Chromatic Campaign, anyone?: The Case For Rashida Jones To Play Lois Lane

By Arturo R. García

Not long after Sunday’s announcement that Henry Cavill will play Superman next year, the natural follow-up question started going around:  Who should play Lois Lane?

Check the pic above. Question answered.

Casting Jones, currently appearing on NBC’s Parks & Recreation, and coming off a turn in The Social Network, would instantly rectify one of the biggest issues with Superman Returns: Kate Bosworth just could not – or was not directed to by Bryan Singer – believably bring out Lois’ strengths.

And I’m happy to find I’m not alone on this one: DC Women Kicking Ass, one of the more popular DC fan-centric tumblr sites, also supports the idea, likening Jones to Margot Kidder, the best-remembered (if not the outright best) actress to play the character. And the comparison isn’t far off: both women isn’t far off: both actresses can blend humor, intelligence and the kind of capable presence that can stand up alongside any would-be Man of Steel.

The idea of a Lois Lane of color has been explored in other mediums, to varying effect. Last year, the Dallas Theater Center’s revival of It’s A Bird … It’s A Plane … It’s Superman, a Supes-centric musical from 1966, featured a black actress, Zakiya Young, in the role. The show itself was received reasonably well by local critics, but Young’s casting hit a specific nerve for Anne Moore at Parabasis, who wrote:

Not only is Lois the romantic lead, but she’s the object of desire for both male leads, both of whom are white. Furthermore, the main revision of the play was to place the (now-interracial) relationship between Lois and Clark at the heart of the story. The awesomeness of the Lois Lane casting decision was clearest to me at two moments in the play: when the Lex Luthor character (inexplicably named Max Mencken) sings her a song called “The Woman for the Man,” where he lists all the reasons Lois would make a perfect partner for a rich and powerful man like himself—she’s smart and beautiful, everyone wants her. And then there’s the final clinch between Superman and Lois, as they’re flying above the city.

I’m using the word “awesome” pretty seriously here to describe the effect of these moments on me as a viewer. Think for a moment, right now, about the last time you saw a mainstream black/white romantic narrative where the racial difference between the romantic leads wasn’t a source of drama or tragedy between the main characters. Now think of the last time you saw a mainstream narrative where a black woman was the intellectual hotshot that the rich and powerful white guys wanted, for her brains and her hot body. Where the oversexed Jezebel was the white lady.

You can’t think of one either?

In 1970, DC Comics introduced a non-white Lois Lane … in a way. A now-infamous issue of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, “I Am Curious (BLACK)!”, had Lois taking drastic measures to get the “inside” story of the Little Africa neighborhood in Metropolis.

After being rebuffed in her initial interview requests, and being called “Whitey” by a local activist, Lois convinces Superman to turn her black using SCIENCE!, thus becoming an Undercover Sister. She subsequently befriends the activist, saving his life thru a blood donation when he’s shot defending her from some local thugs. The story received renewed exposure last year, when Cracked Magazine named Black Lois one of the 5 Most Unintentionally Offensive Comic Book Characters. As David Johnson observed:

This comic clearly meant well. It was obvious that the creators wanted to teach a message of acceptance, and the idea of “we’re not so different, you and I,” is certainly intact, but it’s the poor, ignored black people in the story who learn the lesson. Lois shows up as this well-intentioned white woman and gets ignored, turns into a black chick and gets invited to parties. She never acknowledges that showing up as a privileged white woman who finds black culture “neat” might be ignorant. She doesn’t remark, “Hey, I guess my snooty, insensitive questions were in hindsight, rude,” she just concludes that black people hate white people for no reason. That isn’t sending a message of tolerance; it’s saying “black people are racist.” Also that Superman really needs to use his ultimate power on more worthwhile causes.

Well, there’s no Kal-El here to back it up, but not only does casting Jones as Lois feels right, the idea suddenly seems tenable, in the wake of the Donald Glover-for-Spider-Man campaign of months ago. We can call it, say, #rashidaforlois on Twitter. Because if you can have a British Superman, what makes a bi-racial Lois so unkosher by comparison?