I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghostbusters.

My editor sent me off to watch the new Ghostbusters movie. Apparently I needed to do so because the baddy was a creep, and I’ve written a lot about creeps, and it’s a popular movie that’s gonna affect people’s image of creeps, and so on and so forth. Is it starting to sound as if I needing some convincing? I may have been a wee bit reluctant. Not having liked the first or second movie, I didn’t harbour many hopes of liking the reboot. In that sense, I was not disappointed.

I find it hard to convey my opinion of the movie. The words I find myself using seem way too strong to be applied to something happening on a screen, which ultimately took up only two hours of my time and caused me no physical damage. Shouldn’t words like “loathing” be reserved for South-American dictators, or people who mug little old ladies? Howsoever, it will be a long time before the irritation of having invested time and money on watching the damn thing subsides. I am absolutely positive that people who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like. Unfortunately, I don’t.

The movie does, indeed, have a creep as the main villain. He’s not a creep as we know it, though. He’s the archetypal, Ur-creep. He’s got the dead staring eyes, and the awkward body language, and the constantly slightly-off social interactions, and the ongoing history of getting bullied, and he talks to himself, which may sound bad but is actually less creepy than when he talks to people, because he has a tendency to break into apocalyptic rants. They could have made him more caricaturish, I guess, but that would have required smell-o-vision.

In the context of this particular movie, with its overabundance of over-the-top characters, he fits in well. As a representative of real-life creepishness, however, he fails abysmally. I’m willing to be that most of us, if faced with a staring stranger muttering apocalyptic rants to himself, would not be racked by uncertainty. The guy looks and sounds, to my utterly untrained ears, like a paranoid schizophrenic. I’d be reaching for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and not because I’d feel compelled to diagnose the guy. The DSM-5 is a large tome. It’d make quite an impact if thrown with some force. Issues like “is he just socially awkward but harmless, or is he a danger?” or “Did he mean that?” just would not arise, for the simple reason that most of us would be too busy running in the opposite direction.

The original movie, now, had some good creeps. Venkman routinely displays sexually motivated behaviours that are highly inappropriate in a professional setting, yet there’d otherwise be nothing much the matter with him. He’s not repulsive-looking, he can communicate with people, he’s not unduly odd, he’s not stupid. He seems to have a decent grasp of what is socially appropriate, yet he completely ignores that when he’s seeking a mate, i.e. every time there is a female around. He’s the sort of guy who, if he wasn’t so badly behaved when thirsty, and if he wasn’t thirsty all the time, would probably not have much of a problem satisfying said thirst.

Then there’s Dana’s neighbour, who is both physically unappealing and quite obviously socially awkward. He is mostly harmless and rather pathetic, but he is viciously intrusive and clearly oblivious to social clues. He’s the sort of guy who’s had a door slammed in his face so much that to him that’s normal, so he can’t see anything in it. He can’t readjust his behaviour in response to negative clues because those are the only clues he ever gets. He is a rather sad figure, yet he is also a terrible boundary breaker (trying to get into someone’s apartment without their consent, for whatever reason, is NOT ok, whatever Twilight may have taught us). He is the kind of guy who may really struggle to get the girl, and if he ever did manage may lose her quite promptly due to an inability to process negative feedback. He’s also the kind of guy who, if you’re nice to him at all, is likely to misconstrue the meaning of such a rare event, and read way more into it than a regular guy would. As a result, people who were trying their level best to spare his feelings may end up having to hurt them badly just to push him away to a reasonable distance.

Those are real creeps: creeps any of us may find ourselves dealing with in our everyday life. Creeps that may get past our boundaries because they don’t go charging at them chanting about the apocalypse while staring into the void. Creeps who make us feel confused, conflicted, or sad; emotions that can clog our responses long enough for them to get at least part of what they want from us. Creeps who can get under our skin, because we can’t quite work out whether they’re wolves in sheep’s clothing or sheep in wolves’s clothing. The wolves in wolves’ clothing don’t have that effect; without getting violent, the best they can do is make our skin crawl.

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