Unlike all the grown men whining that the all-woman Ghostbusters reboot is ruining their precious childhood memories, I never saw the original movie as a kid. I was too preoccupied by old musicals and the same three episodes of The Baby-Sitters Club to notice that I was missing out on a film that would become a major cultural touchstone for my generation. As an adult, I knew the theme song from Halloween parties but didn’t care to learn its origins.
My partner Deb, a Ghostbusters lover of the finest order, did not share my indifference. Thoroughly disturbed by the hole in my ’80s film scholarship, she sat me down in early 2015 for a mandatory screening. I don’t know what I was expecting—some juvenile amalgam of Scooby-Doo and Casper, I guess—but I assumed the adventures of four ghost-busting dudes wouldn’t appeal to my inner child, who’s as girly a little girl as ever lip-synced “Always Be My Baby” in front of her mirror in a nightgown.
I was so, so wrong. I loved Ghostbusters! The characters were dorky, the actors were hilarious, the one-liners were appropriately absurd, and above all the villains were monstrous woman-things. The male busters, whose low-grade misogyny featured throughout the film, cowered in the presence of their grotesque features and unfathomable strength. They were hypersexual and uncompromising, wielding their evil powers for no redeemable purpose. I saw myself in them.
So I opened my iPhone’s Notes app and recorded the following:
HALLOWEEN COSTUME IDEAS
zul, gozer, ghostbuster
Come September, when Deb and I received an invitation to our friends’ Halloween wedding reception with the instruction to spend all our money on costumes instead of gifts, there was no need for conversation. We were going full Ghostbuster.
And that’s how we came to desecrate the childhoods of men’s rights activists the world over months before Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon ever had the chance.
My attraction to the character of Gozer was aspirational. She oozed a shiver-inducing, androgynous sex appeal; she was David Bowie as the goblin king in Labyrinth, without the genital bulge. She sent me into the time-honored androgyne spiral of do-be-do-be: Did I want to do her, or did I want to be her? Or, like the men in the movie, did I want to send her back to her native dimension, never to haunt the likes of Earth again? No matter—I was ready to become her, if only to wage psychological warfare against the then-hypothetical detractors of an all-female Ghostbusters reboot I didn’t even know existed.
Meanwhile, Deb, a lifelong nerd, identified with the character of Egon Spengler, the bookish buster who collects “spores, molds, and fungus” in his downtime and straightened out the Slinky toy he had as a kid. That’s right, boys: A woman—a lesbian, even!—embodied the smartest ghostbuster for an entire Halloween! This was several months before yet another woman—a lesbian at that—appeared in theaters as a contemporary imagining of Spengler. Your dreams and memories died long before you noticed them shriveling and rotting under the feminine-cut coveralls of four women in a movie.
So committed were we to despoiling the sacred moments of every young man’s upbringing that we planned our costumes weeks in advance, a first for this Halloween procrastinator. We trawled through Amazon for raw materials, sure, but I also went to a physical Walmart location, the closest thing to yuppie treason a progressive D.C. resident could commit, to find that rare pair of beige jeggings, fake fly and all. Deb picked the Members Only jacket and Carhartts out of her closet and got a bunch of tubing and plastic thingies from Home Depot to rig up to her backpack. Misandrist memory destruction: achieved.
Like any good DIY costume, my Gozer outfit began to disintegrate as soon as I left my house. I’d spray-painted Styrofoam balls silver and sewed them to my Walmart jeggings in a painstakingly random pattern; they crumbled under the pressure of the thread and rolled away. The sparkly tulle I’d wrapped around my legs shed glitter all over the Uber; I left a very anti-villainous Tinkerbell trail every time I moved. Worst of all were the iridescent Christmas ornaments I’d sewed onto the plastic netting encircling my arms. One fell off and left broken glass on the walkway outside my friend’s apartment building. Two more spontaneously dropped and shattered at the wedding party (kudos to the staff of Chez Billy for graciously cleaning up the mess instead of kicking me out for endangering the exposed feet of guests dressed as sandal-wearing historical figures).
In a way, my Ghostbusters costume was a lot like the priceless male childhood moments under siege by the forthcoming girly reboot: Little by little, spray-painted Styrofoam ball by spray-painted Styrofoam ball, they’re falling to pieces. Bill Murray’s and Dan Aykroyd’s sacrosanct characters appropriated by McCarthy, Wiig, and Jones? There goes a flurry of glitter. Chris Hemsworth as a sexy receptionist, taking over a role originated by a woman? The tulle is unraveling! The word buster lending a feminist reading to the film due to its simultaneous association with the words ball and ghost? SHATTERED CHRISTMAS GLASS EVERYWHERE.
But like my crumbling costume, the Ghostbusters backlash is leaving annoying bits of hazardous material everywhere. Men spammed the IMDB user rating of the film with 1-point votes, the lowest possible rating, despite the fact that it hadn’t even opened in theaters yet. The film’s YouTube trailer is the most disliked one, as voted by users, in the site’s history. One male critic wrote that empowering female movie stars is “the only justification for [the film’s] existence.”
The Ghostbusters reboot has galvanized sexist know-nothings more successfully than any other film in recent memory, and it’s sad to observe how they’ve tried to apply the Christopher Hitchens hypothesis that women just aren’t funny to four of the funniest comedic actors, male or female, of our generation. Luckily, since they’re already suffering an unprecedented attack on the very fabric of their childhoods, we don’t have to waste any effort plotting revenge.