Everybody has seen the movie Ghost Busters. Everyone. One time I was on line, waiting to take a wiz at Dodgers Stadium, and I warned the guys in front of me that if they were going to “double up” to make sure that they “Don’t cross the streams.” Immediately the dude behind me shouted, “Hey Ghost Busters! My dad was the special effects coordinator on that movie!” I replied, “Man, I just watched that flick last week and those effects hold up.” He said, enthusiastically, “Thanks!”
But I digress.
Because I’m on summer vacation, I have a shitload of time to do something most others rarely do: think. I figured I’d spend it considering the debut scene of Walter Peck in that timeless, American classic film.
We all love Dr. Peter Venkman. Everyone. We find him endearing as he tirelessly tries to lay Dana Barret (“I am madly in love with you.”). We admire his balls when he repeatedly electrocutes that goofy student, while trying to lay the hot student (“You are a legitimate phenomena.”) And we look up to him as the solid leader of The Busters (“I believe there’s a reason for being thrown out of this dump [...] To go into business for ourselves.”) All of that sets a gold comedy standard for garnering an audience’s sympathy for a character.
So, when Walter Peck arrives, greets that Venkman, and is welcomed with a slime handshake, we, the trained viewer, immediately laugh at that lovable rebel, yet feel unjustified scorn for the EPA visitor. Before Peck even sits down, we dislike him. I guess, aside from the actual ghosts, who, at this point in the film, are getting their proverbial ectoplasmic asses whipped by The Busters, that movie lacks a villain. Peck’s role in the film is to be the antagonist, but, when approached without preconceived bias, there is no tangible reason for a member of the audience to disapprove of him so vigorously.
In his initial discussion with Venkman, Peck simply asks him a series of questions that are clearly relevant to his reason for the visit and pertinent to his job. Things get touchy only when Venkman, our hero, becomes evasive and sarcastic. He gives vague answers and mocks Peck’s reasonable request to “see the storage facility” by childishly pointing out that he hadn’t said “Please.” Before you know it, there are shouts and talks of “court orders” and lawsuits for “unlawful prosecution.”
None of this is necessary. In this era of “Going Green,” people that work for the EPA are probably a little better revered. However, I guess, in 1984, when aerosol cans were much the rage, EPA guys could be shitted on with some regularity. So, clearly Venkman was just a product of his culture and time. Regardless, Peck did not deserve to be treated with such hostility. He was just doing his job.
In an earlier scene, there are pretty clear indications that even The Busters themselves aren’t totally sure as to what they are doing. While on their first assignment, they throw the switch to Ray’s backpack in the elevator and Peter and Egon, most humorously, and fearing incineration, jockey to be as far away from him as possible. Egon and Peter Worry
Considering that, is it not reasonable then for Walter Peck, on behalf of the EPA, to wish to examine where The Busters store their game? After all, there were a lot of “wild stories in the media” and I could see why the man would “want to know more about what [they] do there.”
As the movie continues, Peck goes after The Busters with vendetta-like spirit. This is understandable. Sure he lets all of the ghosts out, but that was only because Venkman and the guys were not in compliance. As witty and hip as your local restaurant manager can be, would you eat there knowing that their food handling permits weren’t up to snuff? I didn’t think so.
So, next time you watch Ghost Busters, try not to sneer when the red-bearded and apparently “dickless” Walter Peck shows up. Instead, think about those (few) government officials who actually are out to do their job and keep all of America and the environment safe. Dickless?