Uptown Bourgeois is a word-focused blog created by new York-based freelance writer Jefferey spivey. UB explores universal themes through a black, queer lens. 

Why Are People So Upset About Leslie Jones' Character In Ghostbusters?

The new Ghostbusters trailer is out and I’m so excited! Ever since I first heard about an all-female Ghostbusters reboot, I could hardly keep still.  I loved the original films and knew I could look forward to this as lighthearted fare that was heavy on laughs and light on all the serious shit.  And it featured some of my favorite comedians.  But, upon release of the trailer, the Internet was ablaze again somehow dragging Ghostbusters into the diversity conversation.  I’m afraid no film is safe.

I know what you’re thinking.  I published an impassioned opinion piece about the controversial miscasting of Zoe Saldana in the new Nina Simone biopic.  That trailer has set Twitter ablaze, and the flames are still burning strong.  Isn’t this the same kind of thing, you ask.  It’s absolutely not.  Let me tell you why.

The biggest issue with Zoe Saldana and the Nina Simone biopic is that Nina Simone was a very proud black woman who made some of the defining music of the civil rights era.  The film’s producers squandered an outstanding opportunity to retell a meaningful story about a great black historical figure by choosing an actress who’s features had to be superficially altered to resemble an African-American person.  Blackface is offensive even when it’s on a person of color, and the public (especially black Twitter) was rightfully outraged.

So what’s the deal with Leslie Jones? From the trailer, it looks like her character is an MTA worker who joins the rest of the ghost fighting women in their mission.  She’s the street smart city dweller that’s down to earth and relatable.  Many people are upset that the only lead black person in the film is playing an average person.  They want her to be one of the scientists, and they feel her casting is just another example in a long line of Hollywood-perpetuated stereotypes.  There have been numerous Twitter rants over the weekend in which Jones has jumped in to defend her casting.  And an open letter from original Ghostbusters cast member Ernie Hudson has surfaced in which he claims his role was significantly reduced and dumbed down for the first film.  Many people are drawing parallels between his casting story and that of Jones’.

In a post-#OscarsSoWhite world, we are simply being too sensitive.

We are not talking about blackface here.  We’re not even talking about retelling historic events.  This is Ghostbusters-a movie where fictional characters battle fictional supernatural activity and get green slime vomited on them.  This is not a movie to be taken seriously in any way, shape, or form.  And the diversity casting outrage is misplaced in this instance.

Black people cannot live in a world where they’re angry at Hollywood for the lack of opportunity but then cry foul when a black actor is cast in a lead role in a major mainstream film.  We should be proud of Leslie Jones for all that’s she doing.  She’d diversifying SNL and is definitely one of the standout cast members.  She’s starting to prove herself as a capable box office draw.  Support her.  There are far more stereotypical, poor quality programs airing on BET every day.  Get angry about the fact that we continue to allow that crap to be fed to us.  Get angry about the fact that “our network” is a major player in perpetuating the very stereotypes we want to break down.

Furthermore, Jones is portraying a part of New York life that really exists.  The MTA worker is a real person, and as evidenced by a series of tweets over the weekend, MTA workers are happy to be portrayed in a positive light in a movie this big.  

Now that diversity is part of the national discussion, we’re getting hypersensitive.  And I think there are more important battles to fight than demanding rewrites from Ghostbusters.  Let’s refocus our energy on the right part of the battle.  On creating more opportunities.  On ensuring portrayals of black people in the media don’t include blackface.  On producing the best quality work possible.

Let’s not make a controversy out of something when it just isn’t there.

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