Leslie Jones Drops the Mic on a Twitter Troll

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This past year I had the incredible pleasure of performing on a comedy show with Leslie Jones at The Friar’s Club. Lovely crowd, but I think it’s fair to say they were a bit tight. I sweat my proverbial cajones off to get laughs. When I left the stage, it didn’t feel like I’d made magic happen, but I felt I’d done the best I could. Leslie Jones was closing the show and I was excited as I’d yet to see her perform live.

An important note, I not only love live stand-up comedy, it feels like a part of the essential rhythm of my life. I hate to wax poetic about it but I believe every performance is its own living, breathing organism. Depending on the crowd that night, the jokes the comic chooses, the venue, the comic’s mood — it will never be the same again. Some people compare stand-up to sports, which I do agree with, but I see it like a weather event, a storm of words. Each show exists only in that moment and cannot to be replicated.

I’ve been performing stand-up for a decade and since I was young, I’ve been watching comedy specials, listening to comedy records and going to live performances. I’ve seen and heard some amazing sets. That being said, Leslie Jones blew my mind. She set the stage ablaze. She took a mediocre crowd and brought them to life. I laughed so hard that at one point I choked on my own air. I’m not speaking in hyperbole. I actually choked from relentless laughter. Leslie is comedy fire. She is a legitimate star. She has worked so hard for so long and is extremely talented. Watching her perform was like watching an amazing conductor, weaving in crowd work, stories, emotion and bringing them all together in a wave of hilariousness. Leslie has a gift, and she is giving it to others: laughter.

Recently Simon & Schuster inked a book deal with Milo Yiannopoulos giving him $250,000 upfront. The book titled “Dangerous” is set to be published by the Threshhold Editions imprint in March. Yiannopoulos, you may recall, banged his racist, sexist, white supremacist drum on Twitter, rallying other hatemongers in bullying Leslie after the release of “Ghostbusters.” He was eventually banned from Twitter but clearly banked on all that attention.

The opening of this piece is about Leslie Jones and not the Simon & Schuster book deal because there is a growing amorphous mass of people thriving on hate, who love being banned and who get excited when they are boycotted. Why do we give them so much attention?! The more we loathe them, the bigger they get (uuhhmmmm, president). It seems that just like Sauron in “The Lord of the Rings,” these trash-fires are growing stronger the more people speak of them. I don’t want to contribute to that. Instead, I want to focus this article on why Leslie Jones is so incredibly, deeply, genuinely special and not on Milo what’s his name and his book, which I won’t read. I’m not saying I disagree with people calling out the publisher or boycotting them, just that I want to invest my enthusiasm on the support side. 

People who break the mold, especially when they are women who break the mold, and in particular when they are women of color who break the mold, are being targeted. Artists who defy society’s prescribed roles in order to share their gifts and insight with us are paving the way for more people to be able to have their own voice. They are shining their light while shouldering all the ugliness that rains down and I believe we owe it to them to make sure the focus remains on their greatness.

Go watch Leslie Jones in person and you will see what a real star looks like. She is someone who is adding to this world, not making money off tearing other people down. I want to hear more about Leslie Jones. I want to read her book. Buy tickets to her live shows. I already own “Ghostbusters” and saw it in theaters opening weekend. I’m putting my money where my mouth is and my energy where my hopes are. Pay attention to the comic, not the heckler.

“Arrival” and the Gravity of Women in Sci-Fi

-Gravity, get it. (There are a lot of those coming so strap in.)

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This is not a review of “Arrival,” although I will say I loved the film and think it’s a must-see for any sci-fi fans or for any people who like things that are good in general. If you like crappy movies, maybe don’t see this one. Or maybe you have seen it? (Get back to me after watching the movie and you’ll think that line is a gem…Possibly.)

There are so many significant themes within “Arrival” that we could discuss at length. (Or more aptly, discuss for eternity - see there, I did it again, I’ll show myself out.) The seemingly so timely world on the brink, needing to learn to communicate and get along. The subject of time itself, very “Slaughterhouse Five”-esque. But what I would like to explore is Amy Adams’ character, Dr. Louise Banks, and how roles for women in sci-fi have always been great models for equality.

Amy Adams character is human, and I don’t mean as in not an alien, I mean as in a full person. She has struggles; she has goals that are not all relating to a man finding her attractive or someone telling her that she has worth (as opposed to finding it within herself). She is good at her job and very hard working (and that’s not considered a bad quality). She is intelligent and does not apologize for it. She has a skill set and doesn’t arrive on the scene with a perfect hairstyle and cleavage hiked to her chin. (Not that I don’t appreciate a nice set as much as the next person but I grow weary when female scientists are portrayed as if they just came from the club. When did you get time for a blowout and for the lab?!) I feel her sadness and the weight of her choices. I see our humanity in the depth of the character.

When I was growing up I more often than not identified with male characters in movies (in comedies, thrillers, romance). I wanted to be someone who drove the plot forward, who had action driven goals (as opposed to reaction driven - waiting for someone to pick them for something), who had the incredible privilege of being allowed to be flawed, maybe even slightly unlikable in certain ways. Perhaps even funny. Men in films had the luxury and responsibility of making decisions for themselves and decisions are the mark of an individual.

Then I discovered women in science fiction. Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in “Alien.” Angela Bassett as Mace in “Strange Days.” Linda Hamilton as Sarah Conner in “Terminator 2.” Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck in “Battlestar Galactica.” (Just to name a few of my personal favorites.) All unapologetic for being strong. All not consumed with being polite and making sure everyone’s feelings aren’t hurt. All layered characters with action driven motivations. None of them waiting for someone to take off their glasses and ask them to a dance. They are valued for their skill set, not just for having a good set.

Women’s roles in sci-fi continue to delight my feminist heart. Charlize Theron as Vickers in “Prometheus” is practically horrible (and I don’t mean acting wise, I mean she’s a bad person). She is unredeemable. What a gift, to get to be unlikable. True equality. In sci-fi, women get to be rough around the edges. And I like rough around the edges.

I think other genres are starting to catch up, comedy in particular. But in sci-fi it’s not odd to see men and women carrying equal weight. We see female presidents, fighter pilots, communications officers on board the “Enterprise.” We are part of teams. We push limits and take risks. And most importantly, we make decisions, right or wrong. Besides Adams incredible betrayal of Louise, this role is marked by Louise’s tough choices, personal and those involving the fate of the world. She doesn’t let things just happen to her, she shoulders the consequences and makes the calls. Sci-fi has always offered up options of possible future scenarios. In its female roles, like Dr. Louise Banks, I believe it offers up what we know we have inside us already, but reflects it back for younger generations to see and look up to.