There was a bit of an Internet kerfuffle over the fact that the brunette Lois Lane will be played by the redhead Amy Adams in The Man of Steel. Well, brace yourselves, another kerfuffle is coming because it appears that the redhead Jimmy Olsen will not only be a brunette, but also…a woman! Batten down the hatches, prepare for the Internet outrage.
The whole ball got rolling this morning when Digital Spy noticed something in the cast listing on the IMDB page for the film. While the film features notable minor characters from the comic book Superman mythos such as Pete Ross, Kenny Braverman, and Steve Lombard, there was no Jimmy Olsen. There was, however,buried deep in the cast list, a Jenny Olsen, played by a brown-eyed, brunette actress named Rebecca Buller (that’s her to the left).
To say that Jimmy Olsen is a popular part of the Superman mythos would be an understatement. He is one of Superman’s longest-running supporting characters (officially debuting in 1941), and was popular enough to not only get his own series, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, but also to have it run for 163 issue over almost 20 years. So, the idea of a Superman film without Jimmy Olsen would be almost unheard of. So, this Jenny Olsen HAS to be the female version of Jimmy right?
The website uses the trailer to further sell the idea that Jenny has been switched in for Jimmy. There is a scene in the trailer, screencapped for you at the right, where Perry White is fleeing a destroyed Daily Planet. As you can see, he is holding on to a female employee who looks remarkably like Buller. Is that an I.D. lanyard around her neck…or is it a strap for a camera? And who else would Perry take such an interest in making sure that they are safe than Jimmy…er…Jenny Olsen?
Of course, this is all conjecture based on a single IMDB listing, and IMDB isn’t exactly the most accurate website around. Numerous news sites have tried to reach Warner Brothers for a comment, but as of yet they have not spoke on the matter. But until they do, fans will proclaim their outrage on message boards and comment pages around the Internet.
Many casual fans of Superman might ask, “What’s the big deal? Why should this bother them so much?” And, speaking as a rather involved Superman fan, the film presentation of Jimmy/Jenny Olsen shouldn’t bother us too much. What makes the comic book incarnation of Jimmy Olsen so great, and this will be a gross simplification of the character’s 72 -year history, is that he gets himself into trouble that only Superman can get him out of. That quality will never translate over into a 2-hour Superman film where Jimmy is only a supporting character. This characterization at best will only be briefly touched upon, as we saw in Richard Donner’s first Superman film. Add to that the fact that Jenny Olsen is so far down on the IMDB cast list that she is likely to be an extremely minor character to begin with, so even if she was still Jimmy, it wouldn’t be close to the comic book Jimmy anyway.
However, while every cinematic appearance of Jimmy Olsen ends up being a essentially just a nod to the character’s comic book origins, it was at least a nod. This is at least the fourth break from comic book continuity that The Man of Steel has shown us, and the one that seems most arbitrary and hardest to explain away.
Yes, the redhead Amy Adams is playing the typically brunette Lois Lane and the African-American Laurence Fishburne is playing the typically Caucasian Perry White, but both are great actors with sterling resumes–complete with award nominations–and will bring a lot to the part (but, seriously, Amy, you couldn’t pick up a bottle of Lady Clairol for just this film?). The same really can’t be said for Buller, whose only other credit on her remarkably sparse IMDB page is one episode of The Playboy Club.
And while Pa Kent’s recommendation to Clark that he should have left the school bus full of kids die is extremely out of character, the quote very well could have been taken out of context or simply been Pa thinking aloud. There’s no mistaking the break from the original characterization that is Jenny Olsen. Making the character a female changes whatever dynamic existed between the character and Superman. Instead of the goofy little brother, you have a little sister. Think about how your relationship with your male friends differs from your female friends and you’ll get the idea. Granted, as I mentioned above, the character might not be in the film long enough where this dynamic comes into play, but if it does, it will not be the dynamic comic book fans expect or want to see.
And the change is completely arbitrary. If you wanted a goofy female character to work at the Daily Planet, you could have named her Jenny Coulson, Jenny Dogin, or Jenny Hogan. It would work just as well for the filmmakers and Jimmy Olsen fans would be a lot less ticked off.
Yes, this on the surface seems like much ado about nothing. But in the larger sense it is indicative of the problems Warner Brothers has adapting its DC Comics properties to the big screen. The Marvel films all have changes from the original source material, but no change is arbitrary, no change completely contradicts what makes the original text so popular, and more often than not the changes are an improvement. Changing Jimmy Olsen to a woman just for the sake of making the character a woman is an example that Warner Brothers really doesn’t have the same respect and understanding about its comic book properties that Marvel does. And until they can overcome this mental block in this area, they are never going to have the success that Marvel has.