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New York City is the only city where the Ghostbusters make any sense

Sometimes a setting is more than just a setting - it is a home.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in New York Ghostbusters
Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

When you think about Ghostbusters characters, you probably think of the four original crew. Maybe you know the name Louis Tully or Janine or the infamous EPA inspector who was just doing his job, Walter Peck. But there is a bigger figure looming in the Ghostbusters franchise that you are overlooking. Someone colossal in stature and undisputedly iconic.

No, I’m not talking about the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I’m talking about New York City itself.

Looking back, there is nowhere else in the world I could imagine Ghostbusters taking place, and not just because the iconic firehouse is sitting at a corner in Manhattan. The city’s constant buzz of energy acts like a conduit for the supernatural but it also gives context to the constant financial woes the Ghostbusters find themselves in. There is no other city in the world where a 100-foot-tall confectionery could walk down the streets and the citizenry would be unbothered by the opening of the second film. Yeah, thanks for saving the world and all but these people got places to be.

Even The Real Ghostbusters cartoon understood that New York energy is important to what makes the franchise work. In the episode "Knock, Knock" a group of subway engineers are confronted with a door that specifically says "Do not open until doomsday" but they have a deadline to keep to and that sounds like someone else's problem. In any other city, there would be serious repercussions for almost ending the world but in New York that is just another Tuesday.

There is a 'what have you done for me lately' energy to the opening of the second movie that is so beautifully New York. The saviors of the city are reduced to performing at children’s birthday parties – and the children look bored. This is like the real Batman showing up to do the Batusi in your living room and your parents feeling like they wasted their money. The Ghostbusters fell from grace not because they made a mistake but because they hadn’t saved the world in a few years and no one likes someone resting on their laurels.

Ghostbusters II makes the connection between the story and the setting even more obvious. There is a river of ooze flowing beneath the city that feeds off and amplifies aggression and negative emotions – where else will it be but New York? But the city’s history of hope and opportunity – if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, as Frank said – is also its salvation. The Ghostbusters wield the Statue of Liberty to smash through the bad vibes because New York will be the cause of and solution to its own problems, thank you very much.

It wasn’t until Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire brought the characters back to New York City that I felt excited about the series again. I never had any enthusiasm for Afterlife – it looked fine and all but it didn’t feel like Ghostbusters to me because it was missing part of what made the first two films iconic. It got the action and the comedy and brought plenty of snark to the apocalypse, but the series wasn’t at home in Oklahoma.

New York is as much a part of the Ghostbusters as a proton pack or Slimer and I’m excited to see them come home.

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Trent Cannon

Trent Cannon: Trent is a freelance writer who has been covering anime, video games, and pop culture for a decade. (He/Him)


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