Leslie Jones defends her ‘streetwise’ Ghostbuster character after criticism

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I think some people were always going to be butthurt about the all-female Ghostbusters movie. There were lots of men on Twitter complaining about feminism destroying their childhood Ghostbusters or whatever. On that issue, haters are always going to hate and who cares? If they made a strong film, the best revenge is your paper (as Beyonce would say). But there’s another criticism being lodged against this version – that the African-American member of the team is NOT a scientist or some sort of academic. Leslie Jones – one of the best current cast members of SNL – plays an MTA employee-turned-Ghostbuster, and the trailer seems to emphasize that Jones’ character is the “street-wise” one. Here’s the trailer again:

So, there were some complaints. And while I like Paul Feig a lot – he’s one of the best comedy directors working today, and one of the few directors consistently casting women in lead roles – I would love it if he would explain his rationale behind making Leslie Jones the “street-wise” one. Because as it is, Leslie Jones is left defending the character and she’s taking it really personally. Here’s what she’s been saying, via Twitter (and over the course of several days):

if they made me a scientist you would be mad at what type of scientist. Seriously it’s a f–king movie get over yourself

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!

Regular People save the world everyday so if I’m the sterotype!! Then so be it!! We walk among Heroes and take them for granted.

ITS NOT A MAN, WOMAN, RACE, CLASS THANG!! ITS A GHOSTBUSTER THANG!! AND AS FAR AS IM CONCERNED WE ALL GHOSTBUSTERS!! STAND TALL!!

I’m playing a hardworking woman.The regular one that rep the people. You guys are the racists by labeling her a lowly MTA worker.Not me

Doesn’t make her char dumb or not needed.Every movie has that element cause it’s A MOVIE!Next movie I’ll B a teacher or soldier or scientist

But this role I’m a MTA worker.people I’m an actor I play everyone.Y’all are the ones making this bad.So next time I’ll be a Minion.Ok?!

[From Leslie’s Twitter]

Again, I get that she’s proud of this film and I’m also happy that Feig wanted to cast an African-American actress, plus Ernie Hudson is returning too. I also agree that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an MTA worker, or working civil service, or being a streetwise blue collar worker of any race, anywhere. But Leslie and Paul Feig both know that there’s an issue with having the three white women as the educated academics and having the black woman as the uneducated, “streetwise” blue collar worker.

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Photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures, Fame/Flynet.

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51 Responses to “Leslie Jones defends her ‘streetwise’ Ghostbuster character after criticism”

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  1. Hiddlesgirl85 says:

    Of course Leslie would defend it. Bless her heart, but I figured that she would not get what the outcry was truly about.

    • Wiffie says:

      Why did you figure she wouldn’t “get” it?

      • Hiddlesgirl85 says:

        Because I’ve been following Leslie for years and have watched interviews/spots with her. She wouldn’t get it or even really care at this point. She’s been trying to get her foot in the door for years and years.

        I love that you were trying to start something with that question … lol.

      • Mixtape says:

        I’m with Wiffie–the “Bless her heart” and “I figured she would not get” it sounded really demeaning/condescending.

      • Hiddlesgirl85 says:

        Oh well. To each his or her own. You all came out my as if I weren’t a black woman who’s been following Leslie on the comedy circuit for years. Yeesh.
        Some people here get sensitive over the wrong things, and oblivious to obvious issues. For instance, folks not taking an issue with Chris Rock’s misogynoir at the Oscar’s …

    • DragonWise says:

      I get your meaning, Hiddles. We have the benefit of knowing her history and the iffy choices she has made to “make it.” And also, TOTALLY agree about the misogynist of CR, but that’s been an issue for a while with him. I had a little problem with him dissing black women in front of a white South African audience a few years back….. :/

      • Hiddlesgirl85 says:

        @DragonWise: Thank you :) We do and people often take that for granted.

        Chris did that in front of a white South African audience? That’s so problematic to me. And the audiences laugh … at US (black women). The stuff he said both at the Oscars (dismissing Jada’s understandable frustration as “anger” that her “man wasn’t nominated”) and the jokes in front of the white South African audience, reinforce the stereotypes people can often have about Black Women. At the Oscars, Chris gave life to the whole “Angry Black Woman” narrative, whether he realized it or not. There was a thoughtfulness behind Jada’s decision that he completely dismissed with his comments. That is concerning to me. Her actions helped propel a movement that gave others the room to speak out about the Academy, the media to cover #OscarsSoWhite stories ad nauseum, and, ultimately, for the Academy to make some changes.

        And what also concerns me is that there wasn’t more of an outcry about Chris’s comments about Jada from non-black women …

      • Babyuright says:

        Please, please stop not capitalizing the b and the w when referencing a race of people. The B in Black is capitalized, when referring to a race of people. Lower case b when referring to an object. Example: The Black men in black suits are very handsome. Therefore, “racial and ethnic groups are designated by proper nouns and are capitalized: Black and White.” Example: The White men in white suits are very handsome.
        race (noun) 1. a group of persons related by common descent or heredity. 2. a population so related.
        An ethnic group or ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other based on common ancestral, social, cultural or national experience. We are all human.

      • Hiddlesgirl85 says:

        @babyuright: LOL. You proved my point — thanks! See. People gloss over the important issues to point out (respectively) unimportant ones, much like you just did. Not saying that yours wasn’t important, but it’s funny to me that, that was your reponse to this discussion. We are all human as you said, and so I will continue addressing issues negatively impacting black women :)

      • Jwoolman says:

        Baby- there are several conventions in such matters. Some capitalize it, others don’t. When I interviewed people, I always asked them for their specific preference in any identifiers like that.

        By the way: White is not an ethnic group. It is a weird social idea defined by what a person is not and by other strange aspects of a racist society. When I see “White” capitalized, I think Klu Klux Klan. So be careful about that one. Many people will not see it the way you do.

    • Jenn says:

      I agree, we’ve gone PC crazy. Its a comedy get over it

    • Justsayin says:

      I get what youre saying about her defending it. However i like that shes offended that people are upset that a black lady is playing a streetwise character. Black ladies tend to be streetwise and proud of it, what is wrong with that? All this talk is just giving the impression that there is something wrong with a streetwise black lady when there isnt.

      Society as a whole, seems to be taking the race card to a whole other level than it needs to be. Every little thing is blown way out of proportion because of race or prejudice or stereotype. Can we not celebrate eachothers differences and joke about it a bit? all the time nowadays people are quick to react in a racial way and then it becomes a thing.

      Cant the oscars/grammys be about the best performances/albums regardless of the color of the persons skin, without people crying RACIST!!!

      Cant people dress us for halloween in who cares what, without people crying RACIST!!!

      Cant people play characters in a movie without people crying RACIST!!! like she says its just a damn movie.

      And believe me i get that real racism exists, and we as a society are the only ones that can change that. But focusing on this bs is not the way to go about it.

  2. Alex says:

    Bless her heart but the criticism is warranted. I wanted to be gung ho for this but yea I’m not

  3. jinni says:

    I don’t care what she says, they could have made her character street smart and book smart/ a scientist. Also, the problem is not only that she’s streetwise, but that her portrayal of a streetwise person is so stereotypical. Like she and the writers didn’t even try to use their imaginations, they just went with the same old tired schtick of how a black urban woman supposedly acts like.

    • HK9 says:

      As a black woman, there are only two women out of the last 2 generations of my family that don’t have at least one university degree (and we’re not rich). So, this just goes to show that their portrayal, and reality are very far apart. I know it’s the movies but you’re right, they didn’t even try.

    • Alex says:

      Agreed. Lazy af

    • vilebody says:

      Agreed. Is it some secret screenwriting requirement that every black female character needs to utter at least one sassy “aw h*ll no?”

  4. Colette says:

    Par for the course

  5. FingerBinger says:

    I’m assuming they were trying to stay true to the original ghostbusters. Winston wasn’t a scientist either.

    • Tulip says:

      I think you’re right. In that case though it makes me wonder. Since it’s an all female lead cast, not male (a total opposite) why not also have the scientists be black and the working class character white? Why do the people who green-lighted this film feel that they would make the most money off of this particular script/scenario?

      And why is Leslie being left to defend the script? That sweet job belongs to the person who approved it for the movie and they should step up already.

  6. JayK says:

    When I saw the trailer this is exactly what I saw too. But in a way, doesnt it represent what is wrong with the chances for equal education for people in america today? In a movie you can either decide to build a dreamworld where all people are equal and therefore you specifically cast for diversity that doesnt represent real life or you go and make it life like and hope that some people might be outraged – not because of a casting choice but because the reality is that becoming a scientist in america today costs a lot of money for education and usually involves going to good schools before graduation and having encouragement in teachers and parents alike. Its just that much harder for people from poorer backgrounds, where both parents work multiple jobs, good teachers are scarce in mediocre schools at best.

    Lets be outraged for the real reasons.

    • stinky says:

      thank you.

    • LOLADOESTHEHULA says:

      I’m sorry but who the hell are you to say what is and isn’t a real reason for outrage? Are you really implying than an educated, non-stereotypical portrayal of a black woman would not “represent real life”? In a film about ghosts no less?! No black woman in the history of womankind has ever been a scientist huh? Also why do you associate blackness with poverty? So many questions!

      • go girl says:

        Thank you! I can’t believe it was just assumed that black = no money, no support from parents who are working multiple jobs. It is a “dreamworld” to have an educated black scientist?? JayK’s comment was beyond offensive.

      • JayK says:

        Hey @go girl and @LOLADOESTHEHULA,

        I am very sorry to have caused offense, that was not my intention at all but I am sure I have phrased my comment poorly.

        Obviously being poor does not mean being of a certain ethnicity. But, statistically speaking, people with an african american background have less chances in life to succeed in highly educated careers such as that of a scientist. Obviously there are not ‘only’ white scientists, so if a black woman were cast as one of the scientists, If would not question the casting at all, because that would be ridiculous.

        In a perfect world you would not assume to know someones background based on the color of their skin. The ratio in this movie about ghosts, however unrealistic the story, is sadly a realistic depiction of reality.

        And to make myself perfectly clear, what I wish for is equal rights and opportunity for ALL. A disturbing fact of the matter is however, that more black people than white are poor and the poorer you are the less chances you have. That is the issue I was highlighting as a ‘real’ reason and not just a casting choice.

        You did show me that a casting choice does matter because if we see something on film that we feel represented by, we may find the courage to aspire to it, even if our surroundings are not the best breeding ground for higher education.

        And by the way, my mom worked 3 jobs and although she did the best she could for us kids, obviously she didnt have the time to maneuver us through school and life like a mother who can dedicate more energy and time to such things.

        I hope I could clear the air but I am more than happy to answer any remaining questions.

  7. Nilber says:

    I’m not defending it and I love her as an artist. She would be able to play any role well and she is being classy about her response.
    That being said I will write what my 12 year old son said. “Why do they have to look frumpy? They are all beautiful women. The world is aware the brilliant women can also be beautiful… right, Mom?” He looked at me with this disgusted look for a second. “That doesn’t mean I can’t wait to see it. It will be funny. Funny women are hot.” He says with a blush. He has a thing for Kristen Wiig.
    I’m not sure I’m going to make it through this puberty thing. I’m not ready but obviously I have no choice.

    • Pinky says:

      What a cute kid! You’re very lucky. You’re raising him bright and right.

      -TheRealPinky

    • Jwoolman says:

      But why do they have to be “beautiful”? And what does that mean, anyway? What makes them “frumpy”? Comfortable ghost busting clothes? Simple hair styles? No piled on makeup? Gee, just like the male ghostbusters, yes? Shouldn’t the guys be “beautiful” , sorry, “handsome”? Or are they too busy to preen?

      Fact is, many scientists who are female don’t feel the need to use makeup or do more than tie their hair back, because they don’t need to conform to those particular social expectations any more than the male scientists do (and in a lab, you don’t want makeup because it’s dangerous for you and your samples). They have more interesting things to do and think about. Actually, so do many women, but we rarely see them portrayed on TV or in the movies in anything other than full makeup and time-consuming hair styles. If you compare celebrities with and without makeup, you can see what an illusion this idea of beauty is, most are unrecognizable in their natural skin. Some women feel the need for such things because of their jobs, but many others don’t. They don’t feel ugly, either. Or “frumpy”.

      • Nilber says:

        1. I don’t wear that much makeup so that was not what he was implying.
        2. Simple hairstyles have nothing to do with it either.

        I’m not sure why you decided to go off about a child’s comment that I shared because I thought it was rather sweet. He doesn’t find your Kardashian models ‘hot’ or the typical beauty. He finds simple, non made up, funny women attractive. His point was not the Ghostbusters costumes, it was the civilian attire in other scenes.
        I will say this because I realize you don’t me or my son, asking further questions before being condescending would be preferable. I was a radar tech on highly sensitive equipment prior to my retirement. There can be a middle ground and there should be. We don’t all look like Cindy Crawford but we can look how we want without judgement of our competency. My son is intelligent enough to understand that because due to his Mother, he has been exposed to many different types of female scientists, technicians and etc.

  8. lexx says:

    of course she’s defending it, because it’s her check. And this is her first bit of mainstream light after working in the clubs for years and years, so she’s not going to do anything to damage her spot now that she’s there. And I don’t think anyone is criticizing her, once again, like with “nina” People are criticizing the director, the casting director, the writer, the studio, the system that made this decision that, this optic was ok. Because This is the second time this has happened. Ernie Hudson’s character was originally bigger, had a bigger part, and it was cut and simplified for the purpose of perpetuating a stereotype.

    • sunshine gold says:

      In the original Ghostbusters, Ernie Hudson’s part was minimized and he was definitely 2nd tier. In this film, the creator wanted all 4 women to be equal team members so he wrote Leslie’s part to reflect that. I haven’t seen it – have you? But this is what the director/creator says, and it’d be pretty crazy to lie about something that will be easily exposed.

      http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/01/04/ready-for-prime-time

  9. AlmondJoy says:

    It’s problematic for sure… But Leslie accepted this role so she will defend it. It’s like you want to be glad that they added a person of color but then the role is questionable and also predictable. So do you just be content with the fact that they added a black woman or do you speak out about the way she’s depicted in the movie? This is just one of many difficult things that people of color have to deal with. It’s a lot to think about…

  10. lucy2 says:

    I think the criticism is valid, but I also understand her point of view on it.

  11. Jess says:

    Yea, I can appreciate Leslie’s points but it bothered me as soon as I saw the trailer – the white women were all brilliant scientists and the one woman who wasn’t a scientist/genius was also the only woman of color. I’m really excited about this movie but that does bother me.

  12. Kreist says:

    I think people just like to make a big fuss over nothing.

    • Carol says:

      I think I need to see the movie first before judging whether or not Leslie could have played any of the other roles and vice versa. Not due to Leslie’s race or the race of the other actresses but based on their comedic and acting strengths.

      BTW – Leslie Jones is the only actress in the movie trailer who actually made me laugh. The movie looks like kind of a dud. I hope I’m wrong.

  13. 80sfangirl says:

    The reason they probably created the role this way was due to Winston’s role in the original Ghostbusters, since he was the non-scientist who was recruited as a fourth team member and served as a converted skeptic. Her character is likely meant to echo Ernie Hudson’s role in the original films. Granted, they didn’t need to also choose the one main cast member of color to have that role again, but it seems to me that they are probably making the new team members female versions of the original male characters.

  14. Mia4s says:

    How could they have not seen this issue coming??

    Also I’m sorry, I want to love this movie but that is an awful trailer. Awful. Put 4 men in it, 2 men and 2 women, 4 aliens; it’s still an awful trailer. “That’s going to leave a mark!”? Seriously?

    I truly hope it’s just a bad trailer (and not a bad movie) but I am very concerned.

  15. me says:

    Leslie Jones is NOT the best cast member on SNL. You have to be kidding me. I don’t find her funny at all. She always f*cks up her lines. Also, she is always doing skits where she is literally making a fool of herself and it’s embarrassing to watch. I am not surprised she would take on this particular role in the movie. This is the type of sh*t she does on SNL too.

  16. Patricia says:

    When I read the CAPS LOCK part of her rant all I could hear was her screaming voice she always does. She’s not much of an actress. She has the right to defend her character of course. But it doesn’t make her any less of an awful actress.

  17. Mixtape says:

    Yikes, there’s a surprising amount of Leslie hate on this thread. I personally love her comedy and am glad it got her pushed out of the writer’s room at SNL onto the stage. I did find the trailer disconcerting on first watch because the editing makes it so clear that it’s “Meet the new Ghostbusters–three brainy white woman and one angry black MTA worker with great one-liners.” That said, I’m glad she got the gig, and I got put in my place by her comment that being an MTA worker is just as important as being a scientist–so true!

  18. Kim says:

    Ehh, it looks funny to me. I’m going to wait and see it and then decide if it’s racist or not. Jeez.

  19. NotSoSocialButterfly says:

    Melissa McCarthy would have been perfect for the street- wise character. Think of her cop role in Heat, and her regular person role in Tammy ( even though that film stank).

  20. Pandy says:

    Judging by what I’ve seen of their work, either Leslie or Melissa would be easy casting for this role as they usually play very brash and blue-collar. I think the movie was created around Melissa (she’s the biggest star in the cast), so she’s probably the lead (which would be one of the scientists). I understand the casting decision and if Leslie is not feeling downtrodden …. well, maybe she’s not?

  21. Elle says:

    A little history — In the original Ghostbusters (1984) script Winston was a Marine with a PhD. The final screenplay deleted all that to make him a layperson so there could be a reason to explain things to the audience (hard side-eye). In the spinoffs (novels, etc.) since the original movie, Winston’s qualifications have been brought back into the story line.

    To me, that’s why Leslie’s character not being a scientist is so wrong. Again, almost 30 years later, the black person can’t know science on screen! Leslie’s character could have been an MTA worker *and* a postdoc or doctoral candidate. Her character could have been “street” and educated/interested in science. “Hey, I was down in the subway and I saw a {insert science talk}. Yeah, I drive a bus. I have to pay for my PhD somehow.” She could have still made almost all of the same jokes she makes in this trailer. I’m really excited about the movie, but so disappointed the black woman isn’t a scientist.

    • Hiddlesgirl85 says:

      @ Elle: Thank you for that info! That’s so true.

      There are so many nuances that they could have added to Leslie’s character. But the creators, producers, whomever, decided not to.

  22. lem says:

    i’m sorry i am so annoyed with the remake of this movie. i get so tired of hearing people say “women aren’t funny” and then some of the funniest women go out and sign on to a movie that is guaranteed to be a flop b/c it’s a remake of a beloved movie. i don’t care what the make-up of the cast is, this movie is never going to be as good as the originals and therefore, it’ll flop. it annoys me that they felt the need to remake it as gender-specific as they did— the original, while focusing around 3-4 men, had two strong female roles that weren’t sexualized, and included a black actor. if the remake is so progressive, why is there still only one black actor (signifying how far hollywood has NOT come), and why are they casting a beefcake as the secretary eyecandy (which is NOT what Annie Potts was in the originals). I’m sorry this movie isn’t nearly as progressive as most people seem to think it is and it annoys the ever-loving crap out of me.

  23. PoliteTeaSipper says:

    Trailer looks awful, so does the movie. Skip.

  24. Kate says:

    Leslie Jones is extremely one note. She has one character, which she plays very well, but that character is not remotely believable as a scientist. When they chose to cast her, they pretty much had to make her a non-scientist.

    I saw someone yesterday compare her to Chris Farley, which I think is pretty accurate. Like Farley, she’s really good at what she does, but what she does is very broad and cliched and doesn’t lend itself to certain roles. Farley was a master at the ‘dumb fat guy falling over’ schtick, but he couldn’t do that AND also be at all beleivable as a scientist, or a doctor or lawyer etc. Leslie would have to ditch her current persona and try something new to get a different type of role, and given what I’ve seen of her work after following her for years, if she’s capable of that she’s sure never let on.