Ghostbusters star Harold Ramis, who played scientist Egon Spengler in the pair of hit films, has died from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. He was 69. While Ramis garnered an incredible career as one of the top comedy directors from the 1980s to the early 2000s, he also became representatives of nerds and geeks everywhere, showing everyone that geniuses could have cool hair, a dry sense of humor, and get the girl.
I was always a fan of Egon Spengler. As a girl who loved Star Wars and Star Trek who also happened to be good at school, it was a thrill to see a man who seemed basically like a bigger version of the teenagers I hung around with – dryly sarcastic, smart, and just a little outside of what many people may have otherwise considered “normal” – and he gave me something to aspire to. Ghostbusters was definitely a visual feast, to be sure, but what I was really interested in was how cool ghostbuster and scientist Egon Spengler was. I even went so far as to follow the Ghostbusters cartoon series because the character intrigued me so much.
As an adult, Egon Spengler helped me feel a little more comfortable in my own geeky skin. It suddenly became really cool to be interested in science topics and learn how to interpret results. It was okay to enjoy space programs and science fiction because Harold Ramis’ portrayal of Spengler made it so. He didn’t care about the trendiest fashions, or the latest gossip; Spengler and the other ghostbusters, for that matter, were in it for the science, and that was incredibly entertaining for my friends and I, who were still trying to figure out just how and where we fit, even in university.
Ghostbusters and, by extension, Harold Ramis himself, demonstrated to the world that it was okay to be a laid back, unruffled and unfazed person. His notion of humor and of cool was intellectual, and that, to be sure, is something more of us should aspire to in this age of increasingly lowbrow humor. Ramis showed teenagers of the 1980s that cool was not about the hottest fashions or following the latest trends; his portrayal of Spengler in Ghostbusters showed everyone that following your own path and blazing your own trail was far more interesting, particularly because there was every possibility that it could lead to a really fantastic discovery.
One of Ramis’ finest moments in Ghostbusters was when, in an effort to flirt with the fairly oblivious Spengler, Annie Potts’ Janine Melnitz says, “You’re very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too.” Without skipping a beat, Spengler tells her, “Print is dead.” With that brief exchange, geeks everywhere cheered, as it showed that Spengler was cool enough to realize that technology was going to take the world of hard copy books over. It also only served to heighten Janine’s attraction to the bookish scientist, which further showed science loving geeks and nerds everywhere that intellect was indeed cool.
Ghostbusters star Harold Ramis, now dead at 69, showed everyone that geeks were truly cool. How else did Spengler manage to be so prominently featured in shows like The Real Ghostbusters? How was he able to spark the relationship with pretty intellectual Janine Melnitz? He was able to do all of these things by playing a cool geek. Harold Ramis was able, through the character of Spengler, to demonstrate to everyone that one of the best ways to be cool is not to worry about what everyone else was thinking about you – you just needed to be your own bookish self.
By Christina St-Jean