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Ghost... Busted

There is a clear struggle for African American representation in film, but it goes deeper than simply hiring and casting these actors in the roles. There must be a change in regards to how these actors are cast into stereotypical roles that are deleterious to the African American psyche. In the recent Ghostbusters reboot in 2016, there is are four lead female characters and one who happens to be African American. While the other three Euro-American characters are physics researchers and engineers, the African American character is a blue-collar MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) worker. Not to say that being a blue-collar is a demining profession, but the question arises as to why this job had to be held by the only African American character in the film. Some might argue that the writers for the reboot wanted to stay true to the original Ghostbusters franchise, the better known "quintessential white misogynist movie" (C. Fritzel 2019). Even then, the African- American character Winston Zeddmore, was portrayed as an unemployed man that responds to a help-wanted ad that was posted. After an introduction to the team and a run through about what the job entails, Winston states that, "if there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say." Here the solo African-American character has been reduced to a money hungry follower. This theme continues within the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot.


To see that three Euro-American women can succeed and become scientists, while the African American woman is a laborer, is quite infuriating cinematically speaking. The character Patty Tolan, played by a comedic actress Leslie Jones, is represented as the stereotypical loud and god fearing woman. Once Patty joins the Ghostbusters team, she states that, " You guys are really smart about this science stuff, but I know New York." This provides the audience insight that Patty has the "street smarts" but is clueless in regards to what she has labeled, "science stuff." While the other characters may tackle the issues with the supernatural with logic, the character Patty tends to yell phrases such as, “Ah hell naw, the Devil is a liar! Get out of my friend, ghost! The power of Patty compels you!” (Ghostbusters). This is a clear misquote that many church going African Americans say in regards to someone or something getting in the way, that is presumed to be evil.

Source: E! Online

Source: E! Online

It is understood the entire film is in fact a comedy, but it appears the writers had all the stereotypical black jokes reserved for the character of Patty. None of the other Euro-American characters were overly loud, borderline obnoxious, or spouted in religious connotations. This is due to the film and television industries social institution, that is composed of four elements. These elements are, “industrial concerns (advertisers and economic components), regulatory concerns (legal decisions and federal policies), textual concerns (advertising texts) and audience concerns (public conception and viewer activism)”, in order to create a successful film (Boyd 165). None of these elements take into concern the negative or sometimes racist stereotypes that are being viewed, what is taken into concern, is the profitability of these films or images. So even though the character of Patty is a slap in the face to some African Americans, it could be said that Leslie Jones could quote the words of Hattie McDaniel who was the first African American woman to receive an Academy Award who stated that she would “rather play a maid than be a maid”. It can be argued that Jones did in fact play the maid role.

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