With the all female redo of “Ghostbusters,” once again, a black actress instead of a studio executive or a powerful director, like Paul Feig, would appear to be bearing the brunt of some controversy tied to accepting a large studio paycheck. In what could be categorized as another case of blaming the victim for a larger societal problem, “Ghostbusters” actress and SNL comedienne Leslie Jones would seem to be on the short end of a rapidly burning stick when it comes to her portrayal of the sole Ghostbuster of color in the remake of the longtime “Ghostbusters” franchise. Actor Ernie Hudson, the African American actor who portrayed Winston Zeddemore, the original “fourth” and only non-white Ghostbuster, has recently gone on record with his conflicting emotions when it came to playing his part thirty years ago in the breakout comedic hit. Before filming, Zeddemore was originally sold to Hudson as a potentially “career-changing” role equipped with an Air Force and demolitions background that was just as impressive if not as geeky erudite as those of his white ghost busting counterparts, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis who were all scientists. However, once Hudson arrived on set his part was severely diminished to the point of being just an ordinary guy looking for a paycheck. In a telling reveal of what hasn’t changed in the playbook, Leslie’s character, Patty Tolan, Zeddemore’s female doppelganger is not only the only non scientist Ghostbuster, but in a truly less than timely rewrite, Tolan is an actual “token black” due to the fact that her job outside of being a Ghostbuster is literally working in an NYC toll booth where she gives tokens to other people who actually do have important places to go and things to do all over New York City.
In the Sophie’s choice that befalls those such as Jones and also actress Zoe Saldana, who has also recently been persecuted in social media for her less than ideal casting as African American civil rights icon Nina Simone in “Nina,” the choice to respond and be found at fault, or be silent and be found at fault is neither good nor particularly ideal from any view. However, perhaps because Jones is a comedienne, and familiar with dealing with a heckler or two, she has wisely chosen to respond via twitter, and doing so, has done quite well in her defense – whether one chooses to believe in the overall merit of her argument or not in light of the bigger picture. To her credit, Jones starts out by quoting an actual fan that contacted her who is in fact an African American tollbooth clerk:
I received this from a MTA worker: Hey Leslie, thanks for being you. A question was asked by a news writer about your role on your new movie 10:02 PM – 3 Mar 2016
black actresses. This was my response: I work for the MTA in that role as a Token Boof Clerk and I was happy to see my job, something whic 10:02 PM – 3 Mar 2016
provides me with plenty of jokes, a great perspective on society, and a birds eye view of horrible s### that I witness everyday on screen. 10:03 PM – 3 Mar 2016
. (I wished Leslie would have hooked me up…a joke) however, the fact that my position as a clerk is the most abused by society, I feel 10:03 PM – 3 Mar 2016
boof have folk thinking I’m invisible, that I’m not a college graduate, and a producer, comedian, writer, actor, etc. I’m a verb. I’m not a 10:05 PM – 3 Mar 2016
I love my job and I enjoy engaging people with information infused with humor. Leslie is a comedian. She’s a larger than life personality 10:06 PM – 3 Mar 2016
and it’s the first thing we see no matter what role she gets. As she grows, she will be able to tap into all her greatness. I am supporting 10:07 PM – 3 Mar 2016
supporting this movie because I see me. I hope you receive all that’s for you. You looked so cute in the uniform. Congrats Sis. I’m proud 10:07 PM – 3 Mar 2016
Moving on from there, Jones does quite a good job speaking for herself in a straight forward assessment of her responsibility as an entertainer, the studio’s responsibility and the actual work she gets paid for in an argument that doesn’t end with her when it comes to Hollywood and how the stories we want to see are actually created and sold:
Why can’t a regular person be a ghostbuster. Im confused. And why can’t i be the one who plays them i am a performer. Just go see the movie!
ITS NOT A MAN, WOMAN, RACE, CLASS THANG!! ITS A GHOSTBUSTER THANG!! AND AS FAR AS IM CONCERNED WE ALL GHOSTBUSTERS!! STAND TALL!!
It’s hard to argue with Leslie Jones’ sentiment in her last all caps tweet, because yes, in theory and in pretty much everything else, we all want to be Ghostbusters. But to the same point, in the year 2016, one also has to admit that it is likely very much a “race thang” if thirty years later it’s still inconceivable for just one of the scientific or extraordinary Ghostbusters up on the screen to be the single dark berry out of an otherwise extremely mauve bunch. Clearly that is one ghost that we as a larger society have not quite busted once and for all.