CTCS 190: Intro to Cinema
TA: Amber Bowyer
November 19, 2011
Fantastic Ghost Stories: What is Consistent and What Changes Over Time in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Beetlejuice?
Genre: a type or a category. It can define what scheme a movie follows or it can merely be a starting point from which a movie can grow in complexity and be anything but a standardized product of a movie company. Fantasy movies tell stories that allow viewers to dive into the moviemaker’s head and see their imagination and dream worlds come to life on the big screen. Two classic ghost fantasies, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) and Beetlejuice (1988), show underlying similarities interlaced with significant differences. The two films find common ground in their concepts and iconographies, but are unique in the way that the fantasy film incorporates other genres to create a specific cinematic experience reflective of the time. Moreover, the distinctive personalities and viewpoints of the filmmakers involved in these movies influence and further differentiate the two films’ aesthetics. Fantasy films have inherent conventions, which include themes, props and settings that are consistent with movies within this specific genre. One common theme in ghost fantasy movies is that the living characters reside in a home that is estranged from big cities, often creating a sense of isolation and otherness. Lucy, the main character of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, moves into a seaside, “haunted” home that is far away from her in-laws and other city folk with the idea of living a peaceful life without the pressures that come with being a widow and a single mother in the confines of an urban environment. Barbara and Adam Maitland, the ghost couple of Beetlejuice, purposely bought a classic New England home in a small, idyllic town away from the city to start their new lives as a married couple, when their lives are abruptly stunted by a car accident that kills them both and forces their ghosts to haunt their home. A constant theme in both movies is seen when the hero, or heroes, tends to fall into a mystical world and calls upon the help of a supernatural being. The protagonists in both movies look toward another ghost to help them achieve their overall goals. In The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Lucy seeks guidance from the ghost, Captain Daniel Gregg, to help her get enough money in order to pay for the expenses of her new home; he allows her to write a novel of his memoirs to make the money needed. The heroes in Beetlejuice, Barbara and Adam Maitland, the newlywed ghost couple, find Betelgeuse, a ghost well known as a deceitful “bio-exorcist,” to help them scare away the new family living in their home, the Deetzes, despite the admonishments of other ghosts. In addition, only one living person in the house had the ability to see the ghosts: Lydia, the daughter of the new family. She became important in that she provided beneficial connections for the ghosts. This is attributed to her odd personality and goth-like interests that echoed her desire to become a ghost herself. Lucy was the only person who could see Captain Gregg in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and such a connection allowed him further involvement within the real world through her. The fantasy genre also involves topics of the impossible and tells stories spawned from the imagination. Fantasy goes beyond genres such as comedy, thriller, and drama in that it delves into people’s thoughts and dreams and brings them to life in a small setting or in a completely new and unique world. This genre is very open and not a defined concept because it can involve so many varied approaches toward creating narrative, characters, and other features of the film such as theme. This allows for movies within the fantasy genre to overlap with other genres such as comedy, romance, science fiction, adventure, and horror. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Beetlejuice combine polar genres with the fantasy of ghost...