The Ghostbusters Formula That Will Change How You See Pop Culture Trios


A few years ago, I claimed that the character traits of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a blueprint for groups of people. People say this about the Beatles, too – that in any foursome, each individual occupies one of the niche roles from these famous groups. You have the iconic leader (McCartney/Leonardo), the dynamic enigma (Lennon/Raphael), the overlooked genius (Harrison/Donatello), and the clown (Starr/Michelangelo).

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle paradigm is perfect for foursomes, but insufficient for analyzing trios, which have an entirely different group dynamic. As each member increases in relative importance when you scale back from a foursome to a trio, their defining traits acquire a magnitude akin to the Holy Trinity.

So who are the archetypical trio, illuminating human behavior as the Turtles and the Beatles depict foursomes? The Ghostbusters. Duh. Let’s look at the three recurring personality types, employing Freudian terms with the deftness of a college freshman after two bong hits:

The Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis, RIP)

Egon is the superego of the group – hyper-intelligent, rational, responsible. Never impulsive, Egons act deliberately and considerately, their actions guided by a moral compass (not necessarily Christian morals per se, but some kind of personal code) as rigid as the scientific method. Egons tend to be introverted and a bit socially awkward, but their empathy and dry wit commonly shines through their laconic personalities.

The Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd)

Ray is the ego and the everyman of the group – genial, harmless, and almost childlike. Ray doesn’t get the girl or save the day, but he strikes a crucial balance between Egon’s intellectual aloofness and Peter’s flippant detachment. Unfortunately, this often forces him to mediate between the two, much like ego is required to balance the morality of the superego and the primal hunger of the id. Lacking the dynamic personality of his counterparts, Rays can often be pinpointed as the weak link of the group (remember, it was Ray who allowed himself to think of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, bringing him to fiery, destructive realization).

The Peter Venkman (Bill Murray)

Unsurprisingly beloved, Venkman is the id of the group. Funny and charming, irresponsible and unpredictable, Peters are admittedly more self-aware than Freud’s Id. But though Peter masks his behavior with ironic wit and irreverent charm, it’s still indicative of the selfish, gratification-craving desire inherent to that instinctual part of our minds. Venkman is more interested in chasing girls than ghosts, and he’s the Ghostbuster you could most easily picture getting hammered drunk and pissing on a jukebox. His needs come first, and he’s unapologetic in his self-centeredness – he’d be the most fun Ghostbuster to hang out with and the most infuriating to live with. But, despite his irresponsibility, Peter does care about his partners and can be passionate about certain causes.

Surely, some of you (most likely the ones with neckbeards) are clamoring: What about Winston? Look, I love Winston – he was inexplicably my favorite character on the cartoon when I was a kid. But Winston’s role in the original film – which I’m using as my main reference – is an outsider who shows up halfway through to help out the three stars. There are some Winstons listed below, but they are generally supporting characters, one level apart from the main protagonists.

Now, the fun part: attributing these personality types to other famous trios in pop culture and history. Comment with your own suggestions and additions!

The Three Musketeers

Athos = Egon (just replace “booze” with “science”)

Porthos = Peter

Aramis = Ray

D’Artagnan is a Winston.

South Park

Stan = Ray

Kyle = Egon

Cartman = Peter

Kenny is a perpetually dying Winston.

The Hangover

Phil (Bradley Cooper) = Peter

Stu (Ed Helms) = Ray

Alan (Zach Galifianakis) = Peter

These guys really could’ve used an Egon.

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Alvin = Peter

Simon = Egon

Theodore = Ray

The Godfather Sons

Michael (Al Pacino) = Egon

Sonny (James Caan) = Peter

Fredo (John Cazale) = Ray

(Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) is a Winston.)

Full House “Dads”

Danny = Egon

Jesse = Peter

Joey = Ray


Kurt Cobain = Peter/Egon

Dave Grohl/Krist Novoselic = Ray

Hey, it worked for them.


Liquor = Peter

Beer = Ray

Wine = Egon

Chicago Bulls

Michael Jordan = Egon

Scottie Pippen = Ray

Dennis Rodman = Peter

Steve Kerr is Rick Moranis here.

Beastie Boys

MCA = Egon

Mike D = Ray

Ad-Rock = Peter

I spent like 20 minutes thinking about this. Maybe they’re all Peters?


T-Boz = Egon

Chilli = Ray

Left Eye = Peter

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris = Peter

Sloane = Ray (albeit a very beautiful Ray)

Cameron = Egon

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Charlie = Peter

Dennis = Egon

Mac = Ray

I think by this logic Dee is Winston and Frank is Slimer.

The Shining

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) = Peter

Wendy Torrance (Shelly Duvall) = Ray

Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) = Egon

I’d give my admittedly meager life-savings to watch an identical version of The Shining with the Ghostbusters superimposed in these roles.

The Powerpuff Girls

Blossom = Egon

Bubbles = Ray

Buttercup = Peter

I had to look up their personality traits on Wikipedia, I swear.

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Snap = Egon

Crackle = Ray

Pop = Peter

See above re: Wikipedia.

Wilson Phillips

Chynna Phillips = Peter

Wendy Wilson = Egon

Carnie Wilson = Ray

I carefully researched this one by watching the YouTube video for “Hold On.”


Rash = Peter

Zitz = Egon

Pimple = Ray

Freaks and Geeks

Sam Weir = Ray

Neal Schweiber = Peter

Bill Haverchuck = Egon

Star Trek

Captain Kirk = Ray

Spock = Egon

Bones = Peter

The 3 Determiners of Human Behavior

The Brain = Egon

The Heart = Ray

The Genitals = Peter