Leslie Jones came out on Twitter against the critics who pointed out the problematic fact that her character, a black woman, was the only character not working in a STEM field. She tweeted, “Why can’t a regular person be a ghostbuster. [sic] […] Regular people save the world every day so if I’m the sterotype!! Then so be it!! [sic] We walk among Heroes and take them for granted.” She also shared that an MTA token booth clerk said to her, “the fact that my position as a clerk is the most abused by society, I feel [Jones’ Ghostbusters role] may give us a semblance of humanness.” This is, of course, a fair perspective, and while it is important to recognize how valuable the "anyone can be a hero" message is, we also must recognize the institutionalized racism that persists in the media and in STEM fields.
While Jones defended her character's portrayal in the film and discussed it in a positive light, other women of colour have been, at the very least, on the fence. Complex, an online pop culture magazine, interviewed four black comedians to gauge their response to the film. Two of these comedians, Akilah Hughes and Monique Moses, acknowledged there were problems with the film, but did not see eye-to-eye on the particular issue of Patty Tolan's portrayal. Moses acknowledges, "Not seeing representations of black women in higher-status positions is a problem," but then goes on to say, "but I refuse to discredit this one blue-collar voice as something without merit...Does it really matter if she works for MTA or NASA? As long as she's not a two-dimensional character, I think little girls of all races can look up to her as they do to the women of Shondaland just as equally." Hughes contests, however, "I don't know if some role is better than no role. And it sucks to even have to address that, frankly. It's 2016, not 1956; why is it that we have to settle for roles that demean our entire race just to be allowed in a blockbuster film?"
A thoughtful piece by Jamie Kingston, a woman of colour who writes about diversity issues in the media on the site Women Write About Comics, agrees that Paul Feig and his team tried, but fell short. After scrutinizing the film and the production, she found that Leslie Jones' role was trimmed in favour of Chris Hemsworth, who had his role enlarged early on in the film making process, just as Bill Murray's role was extended into a larger role at the expense of Ernie Hudson's character in the 1984 version of Ghostbusters. She also draws parallels between Leslie Jones' character and the "mammy," or, the archetype originating from the Southern United States for a black woman who worked as a nanny or general housekeeper and often nursed a white family's children. While Patty is urban and chic, she is also the "den mom" to the rest of the Ghostbuster team. She brings them the outfits that become their uniform, and after a messy situation with a ghost in a subway tunnel, they barely thank her for the uniform, as if it had been a gift that was expected. Kingston also points out that Patty "fusses over them" having low blood sugar, initiates their hugs, and hits on Kevin (Hemsworth) the least, because "mammy doesn't get to be a sexually aware being."
When looking at whether or not film executives chose not to create a black woman character who works in a STEM field, it is hard to see that there is any blatant racism there. However, when looking at the bigger picture and taking into account the views and reactions of women of colour who have viewed the film, as well as the "Double Bind" phenomenon studied by Shirley Malcolm, it is clear that there is an institutionalized problem. Media portrayals of women of colour should be expanded to include women in diverse roles. It starts with screenwriters and other producers creating positive roles for all actresses of colour, and insisting they become more commonplace on the silver and big screen. This will create a space for these actresses to shine as characters in the STEM fields, just as much as their white counterparts.