Ghost – How To Turn The Stupid Into The Ingenious

Quick Thoughts: Ghost (1990)

A ‘psychic’ and the recently murdered Sam, now a ghost, must work together to save his girlfriend.


Ghost is of course an iconic romance, one that is easily sunk into and enjoyed as a simple piece of entertainment. Whilst the performances aren’t perfect and the general plot of the movie runs a thin line between romance and cheese, the relationship between characters holds up for the vast majority of the film which serves as the emotional anchor-point for the audience. There’s always been something that has bothered me about Ghost though. Sam’s major arc and conflicts are centralised on him being able to transcend the ghost dimension and effect the real world. This means he needs to learn how to kick a can so that he may fight for his girlfriend, such and so on. However, as he learns to kick the can, he’s stood on the floor. Moreover, as he falls walks through walls, trips through people and fails to pick shit up, he sits on chairs, runs around, gets on trains and so on. How does this happen? He should be falling through the floor, through the Earth until he’s out the other side and floating in space. You may be arguing that this is a really frivolous point to pick up on, one that probably applies to a whole swath of movies with ghosts in them, but, this boundary between the physical and metaphysical is an incredibly significant part of Ghost – as I mentioned, it’s inextricably linked to Sam’s character arc. This would leave you to assume that the screenwriter, director–anyone, would pick up on this. But, seemingly not.

The reason I pick up on this is to make a larger point on plot holes in general. The writer, Bruce Joel Rubin, could have just had Sam float like many ghosts do. Instead, he allowed gravitational and electromagnetic laws apply to him, laws that keep him on the ground and the ground a solid surface. However, Sam manages to have these forces turned back on and applied to him by getting angry, by channelling his emotions. This implies a metaphor, that Sam’s character arc is centralised on realising the weight of emotional bonds. This is linked to the beginning and his murder as it’s established beforehand that he can’t say that he loves Molly nor convince her of his true feelings. In such, his major point of growth is on having a greater control of his emotions, their projection as well as their reception. By him overcoming the ghost dimension he is thus proving to Molly that he loves her, genuinely wanted to be with her and other gooey things. In fact, what would make more sense is for the narrative to be entirely centred on Molly’s psyche. This would imply that Sam is a projection of her imagination and him overcoming his emotional problems is her overcoming coming to terms with his death by understanding that he always loved her – and other gooey things. However, this subtext, though it is there, isn’t so strong in this film. I believe it could have been strengthened with Rubin truly considering the laws of Sam as a ghost. This means delving into the physical laws of gravity and electromagnetism, maybe explaining how he’s transcending these laws in the weird way he is as a means of articulating his character arc. I won’t delve into the specifics of how this may be done as I’d end up writing you a whole film here, but suffice to say that by focusing on his ‘training’, Rubin would be able to more intricately explore Sam and Molly’s relationship rather than injecting extra characters and contrived plot points of murder and deceit.

I ultimately can see this producing a much more intimate film, one that capitalises on the best aspects of this movie – the relationship between Sam and Molly, yes this bit…

(P.S This scene is so effective because of the blatant sexual innuendo – in case you hadn’t noticed (yes, Unchained Melody is a great song too)). Coming back to conclusions, by paying greater attention to the rules of your film, the semantics, metaphors, physics, such and so on, you expose holes which you may creatively fill to possibly better the film. A great aspect to Ghost is then left open to you: how would you fix the ghost walking on the floor paradox?


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