Destruction in Italy, and a despicable backlash towards Leslie Jones

Before I begin, allow me let my Italian brethren know that I did not forget about you.

As you are all aware, a devastating earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday, all but destroying one town, decimating several others, and killing at least 250 people.

After discussing Louisiana’s flooding the day before, though, I thought it would be a little too demoralizing to talk about another natural disaster immediately after.

It’s tough to imagine people buried under rubble, unable to shout for help or even move. But that’s the reality in parts of Italy right now.

The only silver lining that is a common theme in these disasters is the extraordinary efforts that people will make to help the victims. Out of the ashes, there’s always a glimmer of light that shines through to remind us that people are good.

Italy earthquake.jpg

But besides the normal methods like donating blood and money, a neat response has come in a different form from Italian restaurants. Eateries across the world, like these ones in New York City,  will donate portions of their sales to the relief efforts.

So you get to eat delicious Italian food and help others. What’s better than that?

Now before I move onto my main topic, it’s absolutely worth noting that Ryan Lochte’s troubles continue. He’s now being summoned to Italy (not extradited) to testify before a Brazilian judge about his version of events from the notorious Olympics after-party fiasco that caused a stir around the world.

This is pure drama at its finest.

OK, as much as I’d love to keep discussing the Lochte Ness Monster, I want to touch on a pretty sensitive issue that’s come up this week that carries a little more cultural significance — racism against Leslie Jones.

The Saturday Night Live cast member is definitely one of those comedians that you either really enjoy, or don’t see the appeal. I’m not going to lie — whenever she makes an appearance on the show’s Weekend Update, which she does regularly, I tend to fast forward my DVR.

Her shtick is pretty simple — she yells. She’s loud and abrasive. And it just doesn’t really do anything for me. But just because her comedic style is not my cup of tea doesn’t mean that I have anything against her as a person.

However, many others apparently do. I suppose that, for many, it’s hard to see Leslie Leslie Jones.jpgJones — a middle-aged black women with spiky hair — and her loud nature, and not be able to disassociate her from the color of her skin. If for no other reason because any one who yells regularly will draw a lot of attention to him or herself.

And for many in this country who still haven’t quite gotten the grasp that America is a place built on tolerance and diversity, and that all men and women are created equal — it’s caused a problem.

It’s a problem that Leslie Jones has been dealing with for quite some time. For months she’s been the victim of cyber-bullying. And this week, her site was hacked, featuring images of primates and explicit photos.

This isn’t ambiguously or even borderline racist.

People hate Leslie Jones because she is black. And that is despicable.

We wonder why our country doesn’t match up to the standards that we all think it should. We wonder where the hateful actions that occur at a certain politician’s rallies come from.

We shouldn’t wonder. It’s something that’s here, and has always been here, and if you need further evidence than just look at what’s happened to Leslie Jones.

Leslie, I may DVR through your SNL bits, and I may never have any desire to see Ghostbusters, but I sure as hell have a whole lot of respect for you as a person.

Hey, it may not mean much, but a little solidarity during a dark time never hurt any one.

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The angst over the female Ghostbusters cast is basically just roundabout sexism

If there’s something strange
In your neighborhood
who you gonna call?

Whenever Hollywood casts any actor to play a character that has already been established in popular culture, I always am amused by the public reaction.

Remember when people flipped out when Ben Affleck was tabbed for Batman?

I just don’t think it’s worth expending any amount of energy towards being mad about a movie character. I mean, unless the character in question really is near and dear to your heart. But that’s an exception.

For example: if Lil’ Bow Wow was cast as Harry Potter years ago, then OK, that demands criticism. But for the most part, Hollywood studios tend to get these things right — Topher Grace as Venom in Spiderman 3 excluded.

That being said, there certainly does seem to be a trend recently of pre-established characters being cast with actors that go female Ghostbustersagainst what is expected.

This has been happening for years with British actors playing iconic American characters. The most recent portrayers of Batman, Spiderman and Superman were all played by Brits. Shit, Martin Luther King was just by played by an English actor. This is hidden, though, with an accent.

Now there’s “miscastings” that even an accent can’t hide. I’m talking black Annie. NBC just had a woman play Peter Pan. There’s rumors of a black James Bond.

And now … female Ghostbusters.

What’s amused me most about this is that the criticism I’ve heard regarding the four women pegged to play the classic Ghostbusters is basically just passive aggressive sexism.

Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are the foursome who will lug around Proton packs chasing ghosts in the fictional Ghostbusters universe.

This pretty much sums up the response to these choices:

Melissa McCarthy: Really, her again? She was a standout in Bridesmaids, but enough is enough.

Leslie Jones: The older chick from SNL?  Please don’t tell me she’s only in this to play the Sassy Black Girl.

Kate McKinnon: Who? Oh, that other SNL chick. Hopefully she has a makeout scene with Kristen Wiig.

Kristen Wiig: She’s cool.

The immediate response appears to be negative. And I wish people would just be outright and say why they don’t like it — because they never wanted women to play the Ghostbusters.

Why are we so afraid to be labeled as a sexist? If that’s how you feel, then just be honest. Why waste your time nitpicking these actresses if you can sum it up in two words: No women.

In reality, this will probably make a fortune. But the success of the project comes down to the same formula for any movie: if there’s a solid script and direction, it’ll succeed.

But to be fair, I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there who never wanted a remake, regardless of who was cast, men or women, unless original Ghostbusters Bill Murray or Dan Akroyd were involved.

Either way, I’m more than willing to give it a chance. Individually, these women are all funny. Combined, there could be something pretty special there.

Or it could suck. There’s only one way to find out.

But I’ll admit that I will be disappointed if Wiig and McKinnon don’t at least give each other an extended hug.