' ' Cinema Romantico: Why Amy Adams Is My Favorite Lois Lane

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why Amy Adams Is My Favorite Lois Lane

Here’s what never made sense to me about Lois Lane – how could she not tell that Clark Kent was really Superman? Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting this because Clark Kent’s feeble disguise of black horn-rimmed glasses can be seen through from a vast distance with even my legendarily poor eyesight nor because Clark always conspicuously vanished from the premises at the time of Superman’s many heroic arrivals. That’s pointless plot hole-ism, and that is not what I’m discussing nor an ism in which I have any interest. No, I’m well aware that such trickery is allowable and, thus, believable in the universe housing Superman. What troubles me is Lois Lane’s role as the single character in the same universe whose defined traits should allow her to uncover this ruse immediately, and that is why the Amy Adams version of the Daily Planet’s award-winning reporter in “Man of Steel” is by far my favorite.

The look of Lois Lane may have been modeled on Joanne Carter, but her essence was based on both the real and imagined – Torchy Blane, the fictional reporter in a string of B-films from the 1930’s, and the real-life Nellie Bly. Bly, of course, was, in some manner of speaking, the O.V.C., Original Veronica Corningstone. She entered a man’s profession in a man’s world and owned it.

Torchy Blane hopped aboard the Bly Bandwagon and added spunky dialogue and cinematic derring-do to the equation. Consider "Torchy Blane Goes To Panama", wherein (ahem) Lola Lane’s version of Torchy heads down Panama way to ferret out the story of a bank robbery. None of the boys in none of the walks of life want to let her play, and she ain’t havin’ it. “You’re wrong, boys,” she snaps, “here’s the open sesame that swings wide all portals, my press pass.”

Lois Lane, version AA, wields that press pass like the neat scotch she drinks down in one shot (swoon…..). But even if she didn’t have the press pass, even if Perry White called her on the carpet and she was forced her to turn it in, she’d still find a way to make her non-existent deadline. After all, in "Man of Steel" she is not content to merely cool her heels in Metropolis, waiting for the superhuman flyboy to barnstorm into town so she can write about him. Ha! Here, Lois has won her rightful Pulitzer before the opening credits commence, suggesting - strike that! - proving that she doesn't need no Superman to make her journalistic career. And even with that medal hanging on the wall above the mantle, she hoofs it up to the Arctic to investigate a mystery craft buried in the snow and ice and discovers Superman on her schedule, no one else's.

Granted, she finds him by following him and getting injured all so Superman can swoop in to the Meet Cute Rescue, a discouraging script tactic that sorta harkens back to the time Torchy Blane was trying her damnedest to eclipse. You know what they say? One step up, forty-three steps back.

Max Edwards, writing for Artsclash, opines "What we are looking at in the systematic destruction of agency that 'Man of Steel' proposes is a new kind of sexism in movies. On the face of it, female empowerment in Superhero movies has never been higher. But look beneath the surface and you will see the same tired tropes battered about: the girlfriend must be conventionally attractive (Scarlet Johannsen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amy Adams), must submit to the wisdom of men, the hero will inevitably save her from a classic damsel in distress moment. And she will continue to wear heels in spaceships, because that’s what’s right and proper for a woman to do."

Alyssa Rosenberg, writing at Think Progress, would disagree, remarking that "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. This is a movie where women remain fully clothed, they scream when rational, and at every step of the way, they have important roles to play in the events at hand, whether as heroines or villainesses like Zod’s deliciously tough henchwoman Faora (Antje Traue).

The truth, I would submit, lays in no-man's-land, and I would submit that the essence of the truth can be found in "Lost's" Kate Austen. You recall Evangeline Lilly's Kate, the castaway on a mystical remote south Pacific island that diehard fans of the show were consistently criticizing for getting in the way. Say that a small gang was dispatched to one end of the island to investigate a mysterious disturbance, Kate would announce her intention to go along at which the all-male group would announce she was not allowed to go along at which point they would leave and she would simply skulk along behind them and only reveal herself at a critical moment in which her specific presence caused everything to go wrong.

The subtext might seem clear - women be trippin'. Except that Kate, as initially established, a crafty convict with reasonable convictions for having wound up in handcuffs, was fairly empowered. Until the off-camera storytellers chose to reduce that power by saddling her with the ancient Love Triangle trope, as if she could only be defined by which man she chose (or which man chose her). Thus, any time Kate was left out of the loop, she fought back by worming her way in, only to be inevitably scolded by the story. Viewers blamed Kate, ignoring Kate's defiance to the asinine script contrivances to which she was continually subjected.

Idiot men have been speaking on behalf of women at the movies for far too long, and yet those women never cease to fight back. Remember Scarlett O'Hara? She couldn't dance with Rhett because she was in mourning. "She won't consider it" said the mustachioed douche in charge. "Oh yes, I will," said Scarlett. Of course, Scarlett had Margaret Mitchell writing for her. Kate had Damon Lindelof. And Lois has David S. Goyer.

Lois is established as capable of handling herself, but the script decides she needs to be placed in peril to be bailed out. Lois is tough enough to assume a trendy space helmet to willingly walk into harm's way aboard a spaceship, but the script decides she needs a helpful Russell Crowe apparition to hatch her escape. Lois is rough enough to go up in a military plane to bomb the bad guys to send them hurtling through a black hole, but the script decides need to be hurled out of the plane so Superman can swoop in to save her. In other words, the script can't commit to the very character it has already created.

Which is why when Lois's editor won't run with her Alien Comes To Earth story, she leaks the story to a nefarious blogger (is there any other kind?). Why? "Because," she says, "I want my mystery man to know I know the truth." You go, girl, and also know that we know the truth. We know the truth that in the next movie you're going to send that gangly new reporter named Clark-something to fetch you coffee and donuts.

This is a Lois Lane world, it's just the guys with the rich dads that got them jobs don't know it.


Derek Armstrong said...

Excellently argued. Except Margot Kidder will always be Lois Lane, and Terry Stamp will always be Zod.

Nick Prigge said...

Yeah, I suppose I not being a comic book or Superman fan kind of puts me out of my element here. Like, I imagine this post reads to someone for whom "Superman: The Movie" is truly special, like me reading someone's argument for why someone else would be a better Cora Munro than Madeleine Stowe.

Arjun Kapoor said...

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