I know what you’re thinking… I’m reading a blog about Freemasonry, what does the new Ghostbusters movie have to do with that? Much like anything esoteric, to the uninitiated it means absolutely nothing; however an enlightened mind or a trained observer can find within the film series some striking parallels. And although the new Ghostbusters movie has gender swapped the roles of the main characters, I can promise you that there will be no mention of allowing females to become Freemasons. With this assurance, you can safely proceed.
First I must admit, I’m a Ghostbusters purist. Although I was a young child when I first saw the original Ghostbusters movie I was enamored with it. I loved everything about it; the epic mythology Egon and Ray would share from Tobin’s Spirt Guide, the fellowship the team had while sharing mediocre Chinese takeout within the hallowed halls, the symbolism of a temple hidden within a refrigerator, and of course high tech gadgets, Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. My point is, I really liked my Ghostbusters the way it was back in 1984.
Five years later Ghostbusters II was released. The nuts and bolts of the movie weren’t vastly different from the first film and it did pretty well at the box office. What viewers found at the beginning of the movie however was that five years into Ghostbusting the team had fallen on hard times. They really weren’t into Ghostbusting as much as they had been when they first formed the team and took up residence in an old firehouse. Ray and Winston were performing at children’s birthday parties. Peter, the illustrious leader of the group, appeared to have split away from the group completely and was hosting his own cable TV show. Egon was the only Ghostbuster still actually dabbling in the science of the paranormal. To defeat the villain, the team had to reassemble and examine not only themselves, but the inner workings and infrastructure of New York City. I’m not going to lie, watching the Statue of Liberty cross the Hudson to “Higher and Higher” was awesome! Sure, it was pretty good flick but it wasn’t the original Ghostbusters.
Today we find ourselves with 32 years having passed since the 1984 release of the original film and there is a new team of Ghostbusters which hit the theatre, and came out on video last month. Although there is a new director at the helm and team is now entirely female, the cast of characters is still the same; Erin (Peter) is a kooky scientist who hides her true passion because she wants to recognized as cooler than she appears, Abbie (Ray) is all in and not concerned with anything else but Ghostbusting and studies everything she can get her hands on about the subject, Jillian (Egon) is the foundational support of the group without whom nothing could be accomplished, and then there’s Patty (Winston) the new initiate who doesn’t really fit in and wouldn’t understand the symbolism behind a Twinkie. The ladies don’t operate out of a firehouse, the live atop a Chinese restaurant. They don’t drive a 1959 Cadillac ambulance, it’s now a beat up old station wagon… but it’s still a Cadillac. Although things seem to have downgraded a bit, the new team of Ghostbusters has a host of new tools at their disposal; an ectoplasmic power-glove, a paranormal wood chipper, and the internet… Seriously, what would the 2016 Ghostbusters be without YouTube?
Some of you may be thinking that I just wrote the worst movie reviews in history; some of you might be seeing the bigger picture. If it hasn’t become clear yet, let me break it down frame by frame… I didn’t want to see the new Ghostbusters movie at all… In fact, I was adamantly opposed to going to the theatre only to sink my money into what I knew would turn out to be nothing more than an abomination of a film I loved 32 years ago. My kids however caught a glimpse of the preview and were dying to see it, so I did what any dad would do… I took my kids to the movies. It was there with a giant bowl of popcorn in my lap, sitting next to my sons who are just about as old as I was when I saw Ghostbusters for the first time, that I had a startling revelation… This movie was pretty good. Sure, there were some parts I didn’t like, such as the updated Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid) theme song performed by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott, but those things were few and far between. Overall I found the movie to be an exciting, humorous and faithful rendition to the original film. As a matter of fact, after watching it I’d probably be willing to go see the sequel. Who would have thought?
We are members of a legendary fraternity which has a notable cast of characters, however the modern Craft seems to be mere a shadow of its former self. The Masonic Services Association (MSA) has conducted research, as have a host of other organizations and individuals, which show the Craft to have been in a steady decline over the past thirty plus years. Oddly enough, there has been a recent uptick in the amount of men interested about the Fraternity. Sadly, while the research points to a surge in interest it also shows a decline in membership. This decline often occurs not from the death of senior members but from the newly initiated dropping out and seeking fulfillment elsewhere; often within the first five years of joining. I won’t go into the list of reasons cited by men who leave the Craft, but trust me when I say it most often has to do with stagnation and complacency within our fraternity.
Innovation is a good thing, except it seems when you are a Freemason, which is silly because we are an organization which portrays itself as a progressive science. Needless to say, innovation is quite often debated within lodge rooms ending with members to scared to try out a new idea because it “wasn’t the way we did it my year.” What those same members don’t realize is that while the fraternity has been in decline it was not them, but the advent of the internet which helped anyone interested about our fraternity to find out more; especially via the blogosphere on sites like Christopher Hodapp’s Freemasonry for Dummies and on YouTube where public discussions about the Craft are held regularly by groups such as the Masonic Round Table and the Prince Hall Think Tank. The internet has almost become the new door to our fraternity.
Like it or not, Ghostbusters (2016) will always be compared to Ghostbusters (1984) and that’s a mighty big shadow to get from under – no matter how talented the cast, the writers, or the director involved with it. One thing I found interesting about the new edition was that ALL of the original stars got behind the film. They helped promote it, they helped produce it, and they even had cameo appearances in the film. They didn’t grumble about how the new Ghostbusters wasn’t done the way they did it in 1984, they worked with the new team to produce a pretty amazing product. Sure, every single update to the franchise doesn’t land successfully, but they do pay homage to the original film and the various elements contained within each are 100% Ghostbuster.
The point I’m making is this… much like the traditions of Freemasonry, the original Ghostbusters will always be something special to me. It was great just the way it was, but my memory has attributed it with this legendary status which causes me to remember it better than it actually was. I believe the same can be said of the fraternity, and although the fundamental tenants of Freemasonry have remained the same, each time we alter even a minor aspect of the Craft it becomes steeped in controversy. I believe that the same is true with the new Ghostbusters. Yes, the original was and still is something very special; the good news is that there’s a whole new generation that’s about to feel the same way about this version.
With all that being said, the new Ghostbusters was pretty good. No, it wasn’t the original, but it still felt familiar. I still enjoyed it… a lot actually, I even felt like I got what I paid for. I did however walk out of the theatre with this understanding; the modern version of the film would not have been nearly as successful without the involvement and support of the original cast members. It was not only their guidance, but the faith they put in their successors, which made the film as good as it is. It is honoring the past while embracing the future which makes the new Ghostbusters movie great, and that same concept can help Freemasonry the same way.
You can take this for what it’s worth, but I leave each generation of Masons with the following taglines; To the Past Masters and older generation of members, “We’re ready to believe you.” To the newer members, including myself, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.” So I guess in our case, crossing the streams would be very, very good.