I wonder what movies people were going to see in Germany the summer of 1932, in the period preceding the final election for the office of President of the Reich, when Paul von Hindenburg was elected, and when he appointed Hitler as Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. A list of notable films produced in Germany in 1932 does not include other films such as those made by the Hollywood studios in foreign languages for foreign distribution, a common practice of the time being to shoot the same script in English and then in another language with if possible the same actors and using the same sets and camera set-ups. Maybe someone can tell me what the equivalent of a blockbuster movie was that summer. Was it The Countess of Monte Christo or the documentary about Hitler?
On Wednesday I went to see Ghostbusters 2, to get a break from the trial of keeping up with the Republican Convention without actually watching it (social media, dailykos live blogging, late night comedy shows, ). I saw the original film in 1984. I think I thought it was fun, but I’ve never felt the need to see it again.
I’m such a scaredy-cat that although I am more than fully grown up at this point, I still reflexively hide my face when suspense builds up to a screaming ectoplasm bursting out of a toilet even if it done for laughs so I spent some of the movie peeking through my fingers, which I found tedious. The whole thing seemed both entertaining yet barely competent, which may be part of its retro charm, but overall it is good fun as it lurches from set piece to set piece, apparently staying true to the slightly amateurish, but refreshingly modest scale of the original. At the core is a respectful and pleasantly low key presentation of friendship among women: the film does pass the Bechtel test, even though at times Leslie Jones’ subway worker character seemed a little too happy for comfort to be included as a friend of the three white women.
So it went until the special effects climax during which an image appeared which woke me up. All of a sudden the movie made perfect sense as the movie of this summer and political moment. The villain of the movie–suitably a pasty-faced male troll of the type that persecuted Jones on Twitter in recent days–has taken possession of the body of the Ghostbusters’ cute, hot, vain, and dumb as dirt male secretary. When challenged to leave him alone, he leaps into the image of the Ghostbusters’s logo, the waving Casper the Friendly ghost avatar and immediately swells to such gigantic monstrous proportions that he bursts the boundaries of a gold-plated luxury hotel in midtown Manhattan to wreak havoc on the city. I grabbed my phone but by the time I had my camera open, the image that had jolted me into a different attention had passed.
This movie was about Trump!!! The instant he popped out of the top of the skyscraper he was the image of Trump on steroids and a lot of pasta. Or maybe Viagra makes you fat.
It was also about efforts to defeat him, and suppression of news by politicians and government agents!
I would have to see the movie again to capture exactly the image that woke me up to the relevance of the movie at this time when the shapeless image of Casper the friendly ghost grows to gigantic proportion and bursts boundaries of a gold plated luxury hotel in midtown Manhattan to wreak havoc on the city. I’m not going to do that. But thinking about the movie and this month’s political events, in the movie women do save the day. Perhaps this can be interpreted as hopeful indicator for the present situation. That would be a positive reading of the narrative beyond its female friendship angle. But there is another reading of the narrative: we are so used to special effects of mass destruction that we are inured to them–watching the film behind my hands I thought about all the children who would take in all the scary moments, loud noise, and violence in stride–and everyone, from the media to the electorate are unable to fully take anything seriously. In the movie the morning after of course there are no apparent consequences or lingering after-effects of the destruction from the night before. Just some fun excitement and some low-key happily ever after.
Not so in real life.