In Defense of Lois Lane

Originally published at Nerds Unchained.

We have all heard it before – “She’s an investigative reporter but she can’t see through a pair of glasses”. I can see why people think this way – it is very paradoxical. A pair of glasses isn’t exactly the perfect disguise. So who could be fooled by that?

I call bullshit on that because that’s simply not true. Lois Lane can figure out that Clark Kent is Superman and more than that, she has. On multiple occasions. All the way back in 1942’s Superman #17, Lois Lane makes the connection between Clark Kent and Superman – in fact, the entire issue is dedicated to Clark Kent/Superman trying to quell Lois’s suspicions. This would set up a recurring plotline and status quo that lasts well into the 1970’s. Even in Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane, tricking Clark into admitting that he is Superman is one of the most common plot elements explored in the series. Lois Lane was not blind to her co-worker’s physical similarities to Superman – in fact, as the intrepid reporter that she is, she wouldn’t stop trying to expose him. Lois even figures out Superman’s identity on her own in Superman II but her memory gets erased. People forget this in the same way Lois “forgets” who Superman is. That is what people remember when they think of this version of Lois Lane – they don’t remember the fact that she figures out his identity, they remember that she didn’t know anything by the end of the film.

Lois Lane’s history as a fictional character spans over 75 years. There are dozens of different interpretations of the character that range across comics, television, film and radio. Some of them are made aware of Clark Kent’s secret early on; others are slower to figure it out; and some never figure it out at all. The question is which interpretation are we talking about when we call Lois Lane an unintelligent journalist? The one from the original Jerry Siegel scribed comics? The one from the Richard Donner films? The one from the Smallville television show? Or the one from Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel? Because three out of four of those versions of the character learn about Clark’s secret without him ever revealing himself to her as Superman. But even then, that is still three out of four times, that’s one version of the character that hasn’t figured out Superman’s secret identity. The point of discussing this issue isn’t to show you that Lois Lane solves the mystery of Clark Kent one-hundred-percent of the time; it is to you show you that she can and that she has.

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It is just as dangerous and unfair to think of Lois Lane in such a binary way; this is not a tick yes for “Always” or “Never” test. There are so many different versions of this wonderful character that it simply does not do her justice to ignore her complexities. There is no need to be scared to say that Lois Lane doesn’t always get it right. Maybe she manages to do it some of the times, or half of the times, or most of the times. But always? Or never? No, I think I’d be lying if I said that.

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In order for people to engage with characters like Lois Lane on a deeper level, they need to stop lumping all the versions of a 75-year-old character together and labeling her an “unintelligent journalist”. Lois Lane has layers upon layers of complexity. She was originally introduced as a female journalist in a male-dominated profession that did not take the words of a woman seriously enough, but she also has insecurities and feels love, joy, grief and sadness. She didn’t have to kick butt all the time to be the best that she could be. She can cry, and laugh, and scream, and pout, and mope, and that’s okay! In fact, it’s great! Above all, Lois Lane is real and that’s what makes her so special.

The fact of the matter is – characters are not static. They cannot be easily defined and categorized based on a few surface-deep characteristics. They are complex. They change and develop and sometimes become different people entirely – the same way that people in real life do.

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