Lois Lane and the Rejection of Victimhood
Even back in 1938, Lois was an aspirational character.
As long as there’s been Superman, there’s been Lois Lane. She is the original superhero supporting character, and right from the start, she comes across as rather super herself, even without any powers. In a world where Superman is the “champion of the oppressed,” helping those who are truly unable to help themselves, Lois Lane is actively resisting oppression as much as humanly possible.
The first time we meet her in Action Comics #1 (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), Clark Kent asks her on a date, and clearly not for the first time. She humors him—and lets him know she’s just humoring him. There’s no pretending whatsoever.
But then on their date, a bully insists on having a dance with Lois, and while Clark plays the part of the weakling, Lois stands up for herself. Then she tells Clark off for being such a wimp.
Of course, people keep trying to victimize Lois. The bully she rejected kidnaps her, and Superman needs to save her. In Superman #1, she gets framed as a spy and nearly executed, and Superman needs to save her. And that cycle keeps repeating. She keeps winding up in situations where Superman needs to save her, but she never quits, never backs down, never considers pursuing a safer professional track.
She retains her inner strength, drive, and courage, always striving to be the best reporter in a male-dominated field, always insisting on retaining her own agency. Even when Superman tells her not to report on him, she tells her editor anyway.
She has every right to complain, but she doesn’t. She just keeps doing the job she feels she must do.
She is a supporting character, though, and she is meant to play off both Superman and Clark Kent. Remember, this was 1938. These comics were intended primarily as entertainment for boys. The way Lois interacts with Superman’s two identities provided a lesson for those young readers: Lois admires the strong, heroic, selfless Superman, but she has contempt for the timid, weak, pushover Clark Kent. A not-so-subtle hint at what to be and what not to be.
Lois doesn’t want Clark to be a victim either. She doesn’t want anyone to be a victim, and that’s a goal she shares with Superman. They can both see their own ideals and their own strength reflected in each other. Lois and Superman really are a perfect match.
So, whereas Superman is physically indomitable, Lois Lane has an indomitable spirit. People try to crush that spirit, but it’s every bit as bulletproof as Superman himself. Nothing can deplete her strength of will.
And that’s a quality anyone can attain, in any era, at any age, without needing to be rocketed from a dying alien planet.
As a companion post to the above, here’s a look at the earliest adventures of Superman:
Also, I wrote an extra post this week, but I didn’t want to send an extra email. So, here are some quick thoughts on The Super Mario Bros. Movie:
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