Leslie Jones Ghostbusters Character

There’s been a mix of reactions following the release of the first trailer for Paul Feig‘s reboot of Ghostbusters, ranging from excitement to disappointment. Based on that first bit of marketing, the studio seems to be attempting to make a connection to the original franchise that doesn’t exist beyond similarities and references that have been inserted into the movie. It’s a reboot, not a sequel, and this trailer made me realize why that doesn’t seem to be working in the film’s favor for now.

But beyond the reception to the quality of the movie or the narrative direction of the reboot, some rage followed from fans and critics upset about one specific character: Leslie Jones as MTA employee Patty Tolan. Why were fans upset? They don’t like the fact that the three white Ghostbusters played by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon are super smart scientists while the one black member of the team is an transportation authority employee who just knows her way around the city.

However, Leslie Jones has fired back at the enraged fans and offered up a reasonable counter argument to their complaints. Plus, another interesting source has indicated that the way her character is portrayed in the trailer is not necessarily indicative of her role in the movie.

First of all, let’s just address what some fans are already thinking. Yes, Ernie Hudson‘s character of Winston Zeddemore was not a scientist either. But that doesn’t mean that dynamic necessarily has to carry over to the reboot. In fact, most of the confusion and issues with Leslie Jones Ghostbusters character seem to be based on the fact that previous marketing materials portrayed her like this:

Ghostbusters

Patty Tolan is supposed to be a municipal historian in the new Ghostbusters, so why is she merely portrayed as an MTA employee who knows the streets of New York City? Well, it may just be the marketing materials portraying her in an inaccurate way. After all, she could easily be a municipal historian out of a job who found that she could make more money at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In fact, that’s what Andrew Shaffer seems to be hinting at.

If you don’t know who Andrew Shaffer is, he’s a New York Times best-selling author, and one of his upcoming works just happens to be a Ghostbusters tie-in novel. He wasn’t able to reveal any significant details to rebuff some of the complaints and questions thrown his way by Donna Dickens at HitFix, but he did say this on Twitter:

“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.”

And Shaffer also offered up this on Twitter:

So maybe people are getting bent out of shape over nothing and Patty Tolan is “streetwise” in a very literal sense, because she’s a historian and an MTA employee. The trailer is clearly trying to create the perception that it continues the legacy of the original Ghostbusters when it really doesn’t, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that Leslie Jones’ character isn’t being portrayed in the right light just yet.

But either way, Leslie Jones doesn’t really care what you think about her character. And even if Patty Tolan was just an MTA employee, would that be such a bad thing? Jones posted these thoughts on Twitter:

Leslie Jones preceded all of this on Twitter with a letter (or maybe e-mail) she received from a real MTA employee, and it really lays out why people shouldn’t be upset if Jones was playing a simple employee of the transportation authority:

“Hey Leslie, thanks for being you. A question was asked by a news writer about your role on your new movie…This was my response: I work for the MTA in that role as a Token Boof Clerk and I was happy to see my job, something which provides me with plenty of jokes, a great perspective on society, and a birds eye view of horrible shit that I witness everyday on screen. I wished Leslie would have hooked me up…a joke) however, the fact that my position as a clerk is the most abused by society, I feel this may give us a semblance of humanness. That’s what I attempted in my one woman show “Swipe This! My Life in Transit” That glass in the boof have folk thinking I’m invisible, that I’m not a college graduate, and a producer, comedian, writer, actor, etc…I’m not a miserable, neck-rolling, stereotype in civil service I love my job and I enjoy engaging people with information infused with humor. Leslie is a comedian. She’s a larger than life personality nd it’s the first thing we see no matter what role she gets. As she grows, she will be able to tap into all her greatness. I am supporting this movie because I see me.'” I hope you receive all that’s for you. You looked so cute in the uniform. Congrats Sis. I’m proud of you. Kick ass.”

So while there absolutely should be roles that make black actors and actresses more than the token black friend or a streetwise colleague, that doesn’t mean that every character they play has to be a genius. Plus, it’s not as if you have to be a particle scientist or have a doctorate from Harvard to be intelligent. Just the same as there are average joes and janes in every race, we all have our own strengths and are smart in different ways. And maybe before people complain about a character so dramatically, they should see the whole movie first.

Ghostbusters arrives on July 15.

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