Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cry Wolf Again

People have a habit of revealing themselves. Bad manners shine through. Inner thoughts become outer thoughts by mistake. Scams that worked once get tried again until they fail. And so on. And that brings me to Leslie Jones. Who is Leslie Jones? Leslie Jones is famous for being the racial component of the remake of Ghostbuster's cast/marking plan.

Jones appeared on radar screens last summer. What brought Jones to people's attention, besides starring in a rental car ad which got my daughter asking me if she was looking at an aggressive gay black man or an obnoxious ugly woman, was her role in fauxGhostbusters last summer. And by role, I don't really mean in the film. In the film, she's the token black jammed into the Ernie Hudson role so she can say tokeny-black things. Yawn. She's otherwise irrelevant on screen. What made her interesting was when she cried racism.

fauxGhostbusters had a problem. It was crap and no one wanted to see it. So the producers decided to use an aggressive identity-politics advertising campaign. Basically, they took a handful of sexist comments from websites and spun these into a victimology campaign. "This film is being targeted by sexists who can't handle the fact that women can be in films now too!! You need to see this film or the sexists win!" Well, not surprisingly, this didn't work. So as opening day approached, the film's flaming director "surprisingly" announced that one of the characters is gay and "This film is being targeted by anti-gayists who can't handle the fact that gays can be in films now too!! You need to see this film or the anti-gayists win!" That still wasn't enough to help the film though. Shocker.

Jones dipped her toe into the water in early July 2016 by crying racism in the fashion industry. Specifically, she said that she hadn't been offered a free dress for the fauxGhostbusters premier, and no one wanted to dress her because she's black and fat. Uh huh, so all those far-left gay people are racists because they didn't give you free stuff. I see. That didn't play too well ultimately.

Well, imagine my surprise when two weeks later, Leslie Jones suddenly quit Twitter "for good" because of barrage of supposed racist comments aimed at her. A tearful Jones told us how "she was being targeted by racists who can't handle the fact that blacks can be in films now too!! They don't want you to see her film so the racists will win." She even picked out her racist, Milo Yiannopoulos, who had said the film wouldn't be very good.

What really made this interesting to me was that the whole thing seemed made up. Her timeline didn't add up and she seemed to have foreknowledge of the racism. The racism all seemed to be coming from one source too. What's more, it was oddly specific and harmless racism. It was all the type of stuff that is easily refuted and never digs deep enough or true enough to leave any marks on her reputation. Frankly, it came across as exactly the kind of "racism" the studio would manufacture to be able to scream racism but without facing anything that could actually hurt them. Said differently, it felt fake.

Then there were her claims of damage which were all out of proportion. This is a woman who made a living doing standup comedy about racism. Her routines often incorporated slavery and insults and lots of sexy. Yet, suddenly she had a thin skin. Even more to the point, she was screaming about how she needed to withdraw from the world because she had been so deeply offended by this rather bland racism and simplistic. She's said worse about herself in her own routines. So she claimed she would quit Twitter forever.

Almost instantly, this whole thing got wrapped up in the studio's campaign to sell the film. A day or so later, she got back on Twitter. Why? To discuss how she wasn't going to let them ruin the film... go see it, don't let them win! This SCREAMS of a PR campaign.

The end, right?

Well, no. A few months after fauxGhostbusters still tanked, Jones worked all of this into her routine. Here she was claiming these bland Twitter attacks were so traumatic she needed to leave the public eye and yet a few months later she had worked the whole thing into her routine. That's a bit like a rape victim telling the experience as a comedic story. That made me even more suspicious that this whole thing was a PR campaign.

Now, we have a new one. The other day Jones hosted the BET awards. Apparently, being victimized for race can elevate you from being booed as Jamie Foxx's opening act to worthy host. From what I've seen, her performance was uneven. Vibe liked one of her routines but called another "a true low." Others seem to have ignored her or similarly given mixed reviews. Well, lo and behold... the next day she tweets this about the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles, where she stayed:
“Wow was such a great night at the BET awards. But then had THE WORST STAY @RitzCarlton. DO NOT STAY THERE!! THEY DONT LIKE BLACK PEOPLE!!”
Victimized by the racist Ritz-Carlton? I don't believe that for a minute. The Ritz-Carlton is a premier luxury hotel which would never in a million years act racistly toward a well-known black celebrity. But you know what? This sure helps make her a victim again, doesn't it? And when that happens, people seem to forget prior sins. Adding to my suspicions, by the way, she's given zero details about what happened.

Just thought I'd update this for you because it strikes me that I'm starting to see a pattern emerge of someone inventing claims of victimization whenever it helps her career.


Anthony said...

1. The Ghostbusters ad campaign played up not sexism, but how the movie was in line with its predecessors, that guys found it funny and that the people involved in the original fully approved.


For a summer comedy, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot has had a uniquely hard time winning over some prospective audience members – largely because of Feig’s decision to alter the genders of the lead characters. The first trailer racked up more than half a million “thumbs down” votes on YouTube, making it the most disliked in YouTube history. Feig dismissed the controversy over the casting of four women in the lead roles as “vile, misogynistic shit”, while Ghostbusters vet Dan Aykroyd chimed in, praising the revamp as funnier and scarier than the originals.

End quote.

People (many alt right trolls like Milo) looking for something to be offended by (victimization is big business on the right and the left) honed in on Ghostbusters, claiming it was a bad movie crippled by an all female cast, and casting opposition to it as a sacred duty because otherwise the movie would destroy the rep of a beloved classic.

That was a patently false argument. Ghostbusters 2 was a bad movie which starred the original cast but it did not damage. Bad movies don't destroy memories of the original. There are a lot of recent crappy reboots of iconic 80's movies and tv shows. They fade away, the originals are unsullied. That is exactly what happened with Ghostbusters (a crappy, unmemorable movie which I saw when it hit HBO).

2. The Ritz Carlton thing sounds like BS, but if the goal were publicity logically she would have made the allegation before the show, not after it.

I'm willing to bet it was something silly and nonracial which prompted her to spew and attribute the worse possible motive to the perceived slight. 'The Ritz Carlton didn't leave a mint on my pillow! Racist!'. The fact Jones has said nothing about what was actually done or said (despite the Ritz Carlton and numerous reporters asking her about) is telling.

AndrewPrice said...


The Ghostbusters ad campaign played up not sexism, but how the movie was in line with its predecessors, that guys found it funny and that the people involved in the original fully approved.

Officially, that is correct, but that doesn't mesh with reality. The reality was that Feig picked women for the roles to generate controversy. When the news came out, there was some sexism in comments at internet sites (surprise!), but nothing unusual. Yet, they immediately started giving interviews targeting that sexism as some sort of counter-movement against the film. As things progressed and it became obvious the film was utter crap, they focused on that aspect. Everyone involved gave interviews talking about the sexism and how they "had never experienced such hate before." The official ad campaign, that the original cast loved the movie, came later and still was only ever part of the discussion. Essentially, they were selling "we are victims of sexist hate."

Then, as they got closer and the sexism thing wasn't moving pre-sales, Feig "just happened to" toss out the gay bit. Then a couple days later came the Jones fiasco. It strikes me as obvious that this was all part of the marketing. They knew they would never win the core original audience, i.e. white males, and women and minorities don't do science fiction. So they needed to find a way to bring them in. Hence, identity politics.

On the Ritz Carlton thing, it could well be something minor. If it is though, then it shows she's hypersensitive and cries wolf. Rather than asking for her mint (or whatever) or dealing directly with management, she very publicly makes a blanket call accusing the whole chain of mysterious racism. That strikes me as a false use of the claim of racism, even if she thought the incident was racially motivated.

tryanmax said...

Let's get some terminology straight so that we can be sure we're not conflating or equivocating:

A Marketing campaign is everything involved in the sale of something.

An Advertising campaign is a part of the marketing campaign and consists of paid publicity.

A Public Relations campaign attempts to gain free publicity for something. In the case of a film, PR seems very much a part of the marketing mix.

A Press campaign is a sub-component of PR focused primarily on the press.

A Social Media campaign combines elements of Marketing and PR. This role is still pretty nebulous.

(This is to say nothing of other marketing activities, such as market research and product selection, that don't apply to this discussion.)

So while it's correct to say that Ghostbusters' ad campaign didn't focus on sexism, it's absolutely incorrect to say it wasn't a part of the overall marketing mix. We can trace narratives about sexism, racism, gayism, etc. as relates to Ghostbusters directly back to figures involved in the promotion of the film. That these issues caught fire in the press and on social media is no way out for those figures, as that is the very intent of a PR campaign. Incidentally, I don't believe any claims that the director and actors went "off script." If they did, the studio certainly didn't reign them in after the first offense.

tryanmax said...

On the Ritz Carlton thing, until details come out, I'm just going to assume that Jones cussed out Consuela the housekeeper over a tiny bottle of shampoo and Consuela cussed her back en espaƱol.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think what bothered me most with the film, besides the cynical attempt to rape "the property" is the dishonesty behind the marketing campaign.

1. They intentionally picked women to generate controversy, then they acted surprised by the controversy that followed.

2. They played up the controversy, which wasn't particularly strong, into "I've never seen such hate." At least three of them said that that I can recall, and it was BS.

3. Feig himself made the claim that he was going "off script" and didn't want to mention that there was a gay character, but gosh darn it... he just felt compelled. Bullsh*t. It was cynically done and the timing tells me it was planned.

4. The Jones thing was so obviously studio-generated and yet the PR machine (through the social media media) made it a sacrilege to even challenge her obviously false timeline and changing story. And they got away with it.

I hate being manipulated. I hate corporations stoking social hatred and conflict for marketing. It drives me nuts that people (especially on the left) aren't smart enough to see through this. You've been played by a film studio, folks.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That's what I was thinking too. Jones probably got nasty with some Hispanic housekeeping staff person and they fired back. And rather than take this to management, she decided to grab a little national press.

My alternative theory is that she wants a boost after the BET Awards. I just don't know how well or how poorly her act was received, so I'm not sure if she needed the boost or not.

tryanmax said...

Another thing about Ghostbusters: Being part of an IP with a devoted cult following, every aspect of it was going to be scrutinized by the fanboys. There were script leaks and unofficial interviews. It was off of these items that early concerns about the film were expressed. Then Feig and studio honchos started saying things that more-or-less confirmed the things the fanboys were worried about. This was before casting was even announced.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmx, That's true. The very idea brought groans, not excitement. And early script leaks were met with disgust and indifference. And that was long before the casting was announced. So they had a real problem.

Why? Because in terms of casting, this is an old game for exploiters. You take a beloved character and you change them to upset people -- gender, race, make them a bad guy instead, etc. You do it to piss off the fanboys so they scream about how angry they are and they give you free publicity everywhere.

That's what Feig did. But I don't think they got the reaction they wanted. I think they were meant with apathy. There was no fanboy chatter. So they tried to kickstart it by pretending it was there and it was the most extreme chatter they had ever heard... please got complain about our movie!!

At the same time, they were trying to use the victimology to bring in a new audience who wouldn't naturally see this movie because they discovered early on that white male fanboys weren't coming to see this one. Women don't see science fiction, so they reinvented it as a feminist treasure under attack. Then in the last days of the marketing plan they aimed for gays and blacks as well.

tryanmax said...

I've been sort of mentally tracking how long it takes for an internet outrage to blossom over the past year or so. To my estimation, it's between 2 to 5 days. Lots slower than you'd expect online. I went back—not today, last time Ghostbusters was news—and figured out when that outrage hit. It was less than 24 hours after the cast was announced that all the big feminist sites had articles about angry sexists. The mainstream sites had it the following morning. I'm not saying it wasn't organic, but it was unusually swift.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That's interesting. I hadn't recognized that.

What I did recognize was the weirdness when Jones made her allegations. Her original claim was flawed. But when she made it, several news sites picked it up immediately and put out articles within hours.

Now, keep in mind that Jones was a nobody at that point except to some black audiences. To everyone else, she was only an actress in an as-yet-unreleased controversial film. Yet the minute she screams she's leaving Twitter, a couple news sources picked up her story and write lengthy articles.

By the next day, Jones had changed her story. Within hours of doing so, dozens of internet news sources picked up the new version of her story and ran with it, totally ignoring the original version. Their stories are remarkably similar, right down to the wording. That is a clear sign of someone issuing press releases with a pre-written "news" story in it.

So who is doing it? Jones was claiming that she's quitting the world and going to live privately. So it's not likely she was doing it. Could it be her agent? Maybe, but why is there such an amazing and unified response by the media if it's only the agent of a barely known actress? It struck me, it had to be someone the media wanted to stay on good terms with. This always made me think that the studio did it. Too fast of a response... to unified of a response... wording too similar... and no mention of her first contradictory version. That reeked of a marking campaign.

Anthony said...

Andrew said:
Why? Because in terms of casting, this is an old game for exploiters. You take a beloved character and you change them to upset people -- gender, race, make them a bad guy instead, etc. You do it to piss off the fanboys so they scream about how angry they are and they give you free publicity everywhere.

End Quote

True in the context of comic books (a cheap medium well outside the mainstream) not movies. In comics Spider-Man has done and been pretty much everything, but in movies all three versions of him have been Peter Parker. Movie studios don't take those types of risks with popular characters.

Ghostbusters was a different type of thing though. As I pointed out Ghostbusters was a revival of an old movie franchise so long dead even the trolls posing as fans were unaware of the sequel.

Like Terminator, Robocop, Total Recall and what have you it had radical script deviations. Unlike the aforementioned movies none of these deviations involved characters from the original.

It was just another doomed crappy reboot which was only memorable because the alt right saw fit to target it and one of the stars was stupid enough to get into it with hundreds of online randoms.

tryanmax said...

Anthony, my only quibble is that I would say the alt right was lured to it. You don't throw chum in the water unless you want to attract sharks. What you intend or are prepared to do about the sharks once they arrive, that's another matter. Hopefully that metaphor also speaks to how coordinated I think the alt right actually is.

tryanmax said...
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