Winston Zeddemore: The Unnecessary Ghostbuster

Having recently re-watched both of the Ghostbuster flicks, I’ve come to the following conclusion:

Winston Zeddemore serves absolutely no purpose in either movie. His character is completely and utterly unnecessary, useless, and pointless.

I can already detect the furious typing of hundreds of irate Ghostbuster disciples, eager to provide me with a digital tongue-lashing for daring to even suggest such a thing. “Winston 4 Life”, they’ll say. “He’s just as important to the team as Ray, Peter, and Egon”, they’ll say.

But the thing is, he’s not. He’s not important in the slightest. Let me explain:

The protagonists of the films are Peter, Ray, and Egon (with Peter being the true main character of the bunch, seeing as how he’s the one with the love story). When Winston shows up halfway through Ghostbusters, the audience has already grown attached to the “big three”, and as a result, Winston’s arrival hardly even registers. He’s just some guy they hired off the street. We don’t know anything about his background, his motivation (besides money), or his goals and dreams to really give a damn about anything he does. He is the “fifth wheel” of the Ghostbusters.

These are the main characters of the film. Note the distinct lack of Winston in this image.

These are the main characters of the film. Note the distinct lack of Winston in this image.

The fact that Winston isn’t given enough screen time to really flesh out his character or capture our attention certainly doesn’t help his cause. Yes, if Eddie Murphy had accepted the role, Winston would have come in much earlier into the script and played a much larger role in the overall story. But as history shows, Murphy declined, and for whatever reason, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis still left the character in the movie, albeit in a severely reduced role.

But really, what’s the point? Why not get rid of Winston entirely if he’s not going to be used to his fullest? After all, one less major actor means one less expense for the producers to consider when greenlighting the project, right?

Well, I’ve done some reading, and I’ve come across two primary reasons as to why people believe Winston is still an important factor in the movies. Unfortunately for the people who believe in these arguments, I will counter each one with brutal precision and extreme prejudice:

Argument #1: Winston is the “Everyman”

The most prevalent argument for Winston’s existence is that he’s supposed to be the “everyman” — the blue collar ordinary guy — to provide contrast to the egghead university professors that are Egon, Peter, and Ray. After all, Venkman has doctorates in both Psychology and Parapsychology and has never worked anywhere but on campus — I doubt many moviegoers can say the same. Winston is supposed to be the normal dude that the audience can relate to amidst all of the wackiness.

But guess what? That’s not how it was in the original script, where Winston is some sort of ex-military weapons expert:

Very impressive resume. Electronic
counter measures, Strategic Air Command …
Black belt in Karate … Small arms expert …

Does that sound like an “everyman” to you? From this description, Winston’s not exactly the type of guy you’d find behind the counter at Burger King. Just because he doesn’t necessarily believe in the paranormal (at first) doesn’t make him an “ordinary guy”.

The “everyman” argument also falls apart because, in my opinion, Ray Stantz already held that position long before Winston arrived on the scene.

Who needs Winston when you already have Ray?

Who needs Winston when you already have Ray?

Unlike Egon (who is hyper-intelligent and emotionally sterile) and Peter (who is a bitter, sarcastic charlatan), Ray is just a normal, decent, and caring guy who happens to be a little OCD when it comes to the paranormal. In fact, it’s Ray’s child-like enthusiasm for catching ghosts that makes him the true “everyman” of the team.

After all, who was the main audience for the two movies? Who made Ghostbusters a true sensation? That’s right, kids. The way Ray reacts when the Scoleri Brothers emerge, for example, is a direct parallel to the way kids watch the movie. They, like Ray, think that ghosts are cool, neat, fun, and awe-inspiring.

So, remind me … why we do we need Winston again?

Argument #2: Winston Provides Crucial Elements of the Story

It is also argued that without Winston, the Ghostbusters would still be in jail (and New York destroyed by Gozer, naturally) because he’s the only one that can cut through the bullshit and convince the mayor that some real bad stuff is about to go down. Others will say that he’s the one the really sets the mood and tone for the last act of the movie when he discusses the Bible with Ray.

Both are valid points. His character does indeed mention those things, I won’t argue that. But I will argue this — is it at all necessary for Winston Zeddemore to be the vessel for these plotpoints? If Winston’s sole purpose in the entire movie is to say that he “likes Jesus’ style” and tell the mayor he’s “seen shit that will turn you white”, well, that doesn’t really make him a very useful character, now does it?

Alternate Scenario A:
The Ghostbusters HQ is swamped with calls. During a brief break when she’s not on the phone, Janine asks Ray or Peter if they’ve read the Bible — in specific, the passages pertaining to the end of times — and states that it might be the reason they’ve been so busy lately.

See how easy it is to get rid of Winston? The exact same point is made, and as an added bonus, we’ve added some new elements to the character of Janine.

Alternate Scenario B:
After being arrested, the Ghostbusters are being lectured by the mayor and Walter Peck. The mayor questions why he should let them go, but the Ghostbusters can only respond with technospeak and gibberish about Gozer and Sumerians. Cut to a crowd of people outside the building — previous customers of the Ghostbusters, rallying in support of the team. Somebody is holding a sign the reads: “I believe.” Another person shouts for the Ghostbusters to save the city like they saved them, etc. Eventually the mayor is convinced to give the guys one last shot.

Okay, so that example isn’t as good as the first, but it still shows that the same point can be effectively made without the use of Winston. Perhaps it doesn’t produce a classic line of dialogue, but it still shows that ordinary people now believe in ghosts — and more importantly, in the Ghostbusters.

Sorry, but your services aren't needed here. Now hit the streets, you bum.

Sorry, but your services aren't needed here. Now hit the streets, you bum.

If you dissolve Winston’s role and divide his lines and character traits (as limited as they are) among the other characters, nothing would be lost and nothing would be missed. Doing so would not only help flesh out some of the minor characters in greater detail, but it would also tighten the script somewhat by keeping the main story focused on Peter, Egon, and Ray. You know, the true protagonists of the films — the real Ghostbusters.

If anybody wants to prove me wrong and state the case for Winston Zeddemore’s existence, drop me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

In Defence of Ghostbusters II

Let me come right out and say it — Ghostbusters II gets a bad rap, and I think it’s entirely uncalled for.

Now, I’m not here to say that it’s better than the original, because it’s not. The original Ghostbusters is a classic piece of comedic filmmaking, combining hilarious performances, a solid (although incredibly traditional) story structure, and an underrated musical score to create one of the best movies of the 1980s.

Ghostbusters II: Unfairly msince 1989.

Unfairly maligned since 1989.

But just because the sequel can’t quite reach the dizzying heights that its big brother can, doesn’t mean that Ghostbusters II is a steaming pile of crap (as its current score of 6.0 on IMBD would dare to suggest).

It’s much better than the vast majority of sequels to other popular movies, that’s for sure. Admit it … which movie would you rather watch? Ghostbusters II or Temple of Doom? Neither are as good as the first, but when compared head to head, the second outing of Egon, Peter, and Ray trounces Short Round and Annoying Screaming Lady, any day of the week.

In fact, if you bring Ghostbusters II out the shadow of the original, you’ll find that it’s a clever, funny, and highly entertaining movie — but people refuse to acknowledge it simply because “it wasn’t as good as the first one.” Well, nuts to that. With the following points, I shall defend the honour of the unfairly maligned Ghostbusters II and restore order and balance to the universe:

Vigo the Carpathian

Vigo, the Scourge of Carpathia, the Sorrow of Moldavia.

Scourge of Carpathia, Sorrow of Moldavia ... yes, yes, I know that already.

Vigo, the Scourge of Carpathia, the Sorrow of Moldavia (also known as Vigo the Cruel, Vigo the Torturer, Vigo the Despised, Vigo the Unholy, and at times, Vigo the Butch) is a severely underappreciated villain. Sure, some people say that’s he’s a total pushover during the final battle, he poses no real threat to humanity (let alone New York City), and that he sucks simply because he lives in a friggin’ painting. All valid points. But Vigo is much more effective as the lead antagonist than Gozer ever was.

You see, Gozer spends most of Ghostbusters as a faceless entity, up until the very end when it’s revealed to be a female Czech gymnast who can turn into a giant marshmallow man. Hell, for the longest time, Zuul seems to the be the focus of the Ghosbuster’s efforts, not Gozer. Vigo, on the other hand, well, you know that he’s evil and creepy right from the very start. You know that the final showdown will be between Vigo and the Ghostbusters. It is inevitable, really.

Plus, Vigo gets way better lines than Gozer ever did. “Choose and perish?” “Are you a god?” Total amateur hour. Here’s Vigo’s backstory, as narrated by him:

“On a mountain of skulls, in a castle of pain, I sat on a throne of blood. What was will be, and what is will be no more! Now is the season of evil!”

Bad. Ass.

As an added bonus, Vigo can actually be scary at times (as useful trait in a movie about, you know, ghosts). His face bulging out of the painting near the start of the movie is a nice touch, but when you see Vigo’s true form (first in the photos analyzed by Ray and Egon, and then again at the end during the final battle), you see that time has not been kind to Viggy. Indeed, his bloated, twisted, demonic visage has undoubtedly been seared into the minds of countless impressionable children of the ’80s.

The true face of Vigo.

The true face of evil. You are like the buzzing of flies to him!

Dr. Janosz Poha

Every bad guy needs a lackey, and since he has to live in a painting, Vigo possesses Dr. Janosz Poha, Curator of the Manhattan Museum of Art, to do his dirty work. While Vigo is looming and ominous, Janosz is hilarious. His awkward mannerisms and bizarre accent serve to create a truly memorable character, complete with great lines such as, “Why am I drippings with goo?” He practically steals every scene he is in. You could even say that Janosz Poha is to Vigo as Louis Tully is to the Ghostbusters — a well-meaning, but mostly inept sidekick / comedic foil.

The Ghosts

While Vigo is clearly the top banana, all of the other ghosts sprinkled throughout Ghostbusters II are just as memorable (and much better than the lame ghosts found in the original … face it, Slimer blows). The Scoleri Brothers? Awesome. The mink coat that comes to life and tries to eat its owner? Awesomer. The arrival of the Titanic? Awesomest.

Better late than never.

Better late than never.

The Comedy

Yeah, I know, this movie isn’t as funny as the first, and that’s most likely on account of its lame PG rating — which means no more classic lines such as, “Yes, it’s true, this man has no dick.” But that matters not, because Ghostbusters II still packs a plethora of comedy gold into its 100 minute timespan, including:

  • When the team powers up their proton packs for the first time years, they do so with the classic line: “Do … re … Egon!”
  • The character of Egon continues to amuse, especially the deadpan tales of his childhood (“We had part of a Slinky, but I straightened it”).
  • Louis Tully acting as the Ghostbusters’ lawyer.
  • Ray and Winston whoring themselves out at birthday parties for “yuppy larvae” who would rather see He-Man.
  • Peter “putting down” of baby Oscar.
  • Peter hosting his own TV show, “World of the Psychic”, which provides exceptional insight into Venkman’s character.

And that’s just to name a few of the film’s memorable scenes.

At times, it’s a different type of humour than what is found in the first Ghostbusters (a little more “family-friendly”, perhaps), but it still works just the same. There’s no denying that the sequel is a genuinely funny movie that can be enjoyed on multiple levels by both kids and adults alike, just like the original.

Next week: hairless cats. Weird!

Next week: hairless cats. Weird!

I could go on, but I think the points I’ve made above should be enough to properly honour and respect the awesomeness that is Ghostbusters II. It’s not as good as the first one, no. There’s no debating that. But people need to realize that it’s still a damn fine movie and it doesn’t deserve to be shunned or outcast simply on account of what it isn’t and could never hope to be.