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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Emasculation of Supergirl’s James Olsen

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:

James Olson.

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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. To be honest, the real problem with James Olsen (as some posters on L Chat pointed out) is that he's really a nonentity and the things he does is interchangeable with others. It's like he never had a distinctive voice or role to begin with.

    And if you're complaining about his emasculation, try reading Jojo's Bizarre Adventures on Mangafox.

    1. I can't disagree with you Ad. James Olsen is pretty much interchangeable. The fact that they took him and stuck him in Cat Grant's role shows how useless he is. I just wish they'd just send him back to Metropolis with Superman. But instead he'll be a bumbling idiot as The Guardian.

  3. I don't know if what you say about Supergirl being a good adaption is true, I feel it's more like a tasteless parody based on what I've seen.

  4. The one thing that bothered me a great deal about the Berlantiverse so far, as I have only seen Flash one season behind, is how much of an ineffectual father they made Joe West out to be. It just didn't feel good to me to see the whole deal with him and Wally. I know it is fiction, but I certainly feel there were better ways to portray Joe with Iris and Wally. Maybe it is because I am a father talking.

    As for Jimmy Olsen, I just don't think they get the character in general. They pretty much spat on him with Dawn of Justice. I would honestly ask someone to check out the concept of Superman's pal to get an idea of how Jimmy should be done.

    1. And I meant how Jimmy should be personality wise.

    2. Ben, about Joe West, yeah it was forced how he didn't know about Wally, but given that he didn't get to meet Wally until he was an adult, well it's just going to be awkward, and not exactly the same as if you were around your kids since they were born.

      As for Jimmy, Fiifi Anaman is a character very close to how Jimmy Olsen should be. Supergirl just used him poorly, and that is that, in addition to how they essentially took a shit on Jimmy Olsen in Batman v. Superman. It has always felt to me that ever since the 21st Century, the top brass at DC Comics has had no clue how Superman should be. Dan Didio has even admitted that much, they mostly let the current writers, or in the case of rebirth, the 90s writer Dan Jurgens handle things, without much oversight on the matter from the editor, Eddie Berganza.

  5. Then you should check out Fiifi Anaman, he's closer to what Jimmy's supposed to be in the comics and gives a far better idea of what a black Jimmy Olsen would be like.

  6. I've pretty much stopped watching the show because of the emasculation of James Olsen. It's so bad that as a black man I can't take it. I feel that the writers have chopped the character off at the waist, and he’s nothing more than half a man. I hope the show fails.