Rethinking Lois Lane

She’s been around since the beginning, as in the very beginning. How many comic book women can brag about that? At the dawn of the creation of superheroes stands Superman, arguably the first superhero to ever be printed in comic books. But unlike other superheroes, his love interest also appears by his side in the original Action Comics #1, and her name is Lois Lane. Over the 75 years of Superman’s existence, Lois has been a constant in the Man of Steel folklore, though often being depicted in a negative light. The danger prone, snooping, no nonsense woman who is constantly getting herself in trouble is always needing rescue from Superman, and to top it off she’s mostly remembered for being in love with the caped Kryptonian, but acting rude and condescending toward Clark Kent. All in all, not a very good way to be viewed. But what if we’ve been looking at her in the wrong way? Have we been taking a failed approach to this famous female? First off, let’s just take a look at her life after she falls in love with Clark (because we all know how it was before that). For those of you who did not read the story in the comics, yes, Lois Lane actually did fall in love with Clark first, and became engaged to him, before he took off the glasses. Although our minds are forever ingrained with that tacky Honeymoon suite where Lois finds out then falls in love with Clark in the Superman II film from 1980, in the comics it really happened the other way around . . . minus the tacky Honeymoon suite.

Clark tells Lois the truth.
Clark tells Lois the truth.

It makes a difference. If Lois is to be married to a man who acts like Clark but is secretly Superman, she’s going to have to live with the double lifestyle. To those around her, especially her co-workers at the Daily Planet, she’ll be married to nice but meek and weak Clark Kent. You can bet there were a lot of questions at the office when that engagement was announced: “How can tough girl Lois marry wimpy Clark?” “You know who’s wearing the pants in that relationship?” “Why would a Pulitzer prize winning reporter settle for a guy like Kent?” But she did, even before she found out he’s a cape wearer. Apparently, what the other reporters might say doesn’t bother her; she loves Clark for who he is.

But Clark isn’t who he is. The question of who really is the Last Son of Krypton–either Clark Kent or Superman–is a debate for another time. For this, however, let’s just focus on the fact that Clark is not just Clark, but also Superman. The bumbling, clumsy, giant at the Daily Planet that everyone likes but always forgets about, is also the guy that they all get sore necks over just so they can see him flying around saving people. Imagine how much more respect Clark would get if they all knew the truth. They’d all be looking at him differently, and possibly Lois to . . .

So Lois finds out he’s Superman. Of course it’s a big shock. Forget the fact that her fiancée is an alien, but also that he’s Superman?  And only a pair of glasses obscured her from seeing it? (Oh, the sarcasm about the glasses, again another discussion for another time.) Try going back to work now. It was one thing that those jerk co-workers were making fun of her man when he was timid and defenseless, but now that she knows the truth, I bet those words sting a little more. Knowing Lois she probably wants to shout at them, “Hey, shut up! He’s Superman and you need to show some respect!” Imagine being in her high heels. Here the guy you’re in love with, that you’ve been defending time after time at the Planet, is actually one of the greatest heroes ever, and no one can know. He can totally take care of himself, yet he let’s people talk down to and humiliate him, all to keep his secret identity. Now that you’re engaged to him, you’re going to be in the line of fire as well, from both Superman’s enemies and Clark Kent’s bullies. That wouldn’t be pleasant for anyone.

The engaged couple finally get some time alone.
The engaged couple finally get some time alone.

Alright so Lois is on the in now; Clark is Superman, they love each other, they’re getting married, everything is going well. Then Lois discovers another snag to being with  Clark/Superman: he’s gone. A lot.  And she never knows if he’s going to come back. That can be pretty stressful. Yet this other aspect of Lois is what get’s on the nerves of comic book fans and feminists, especially comic book feminists: she’s “that woman”. Sure, she has a job, but it’s Clark’s that’s more important (but really it is), she’s the one having to not only work, but also take care of the home, cook the meals, wash his cape. . . all while he’s away helping Wonder Woman and other scantily clad female heroes save the world. Without her. Including all this is that never ending fear of, “Will he come back?” “What will I do without him?” “What can I do? I can’t do anything” makes her seem clingy and needy of Superman. This just adds more flame to the feminist fire that has always been burning against Lois. Disdain toward Lois has written her off as a weak character who is always playing the damsel in distress role, and whose attempt at being brave makes her appear idiotic and clueless.

Fine. She’s can’t save the world. She doesn’t have superpowers (for the most part of her history). She’s not Wonder Woman. But in all honesty, it’s not fair to compare anyone with Wonder Woman. Just as it’s probably not fair to compare Lois to Superman.

Now let’s jump into our world. In our society today, we’ve started to honor acts of bravery that, in the past, really have never been considered as such. Bullying has been present since the beginning of time, but only in our modern world has the bullying escalated and become dangerous thanks in part to technology. So when the persecuted stand up to their attackers they’re hailed as heroes. Another is that of military families, and those who are related to servicemen and women, those who’s significant others protect us at the risk of their own lives. It hasn’t been until recently that the spotlight has gone from only focusing on those serving to also include their families. They’re honored for their sacrifice, because it can’t be easy having your loved one gone all the time, along with the fear of them never coming home. . .

Which, kind of sounds familiar.

It takes a lot to say you’ll love someone and be faithful to them when they’re gone a lot. And it’s even harder when their job is put above yourself. When a police officer is called from home to help out in a situation, and they leave to go give their fellow officers aid, they’re putting their family second in a sense, because they realize it’s their job to save people. It’s a difficult thing to accept for both the rescuers and the family they leave behind, yet they still do it. For their loved ones to stand beside them and encourage them in doing this, it shows true strength.

Lois Lane, when she decided to love this Kryptonian, took on the same role. She gets precious little time with Clark, but once there’s trouble and the suit is brought out, she has to show strength and let him go. Without the guarantee of his return.

There are no superheroes in our world. Men aren’t bulletproof. They can’t fly at the speed of sound (without a plane). They can’t outrun a bullet. But we have heroes. Those who do what they can to protect us, either by going out to face the threat, or sending someone they love to.

A hero welcoming home her hero.
A hero welcoming home her hero.

Lois Lane is the equivalent of the latter, many of them women. Lois is the policeman’s wife who must wait for her husband to come home, hopefully in one piece, or the girlfriend who’s being faithful to her Marine boyfriend fighting overseas, only seeing him on video chat occasionally, and in person even less. She’s the strong woman that her man can lean on, can look to, and who has no doubt she can stand on her own. She’s a tribute to those women who have the strength to face that fight every day with their loved ones gone, and still have the courage to live on; true heroes.

Maybe we’ve been looking at Lois Lane wrong this whole time. Maybe she’s more of a hero than we give her credit for.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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"But for me, the decision to live an ordinary life is no longer an option." -Spider-Man
Edited by Misagh, Jordan.

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36 Comments

  1. They should give her a comic to develop her character.

    • Leah Smith

      They actually have in the past called “Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane” which ran from ’58-’74. It started out focusing on their romance, but eventually led into her investigating issues of the time.

  2. Ashford
    0

    Some claim Lois Lane is an icon. And we know an icon has a life of his or her own. Lane is far from that if we are honest. For my part I have yet to see her develop on her own. She is know as Superman’s Girlfriend.

    • Leah Smith

      There should be a more in depth look, however if you step back and look at what she has to deal with and what she does with her life, she can be viewed as an admirable character. I bet there’s a lot of pressure being Superman’s girlfriend, even if only members of the League know who she is.

  3. I love the real world comparison that you made in this article! Unfortunately, I don’t think the latest movie version do her character justice.

    • Leah Smith

      Thank you! Glad you liked it. I do wish they had done more with her, however I like the fact that she knows him before he dons the cape, and that they focused on her strength in not turning in Clark. She wanted him to trust her, and she proved that he can.

  4. ezell p
    0

    They did release “Superman: Lois Lane” for not long ago but it was pretty bad, hate to say it. The only good book Marguerite, the author, wrote so far is the Batgirl Zero Year tie in.

    • Leah Smith

      I haven’t read that yet, I’ll have to look it up. Thank you for that suggestion!

  5. Nice articule. Good read.

  6. Lois deserves to be seen as more than just a damsel in distress. I think that it says much about her character and her confidence in her own abilities that she can know Clark’s superhero identity and not let it diminish her own accomplishments. She doesn’t have to be one or the other; she can be independent and a successful reporter yet also be Clark’s support system. She can be both.

  7. Great article. I’m curious about how much choice Lois had in the situation, as I’m not an avid reader of Superman. Lois’s bravery in this situation may depend upon when he revealed his true identity. Does it make her any less brave if she married Clark, then found out he was Superman?

    • Leah Smith

      In the comics he revealed his identity when they’re engaged. And it depends how you define bravery. I think both ways would be equally brave. In my opinion, the fact that she stays with him despite everything makes her brave. Especially considering that right after he told her who he was, he dies and she has to go through the whole “Death of Superman” saga which is very messy. And thank you for the compliment!

  8. This is a great article. The only problem I had with Lois Lane in both the comics and the media adaptations is that as smart as she is, she couldn’t figure out who Superman really was until Clark Kent told her. Am I the only one who is bothered by that?!

    • Leah Smith

      That will forever be the ongoing joke of the Superman story. If you go back in his history, actually, he originally had a power to explain why no one could tell he was Superman. One of his original abilities was to shape shift his face to look like someone else, but later on they got rid of it. Unfortunately, they didn’t alter his secret identity with it. That’s why his body language is so important, which is why Christopher Reeve did a fantastic job of depicting both Clark and Superman. HIs Clark was brilliant.
      And thanks for the kind words!

  9. Evelyne
    0

    I love Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman so so so so much. Yeah, sometimes it can be silly, but otherwise I love how much focus there is on the characters and instead of spending the majority of the episodes showing off superman’s super skills, it’s always there mixed in with the fun, the banter, the drama, the character interaction. The chemistry between Dean and Teri is undeniable and as someone who has never liked the depiction of Lois in the movies or Smallville, I love her here. And I love Dean’s portrayal of Clark. I understand that those who are comic books fans feel differently but as someone who has watched more superman movies and tv series’ I love that Clark is who he is, but unlike Clark in Smallville, we don’t often hear him saying ‘I just want to be normal’. Okay, this went off topic…but in short; I adore this this show, Lois and Clark and any fans of Lois should watch it!!

    • Leah Smith

      I’ve not finished watching that series, so I’ll have to get on top of it. I actually am a Smallville fan and loved Erica Durance’s Lois Lane. That’s what’s great about having two very different shows about Superman, because we can look at different ways he and the other characters might think and feel, and how they react to situations. The comics only give us so much, so to have these different movies and TV shows gives us the chance to ask, “What if Superman is actually like this?”
      Thank you for adding to this discussion!

  10. Ashlee Kern
    0

    Lucy Lane is one of those generic characters noone truly knows what to do with. All she’s really good for is getting into bad situations Lois or Superman have to rescue her from, and breaking Jimmy’s heart.

  11. This is certainly an interesting thought to work with. It would be neat to expand this to the other female counterparts of male superheroes, then compare that to if there are the same things going on in the opposite way.

    • Leah Smith

      It would be. Something that I’ve thought about is Hollywood’s hesitancy in making a super heroine film, although considering the past attempts I can see why. I think they need to try again, though. Thank you for reading this!

  12. I really liked the point you made. While I doubt the original Lois was meant to be a heroic supporter of her man, certainly the more modern incarnations of the character could be seen that way. It’s interesting to me that you leave out any mention of the most recent adaptation of Lois, strictly since several factors you mention (when she falls in love with him, whether she falls for Clark or Kal-El first, her overall role in the Superman story) were featured in the film.

    • Leah Smith

      I didn’t really reference any other media version of Lois, only focusing on the comics. Since they’re the source material, I thought it would be best to do that. It would be interesting though to compare the current film adaptation of Lois Lane to those before her in all forms TV, film, comics, etc.

  13. In my opinion, Lois Lane will always be a relevant character. Her personality is hi-fem, yet she is a strong and powerful woman. No wonder she is superman’s girl…

    • Leah Smith

      Yes, she seems to be one of the few women on the planet who can take care of all the craziness that comes with being Superman’s girl.

  14. Jamie Tracy

    Interesting comparison to the real world women of soldiers, firefighters and police officers.

    I’d suggest that Mary Jane may be more of a comparison to these real world counterparts. They have raised the issues of an absent partner, Peter’s ramifications of risking his families life by being Spidey.

    I fear that Lois may just become “Wife of Superman” rather than Lois Lane, No-Nonsense Reporter.

    • Leah Smith

      Very good point about Mary Jane. I think what’s interesting, concerning these two characters is their connections with their superhero husbands, and how they deal with the threats they’ll face. And the points that you made that they discuss with Spidey-absent partner, ramifications-any partner of a superhero will face that, and they each deserve credit, but I wanted to focus on Lois for now because of the negative light she’s usually put in.

  15. Jemarc Axinto

    While I’m not entirely familiar with Lois Lane there are two primary things I know.

    1. A man named Rudy Francisco wrote a poem titled “Lois Lane” which explores Superman getting his strength to fight on because of his love for Lois Lane (which is brilliant)

    2. While “Man of Steel” isn’t a great movie, I enjoyed what they did with her character on an entirely face-value. Not her looks, but just that there’s so much room for character growth and development in future films. The most slack I can grant is that the movie is about Clark Kent’s development into Superman, but I definitely think an exploration of her role as a powerful woman with a “Super” man would be amazing. Rather than make her a driving plot device sealed with a passionate kiss a midst carnage (Avengers did it better) have her slap him in the face and cause pain on such a deep, emotional level, that he loses his drive. Metaphorically or literally.

    I do like that your post gives credit to “woman at home” as an actual role. Lord knows that mainstream media – such as Family Guy – can have a tendency to poke fun of the role of the “housewife” so-to-speak. The acknowledgement that a woman is powerful in her own decisions and choices is always wonderful.

    Bravo.

    • Leah Smith

      Thank you so much for your kind words! And I’ve never heard of that poem, but I can’t wait to read it. I love the points you made, also. Thanks for sharing!

  16. There ARE worse damsels in distress out there. Take Mary Jane for example. This is coming from someone who didn’t grow up reading comics, but I’ve never really had a problem with Lois Lane.

    • Leah Smith

      Although I’m not as big a fan of Mary Jane as I am of Lois, I think that Mary Jane does deserve some credit as well. All of the superheroes’ significant others deserve some.

  17. Melissa
    0

    Love the real-world connection and your definition of a hero.

  18. I would love to read a comparison of DCs first ladies and Marvel’s first ladies. Do they take different approaches to their leading ladies? Gwen Stacey or MJ vs. Lois Lane? I wish I had more time to read in depth these female characters so I could make a more educated distinction.

  19. Sean Hodges

    I’ll admit, I’m a little late to the party here, but I just had to comment and congratulate you on one of the best defences of Lois Lane I have read in a very long time. I’d totally agree, incidentally, with the idea that Lois is every bit as strong a character as Wonder Woman. After all, strong characters don’t necessarily have to show that strength through physical means, and Lois’ history really speaks for itself. I’d actually go as far as to say that you can’t have a truly great Superman story without her involvement!

  20. I have often associated Lois Lane as a damsel in distress, yes, but what makes her unique from the standard stock, particularly in more contemporary incarnations like in the Superman animated series of the 90′-2000’s, is that she puts herself in danger more often then not.

    Sure, she gets kidnapped from time to time, but for the most part, its because she makes the choice to enter dangerous situations for the sake of a story.
    At most it proves she’s more single minded and driven, and perhaps not a thinker of consequences, which is actually something that both men and women alike can relate to equally as a failing.

    Its even been revealed a time or two in the contemporary television and animated movies that she does it on purpose to be rescued by Superman once in awhile, mainly because Superman never tells her he’ll stop rescuing her, because he can’t, nor does he use their romantic relationship to try to reason with her (actually sit her down and discuss the issue and that it is likely psychologically damaging the poor shmuck to constantly see that she is putting herself in danger partly because he is superman) which enables her behavior because there is no consequence on either the physical (she gets rescued anyway) nor personal (Superman never seriously discusses it with her), so she does it anyway.
    Oh, and the fact that the guy is a walking headline all on his own.

    There is also the fact that being a reporter is a dangerous job, and we don’t fault others who do dangerous jobs, so i don’t fault her motives when they are outside of doing it because Superman will rescue her.

    At least that’s my own take on Lois, good article and points.

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