So… The trailer for the new Ghostbusters film hit today. I am a really big fan of the original first film, and I enjoyed the much misunderstood second. I was really looking forward to this reboot. The new (all woman) cast looked stellar. I love the idea of an all-woman ghostbusting squad. I think there are opportunities for a completely different type of humor that would be a welcome relief from the smarmy, white guy charm of the original two films. I damn near broke my tablet trying to watch it.

As I watched the trailer it felt like I was watching Ghostbusters. The humor was on and the chemistry between the team was spot on. Chris Hemsworth as the new Janine Melnitz was a spot of genius. But the more I watched, the more it felt like I had a splinter in an uncomfortable place. Let me preface this by stating that I dig Leslie Jones. She was the highlight of Chris Rock’s Top 5. She’s loud and boisterous, and this is her thing. But it rubbed me the wrong way in this ensemble.

The three other women, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, are all scientists. Women scientists who hunt and capture ghosts? Sign me all the way up. But Leslie? My girl Leslie is a subway worker? A loud and boisterous cashier who knows the street-level of New York? Granted, I am reacting to a trailer, but come on. Is this the 1980s? Leslie even had a Cadillac hearse joke. Really? This joke was done much better, nineteen years ago, by Bill Bellamy in Love Jones.

As cartoonist and filmmaker, Roy Miles offered: “I was expecting Nick Nolte to pop out and tell a watermelon joke.”

There has been some grumblings on various sites, with most people falling into these various camps: “Is this really the battle we should be fighting?” “Well, there isn’t even a [insert another race/ethnicity here] in the film.” “Ohmygod. Will you people ever be happy?”

I get it, race talk is hard talk for people who don’t have to engage in the talk. But representation is power. To have a black woman whoop spectral ass, as well as solve more complex problems with her intellect and not just her street smarts, that would have been a welcome revelation. In defense of the character, many people have tried to compare her (without seeing the film) to Winston Zeddemore’s character from the original films. Read David Walker’s brilliant assessment of the character right here.

We are living in the 21st century and it is about time that we start updating the roles that black people (especially women) are given to play. Without any loss of humor, you can upgrade black characters from smart-mouthed and sassy sidekicks, to more fully realized (non-stereotypical) characters. We are living in a world where:

Dr. Mae Jemison
Dr. Mae Jemison
Dr. Wanda Austin
Dr. Wanda Austin
Tebello Nyokong
Tebello Nyokong
Dr. Alondra Nelson (the godmother of AfroFuturism)
Dr. Alondra Nelson (the godmother of AfroFuturism)

and

Teresa Ward-Maupin
Teresa Ward-Maupin

all exist and are doing kick ass things in the sciences. Would it have been that difficult to make Leslie Jones’ character an achievement equal?

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts. But I am increasingly afraid that white filmmakers have no idea how to represent black women on screen. This, plus Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone? That was a one-two punch to the black cultural gut.

I need a vacation.

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11 thoughts on “The New Ghostbusters: Should I be Afraid?

  1. Coming from a non-Black and non-White perspective (I’m Native American), I can say that, while I agree with you that Leslie Jones’ character could have been more scientifically grounded, I do think that the idea was to stick as close to the original as possible with an all female cast. As a woman, I found that I was seriously disappointed with the way they portrayed all the characters. All the characters are a stereotype. They lost me as soon as I saw the stereotypical dowdy dork girl outfits. Some of those outfit combinations haven’t been seen since the 70’s, and then only on librarians and other sexually repressed women. I’m hoping this is just a disappointing trailer. I didn’t like the looks of Superman v. Batman when I saw the first trailer, but by the third trailer I was more than a little intrigued. Unfortunately, I’m just afraid this one is going to fall flat.

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    1. The trailer triggers many visceral reactions: nostalgia, fantasy, SFX awe, spectacle, and humor….but at whose expense?
      I couldn’t help but to give the YouTube trailer A THUMBS DOWN.

      I was trying to figure out if the reboot is set in the 80’s or present day. (It makes a big difference. In 2016, y’all the USA has a half-Black President named Obama and Black folks really can do ANY THING!) )

      At ant rate, it’s hard to tell from the way the women were dressed. I absolutely HATED there Ghostbusters flight suits. What’s up with those dorky and unflattering neon/horizontal stripes across their chests? The guys got to rock cool GB Suits but this is what Feig comes up with?

      I am a bit torn because I want to support women led films but they really did a number on the reboot and turned it into a stupid, brainy White Chick Flick with the Trusty Negro Doofus character to round out the equation.

      I understand Leslie Jones (Who was so good in Top 5) wanting an opportunity at co-starring in a major motion picture and (hopefully) the paycheck that comes along with it, but why does the Black person always have to have the blue collar job? And, how come it had to be cast with three white chicks, one of whom was obese at the time of filming and a big, mouthy Black chick who thinks Cadillacs are so cool even if they are funeral home hearses? WTF

      And. . . Why didn’t they mix up the plurailty and include a Mindy Kaling or Constance Wu from Fresh Off the Boat?

      IDK, if I’m gonna check it out because it looks dumb. And, how many black chick are named Patty Tolan? Makes me think they had somebody else in mind for the part initially–and if so, would she have been given a backstory as a being an MTA subway worker? I would’ve been happier if “Pattty Tolan” (Leslie Jones) had been cast as a transit cop.

      I have to ask: DOES IT MAKE WHITE PEOPLE FEEL MORE ‘COMFORTABLE’ TO SEE LESLIE JONES CAST IN SUCH A BUFFOONISH ROLES OR WHAT?

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  2. Thank you for summing up my reaction EXACTLY and with pictures. I’ll wait to see the movie to judge, but . . .
    Every single one of these actresses has amazing comedic chops and could handle any of the roles. If the movie is out to bust some old-fashioned Hollywood “rulels,” why not do it completely?

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  3. The trailer became even harder to swallow when I’d read the details behind Ernie Hudson and the original intent for Winston’s role in the first Ghostbusters.

    I’m not here to see them get wrong what they had every opportunity to get right.

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    1. Winston Zeddemore. Always wondered about that name. Well at least it looks like Leslie Jones will have a helluva lot more lines than Ernie Hudson ever had (approximately 32) and most of his lines were like two or three words strung together as mere reactions or commands like, “Let’s Go!” (Jeezus) You know, kids see this stuff and believe me, it makes an impact about their perceptions of PoC in society.

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  4. I’ll check out the film. Ms. Jones’ role as the “blue collar voice”/semi-audience perspective was kind of expected, IMO. But she’s a good actress. I was amused at “The devil is a liar!” face-smack, lol. Hopefully her character is actively involved in the ghostbusting and not running from everything that moves (which would be a horrible throwback stereotype). I also hope her character doesn’t exist to offer a bunch of trite “black people don’t (chase ghosts, go jogging in winter, tip at dinner, etc.)….” asides.

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    1. I’m offended that Blacks are cast in roles that cede power to their white counterparts onscreen. Wiig, McCarthy and MacKinnon play scientists/physicists, paranormal researchers and engineers, respectively, yet Ms. Jones plays an MTA ticket taker and comes up with a Cadillac for them to chase ghosts in. Ok. Why?

      Why does the PoC always have to player the lesser employed role? I believe this is done to make whites feel comfortable with “the [so-called] familiar.” Even though the familiar for Black people whether this movie is set in the 80s or 2016 includes: astronauts, scientists, engineers and now the President of the United States of America. We’re not all entertainers and pro athletes here on Earth to makes white people feel good with tunes and sports events and crackin’ jokes–especially of the minstrel variety.

      I think I am going to skip this mess of a Ghostbusters reboot. The more I discuss it and analyze this debacle, I can way until it comes out on cable. Sorry, ladies. It’s not your fault but Feig messed up big time with all of his sexist, racist and misogynistic tropes and I don’t think too much of a white Hollywood director who tweets to critics on his Twitter “Go f*ck yourself.”

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    2. I’ve noticed that POC and the silliness of their characters or the less sophistication of their characters is explained away as “they are the audience stand in”. I’ve seen numerous sci-fi films where there were no audience stand-ins and I understood the film just fine and they were bonafide hits. I think characters like Winston and Jone’s roles are just excuses to present blacks in roles, whites and others want to see them in. It’d be nice if black people would stop defaulting to ghetto status when they ad-lib, looking at you John Boyega in Star Wars 7.

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      1. OMG as to Boyega. (LOL)
        I agree that this every man/woman audience stand in is a bunch of baloney and why does it typically default to a Black person?

        Being MTA ticket boot personnel is an honest job, but honestly it should have been cast White if they were going to make the four characters job unequal. (Just to prove they weren’t biased.)

        Being cast “Black” is also one thing and being cast “Black and Ghetto” is another thing entirely. I will not support this film with a ticket purchase but I bet many will plunk down the dollars to see this mess. Although Pixels flopped, Ghostbusters is a brand too many people just cannot pass up no matter how abysmally offensive and bad the character development and dialogue may get.

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  5. You mentioned the casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone and ironically enough, it’s a fitting point because a better casting choice actually would have been Leslie Jones who bears more of a resemblance to Ms. Simone than Saldana who reportedly wore darker makeup and –get this—a prosthetic nose to more closely resemble Ms. Simone.
    I like Zoe Saldana but that was a bad casting choice but good ole Hollywood wants to capitalize on Saldana’s “Sexy Factor” much the way it did when it cast Beyonce in “Cadillac Records” as Etta James but that was a much better match in terms of skin tone.

    Hollywood still engages in “colorism casting” and it will probably never fade away.

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