The Ghostbusters' Real Enemy

Tuesday 20 October 2020

The following blog is a repost from a piece I did for Be sure to stop by SomewhatNerdy to keep tabs on our podcasts (including mine: Future Flicks with Billiam) and check out our old blog posts. The reason I'm reposting this is because I'm working on a part 2 for this one and if I'm going to post part 2 on my blog, part 1 should be there too. So enjoy!

We all love Ghostbusters. It’s a classic. It’s a great movie. Many of us nerds could recreate the movie from memory. But I ask you this question. Who was the main villain? The main antagonist in Ghostbusters? If you said Gozer the Gozarean, you’re not wrong, but you’re also not right. The true villain, the true evil, is Walter Peck.

If you haven’t watched the film in a while you may be wondering who I’m talking about. I’m talking about Walter Peck from the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s right. The pencil pusher from the EPA is the biggest bad guy in the first film. Allow me to explain.

Two things made me want to write this blog. The first is that this last Halloween, my wife and I rewatched Ghostbusters 1 and 2 as well as the reboot. And yes, I’ll still defend the reboot as a good movie until the day I die. But during the original I noticed a few things that Peck said that I had never noticed before. So afterward, I googled him to find the quotes and found a blog some random person wrote about how Walter Peck was the true hero of the film. I read the blog, keeping an open mind, and the conclusion I came to was that not only was the author wrong, but Walter Peck is the true villain of Ghostbusters.

We all love the environment, right? It allows us to live. Trees give us oxygen, water falls from the sky, and the animals and vegetables we eat need the land to grow. So people who help protect that are our friends, right? Well, maybe some. But not Walter Peck.

Here’s what happened if you look at it from just the surface. The Ghostbusters had been open for business for a while when they get a visit from Walter Peck of the EPA. He has terrible bedside manner, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad guy.  The right off the bat, Peter Venkman is mean and won’t even listen to what Peck has to say. So if we look at just that part of their interactions, Peck was wronged and Venkman is the bad guy. Here’s exactly what Peck said when voicing his concerns to Venkman.

“Well, because I’m curious. I want to know more about what you do here! Frankly, there have been a lot of wild stories in the media and we want to assess for any possible environmental impact from your operation! For instance, the presence of noxious, possibly hazardous waste chemicals in your basement! Now you either show me what is down there or I come back with a court order.”

So from this alone, Peck’s only crime was being standoffish. He didn’t offer any proof that there were environmental risk, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, right? The court order could be for a basic search, an investigation, right? Sure.

So here’s what should have happened. Peck would have gone back to his office and reported to his superiors, got a court order to search and evaluate the property and equipment the Ghostbusters use and then decide if anything needs to be changed or fixed to help lessen their impact of the environment.

Instead what he does is he does get a court order, but it’s to shut down the power grid to the containment unit. First off, what kind of judge would sign that without any proof. He said that the Ghostbusters were using dangerous chemicals but where were they? If they really were in the basement then that should be easy. Warrant for to search for dangerous chemicals THEN take the next steps. But no. Peck returns just as Egon and the rest of the team were starting to understand the Zuul and Gozer situation and shuts off important equipment that he admits, and the Con Edison (a power company in New York) worker also admits he has no idea what could happen if it’s turned off. Not only that, but Egon Spengler, the man who created this whole system, tells the it would be a bad idea.

So let’s go over what we have so far. First is that Walter Peck was wronged by Peter Venkman and instead of coming back with a court order for an investigation, comes back to shut down delicate technology that he doesn’t know A: Its purpose, B: how it works, and C: the ramifications of turning it off. Are we all caught up? Good.

So what happens as a result? All the ghosts that the gang has captured are released in an explosive event that takes the top off their building. The released ghosts just don’t go back to their old haunts. They all go to Dana’s Central Park West apartment which just happens to be where Zuul the Gatekeeper is waiting. So the ghosts and their spiritual energy are loose but to top it all off, the Keymaster Vinz Clortho (in Louis Tulley’s body) got away from Egon and now knows where to go to find the Gatekeeper and summon Gozer the Gozarean.

What would have happened if Peck had never turned off the containment unit? We may never know the whole story, but here’s what we can assume based on where the story was headed. Vinz Clortho was under the care of Egon in the Ghostbusters HQ. He was being studied and kept safe. Dana Barrett, having been taken over by Zuul the Gatekeeper, was in her own apartment awaiting the Keymaster. Gozer had to be summoned at 550 Central Park West (where Dana lived) because the building was designed by Ivo Shandor, the leader of a Gozer cult who was obsessed with summoning Gozer into our world. The Gatekeeper and Keymaster had to meet and it had to be in that building because the building was built very specifically and made out of a magnesium-tungsten alloy which was chosen to aid in the summoning of Gozer. So they had to meet and they had to do so in the apartment. Egon was watching Vinz and even says that the two meeting would be a bad idea. So we can assume that Egon wouldn’t have let Zuul and Vinz get too close to each other. Would Gozer have eventually been summoned? Maybe. We don’t know what other tricks the Sumerian god had up its sleeve. But what we do know for a fact is that the return of Gozer would have been delayed. Maybe, just maybe, Egon and Ray could have figured out a way to prevent Gozer from coming. Maybe he could have figured out a way to extract Zuul and Vinz Clortho from Dana and Louis. Could the Ghostbusters have put Zuul and Clortho in the containment unit?

We can assume they had to meet while possessing humans. Why can we assume this? Because when they initially broke out of their dog statues on top of the Shandor building, they were already together. If all they needed was to be next to each other then Gozer would have been summoned right there. But no. They needed to possess humans and then get together and they were able to get together thanks to the actions of one Walter Peck from the EPA.

So is that all Walter Peck did? No, not at all. It doesn’t stop there. Like a true villain he was only getting started. If we wanted to be generous we could have written off his previous actions as momentary weakness. Being caught up in the moment. He felt disrespected and embarrassed by how Venkman treated him and shutting off the containment unit was the culmination of that embarrassment. But then we get to the post explosion fallout.

We see Walter Peck a few more times during the film. In fact, we see him again right outside the firehouse when Peck and the Ghostbusters (mainly Egon) are arguing and the Ghostbusters are sent to jail. Peck tells the cops that “these men are in direct violation of the Environmental Protection Act and this explosion is a direct result of it.” Egon, instead of defending himself using science, just says “Your mother!” and attacks Peck. So the cops, who don’t know any better, who are just doing what a representative of a government agency is telling them, arrest the Ghostbusters and take them to jail. So Peck lied to the police. We all know that the explosion is his fault for turning off the containment unit. Let us move on.

We see Walter Peck next in the Mayor’s office after he summons the Ghostbusters because no one knows what’s going on. Peck arrives at this time too and tells Mayor Lenny what he thinks is going on, and what he says reveals a lot about his character. He says:

“I am Walter Peck, sir, and I’m prepared to make a full report. These men are consummate snowball artists! They use sensitive nerve gases to induce hallucinations. People think they’re seeing ghosts! And they call these bozos, who conveniently show up to deal with the problem with a fake electronic light show!”

Here we catch Peck in another lie. There was no nerve gas. Peck had only been on the Ghostbusters property twice and neither time did he find anything. If he had some other proof, like proof that Egon or Ray purchased the chemicals to make nerve gas, then that would be one thing. But Walter Peck doesn’t offer up anything to back up his argument. He just claims the Ghostbusters are frauds.

So he didn’t believe in ghosts and thought the Ghostbusters were con artists. That’s fair. If you’re not one of the people who actually saw a ghost and needed their services, then you may be a naysayer. But that still doesn’t excuse his actions which, thanks to my flawless logic, we now know caused the coming of Gozer.  

This is all why Walter Peck was the true bad guy. If he didn’t do what he did, then Egon and Ray would have had more time to study Vinz and Zuul. They may have thought of a solution and could have saved lives. Even though we didn’t see it, I refused to believe that no one died that day. The ground was cracking, pieces of the building were falling off and crashing down on the onlookers below. The Stay Puft Marshmallow man stepped on a church! You know that during and event like that there would be people in there praying.

Walter Peck caused massive destruction which resulted in the loss of lives all because he had a vendetta against the Ghostbusters and decided to jump to conclusions without any proof. We know, thanks to the first thirty minutes of Ghostbusters 2, that the Ghostbusters are blamed heavily for what happened. Not only that but they are the victims of many lawsuits and they disband after they’re banned from busting ghosts by the court.

Walter Peck not only caused the nearly cataclysmic events of Ghostbusters but also destroyed the livelihood of the four heroes who saved New York and this is why he’s the true villain of the first movie. The repercussions of his actions reach far beyond the first movie and are felt up until the Ghostbusters judicial restraining order is dropped by Judge Stephen Wexler in Ghostbusters II. Gozer’s evil stops at the end of the first film but Walter Peck’s evil lasts much longer. Walter Peck, ladies and gentlemen. Your true villain.

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