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Reliving My Childhood with The Real Ghostbusters

 

Janine and Egon

Janine Melnitz and Egon Spengler, older and hopefully wiser

The Real Ghostbusters has got to be one of the best American cartoon series ever produced.

I was never really into American cartoons, even as a child. The reason is I couldn’t understand what’s so funny about anvils falling on Wile E. Coyote or the pranks Jerry played on Tom. I couldn’t get the appeal of Spongebob Squarepants, either. It seemed to me that every single time I catch an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, the show shaves a few points off my IQ. And don’t get me started on The X-Men; I gave up trying to keep track of its convoluted story after a while.

Of course I’m not saying that all American cartoons are bad. I liked The Smurfs, and I found The Fairly Odd Parents entertaining. Also, The Simpsons.

RGB is different.

RGB, on the other hand, won me over the first time I saw it on TV. I was ten years old, and it was love at first sight. I looked forward to Friday nights; it meant adventures in the supernatural realm with the Ghostbusters – Winston Zeddmore, Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Egon Spengler. No matter how busy I got when I started high school, I still made sure that I was home by 7pm on Friday night. The first fanfic I ever wrote was about Egon and Janine Melnitz, based on the episode “Janine, You’ve Changed.”

I got so emotionally invested in RGB that it was a huge blow for me when the local channel that carried it in the Philippines suddenly stopped airing it. Friday nights were never the same again. Oh, I got over the heartbreak eventually, but great loves never really die.

Now, 20-plus years later, I got a hold of a copy of the entire RGB series as well as its spinoff, Extreme Ghostbusters. In a fit of nostalgia, I watched an episode. And another. And another. For two weeks, I was ten years old again, giddy and squeeing. And then I discovered through Google that I am not alone. RGB still has a fan base, not as rabid as Firefly’s but just as loyal.

The captivating story is one good reason why RGB still has a loyal following.

Unlike a lot of cartoons, RGB’s story is not a Battle Between Good And Evil. It doesn’t have a Big Bad sitting behind the curtain, scheming to destroy the gang and plotting to take over the world. Every episode has its own villain, and sometimes the villain isn’t really evil. These elements give the story variety, and nothing is strictly black or white.

Also, the setting of the story is New York City in the 80s, with a few pop references sprinkled here and there. It’s so very easy to imagine the gang doing their thing for real, as if ghosts are a common problem like vermin that need to be exterminated or criminals that must be apprehended.

In addition, RGB makes use of cultural and literary references. It was in RGB that I first learned about the Sandman and Samhain, not to mention Cthulhu. I got a big kick out of reading H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” in college because it made me recall the RGB episode “The Collect Call of Cathulhu.”

RGB may be 2-D, but its characters are definitely 3-D.

Few cartoon characters are as fleshed out as the characters of RGB. It’s very easy to relate to them. For example, Egon is obviously “The Brain” in the group, but there are far too many instances where he’s so silly and clueless. These instances mostly involve Janine. The RGB writers have also given Egon quirks like being an opera fanboy, a fascination for fungus, and a fear of the Boogieman.

The dynamics between the characters are also enjoyable to watch. For instance, Peter is a jerk and is always picking on Janine as if she’s his little sister. But just like any big brother, he’s always ready to take action when Janine is in danger. Not that Janine lets Peter bully her. She is always ready with a snarky rejoinder and is not at all hesitant to throw things at Peter when he deserves it.

Speaking of the snark, RGB is also full of them.

From “Janine, You’ve Changed”:
Peter: Egon, I just had a thought.
Egon: You had a thought?
Peter: Ye-es.
Egon: Here. Have a cookie.
Peter: Why?
Egon: It’s how they train seals, Peter. Unfortunately, I’m all out of fish.

From “Bustman’s Holiday”:
Stranger: Excuse me, but would you be Mr. Raymond Stantz?
Egon: No. Not by choice.

From “The Thing in Mrs. Faversham’s Attic”:
Janine: Come on, Mrs. Faversham. I’ll show you where they think up new ways to do stupid things.

And then, there’s The Big Tease.

One of the biggest teases RGB ever dangled was the will-they-or-will-they-not situation between Egon and Janine. It was never really resolved when RGB was canceled, although the fans did get a huge payoff with the big confession in “Janine, You’ve Changed.”

I did get a bit of satisfaction in Extreme Ghostbusters, though. In the EGB episode “The Crawler,” Egon tried to win Janine back from being the Hive Queen with his awkward declaration of “I love you.” After that, the two of them started acting like a long-married couple. It was never definitely stated that Egon and Janine are really together, but one can assume with hope that they are.

From EGB’s “Witchy Woman”:
Eduardo: She’s a total fox, but she doesn’t even know I’m alive.
Janine: Believe me, I know it’s hard when day after day you try and try and get nothing. But you have to hang in there even if your insides feel like they’ve been ripped to shreds. So even if it takes 12 whole years, the best 12 years of a woman’s life, the end will all be worth it.

Getting my hands on copies of RGB and EGB made my love for RGB come alive again. And once again, I am a fangirl, and a nostalgic one at that.

Are you a Janine and Egon shipper too? What are your thoughts? Did they or did they not?

 

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Anna Sibal-Gonzaga is a freelance writer based in the Philippines. She likes reading books and watching movies and TV shows in the sci-fi, fantasy and historical genres. She is also a casual gamer and an all-around nerd.

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Permanent link to this article: http://annasibal.com/2012/04/reliving-my-childhood-with-the-real-ghostbusters/

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