So, Patty Tolan?
The other ghostbusters are scientists, right? They’re there because Science!, or maybe in Holtzmann’s case because Boom!. Basically all the plot has to do for Abby and Erin is dangle the chance to do real, replicable science in front of them while removing any excuse to drag their feet. So tangible ghost + fucking fired = done.
But Patty’s not a scientist. Patty’s got a decent job, even if it’s obviously not what she wanted out of life. Patty’s motivation appears to be that she’s basically just a good person and responsible citizen? I mean, obviously she wants some excitement, and to feel like she’s making a real difference, but seriously.
We first see her stuck in her little booth, trying to be cheerful and positive at commuters who appear largely indifferent, until one guy comes along who’s clearly having some sort of mental health crisis. She stays pretty cheerful, she’s kind to him, and then she gets out of her booth and goes looking for him when he disappears and she reasonably assumes he’s in trouble.
Like, she could very easily have called it in and washed her hands of the situation. It’s not her fault/problem that maybe the transit cops won’t get there in time to help if this guy’s suicidal or delusional. I’m pretty sure people doing her job aren’t even supposed to leave their booths on-shift. But no, she gets out and goes after this bro just in case.
And meets a ghost. A terrifying ghost. Who scares the dick out of her.
I mean, what happens in the Aldrich Mansion? The tour guide tells his boss, who goes to Erin. Then they stay as far as possible from the scene while the women investigate. Patty goes herself, on her own time. Maybe her bosses didn’t believe her, maybe she knew she’d be dismissed and didn’t bother trying to explain what she saw, but she knows something’s up, and she takes it on herself to do something about it. And then she goes back to the scene of the haunting with them, to see what happens.
Every time they turn around, she’s handing them useful facts and history about the sites they’re investigating. Her interest in the city is keen and backed up by extensive knowledge. Hell, when she runs into something that shouldn’t be happening and she can’t explain, the first thing she does is head for the likeliest source of expertise to learn about it. She’s excited by it–it’s scary and maybe dangerous, but it’s new and interesting and she wants to figure it out.
Like, Abby might want recognition on top of that, and Erin so desperately wants to be believed that she risks the scientific mission for a shot at it, but Patty just wants to fucking know.
And she feels a genuine duty to help, too.
She might not be able to build a ghost-blasting plasma-cannon, but she
notices when a teammate’s mood is in the toilet and takes steps to
address it. She knows the ghost-booster isn’t supposed to be in her
subway, and that this is important. When things get ridiculously dangerous, and city hall’s smearing their names in the press, and she’s still not getting fucking paid for this, she never even looks tempted to say fuck this shit and go home. Her little monologue about going back to her booth is more to soothe/trick the ghost standing on her fucking shoulders than sincere.
Patty’s first instinct is to pool resources, and look after people, and encourage everyone to bring what they’ve got to the table. She might be disappointed or angry when nobody meets her halfway–the concert crowd drops her, and nobody acknowledges her compliments when she’s in her booth–but it doesn’t stop her from bringing her A-game. When the squad rolls out to save the world, it’s wearing her uniform and driving her car.
Just Patty Tolan, everybody.
All of this is perfect.
Also, it’s really important that Patty constantly acknowledges how terrified she is during everything that happens in the movie, but she still keeps going and she still fights the ghosts.
Unlike the rest of the group, she isn’t used to paranormal activity, she hasn’t been waiting for years to prove all of this ghost stuff true, and everything about it scares the shit out of her, but she never lets her fear stop her from helping people. She goes after Rowan because she’s worried about him, she slaps the ghost out of Abby and saves Holtzmann from falling out the window despite being absolutely terrified, and she squares off against ghost!Rowan to save Kevin because she cares about him, she cares about keeping people safe. Even when she wasn’t a Ghostbuster, she cared about keeping people safe.
Patty Tolan is a bona fide hero.
In the previews, when we heard Patty say, “I know New York,” I thought they were referring to the all-too-typical “street smarts.” Instead, in the film, her very next line of dialogue is, “I read a lot of nonfiction.” She’s an armchair historian of the city and a damned good one, who’s able to instantly identify the site of a centuries-old massacre. Nor do the other characters (or the script) find her encyclopedic knowledge surprising in the least, or ever doubt her say-so. Patty’s not a scientist, no, but she’s still portrayed as every bit as intelligent, curious and educated as the others.
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