I think it’s safe to assume that the Ghostbusters would be nothing if not for their steadfast secretary Janine Melntiz. She’s resilient, tenacious, and intelligent. She’s tough as nails and unafraid to speak her mind. Peter has a smart remark to make? She’ll throw one back at him. This Brooklyn babe won’t take any abuse from anyone.
Venkman: Janine, someone with your qualifications would have no trouble finding a top-flight job in either the food service or housekeeping industries.
Janine: I’ve quit better jobs than this.
And yet, no other character has been subject to as much change and executive meddling as Janine. It’s hard work being the secretary for the Ghostbusters. It’s a job that has to change with the times and the medium. Through seven separate incarnations of Ghostbusters, there have been eight different versions of Janine. Yeah, let that sink into your heads. So, like the original Janine would say in this situation, whaddaya want?!
In her first iteration in 1984’s Ghostbusters she’s highly sardonic but takes her unusual job in stride. It doesn’t matter how strange the circumstances. She’s unflappable, she’s intelligent, she also enjoys racquetball. Also, a total hotty. Egon is missing out. Don’t let her choice of cardigan sweaters and huge granny glasses on a string discourage you: Janine is undoubtedly a fox!
The Real Ghostbusters (Seasons 1-2)
Her next incarnation came in The Real Ghostbusters, the animated cartoon that ran from 1986 to 1991. She’s presented with the same personality if not a little more expressive when delivering her sarcasm. Her appearance is far from the mousy women we’re first introduced to. This Janine wears heels, a short-sleeved shirt and skirt, and sports a bright head of red hair styled high and rock hard to meet the demands of her 80s lifestyle. Yet still the glasses on a string.
This is the first Janine I ever met and she left an impression on four-year-old me. Tough, sarcastic, and an equal to the Ghostbusters. Sure, she was the secretary and often ran errands for the boys, but she did it because she cared, not because she was subservient. There were instances where the plot couldn’t move forward without her administrative skills (that’s completely true, she reads a note left by Slimer when no one else can because she’s just that good) or the boys would have been completely screwed unless she suited up and wielded a proton pack!
Then Ghostbusters II comes along and this professional fox gets replaced with a wacky, cartoon cut-out type of weirdo that New York specializes in. She’s got a jaw-line length bob haircut that’s dyed red, a leopard print, faux fur jacket with green evening gloves, and an attraction to Louis Tully. What happened in the intervening years between the live-action movies? I’m all for personal growth but this seems like a couple steps backwards, doesn’t it?
The Real Ghostbusters (Seasons 3-7)
This change in live-action Janine also heralded a change in animated Janine. Due to executive meddling, Janine got a major overhaul halfway through The Real Ghostbusters. She lost her edge because executives wanted someone more feminine, prettier, gentler, and less imposing and grating. Less imposing and grating?! She’s from Brooklyn–that’s just how they are!
I never saw any of those later series episodes as a child and I’m thankful I didn’t! What a disheartening shock it must have been for girls to watch a previously developed female character get stripped back to a shell of her former self so she’d fit the gender role that middle-aged, white men thought she should be in. They rounded her face, slathered her in makeup, went through a dozen different hairstyles, replaced her voice actress, and took away her sarcasm, spunk, and ALL OTHER ASPECTS OF HER PERSONALITY THAT MADE HER JANINE. She went through so many changes so quickly that a whole episode, involving a fairy godmother granting her wishes for physical change, had to be written to explain what the hell was happening to Janine!
The Extreme Ghostbusters
After The Real Ghostbusters ended in 1991, there was no ghostbusting in the world until 1997’s attempt to bring them back in animated form with The Extreme Ghostbusters. A new generation of ghostbusters were rolled in and taught the trade by Egon and Janine. Having not (earnestly) watched the series since childhood, I can’t tell you much about this Janine besides the fact that she comes back with long hair. Oh, and that they bring her back over Ray, Peter, or Winston! Hell yeah! When it comes to who you want around when ghosts are involved, Janine makes the top two!
Ghostbusters: The Video Game
Janine is also featured in 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game and the ongoing IDW published comic series. Though I’m not a huge fan of the plain character design, at least they didn’t go in a Ghostbusters II direction. This is a Janine that harkens back to the first Ghostbusters. She’s not a caricature, she’s a person. And also once again portrayed by Annie Potts, so who am I to complain?
IDW Ghostbusters Comics
IDW’s standard model for Janine is my favourite modern design and hits the closest to home (for who I first knew Janine to be) with the sharp facial angles and red bright hair. Not to mention all the sass is back. Even if I can’t hear it in a Brooklyn accent, I can see it plainly on her face It’s a nostalgic joy when I sit down with a Ghostbusters comic!
Whaddaya Want? Who’s The Real Janine?
While the boys in grey stay more or less the same (give or take a few hair and jumpsuit colours) Janine, who is without a doubt a staple character to the Ghostbusters series, has gone through countless changes: both in terms of her physical appearance and her personality. Thankfully, outside of The Real Ghostbusters disastrous executive meddling, we always manage to get back to the true Janine. The Janine that’s tough as nails, sarcastic, and definitely overworked.