Study Guide

Gremlins Billy (Zach Galligan)

Billy (Zach Galligan)

Right on Target

Billy Peltzer is an unlikely hero. He doesn't have muscles. He doesn't have a whip or a light saber. He has little personality…although he does have a nice style when drawing comic books. But although drawing Mrs. Deagle as a dragon is hilarious, it's also passive-aggressive, and shows a general limpness on Billy's part.

Not willing to take a stand against the old woman, he hides behind drawing nasty pictures of her instead.

Because he doesn't walk like a hero or talk like a hero, no one treats him like a hero. Even the sheriff tells him to go home, as we see here when Billy tries to get help controlling the gremlins:

SHERIFF: You listen to me, kid! Go on home, take little Gizmo there, sit by the fireplace, and open your Christmas presents, okay? Atta boy.

Why is this walking saltine our protagonist? In essence, he's the target audience for the movie. Gremlins was produced by Amblin Entertainment, headed by none other than Steven Spielberg. Spielberg's primary demographic is himself. Well, himself as a teenager.

Like Elliott from E.T. or half the cast of The Goonies, Billy is white 'n' nerdy, but handsome, brave, and able to get a hot girlfriend and save the day. It's the fantasy of every young heterosexual boy in the 1980s.

It's hard to pick out even one personality trait from the walking bland mush that is Billy. If we had to (and we do) we'd select fearlessness.

Yes, we know we said he was too cowardly to stand up to an old lady.

But when the Gremlins hatch, Billy suddenly develops a spine of steel. He saves his mom and pursues Stripe, the evil Gremlin, determined to stop him. Even when Stripe multiplies, and there are dozens of bad Gremlins, Billy doesn't back down.

He blows up a movie theater, and who hasn't wanted to do that after being charged $42.50 for a box of Milk Duds? And Billy gets knocked down by a Gremlin with a chainsaw, he gets up and keeps going. He's our kind of guy.

Family Matters

Aside from Billy's bravery, which is the only trait you need in a popcorn horror/action movie, Billy's character development is either subtle or non-existent, depending on how you look at it.

Billy's only non-Gremlin drama involves his family struggling financially at home. Billy works at the bank to bring in money because his dad, a failed salesman, isn't pulling his weight. As Mrs. Deagle demonstrates with her rude comments here, the Peltzer family finances are a town joke.

MRS. DEAGLE: Excuses, excuses. You're just like your father. I've listened to his miserable excuses for ten years, the loser!

Let's be real about what we said about Billy's cowardice toward Mrs. Deagle. If Billy stood up to her, he would likely lose his job. Considering how ineffective Billy's father is at sales, the family needs all the money they can to get by. It's up to Billy to bring home the bacon.

Looking at it this way, we see that Billy is willing to sacrifice his integrity for his family. Hey, this kid is more admirable than we thought.

…just don't feed the bacon you bring home to the mogwai after midnight.

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