through reversible behavior. In the very first scene, Murray’s paranormal researcher is sabotaging his own ESP experiment just so that he can hit on the test subject. He doesn’t truly believe in or care about the supernatural, he’s just using it to get dates.
This scene is neatly reversed two thirds of the way in, when the new object of Murray’s affections, who has so far resisted his advances, throws herself at him. He’s very tempted, but instead he forces himself to admit that she’s possessed, and he now values solving her problem more than scoring with her. It’s not played like a big moment, nor should it be. By subtly contrasting this scene with the first, the movie allows us to notice the difference for ourselves, whether consciously or subconsciously.
Watching the movie with my recent criteria in mind, it became readily apparent that the founding Ghostbusters fit very nicely into the trichotomy of head, heart and gut (Ramis on the commentary says that his character was described in the script as a “new-age Spock” so he decided that he would never fully smile.)
But what about when Ernie Hudson joins the team? Ramis admits that they didn’t quite know what to do with him, which only makes sense, since the original trio already represented the three-part self, but I think they actually came up with a neat solution to the problem: Hudson comes to represent a fourth element hovering above the other three: Faith.
Incidentally, this got me thinking about other four-way-polarized groups. Where do they fit that fourth person in? One interesting example is “The Fantastic Four”. It’s pretty clear that Reed Richards, Sue Storm, and the Thing represent a classic head-heart-gut trio, but where does that leave Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch? He certainly doesn’t represent faith!
I realized that the FF has sub-divided the “gut” category. A character like Murray’s in Ghostbusters runs the full gamut of “gut” traits (cowardly, crude, horny, self-serving, etc.) but the FF has two “gut” characters. The Thing loves eating, smoking and playing pranks, but he’s literally neutered, so Johnny gets to be the cocky fast-cars-and-faster-women playboy.