Ghostbusting politics

Ghostbusters is iconic, and now that the new one is out we’ve got a legacy going. I just wish it didn’t have to do its black characters the way it has.

When the 2016 trailer was released crowds went wild (and so did MRAs)—with the exception of one thing: Patty; played by Leslie Jones, the only woman of color on the team; was a MTA official. Whereas the other (white) girls knew science and research, Patty “knew New York.” Why couldn’t a black woman be a scientist, some asked?

And it could’ve been a question that should be reserved until the movie was seen. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was history repeating itself.

When Dan Aykroyd was first trying to get Ghostbusters (1984) off the ground he had written Winston to be a bigger, more prominent character. And when actor Ernie Hudson showed up for shooting, he found a haunting what-if was left largely in place of his character:

I look back on Ghostbusters in a very fun way, but it’s got so many mixed feelings and emotions attached to it. When I originally got the script, the character of Winston was amazing and I thought it would be career-changing. The character came in right at the very beginning of the movie and had an elaborate background: he was an Air Force major something, a demolitions guy. It was great.

Now I’ve heard, over the years, that the part had been written for Eddie Murphy—all of which Ivan Reitman says is not true. But it was a bigger part, and Winston was there all the way through the movie.

…The night before filming begins, however, I get this new script and it was shocking.

The character was gone. Instead of coming in at the very beginning of the movie, like page 8, the character came in on page 68 after the Ghostbusters were established. His elaborate background was all gone, replaced by me walking in and saying, “If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.” So that was pretty devastating.

Call it racism, call it carelessness, call it Hollywood, but it’s an odd thing that both Ghostbusting teams feature characters of color that aren’t allowed to be scientists, or even really distinguished. Ghostbusting knows now gender, and it shouldn’t know any race either.

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