This morning Sony released the trailer for their rebooted take on the Ghostbusters universe. Thirty years after the original team saved New York City from the supernatural, a new generation of scientists have arrived for the passing of the proton pack.
I am personally stoked to see Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones suit up. Each woman has a distinct personality and look. I will forever be in love with McKinnon licking her gun. But as happy as I am to see these women join an iconic franchise, there was a problem with the trailer. Leslie Jones” character of Patty – the only woman of color in the cast – is also the only non-scientist member of the team. I understand this is a reboot of Ghostbusters from 1984 and the new characters mirror their male counterparts. But it”s been over thirty years and the dynamic of three white scientists and “street-wise” minority is dated. Even Ernie Hudson (Winston) has talked about the marginalization of his character in the original franchise.
From The Guardian:
I tell people Ghostbusters was the most fun I had, but it was also the most difficult for reasons that I, to this day, do not understand. In the script that I read for the audition, Winston is in the film all the way through the movie. But they changed it just before we shot, so I had to wrap my head around that. I think the studio thought they could sell the guys as they were from Saturday Night Live, and so they wanted to include Winston marginally. But then when we came back five years later for the sequel, they did the same thing! That I didn”t understand. But once you become really angry, it”s all over, so I just kept working and stayed positive.
The trailer was particularly perplexing because earlier promotional materials have stated Jones” character was a historian. A career that takes considerable secondary education.
So what”s going on here? Is Patty an MTA employee and street-wise stereotype or a municipal historian? Maybe the answer is both. I double-majored in college in anthropology and history. My dream was to be an archeologist. I am clearly not doing that. There are only so many jobs in the field and a girl has to eat. When Patty says she “knows New York” she may mean in an academic sense. A good skill to have when dealing with long-dead ghosts. Perhaps Jones” character merely took the MTA job to be near her subject of interest (ye olden New York City). Maybe she”s still getting her doctorate. Maybe she's just an amateur history buff. But there”s more going on with this character than meets the eye in the trailer.
Andrew Shaffer agrees. Who is Shaffer? He”s a NY Times best-selling artist whose next novel just happens to be a Ghostbusters tie-in novel due out in June of 2017.
After tweeting my dismay over the portrayal of Jones” in the Ghostbusters trailer, Shaffer replied back with this interesting response:
FUN FACT: Average salary of an associate professor of physics: $55k. Average salary of an MTA employee: $80k. https://t.co/5R4Rslubq5
– Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) March 4, 2016
While Shaffer is under lock-down on information – he jokingly rebuffed my follow-up questions by saying the were “Feig-level” and clarified he has not seen a cut of the film – he did hint the marketing department that put together the trailer wasn”t being true to Patty”s character arc. “Some concern online over Leslie Jones” Ghostbusters character being the “streetwise” one. That”s understandable from the trailer edit. But she”s also described in marketing materials as a “municipal historian.” She”s more than just a 4th wheel.”
Of course, this doesn”t excuse the trailer”s representation. Contrary to the mantra that you can”t judge a movie by its trailer, that”s kind of the point of the trailer? It is the first hook to get movie-goer butts into theater seats. Is a trailer always an accurate reflection of the film it”s advertising? Nope! But it IS how most folks will decide if they”re going out opening weekend to see that the hubbub is about.
But does Shaffer”s vague reassurances help? For me they do. Your mileage may vary.
Ghostbusters arrives in theaters on July 15, 2016.