“A journalist who claims “I get writers’ block if I’m not wearing a flack jacket,” and who, on the location of an Army excavation in the Arctic tells Col. Nathan Hardy (Christopher Meloni) “If we’re done measuring dicks, can you have your people show me what you found?” eyes sparkling when he sticks her in primitive accommodations to test her, Lois is a tremendously refreshing break from pop culture’s present pack of scheming, slutty girl reporters, and part of what makes Man Of Steel perhaps the most unabashedly feminist superhero picture of the current era.”
— Alyssa Rosenberg, from “Man of Steel and the Meaning of the American Way”
So… Sister and I watched Man of Steel last Friday, and if I hear one more person carry on about how great Amy Adams’s Lois Lane was for Women As A Whole, I may just keel over—Alyssa Rosenberg’s article for Think Progress, though, was the last straw.
The lines that so delight Rosenberg actually, in the moment, sitting there in the movie theatre, made me wonder if my eyes could roll back any further in my head. Hearing Adams whip out her cutting rejoinders was, in the words of Genevieve Valentine, like hearing those lines “falling to the ground, like someone dropped an extremely dense muffin on a kitchen floor.”
Thud. There go some hopes and dreams.
Let’s break it down: Man of Steel’s Lois Lane has a Pulitzer and one helluva attitude. She’s not afraid to talk about penises (you go, girl!), she’ll follow her story (read: Superman) from coast to coast, and says Rosenberg, “even when she’s not reporting, she’s not out of the action, playing a key part in the fight to stop Zod.” Pulitzers, stilettos, a piece of the action, and a sexy manfriend? Ladies, we really can have it all!
The very idea that Man of Steel could be called remotely feminist, much less “the most unabashedly feminist superhero picture of the current era” is…
What good is Lois Lane, really? Who sneaks into an Arctic cave armed with nothing but a camera? Where does she get the money to jet all over American tracking a nameless do-gooder? Who drops a threat (“Print it or I walk”) that has no value? Who, seeing the FBI swoop in, runs away in stilettos, and who keeps those stilettos on during a desert showdown with a hostile alien force? Who? Who?
The answer: Sexy Decoration Lois Lane. In Man of Steel, Lois-Lane-as-feminist-icon is a puff of smoke—She doesn’t exist. SDLL, on the other hand, isn’t a feminist, no, but she sure is Empowered, and her gloss of empowerment covers the fact that even with her Pulitzer, her tough-talk, and her “manly” vocabulary, she’s tolerated, not accepted, and that solely because she isn’t actually a threat to the status quo.
She holds no actual power and serves no actual purpose.
Is it evidence you want?
- SDLL challenges Colonel Hardy’s dick, sure (she’s one of the boys!)—BUT, she gets shot in the stomach as soon as she’s done placing product (Hey! Nikon!), leaving Superman to fry her wound with his—dare I say—penetrating glance.
- SDLL threatens to walk out on Perry White and The Daily Planet (so tough!)—BUT White knows her threat’s worth nothing: He calls her bluff and gives her three weeks without pay for attitude. (Thinking maverick reporters of the comic book universe, did Peter Parker ever have such troubles? Parker—a white man—is more famous for repeatedly putting one over his editor. When he finally does get fired, it is a Big Deal for “both the man and the hero.”) (And yes, yes, DC vs. Marvel, etc.)
- SDLL, committed to Protecting Her Source, gets arrested—BUT they don’t even care about any information she may have on Superman. Instead, she’s Andromeda on the rock, luring the supernatural creature in. Her function is bait, not journalist.
- SDLL, taught by the holographic consciousness of Jor-El, is the only one who knows how to operate the phantom drive, critical for Earth’s salvation—BUT don’t get too excited: The end result is merely SDLL desperately fumbling with a space-age USB stick, crying, “It’s supposed to go in all the way” (Amy Adams, I am SO SORRY), because she has, apparently, never used a battery and doesn’t understand electrical polarity. (Good thing an old white man is there to handle All That Mechanical Stuff.)
Sexy Decoration Lois Lane talks big, but it’s all smoke and mirrors, a bit of flash and bang, a cover-up. Look, ladies, you canbe sexy and strong, and yeah, work those stilettos, baby. You can have a Pulitzer in the invisible backstory, but when it comes to saving the world in the here and now, better just step back and let the boys handle the heavy stuff, and instead of running the phantom drive—the sole plot-based reason for keeping you around—just cry, “It’s supposed to go in all the way,” then get sucked out the back of an airplane, primed for rescue by Superman, a ready-made manfriend complete with magical penis imbued with all the glory of Old Krypton. (And really, Jesus loves, but he doesn’t make out—What does she see in Superman?)
You want to talk to me about feminist superhero movies? You ask what happened to Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman. You ask why he had to fight to keep Black Widow in The Avengers. Better yet, you ask why women aren’t writing these movies, and where the non-white women are. You ask what happened to Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman and Birds of Prey. You ask what happened to the many incarnations of Catwoman and to Aeon Flux and Elizabeth Ross and Storm and Jean Grey. You ask why Anne Hathaway and Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone get asked about their style and their diets, while their male co-stars get asked about their careers. (This is, of course, by no means an exhaustive list.) You ask what superhero movies have done to these characters since, say, the year 2000, just for kicks, and you ask why that’s considered okay. Then, tell me, again, why Man of Steel’s Lois Lane means we can all just pack up and go home.
And you better have a better explanation than her use of the word “dick.”