Mad Science Mondays: Egon Spengler Edition

July 29, 2019

Welcome to Mad Science Mondays, where we talk about depictions of science in movies, TV shows, books, and the media. We dissect the good, the bad, the comical and the outright irresponsible. Who says learning about science can’t be fun?

Ghostbusters (1984) is one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theatre as a kid. I’m pretty sure it was the VERY first movie my little brother saw in the theatre: he was young enough that he still carried his blankie with him everywhere. During the very first scene, when the ghost screams at the poor librarian, he disappeared under that blanket and stayed there for the rest of the film. We found him sound asleep when it was time to go home.*

For a lot of us Gen X’ers, the guys from Ghostbusters weren’t just our first movie scientists, they were our first scientists… and these characters helped form a lasting impression of the profession. The impression was a lot more accurate than you might think! Let’s review:

  • They have to scramble to find funding for their research (Ray takes out a third mortgage to buy Ecto 1)
  • They work weird hours and go without sleep (as does anyone who works with live subjects)
  • They are frequently covered in dirt and slime (ask me about the time the freezer full of animal tissue samples died on a Friday and I got to empty and clean it…. Monday)
  • People in positions of power refuse to believe their results (cough – climate change – cough cough)
  • They save the world and become celebrities

Granted, I wish that last one happened a little more regularly,  but I also believe that science is one of the only things that will save us (cough – climate change – cough cough).

Egon Spengler

Most people like Bill Murray’s flashy Venkman the best, but I have a soft spot for Egon Spengler, probably because we are both quiet, socially awkward people who like data and geek out over research. I also suspect that this movie is one of the reasons I find ghost tours so much fun.

What about you? What are your memories of this movie? Which Ghostbuster do you identify with?

* He got over his fear, eventually, becoming completely obsessed with the animated series (and a huge fan of Slimer).


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