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.
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.
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.
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.