Leslie Jones of SNL and Ghostbusters fame decided to watch Avengers: Infinity War, and so everyone else decided to watch along with her. Over the course of one of Twitter’s best tales, Jones live-tweeted her viewing of this year’s biggest blockbuster and filmed a few of her reactions on her phone. The result was infectious in its joy and enthusiasm. Jones was clearly invested in the story, just like many fans before her, but what made this special was how Jones captured the sheer essence of fandom: It’s frantic, it’s funny, it’s just obsessive enough, and you can’t help but want to participate in the action. It was so delightful that both Brie Larson and Chris Evans briefly joined in on the fun. By the end of it, even this superhero cynic was ready to declare allegiance to the cause.
I know this look…😐 pic.twitter.com/oSU8SiVuh7— Leslie Jones 🦋 (@Lesdoggg) August 2, 2018
FUCK!! NOT SPIDER MAN!!— Leslie Jones 🦋 (@Lesdoggg) August 2, 2018
Ok I have slept on it the dude from the guardians of the galaxy fucked up everything. For though!— Leslie Jones 🦋 (@Lesdoggg) August 2, 2018
New # who dis?— Brie Larson (@brielarson) August 2, 2018
This brand of unabashed display of enthusiasm is nothing new for Jones. When she attended a runway show for her friend, the designer Christian Siriano, she loudly vocalized her feelings throughout, completely unconcerned with such displays being frowned upon in the stiff upper lip world of fashion. When she attended the Time 100 Gala in the most amazing Grace Jones style outfit, she cheered on Jennifer Lopez’s performance with the kind of gusto one expects from adolescent girls. At the Winter Olympics, her journey from not caring about curling to caring too much about curling was one of the great dramatic arcs of the season.
There’s a kind of purity to her fangirl-style joy that’s usually advised against when it comes to being a celebrity who gets to hang out with other celebrities. As an SNL star, you’d imagine this is the kind of thing Jones would be used to, but that first flush of shock and awe seems to have stayed with her every time. Why bother with faux coolness when your authenticity is much more appreciated?
Jones entered the spotlight at a later age, especially for stand-up comedy, and a lot of people dismissed her right out the gate. She was loud, she took up a lot of space, she made some jokes that many thought crossed too many lines, and among the Harvard Lampoon alumni of dull white dudes in suits that SNL seems to accumulate like they’re Beanie Babies and it’s 1998, Jones stood out in more ways than one. She demanded the attention of the room and then didn’t give two hoots whether you thought she was ‘too much’. Of course she was too much: That was the dang point, and when she was firing on all cylinders, it was marvellous!
What Jones captures with such zeal in her fangirl antics is the cathartic thrill of finding something you love and experiencing it for the first time. We’ve all been there, browsing Netflix for a new binge-watch or looking for a cheap read on Amazon and quickly finding ourselves sucked in by the action. Then you want the next episode or the next book or everything else in the creator’s back-catalogue and soon you find yourself talking about it with everyone you know. It didn’t even matter if everyone around you had gotten there first, knew all the plot twists, and found it old news. Their feelings weren’t top priority in that situation. Sometimes, that burst of glee doesn’t last very long. Often, it burns out quickly as you get bored with the story or you toss it aside angrily once that character you love dies or the story starts to fall into unsavoury tropes. Yet the journey is always better than the destination. Even the pop culture you love more than anything else can never totally compete with your personal emotional rollercoaster.
That’s what makes Jones the kind of fangirl we want to rally behind. She doesn’t give a crap if everyone already knows what happens with Thanos or if that story has already gone through the expected cycle of backlash, analysis, fan theories and Tumblr wars. Her perspective is fresh, it’s untainted by spoilers or marketing, and it’s determined to have a good time. We saw that when she headed out to PyeongChang for the 2018 Winter Olympics. We already had seasoned commentators to tell us of the technical intricacies of a triple axel or the world records in biathlon. That wasn’t Jones’s job. She was there to be the fan representative and American cheerleader. Obviously, she wanted America to win everything, but she was also so giddy at everything she saw and wanted everyone to have a good time. She was like that one teacher who always told you that the most important thing you could do is enjoy yourself, but you knew she’d scream the place down if you actually won. Her lack of knowledge on the sports themselves was partly why her commentary and involvement were so exciting. She was our stand-in in those moments, the person who rolled their eyes at ski jumping then suddenly had very strong opinions on wind resistance and landings within ten minutes.
Most of all, Jones’s joy is so joyous to us all because we know what she’s been through. We remember the abhorrent abuse she underwent on Twitter thanks to right-wing bullies, racist dog-whistles, and a concerted hate movement organized against a damn reboot of Ghostbusters, solely because the cast were women. We saw how she became the primary target, the lone black woman, because it was easy and cruellest to do so. We saw how similar acts of bullying, misogyny, racism and alt-right fury was pitted against other women in the geek pop culture world, from Kelly Marie Tran to Daisy Ridley to basically every woman who’s worked in video games. We saw how many of those women decided to tap out of social media, and with good reason. Jones did for a while as well, but she came back and didn’t dilute an iota of her fangirl enthusiasm. We could have lost that, and it would have been a major blow for a community that dearly needs more positivity, more assertive women, more unashamed excitement in the face of a growing culture war.
So, all hail Leslie Jones. May she forever share her geek love with the masses.