Some years back I contributed a short squib to National Review’s roster of the 100 best conservative films out of Hollywood on behalf of Ghostbusters, not merely for making the bad guy a buffoon from the EPA, but for noting that the private sector, unlike government or universities, “expects results.”
Lo and behold, along comes Thomas Frank, the lefty author of What’s The Matter With Kansas for Not Voting Like Thomas Frank Thinks They Should (or something like that), writing at Salon.com about the doleful legacy of Harold Ramis’s movies, including Animal House, Caddyshack, and Ghostbusters. Frank thinks these “subversive comedies” were mostly subversive of liberalism, and helped pave the way for Reaganism and “Wall Street greed.”
There is nothing “crypto” about Ramis’s 1984 hit, “Ghostbusters”: Its Reaganism is fully developed, as numerous critics have pointed out. Here the martinet is none other than a troublemaking EPA bureaucrat; the righteous, rule-breaking slobs are small businessmen—ghost-hunting businessmen, that is, who have launched themselves deliriously into the world of entrepreneurship. Eventually, after the buffoon from the EPA gets needlessly into the businessmen’s mix and blunders the world into catastrophe, the forces of order find they must outsource public safety itself to the hired ghost-guns because government can’t do the job on its own. . .
One small reason for the big economic change, I think, is the confusion engendered by the cultural change. The kind of liberation the rude gesture brings has turned out to be not that liberating after all, but along the way it has crowded out previous ideas of what liberation meant—ideas that had to with equality, with work, with ownership. And still our love of simple, unadorned defiance expands. It is everywhere today. Everyone believes that they’re standing up against unjust authority of some imaginary kind or another—even those whose ultimate aim is obviously to establish an unjust authority of their own. Their terms for it are slightly different than the ones in “Animal House”—they talk about the liberal elite, the statists, the social engineers, the “ruling class.”
This is almost enough to make you want to dig up your old Frankfurt Marxist tomes, and enjoy a good mocking, ironic laugh. Maybe Frank can be cast in the long-promised Ghostbusters III: “Yes, it’s true—this man has no dick.”