‘Ghostbusters’ Stars Three Scientists And A Subway Worker; Guess Which Is Played By Leslie Jones
After a full year of anticipation, the first trailer for the new Ghostbusters reboot dropped this morning, as did most people’s jaws. It features New York City taken over once again by big goofy supernatural beings, it shows Kristen Wiig being ceremoniously gooped, and it lets Kate McKinnon go full Kate McKinnon being a weirdo in wig stores, potentially flirting with ladies, and kicking ass in a manner which teeters between sexually arousing and straight-up terrifying.
But what many overlooked during the first excited viewing of all this were the simple facts of the characters themselves. There’s a doctor of particle physics Erin Gilbert (Wiig), a “brilliant engineer” Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon), a “supernatural scientist” and author Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones): a subway worker who’s “joining the club” and helps the decidedly brilliant women out by borrowing a car from her uncle.
“You guys are really smart about this science stuff, but I know New York,” she says in gold hoop earrings before pulling around with a tricked out Cadillac.
Considering Jones is one of the few people of colour featured in the main cast (others include Karan Soni playing a Chinese delivery boy and Michael Kenneth Williams playing a mysterious character called Hawkeye) and was introduced as a total equal to the other women in the promo material, this has not gone over well with many fans.
RT if 3 white girl scientists + 1 black jive talkin' girl "subway worker" = 1 step fwd, a million steps back. #Ghostbusters
— Murray A. Lightburn (@masstolight) March 3, 2016
— Lisa Bolekaja (@LisaBolekaja) March 3, 2016
Couldn’t Leslie Jones have been one of the scientists, though? I’m just saying.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) March 3, 2016
I enjoyed the #Ghostbusters trailer, it looks like loads of fun. But why isn't Leslie Jone's character a scientist, too? Tropes ain't cool.
— Jermaine Curtis (@jermainedesign) March 3, 2016
So the three white characters are scientists and the black one is a subway worker? The black character is the add-on AGAIN?! #Ghostbusters
— Anita Singh (@anitathetweeter) March 3, 2016
In fact, as that last tweet mentions, this is not the first time this happened. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly earlier this year, Ernie Hudson claimed he’d felt extremely shortchanged with his role in the original Ghostbusters and deliberately pushed aside from his white co-stars.
“When I originally got the script, the character of Winston [Zeddemore] was amazing,” he said. “The character came in right at the very beginning of the movie and had an elaborate background: he was an Air Force major something, a demolitions guy.”
“The night before filming begins, however, I get this new script and it was shocking. The character was gone. Instead of coming in at the very beginning of the movie, like page eight, the character came in on page 68 after the Ghostbusters were established. His elaborate background was all gone, replaced by me walking in and saying, ‘If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say’. So that was pretty devastating.”
“The next morning, I rush to the set and plead my case. And Ivan [Reitman, the director] basically says, ‘The studio felt that they had Bill Murray, so they wanted to give him more stuff to do.’ I go, ‘Okay, I understand that, but can I even be there when they’re established?’ And of course, he said no, there’s nothing to do about it.”
Hudson points out he has no animosity about the change, but regrets he couldn’t have been given a more equal role in the group. Though Hudson wasn’t included in the film’s promo material, history has regarded him as the fourth Ghostbuster; the “soul” to Akroyd’s “heart”, Ramis’ “brain” and Murray’s “mouth”.
With that in mind, as well as the larger debate raging around systemic racism and lack of diversity in Hollywood, it’s disheartening that more hasn’t been done to remedy this. Though Patty Tolan is the natural successor to Hudson’s original character, it appears she’s been treated in essentially the same way. Hopefully she’ll be getting a more rounded portrayal in the film itself, but if not, we should probably expect a skit about this at next year’s Oscars.
For more on this, check out US comedian Akilah Hughes demolishing internet bros who think it’s “unrealistic” for Jones to be a scientist in a movie about people battling giant ghosts: