Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Black History Month Heroes: Winston Zeddemore from "Ghostbusters"

Ghosts, dogs and registered mail. These three unrelated items are purported to be the trifecta of terror that plague Black people and give them unsolicited nightmares each time they attempt to slumber.

Thankfully, fictional Black History Month offers a remedy to this unsatisfactory dilemma, albeit in the guise of defeating that first stated fear.

"I ain't afraid of no ghost..." No, because Black people were able to penetrate the lily-white trio of the Ghostbusters when Winston Zeddemore applied for a vacancy with the team and was automatically given the position without inquiry into his resume or past employment. The HR representative for the founding members of the paranormal busting organization asked this question to Zeddemore:
Janine Melnitz: Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?
Winston Zeddemore: Ah, if there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say.
Thus, the Token Black of the Ghostbusters was welcomed to the group intent on ridding New York City of all ghoulish apparitions - and better yet, they fulfilled their quota to keep the EEOC Office happy - until an employee of EPA unleashed the previously incarcerated ghosts to once again terrorize the city and Black people everywhere.

It is here that Zeddemore unleashed a quote Black people found oddly true, at least when it comes to sudden frights, for the power of fright is one that they quiver before:
Winston Zeddemore: I'm Winston Zeddmore, Your Honor. I've only been with the company for a couple of weeks, but these things are real. Since I joined these men, I've seen shit that'll turn you white.
Nothing is scarier to Black people than an entity - real or imagined - that has the ability to turn them white. Acting white is one thing, being scared white is a horse of a different color.

Zeddemore has an interesting background and one that isn't explored deeply in either Ghostbusters or the sequel:
In the original script for Ghostbusters, Winston Zeddemore was intended to be the smartest and most capable of the Ghostbusters, a former Marine with multiple degrees and a Ph.D., making him more suited for the job than the founding three Ghostbusters. However, in the final screenplay none of these qualifications were mentioned. The changes are discussed in detail in the commentary on the DVD of Ghostbusters, though no explanation is given for them.
Winston is played by the affable Ernie Hudson, an actor of charm and capable of memorable, scene stealing confidence.

However, Ghostbusters is merely a fantasy and a highly lucrative franchise, and the Zeddemore character is no more real than the specters that haunt Black people's dreams and infect their days. Like real Black History, the elusive task of finding figures - outside of sports and entertainment - of Black ancestry worthy of celebrating that aren't creations of Disingenuous White Liberals minds are as extraordinary and, if found, might induce "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"

Dogs and unregistered mail are real though, and Zeddemore can't stop these fears from pestering Black people. No Proton Pack can engage these delusions.

Stuff Black People Don't Like welcomes Winston Zeddemore to the growing roster of Fictional Black History Month heroes. Being scared white isn't exactly a positive thing, so the adroit ghost busting moves of Zeddemore are vital to protecting Black people from 1 of the 3 things they fear the most.

"I ain't afraid of no ghost"... neither are Black people with Zeddemore on the hunt for ectoplasm.

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