Category Archives: Film

Freud, Ghostbusters, and the Past

Many viewers of the original Ghostbusters film (1984) have been quick to spot an element of homoerotic anxiety behind Egon’s admonition not to cross the streams of their protonic weapons (“Don’t cross the streams… It would be bad”), and various internet memes to that effect have circulated in recent years. Indeed, the climactic scene towards the end of the film when, in a desperate ruse to save New York and civilization itself, the four (male) ghostbusters bring together their streams while aiming at a transdimensional door that — as Egon puts it — “swings both ways” seems to confirm this impression, which is then further emphasized by the discharge of white viscous matter from the roof of the building, following the success of the quartet’s collaborative effort.

When an undercurrent of concerns about sex is as close to the surface as it is in this film, it may seem as if Freud’s theories about unconscious sexual drives could hardly do anything beyond restating the obvious. Nevertheless, if I resort to Freud in what follows is, first of all, to consider the rich historical — perhaps, prehistorical — echoes of some of these drives and their prohibitions, and also to highlight the spectacular way in which the plot of Ghostbusters proceeds from confirming to then subverting Freud.

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