Ghostbusters released preview showings as early as Wednesday before its official opening on Friday July 15. By opening day, there were the handful of usual suspects we need not name who actually bought tickets to take photos of what they tell us are empty theaters where Ghostbusters is showing.
Despite the dire imprecations of sexist fans stuck in 1984, though, the film has managed a respectable $46 million dollar opening weekend, putting it second only to The Secret Life of Pets, and well above other summer would-be blockbusters such as Tarzan, Independence Day: Resurgence, and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Though $50 million is usually the make-or-break minimum to determine whether a film is a flyer or a flop, this proved enough for Sony to go on record saying there will be a sequel (sorry dudebros). The numbers are also enough for Ghostbusters to claim the distinction of being the top opening for a live action comedy for 2016 (to date).
One would think that would be something to be pleased about, and it is.
Unfortunately, the current political climate of the United States has had a negative effect on the psyche of people who call themselves “movie fans.” There is a reason fan is short for fanatic, and July 18 has given us one of the worst possible instances of making that crystal clear.
Leslie Jones, who plays streetwise Patty Tolan, is on Twitter with username @Lesdoggg. She has become the target of a non-stop barrage of vile, hateful, racist misogyny (also known as misogynoir) and transmisogyny. Since the day of the film’s opening, Twitter users, some creating new accounts for the express purpose of facelessly and cowardly participating in the racist dogpile on her, have spammed her account with the most revolting, pernicious, and contemptible examples of racism and sexism. Her timeline is full of despicable remarks, and every racist slur we don’t care to name. The abuse reached a fever pitch on Monday, and Jones patient tolerance to block and move on ran out.
The moment genuine fans caught wind of her plight, they rushed to Ms. Jones’ aid with the #LoveforLeslieJ hashtag; countering the hate tweets with tweets of love and support. The film’s director Paul Feig, has also tweeted his support of Leslie in what can only be a trying time for her. She’s fighting back like a badass should, but it’s obviously taking a toll:
I feel like I'm in a personal hell. I didn't do anything to deserve this. It's just too much. It shouldn't be like this. So hurt right now.
— Leslie Jones 🦋 (@Lesdoggg) July 19, 2016
Unfortunately, Twitter Support has been typically silent. Despite exhortations by multiple tweets to @twitter and @support, as of this writing, there has been no official response, other than to say they do not comment on individual accounts and to provide a link to their “content boundaries.”
Even @sonypictures Twitter account has had nothing to say in defense of their actor. Despite Ghostbusters being their header image, when I tweeted them I got no response, not even a directive to contact a PR department. They continued to promote Ghostbusters and the upcoming Sausage Party without pausing to remark upon what their actor is encountering.
Worse, the media seemed, for a while, to be turning blind eyes and deaf ears to Leslie’s suffering. Make no mistake; it is suffering. Dozens and dozens of tweets flinging racist and misogynist slurs is abuse, no two ways about it. It’s also clearly in violation of the Twitter Terms of Service. Pertinent passages duplicated here include:
Violent threats (direct or indirect): You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.
Harassment: You may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Some of the factors that we may consider when evaluating abusive behavior include:
if a primary purpose of the reported account is to harass or send abusive messages to others;
if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats;
if the reported account is inciting others to harass another account; and
if the reported account is sending harassing messages to an account from multiple accounts.
Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories. [Emphasis ours].
As of 7 pm eastern time, Buzzfeed was the only media outlet that had an article about how Leslie was being treated. As of approximately 11:00 pm eastern time, Twitter support team member @jack requested to DM Leslie Jones about the harassment and abuse. By 1 am eastern, Gizmodo, CNN and the Verge’s stories about Leslie Jones’ Twitter ordeal were the top results on Google.
Racism has always existed in Hollywood, and has always been something black actors must contend with. Racists, emboldened by the comforting distance and anonymity provided by the internet, have reached a level of brazenness unseen since the cross-burning days of the 1950s. The plaintive statement “black lives matter” is shouted down by the insincere and overtly racist “all lives matter.” This treatment of Ms. Jones and the lack of support from Twitter is proof positive that we still have a long way to go. By way of comparison, in the same 24 hours, Instagram leapt to Taylor Swift’s defense, deleting all unkind comments relating to her reaction to the feud she has with Kanye West.
Due to intersectionality, black women often describe themselves as “easy pickings” for online abuse. Black men want black women to be black first, women second. Feminists want black women to be women first, black second. Consequently, because of multiple oppressed identities, Black women receive the least support. Blackness and womanhood are inseparable. So that has some part in why people seem to think that the lone black woman from Ghostbusters deserves more abuse than the other three. That’s also why black women immediately rallied to support Leslie Jones — because they know that if we don’t support ourselves, we cannot wait around for others to do so.
Ms. Jones is obviously aware of the tendency to downplay and disbelieve the abused. She has retweeted several of the worst offenders. We can only hope that we will get more than lip service and silence when we raise our voices in protest of treatment no one should have to put up with for any reason.