NOTE: Goth Blogs will be back on Friday! I had to stop for a moment to deal with this situation on the CW’s Supergirl.
I’ve been enjoying every episode of this Season of Supergirl. The action is tight, the characterizations have been PERFECT, and we’re seeing more and more of the DC Universe come to life onscreen. Every episode is literally like a DC Comic come to life. With the exception of one aspect:
I find it interesting when Black producers make shows like Luke we get balanced humanized images of Black men onscreen. However, when we get White guys like Greg Berlanti creating images of Black men on Supergirl like James Olsen we get an emasculated WIMP with no backbone.
Originally, the plan for the character was for him to evolve in the same way Dick Grayson did when he made the transition from Robin to Nightwing. We were supposed to see Superman’s Pal grow from an awkward sidekick into a confident young man ready to take charge of his life. The move to National City was supposed to be him stepping from behind Superman’s cape and becoming his own man.
When James Olsen he first was introduced he had a significant role on the show and a commanding presence. He was supposed to be Kara’s love interest. Unfortunately, many viewers weren’t as open minded as the producers thought. The whole idea of an interracial relationship between The Girl of Steel and Superman’s Black Pal turned a lot of comic fans and TV viewers off. Ratings went down from 19 million for the first episode to half that for the November sweeps during its run on CBS. The whole idea of a Black man being the ex-girlfriend of a White Lucy Lane and then bedding down a White Supergirl left a sour taste in many TV Viewers and comic fans’ mouths.
Clearly there’s a double standadrd regarding interracial relationships in the Berlantiverse Barry Allen could Swirl with Black Iris West and no one complains. But James Olsen…He can’t get with Supergirls or Lucy Lanes without viewers having a hissy fit.
As the ratings began their decline on Supergirl Berlanti’s producers began to retool the show. And when they retooled the show they began to strip Black James Olsen of his manhood. His role began getting smaller on the show as white guys like Win and Cat’s son began taking over the role of tech guy and love interest. By the time the season finale rolled around he was in the background. And once Season 2 started it looked like he was going to be taking pictures of it when Kara decided it was time to explore her dating options with other White guys like Mon-El. I thought James would be joining Clark in Metropolis with his balls intact, but Berlanti decided to let Mr. Olsen suffer through further emasculation for the rest of the season.
Damn. Just Damn.
When Cat Grant decided to take a leave of absence from CATCO she put James in charge. A highly illogical decision considering that James didn’t have much publishing experience or editiorial experience, but when you have an actor under contract…You gotta use them. So now he’s in charge of CATCO. And in his first day at work, he gets emasculated by Snapper Carr (Morgan Edge) who takes over his office when it’s time to cover the story of an assassination attempt on the president.
What happened on Supergirl was what happens on many White owned TV shows and movies. They give a Black man a powerful position, then he gets undermined and outsmarted by lower level White co-workers. It’s a passive-aggressive way of expressing contempt for Black masculinity and Black manhood. Sending him the message that he has a position, but not the power. And they can get rid of him any time they choose.
What’s sad about this incident is that James didn’t even understand how he was even being disrespected in Monday’s episode. He just sat there passively and let Snapper (Morgan Edge) take the lead of his office. In a real life situation James would have lost the respect of his entire office. After watching him get punked by a superior, no one would respect his authority from that point. He’d be a JOKE for the rest of his tenure.
I’d have rather seen Black James Olsen head back to Metropolis with Clark rather than go through any further degradation and humiliation. Sending him home with Clark would have been better for the James Olson character and led to a better dynamic for the show. He could have popped in once and a while and J’onn could have taken a larger role and explored race as a Black man and a Martian. Unfortunately, there are plans to make him the new Guardian and lead to further embarrassment for the character.
Damn. Just Damn. Just take one look at that costume and you just have to shake your head. James Olsen is a bigger laughingstock of the Berlantiverse than Mr. Terrific on Arrow who has been turned from a confident Black man in the comics into a bumbling stumbling idiot. But that’s another blog.
The way I see it James is going to be just as powerless and emasculated as The Guardian he is in his role as editor in chief at CATCO. It’s a shame that this once promising character has been ruined because some intolerant viewers didn’t want to see an interracial relationship between a Black man and a White woman. If this is what CW considers equality I’d rather see this Black character excluded from Supergirl rather than included.