Ghostbusters: Why Winston is Important

Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore in ‘Ghostbusters’. Copyright goes to Columbia Pictures and Black Rhino.

Hey! Hallie here!

It’s Ernie Hudson’s birthday! In honor of this acting legend, I thought it was the perfect time to dive into my love of ‘Ghostbusters’. Specifically the character of Winston Zeddemore. The truth of this character is that he is underused and underappreciated. He’s important despite the studio rather than because of it. The studio definitely pushed the character to the background because Ernie Hudson wasn’t a big-name actor at the time. Though some have denied it, the longstanding belief that the character was reduced when they couldn’t secure Eddie Murphy for the part has largely circulated. Ernie Hudson did initially read for a character that came in at the beginning of the film, only to be handed the horribly reduced script right before shooting. We also know that many lines initially written for Winston were eventually switched to Peter’s character to make him more entertaining. But Winston is absolutely essential to the film and all of the ‘Ghostbusters’ content that has been released since. Let’s get into all the reasons Winston Zeddemore deserves some love.

He’s the Straight Man:

In pretty much every comedic movie you need someone who isn’t absolutely insane. That way the audience can relate to a character and get some relief when the other characters are being too over-the-top. That is Winston. Every other character in the movie has some sort of background in the paranormal. Ray and Egon are often speaking in jargon that audiences can’t understand. While Peter isn’t quite on the level where he understands them either, Peter is being played by Bill Murray. Bill Murray plays very good sarcastic, comedic characters, but all of them, including Peter, are completely crazy. Winston is the first time in the movie where the audience is introduced to someone we can understand and relate to. Winston is sarcastic, confused, and constantly exasperated. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he still needs the money. He’s scared about 90% of the time, but he’s open about using his religion to cope. Winston strikes a nice balance between being the voice of the audience and an overall comforting presence. As a kid, Winston was my absolute favorite character. I was terrified by anything that was even mildly scary and ‘Ghostbusters’ was one of those things I was scared of. The way I got over my fear was through Winston. I finally found someone on screen who was just as scared as I was, but was also brave enough to face it and crack jokes while doing it. If Winston wasn’t there, I might still not like the movie.

He’s the Hero:

This trait comes out more in the comics and the cartoons, but it’s still worth talking about. Winston, of the entire group, is always the most likely to run into a dangerous situation to save someone. This often happened while the other Ghostbusters were either calculating what was best to do in the situation, or, in Peter’s case, figuring out how to save himself. The cartoons and the comics make the differences between the characters very clear. Egon focuses on statistics, Ray obsesses over the ghosts, and Peter is always looking out for himself. Winston is the only person who directly connects with the people they’re attempting to help. He worries about their needs and their safety. That isn’t to say that the other Ghostbusters don’t do anything. Every character has their own heroic moment. But Winston is credited in the comics and cartoons for bringing humanity into the group. He leaps in to save others first so that the other Ghostbusters learn how to do it too.

He’s Ernie Hudson:

Ernie is a fantastic actor and by far the most active cast member in the ‘Ghostbusters’ fandom. He’s at nearly every convention and he’s always excited to meet fans. He talks frequently about Ghostbusters and the positive experiences he’s had because of it. But, most importantly, he raises awareness about the negative experiences he had too. He talks about the way that his role was cut and how he didn’t sleep the night he found out. He talks about the betrayal he felt when they did it to him again in the second film. He talks about how it taught him the harsh truths about the industry. He’s debated whether or not the decisions were made because he is Black, as many fans theorize racism is behind his smaller role and the lack of Winston in promotional materials for the first movie. His opinions on that in particular are better to hear from his mouth than mine. But overall, he preaches kindness and resilience. He blames the industry for what happened to him and works towards making Hollywood a kinder place. It’s a powerful way to use the ‘Ghostbusters’ spotlight.

Winston Zeddemore isn’t the general answer when you ask someone who their favorite Ghostbuster is. You don’t really have to wonder why, either. Winston didn’t get nearly enough characterization compared to the other Ghostbusters. But he still deserves appreciation, whether you’re a casual watcher or a long-time fan. Ernie Hudson deserves appreciation, too. Even if this character isn’t your thing, there’s a lot to learn from him and Ernie Hudson’s experience playing him. I hope he has a happy birthday and I hope he knows just how much he’s influenced this entire fandom.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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