Ghostbusters and race: Why I feel sorry for Leslie Jones
I feel sorry for Leslie Jones. This should be a time where she is excitingly promoting the upcoming re-booted Ghostbusters film and basking in the glow of being a part of an iconic film franchise. Her role could very well be career defining.
Instead she is being damn near chased off social media and it really shouldn’t have come to this.
Here is the thing, I am a black man, which means I am a proud owner of the race card. A product I rarely brandish. But I felt my card carrying fingers itch when I was watching the trailer for Ghostbusters film.
Yes, it follows the same premise and set-up as the original film released in the 80s (Sidebar: is this a re-boot or a sequel?) but in 2016 that premise doesn’t pass the smell test. Having four Ghostbusters, three being distinguished scientists and the other being an ‘ordinary’ person that works at the train station is fine. But when that one non-scientist is the only minority in the main cast then it becomes a little bit troubling. When it’s suggested in 2016 that the skills the African America brings to Ghostbusters is being street-smart, that is also very troubling.
The problem is this debate is happening over social media and people tend to lose their minds on various social sites, but the detractors have a valid point. Leslie Jone’s character feels like a massive and horrifyingly silly step back. Granted, no one has seen this film yet. Jone’s Patty Tolan could be a complex and multi-layered character – so this is just guess work based on the trailer.
But there is significant and important history with the portrayal of black women in cinema and entertainment in general that makes this subject a very sensitive one. Yes things are getting better, but it simply isn’t at a place where Ghostbusters shouldn’t be scrutinised. Black women are still massively underrepresented in cinema and are rarely seen in lead roles, let alone starring ones.
So to see a black woman treated intellectually inferior to the rest of her white cast seems like either a massive oversight or indicative of an industry that still has a way to go on understanding and improving race relations.
Whatever the case, I’m still going to see this film and I hope it isn’t the disaster that I fear it’s going to be.
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