I know that Leon isn’t exactly Sidney Poitier (“They call me Mister…um, er, well, Leon it is.”), but even he is above the demeaning role of Jimmy in Bats. (Then again, his abhorrent role in Cliffhanger featured him threatening to rape the white “bitch” heroine.) I mean, modern “spook” stereotypes in horror movies tend to at least have some ballsy animosity or self-righteousness about their complete chicken shitted-ness, but Jimmy is a total Huggies candidate, whimpering from start to finish. Practically every one of his lines revolves around how scared he is of the bats or how much he hates caves, even though his job is to find bats in caves…so he’s not only a coward, but he’s stupid, too.
As with the Mantan Moreland and Willie Best-type roles of the ’30s and ’40s, Leon’s job is to react to the danger, to communicate to the audience that what we’re watching is indeed scary (or at least, is supposed to be). To this end, he combines the defeatism of Bill Paxton’s “Game over, man” character in Aliens with the pure wussitude of Rodger from Night of the Demons. Here are just a few select “Jimmy-isms”:
- “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t like anything moving higher up the food chain than me.”
- “I got 911 programmed in on the cell.”
- “So tell me something: What in the hell are we still doing here?”
- “I’m thinkin’ about heading to Antarctica right about now. I checked into this; there’s not one bat up there, ‘cuz they hate the cold.”
- “This is like some kind of nightmare. I mean, I’ll never sleep again!”
- “What? We’re going into the roost? All of us?“
All that’s missing is an occasional “Oh Lawdie!”
At one point, during an autopsy, “real man” Emmett (Lou Diamond Phillips) notices that Jimmy is becoming queasy, so he dismisses him as if he were a Southern belle with the vapors: “Hey Jimmy, I’d imagine nobody’d mind if you wanted to step outside and kept ol’ Doc Swanbeck company.”
Later, when Jimmy has a chance to play the hero and save his co-worker Sheila (Dina Meyer), he does nothing, just watching as a lesser character goes to her aid and is killed. Thus, by avoiding any and all danger, Jimmy actually doesn’t die, but I think that anyone who watches Bats dies inside just a little.