I took my 10-year-old daughter to see the rebooted “Ghostbusters” over the summer. The film generated a ton of controversy from people who feared that women fighting ghosts would ruin their childhoods. One of the stars, Leslie Jones, was harassed so much that she briefly left Twitter.
We watched the original as a family before my daughter and I saw the new version. My son was bored; the sexual humor flew over their heads but my daughter turned to me and remarked, “Something’s really odd about Dr. Venkman.”
(The reboot was delightful.)
My childhood was affected by Ghostbusters in a different way. I watched the original movie in the theater when I was roughly my son’s age (8) and it scared the crap out of me, specifically the scene with the ghost in the library. I had nightmares about that ghost for months, and immediately after I saw the film, I had to sleep with the closet light on for a week. (I shared a room with my next-younger sister at that point and had she not been disturbed by the light, I’m pretty sure I would have kept it on for months afterward.)
My parents’ solution to all this was to dress me up as the Ghostbusters logo the following Halloween. I remember my dad making the the red sign in the basement. I may have helped paint it, I don’t know. My parents really started to get into the holiday at this point. Our next-door neighbors threw a big party every year and when they handed out candy, the dad would pretend to be a Halloween decoration against the wall and would start groaning when anyone got close. (In retrospect, I do not think they handed out a lot of candy after all. Their house was always terrifying in its decor.)
My mother would come up with more elaborate costume ideas every year, both for us kids and herself, to the point where it was extremely uncomfortable to walk around in them. One year we were crayons and my dad made the Crayola boxes. She went as the Headless Horseman, and I had to help her get in and out of her costume all night because it was so unwieldy.
That being said, the Ghostbusters logo took the cake in terms of sheer awkwardness. I couldn’t go through doors. The red sign got heavy after about five minutes, and didn’t cleanly sit on my shoulders, so I had to hold the sign as well as my loot. The bottom of it hit my upper legs, and made climbing stairs (to get aforementioned loot) difficult. The sheet part of the costume didn’t make it easy to see or breathe. All in all, I was a walking safety hazard promoting a film that terrified me.
We always handed down costumes (I had worn both the bunny and pumpkin getups my sisters are rocking in the picture above), but the Ghostbuster one was never used again, even for the neighbors’ Halloween party. I remember seeing that red sign for years afterward in the basement or in the attic and I would shudder every time.
(I stayed away from scary movies until my early 20s, when I saw the Blair Witch Project and had to sleep with my closet light on in my own apartment. I only can tolerate horror films when I’ve had some beers, because at that point they become hilarious.)
I still dress up every year, but my main job Halloween night is to hand out candy. Last year, a young teenager waddled up to my stoop in her very awkward TARDIS costume, a girl literally walking around my neighborhood in a box. Her discomfort aside, her costume easily was the best I’d seen all night. I thought of myself toting the red sign all those years ago, gave the girl the rest of my candy and turned out the light, signaling that at my house, Halloween was over.