In January 2015, director Paul Feig (“Spy” & “Bridesmaids”) announced that he was going to remake the Ghostbusters with an all female cast. Of course, the internet wasn’t going to let that slide without dishing out sexist, misogynistic, and negative comments. There seems to be a deeper problem that may be going unnoticed despite the progressive move towards gender diversity.
The trailer itself begins with, “Thirty years ago four scientists saved New York. This summer, a new team will answer the call.” But if you watch the entire trailer, there appears to only be just three scientists instead of four.
Here are some of the reactions from Twitter:
Others have pointed out the underlying problem that the trailer portrays.
In all fairness, Leslie Jones has taken to Twitter to issue a response, and gave her take on the matter as well.
Now you may be thinking, “What IS the big deal?”. Maybe Feig is sticking to the original Ghostbusters material that also only had three “scientists” and one non-scientist. (Who just so happened to be the other black cast member too, AND had his character’s role severly watered down) Well, despite the fact that I have yet to actually see the movie, I think I’ll take a stab at still providing some insight. (Given what we at least know so far.) I see two prevailing issues:
1st Issue: Feig made an obvious push for diversity but fell short.
I think the problem lies in Feig’s attempt to be progressive in the first place. If you’re going to do it, do it all the way. There was clear intent shown with the gender swap move. We even have Chris Hemsworth as the male receptionist.
Feig wanted to probably address the lack of a female presence in Hollywood (which is a legitimate cause), but what he missed was the continued stereotypical characterization of minority women. Feig could have easily remedied this by maybe casting a multi-ethnic, all female cast; maybe throw in a white, black, Asian, and Hispanic woman for each role. You could obviously do more combinations because in light of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the problem in Hollywood casting is not just a “black and white” issue. It’s deeper than that.
“So now the flip side of stereotyping is that every Asian-American actor is expected to know some form of martial arts. Any casting person will say, ‘Well, do you do some martial arts?'” – Tisa Chang, director of New York’s Pan Asian Repertory Theatre (via ABC News)
It’s about fair representation. That means not only should there be more diversification in gender and ethnicities, there should also be more diversification in character roles as well. Jones’ character could have easily been a scientist of some kind, and maybe McCarthy’s character could have been the “Transit employee with street smarts”.
2nd Issue: Leslie Jones just doesn’t get it.
One thing I will say is that I do not believe that Hollywood is “racist”. Hollywood directors and studios aren’t going out intentionally oppressing people because of their skin color. (At least I don’t believe that to be true and certainly hope not.) I think what Hollywood, and in this case Jones, doesn’t understand is the issue of representation.
It’s hard enough to have a minority as a lead in a major movie. It’s even more difficult to have that lead NOT be portrayed in a stereotypical, and often times negative role. African Americans get cast as “The best friend” to the white lead, a slave, gangster, or drug dealer. Asians get portrayed as super smart nerds or martial artists. Hispanics will be either cleaning employees, cartel drug lords, or gang bangers in jail.
The problem with Leslie’s comments is that her “confusion” shows a complete lack of understanding or awareness of what’s BEEN at stake for a long time now in Hollywood. No one has a problem with her playing a “regular person”. The problem is that it’s been over-done for far too long in films. The problem is that while other black actresses like Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union, and Jada Pinkett Smith take steps to advance the depiction of minority women in film, Jones’ character SEEMS to be taking it two steps back.
Who knows? Maybe there’s something in the movie that will prove us all wrong, and Jones’ character will prove to still break that stereotype of being the “loud, black, ghetto person”. Maybe she becomes an “honorary scientist” at the end of the movie. Maybe we’re all over reacting…Maybe. I, for one, will still be going to see this film because the last thing I want to do is to speak from ignorance. So, I suppose you can take all of this with a grain of salt. However, if the assumed stereotypical characterizations pan out to be true, and us critics prove to be justified, then Hollywood still has an ugly problem that still needs to be addressed.