Two minutes and thirty-eight seconds after watching the new Ghostbusters trailer, I’m a mix of baffled, angry, and yet unsurprised. That’s what you get when something is packaged as progressive, and you believe it. That’s what I get for watching it while not being a white woman.
I’m sure if I were an ivory tower-dwelling white feminist, I would have looked at that trailer much differently. I would have, indeed, seen progress and been proud of the opportunity for a fun movie where genders are swapped, and nothing was lost in translation. And yet, that’s exactly the problem.
As the trailer bragged, it’s “30 years” since the last Ghostbusters movie. I’m excited at this point. I was especially excited to see the opening clip as a throwback to the very beginning of the first movie. These qualified, handy, funny white women are introduced one by one, making the case why they belong in their respective roles.
Then we meet “Sapphire” stereotype and subway worker Jillian Holtzmann, played by comedian and actress Leslie Jones.
For the record, Holtzmann is a Jewish surname, a fact that makes me wonder if they even originally intended to have an African-American woman in the role in the first place. I wonder if the people behind this movie thought they could get away with out-and-out black erasure while planning this Ghostbusters reboot. I cannot give anyone attached to this project the benefit of the doubt, given how the character was treated in the few moments I saw of her.
Our three white women are highly educated scientists interested in documenting and recording paranormal activities. They are presented as kooky and quirky, and I guess we’re supposed to give the casting department props for not opting for bombshells or twenty-somethings.
Intersectionality is what’s keeping my hands at my sides. No hand claps or plaudits here.
Would you like to know why?
Because the same effort put into casting white women to play believable, everyday, nerdy women, scientists could also have been put into finding a believable, nerdy, everyday black woman scientist. A white subway worker and a black scientist would probably have been asking for too much, right? Because apparently having a black woman behave with any kind of sense while being central to a plot (and not behaving like a two-dimensional black stereotype) is always asking for too much.
I am laughing while trying not to throw up over the suspicion that the people who put Ghostbusters together probably thought in a movie filled with vomiting ghosts and obvious CGI, the (white) audience couldn’t suspend disbelief and buy into a black woman entering the picture and being treated and viewed just like her teammates. Or simply being equal period.
Instead of a book smart scientist, Jillian gets to be “street smart,” bragging that she’d be able to guide the rest of the cast through the city of New York. Whatever the heck that means.
So… the other three women aren’t native New Yorkers? Do they need a non-white scout who speaks the language of the “dirty non-white New Yorkers” living beyond their geeky ivory tower? Oh, but don’t worry — Jillian gets to be “useful!” It’s shown in the Ghostbusters trailer that she borrowed a car from her uncle that becomes the new signature vehicle. I’m telling you right now I don’t care if her uncle is supposed to be portrayed by Ernie Hudson. I also don’t care if she’s being used to link the new franchise to the old one, or for the re-introduction of an iconic car.
I am tired of some white women thinking that as long as they progress, they can stomp all over non-black women in this disgraceful manner and get away with it. I am tired of certain white women crying about sexism and bigotry and then knocking down black women or other non-white women a few pegs, so they don’t have to stand shoulder to shoulder with them as equals.
Ghostbusters is set to be a disgrace that deserves to fail for reasons having nothing to do with the (really awesome) gender-swap scenario. And that’s the cherry on the top of the B.S. sundae as to why this mess is so frustrating.
Sony, the movie runners, the critics, and a slew of women supporting the updated Ghostbusters will likely automatically assume it failed because men bashed it over the gender change. They’ll believe that sexism made it fail, and everyone angry at it is either a misogynist or woman who hates herself.
Not in my case.
I am entirely over giving my hard-earned money to Hollywood movies that demonstrate the belief that “I’m not good enough.”
[Image via Sony Pictures Entertainment YouTube Channel]