Lois Lane’s secret in Man of Steel
I was all mad at this movie, with its on-the-nose dialogue, repetitive exposition and female characters with zero agency. Roll-up-the-sleeves mad. Children of Men mad. Mad.
Then I realized Lois Lane’s secret, and now I’m OK with it.
Spoilers ahead. You know how I be.
Lois is an alien dispatched by the Guardians of the Universe to supervise Superman.
Hear me out.
- A) She has hyper senses and seems impervious to harm. Like Superman, she navigates in the pitch dark like it’s no problem. Like Supes, she shows no discomfort in -40F weather and a padded jacket. Like Supes, she strolls around an ice cliff like it’s no trouble. She demonstrates Prometheus-level lack of self-preservation when confronted by a snakebot. Sure, it hurts her, but it has hurt Supes, too. If anything, the fact she survived an attack potent enough to hurt Supes proves she’s superhuman. I submit that she tolerates Supes “I’m gonna cauterize the wound with my laser eyes without even taking off your sweater” line of logic because she knows he can’t do her harm. Her Saw-movie screaming is but an act.
- B) She has super speed. Twice Supes dashes off to have a high-flying punch-battle, landing at some random spot in Metropolis (once downtown, and once in a mass transit station; and each time Lois manages to jog up to him within minutes. It would be funny if it weren’t revealing: she has used her hyper senses and super speed to join him.
- C)She provides only information, never action. Not only does she permit her rescue to be engineered entirely by Supes and Jor-El’s Consciousness DongleTM (no risk to her as she is invulnerable; but also in a baffling climactic moment she attempts to use the Consciousness DongleTM again, fails, says “this is supposed to work” and immediately gives up and wanders off. There is no reason for her to do this except to permit the agency of an earthling. That earthling turns out to be Richard Schiff, who sorts out the dongle issue on his first try, with no foreshadowing whatsoever, proving how simple the task would have been for Lois had her Prime Directive not compelled her to step aside.
- D) Supes knows it. This is why he and Lois kiss without any previous chemistry. It just feels natural.
As further proof, after the kiss she offers him some Lou Reed: “They say it’s all downhill after the first kiss.”
Why does Lois say such a strange thing? Possibly because Reed’s “Modern Dance” would resonate with any superhuman: “I need a guru, I need some law/Explain to me the things we saw.” She has found in this song a connection to the human world — its romance and bewilderment — and positions herself as the bridge Supes can use to connect as well.
Supes, lacking her subtlety, answers, “I think that’s only true when kissing humans.” As pointed out by long-distance co-heckler Donna, this comment would be quite insulting to Lois if she were human! But by saying it to a fellow alien, he reveals in his dunderheaded way that he understands she’s not human at all.
- E) Lois has the ideal job for a super-powered alien, as Supes eventually discovers. Naturally, the thought process that leads Supes to become a reporter is the one Lois has already had. It’s a natural choice for Lois the watcher, which brings us to…
WatchersGuardians are well-established in the DC universe. Certainly the Guardians of the Universe would not limit themselves to the Lantern Corps. Certainly Oa would indulge the odd on-location observer, and certainly not every female they enlist gets stuffed in the Star Sapphires. Lois’s GotU training is why she i) Follows Jor-El’s orders without question, ii) refuses to obstruct earth’s collective will and iii) takes no action, as Supes seems to have all the life-threatening stuff in hand, however recklessly he goes about it.
With all that understood, I am no longer provoked to purple rage by Lois’s passivity and incompetence. She serves a greater mission than this pale blue dot can grasp.
So I will set aside the many other inept, helpless female characters in this movie and pursue the many other questions at hand.
- 1. Why do the characters speak dialogue par with “to my point of view, the Jedi are evil”?
A sample exchange:
Lois: I’m a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist!
Perry: Then act like one.
Lois: Print it or I walk.
Perry: You can’t. You’re under contract.
Why would Lois make a threat she can’t possibly back up? Lois would look really dumb and/or forgetful if we hadn’t already established she acts this way on purpose.
- 2. How many Valium did Lara-El take before putting baby Kal in the shuttle? Because I’ve shown more emotion gate-checking a guitar.
- 3. Could Jor-El not have passed on a Lara-El Consciousness DongleTM, too? What kind of monster is Jor to listen with a straight face as Lara grieves about never seeing their baby again? I guess the same one that dons a suit of armor while his wife wears a bathrobe.
Also — a civilization capable of Consciousness DongleTMs should take better care of their data. Off-site backups, people.
- 4. Why does Supes seek advice from a priest? Is he Catholic? Because that would be super interesting. And why does the priest’s advice have NOTHING to do with God? I guess it’s harder to breeze into a therapist’s office for free “what does your gut tell you” guidance.
- 5. Could we have spent a little more time with the “Supes is painfully overstimulated by the world” angle? It’s incredibly interesting and important to the story later, but it’s introduced and resolved in one scene that could be called “Ma Kent cures autism.”
- 6. How can there be an element that’s not on the periodic table? More likely the Smallville jeweler Pa Kent visited blew smoke up his butt. You gotta make your fun in a small town.
- 7. Could Pa Kent have given Supes some advice — ANY advice — on how to deal with bullying? Kevin Costner is this movie’s empathy-generating device, but even he has nary to say about “use your words” or “express your anger” or “win friends and influence people.” This is a recipe for a Hulk, not a Supes. No wonder Oa sent Lois!
- 8. Why do the baddies need to rough up Ma Kent? You don’t need to get someone to do the John-Steinbeck’s-The-Pearl sidelong glance to guess the giant space shuttle is stored in the FRIGGIN’ BARN.
- 9. Is it really Pulitzer-Prize-level investigation to follow a trail of twisted steel and surfacing school buses? Maybe this film is an indictment of American journalism.
- 10.How do you muscle a bus out of open water from below? That would take some Super kicking.
- 11. How do the Clarks manage to forget their dog during a tornado in the first place? This scene actually worked pretty well so I don’t want to poop on it too much. Maybe the dog was Ma Kent’s responsibility. Stupid Ma Kent and her inability to get to overpasses.
- Why doesn’t General Zod try diplomacy? Zod’s black-and-white broken gif kidnapper video is a pretty poor ice-breaker. Baddies should think they’re goodies. Sophisticated baddies should not make speeches that “morality” makes goodies inferior. But that happens, too.
- 12. Why do the Kryptonians need Superman whole to remake the Krypton space-babies? They took a blood sample when Supes was on their ship. Is that not enough cells? But I don’t really know how DNA of billions of creatures integrated into one’s cells is supposed to work.
- 13. What is the point of the “Jenny” character except to give Lawrence Fishburne someone to save? TWICE. If you need a character this freakin’ helpless, please use a child or a dog, though Air Bud would have demonstrated more agency than Jenny does.
- 14. What the heck was supposed to be happening with the gravitron/black-hole-generator/mass increaser weapon? Seriously, I have no idea.
I also didn’t follow how the Phantom Zone was supposed to work, when it was a death sentence and then nullified and then a death sentence and then nullified again. But I enjoyed the flight of the frozen space peens.
- 15. After all the flying face-punching, shouldn’t killing Zod require a little more effort? Seriously. I thought it was going to take decaptitation-by-laser-eyes for sure. But no.
- 16. On a scale of 1 to 10, how problematic is it when Supes tells someone he’s above suspicion there’s nothing more American than being “from Kansas”? Is it more or less problematic that the person he tells this to is black? Would Supes be less “American” if he were Hussein-El? WHERE MY MELTING POT AT?
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