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The Jimmy Effect

May 9, 2012

My name is James, but only a handful of people have ever called me that, mainly because my parents just always called me Jimmy.  In fact, the entire first half of my life, I was only ever introduced as Jimmy. At some point in high school, some friends started shortening my name to Jim, but I’ve still really always preferred Jimmy. There’s something about the sound of that version of my name that simply appeals best to my ears. That being said, there is almost no one left in my life who still calls me Jimmy. These days, I’m just Jim, mainly because that’s the way I introduce myself. Even when people ask, “Do you prefer Jimmy or Jim?” I tell them “Jim.”

Then, about ten years ago, I began thinking about my old Jimmy self.  Why did I let myself become a Jim?  At the time, I think that I thought that Jim just sounded cooler, more grown up.  But, did that mean that Jimmy sounded uncool and childish? As this quandary rambled through my mind over the course of many years, I began to notice and collect a veritable mound of evidence that led to a theory suggesting the answer to that question may very well be, yes.

Now, after years of research, I am ready to present my shocking theory that Hollywood itself has gone out of its way to attempt to bastardize the name Jimmy using a series of character portrayals that spans decades. I realized that my theory needed be positioned in front of someone who was on the inside before I released it to the world, and since I don’t personally know any celebrities, I once called in to Dennis Miller’s radio show to have him toss my theory around in his head, maybe do some digging, but he quickly dismissed my hypothesis saying,

“Aaahh, I think it’s just a trend that carries over from mob movies.  You know where it’s always ‘Jimmy Bones’ or ‘Jimmy the Wiesel.’  I mean, I see where you’re going with this, but I think you’re making too big a thing out of it.  Lighten up, Jimmy boy!”

But, if Dennis had taken a moment to dip even an inch into the rabbit hole with me, he would have immediately realized how deep this sucker goes, because there are almost no characters named Jimmy, in movies or TV, that aren’t stereotyped into one of two single dimension personality traits: complete arrogance or absolute simplicity.

Of course I understand that on the surface, this all comes across as far-fetched to suggest that an industry that owes such a debt of gratitude to so many famous Jimmys over the years, would be simultaneously trying to pull off such a scheme, but the evidence speaks for itself.  What follows are just the top ten of the most damaging Hollywood characters to the name Jimmy (and in consideration of Mr. Miller’s point, I didn’t include any that were mob related).

Karate Kid (’84) – Jimmy was the best friend of the main protagonist, Johnny Lawerence

Quantum Leap Episode 17 (’89) – In “Jimmy,” the named character is mentally retarded. Jimmy and Timmy are two of most popular Hollywood names for portraying this condition.

Road House (’89) – Jimmy was the right hand man for the evil competing bar owner. He blew up Patrick Swayze’s house.

A League of Their Own (’92) – Played by Tom Hanks, Jimmy is likable onscreen, but to the other characters, he’s a complete prick and a drunk.

Seinfeld Episode 105 (’95) – In “The Jimmy,” the named character was so cocky that he referred to himself in the first person.

Independence Day (’96) – Played by Harry Connick Jr., Jimmy was the simple-minded comic relief who “tried somethin’ crazy” and got blown up by the aliens.

That Thing You Do (’96) – The lead of the Beatles-like boy band, Jimmy was the cocky boyfriend that you hoped Liv Tyler would finally dump.

The Spanish Prisoner (’97) – Played by Steve Martin, Jimmy is the early friendship made by the main character. Because his name was Jimmy, the entire plot line was ruined for me since I immediately knew he had to be a bad guy.

Yes, Dear – (’00 – ’06) – Granted, no names win out in a sitcom, but on “Yes, Dear,” Jimmy was the slobbish idiot security guard.

Superman (’40 – current) – Jimmy Olsen, the notoriously child like photographer for the Daily Planet, who in every version is always in the dark.

If you’re like most, your mind is whirling with an example or two that disprove my theory, and I absolutely welcome them with the following clarifications.  This phenomena does not exist in real people named Jimmy, only characters. It also does not apply to characters who are named James or Jim.  In movies, a Jim is a stud.  Jim is a hero.  Hollywood loves a Jim!  In addition, the music industry has a crush on both Jim and Jimmy.

So, who was it?  Who was the Jimmy that offended Hollywood so severely? Or am I over thinking it as Dennis Miller suggested?  Could it just be a complete lack of creativity by all screen writers, that they can’t come up with an original name for their simpleton character or their bad guy?  More importantly, can it be reversed?  I hope so, because I miss Jimmy.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2012 2:34 am

    I’m sure you’re overthinking it because Hollywood doesn’t have any biases. (Words are soaked in sarcasm, if you’re wondering.)

    Perhaps Jimmy Hoffa didn’t help the name, either. If you want to go by Jimmy, I think you should do it. The up side is that if you do something stupid as a ‘Jimmy’, you can blame it on the name – a free pass, if you will.

    As a side note, my grandpa’s name was Johnny and he used that name until the day he died. He never went by ‘John’ which is good, because I don’t think it would have suited him as well.

  2. June 5, 2012 10:30 am

    Good point, Janna. Although, since Jimmy Hoffa was a real guy, I have to take him out of this equation.

    I don’t blame your grandpa. Johnny is an all around great name. In music, he’s always cool, and in movies and TV he’s almost always a buddy. Except in Karate Kid. In that he was kind of a dick.

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