During an interview to promote her upcoming movie X-Men: Apocalypse, Olivia Munn stated that she was offered the role of Vanessa Carlysle in the X-Men spin-off Deadpool, but turned it down because she didn’t just want to be the “girlfriend”. She instead chose to play the ninja assassin Psylocke in Bryan Singer’s mutant swan song on the premise that the character would be more than just eye candy. As fanboys are prone to do, they went nuclear meltdown stupid over her comments. This fact didn’t surprise me. But what did, was the negative reaction I’ve seen from several fangirls. One would think that a woman choosing a part that she felt was more empowering over one she felt was going to be relegated to being the love interest would be a rallying point for female geeks. But instead she’s being attacked for it.
A good portion of the flack has been directed at Munn’s perceived lack of knowledge of who Vanessa will become in the Deadpool franchise. We comic book fans have got to remember that the actors playing the roles aren’t necessarily fans of the character they’re being offered. We may hold these characters near and dear to our hearts, but that’s not always the case with actors. For some of them it’s just a job. Sure you have Ryan Reynolds who loves Deadpool and fought very hard to see him brought to life on the silver screen. And while I’m not sure how big of fans they are of the characters they’re playing, Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr have taken their roles as Captain America and Iron Man very seriously and use them to do a lot of very cool, charitable things. But to some it’s just a chance to flex a little acting muscle or play a part they find interesting, and yes, get paid well to do so.
Some have stooped to calling her intelligence into question for choosing to be in a franchise that for all intents and purposes seems to be on the way out (though of course I know they’ll never stop making X-Men movies) instead of being in the blockbuster debut of the Merc with the Mouth. First off, there was no way she could have known how well Deadpool was going to do at the box office. No one could have. I guarantee that Ryan Reynolds himself didn’t think it would be as successful as it ended up being. Second, actors turn down roles that ended up being huge all the time. This is not exclusive to Olivia Munn. And third, by her turning down the part, we got Morena Baccarin playing Vanessa, and she did an incredible job. So if Munn does as well with Psylocke (and I truly believe she will), then we the audience are the winners.
As a big fan of the X-Men as a whole, and Psylocke specifically, I’m very happy with her decision. Had she not made it a point to make sure that Psylocke was presented as a lethal warrior, it would have been very easy for that character to end up just being a sexpot. While yes, sexuality is a major part of her personality, it is far from her defining characteristic. It’s 2016; why can’t we be happy that an actress is choosing to play the role of a women that is completely confident and powerful in both her sexuality and her ability?
Admittedly, I love Olivia Munn. I’ve been a fan of her since Attack of the Show. She seems very fun, genuine, and likable in every interview in which I’ve ever seen her. She’s an attractive woman that is super into geek culture, and who’s public profile is rising…something fanboys should be embracing, not tearing down.