Superman II 2.8: Orange You Glad

Okay, orange juice.

I mean, if you need a scene where Clark and Lois chatter for a minute so that the audience understands their relationship — and yes, this is the correct moment for a scene like that — then they have to chatter about something, and it might as well be orange juice.

It’s 1981, and the current fads in the United States include the Scarsdale Diet, the Beverly Hills Diet and the Grapefruit Diet, so given the need to generate some low-friction conversation filler, it’s natural that David and Leslie Newman would choose Vitamin C as the fashionable topic under discussion. There were other options, of course — Rubik’s Cube, Pac-Man, the Mount St. Helens eruption — but making Lois obsessed with fad diets helps to signal her acceptance of traditional gender roles, which I guess is what they wanted.

No, the really surprising thing about this sequence is the way that Lois has apparently set the land speed record for messing up her shitty little office.

I mean, it was only one movie ago that Lois had a desk right outside Perry’s office, with all the other reporters. Now she’s got a depressing little box to sit in all by herself, and she’s clearly spent every waking moment since the San Andreas Fault disaster filling up this joyless space with filing cabinets and roller skates and houseplants and a television and some shells and a squash racket and two telephones and a whole bunch of papers and clippings and miscellaneous tacked up on every surface. There’s so much junk in here that she probably had to hire a couple of interns, so that they could come in and make a mess while she was out working on a story, assuming she ever gets one these days.

Because I have to say, this does not look like the go-getter reporter that we saw in the first movie. When Lois was introduced in Superman, the first thing she did was ask Jimmy how many Ts there were in bloodletting. Then she ripped the paper out of her typewriter and barged straight into Perry’s office, with a banner headline for the front page.

That Lois Lane was right in the center of things; the rest of the newsroom only existed to provide a busy backdrop for her dreams and schemes. She could thread her way through a blizzard of desks and staplers and copy boys, simultaneously dropping off her mail, saying good night to six people and explaining her entire life philosophy to a starstruck superhero, before changing her clothes and taking a helicopter to go talk to the fucking President of the United States, who I expect was utterly terrified, if he had any idea that Lois Lane was on her way.

This version of Lois wears an outfit that’s tight around the neck and wrists, which reduces her maneuverability to a depressing degree, and somehow she’s got herself a Gucci shopping bag full of oranges, which I didn’t even know that there were Gucci oranges.

She also spends more than half the scene with a clearly unlit cigarette in her mouth, so she’s mumbling her lines, which are mostly delivered while she’s hunched over and looking down at her desk.

So I guess what I’m saying is that it seems like Margot Kidder isn’t having any fun today. Chris is having a whale of a time, because he gets funny straight-man lines like this:

Lois:  Do you mind if I give you a little bit of constructive criticism?

Clark:  Uh, well, actually, yes, I —

Lois:  You’ve got to be more aggressive. You know? You have to go from instinct. You see something, you want it, you go for it! That’s what I do.

Clark:  Uh, yes, I’ve noticed.

It’s good stuff, as far as he’s concerned, and he gets a bunch of twinkly little moments where he gets to look lovestruck and hopeful, and then have his hopes dashed. Clark is still adorable, even in this setting, because his character is about holding things back and making himself smaller anyway. But Lois is like a caged leopard, on the verge of giving up hope.

The reason why they’ve created this space is because they need somewhere for the end of the film, where Lois can talk about their relationship and cry, and then Clark can kiss her, which obviously they wouldn’t be able to do in the middle of the newsroom.

Thinking about it from that perspective, I can see how they arrived at this idea — the same way that I understand why they used the Eiffel Tower in the opening, and why they made a fake Daily Planet entrance when they needed to shoot an exterior street scene and didn’t want to go all the way back to New York for it. I can understand the logical rationale for a lot of these choices. I just don’t like them.

But here’s my concern, looking at Lois Lane sitting next to a crappy filing cabinet as the energy drains from her eyes: I am only twenty minutes into this movie, and this is my third post out of five where I talk about how disappointing it is.

I wasn’t really planning on going full-time negative this soon; I figured that phase of my life wouldn’t start until I got to Swamp Thing. I’ve got a long string of mostly flawed films ahead of me — it is a brutal journey from here until Batman, and I don’t even like Batman that much — so I should probably save some of that energy, for when I really need it.

So I feel like my current goal is to figure out how to live with this movie. I want to get to the point where Superman II is endemic, where I can accept that a diminished Lois Lane is the new normal. That’s not going to be easy, of course, but I think it’s the only way.

Tomorrow:
We hear the Villains theme again in
2.9: From Original Material


Footnote:

I also need to take a moment to address the guy who’s shaving at work. As Lois and Clark are walking to her office, we pass a Daily Planet employee who’s standing up, reading the newspaper and using an electric razor to shave himself.

That’s just a little throwaway detail, no big deal — but the odd thing is that the same thing happens two scenes later. When we see the NASA control room, one of the guys is walking around in his shirtsleeves, also shaving himself in public at work. I think this only happens twice in the movie, but I haven’t gone through specifically to check for it, so it’s possible that there’s a guy walking around in the Niagara Falls scene with an electric razor too. I’m just letting you know that that’s a possibility, so that you can take whatever steps you feel are appropriate.

Tomorrow:
We hear the Villains theme again in
2.9: From Original Material

Chapters
Movie list

— Danny Horn

17 thoughts on “Superman II 2.8: Orange You Glad

  1. I think this only happens twice in the movie, but I haven’t gone through specifically to check for that, so it’s possible that there’s a guy walking around in the Niagara Falls scene with an electric razor too. I’m just letting you know that that’s a possibility, so that you can take whatever steps you feel are appropriate.

    Should I be shaving with my electric razor while reading this? 😉

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Do I sense a SHED Tik-Tok challenge coming on (shave with an electric razor while doing some random mundane activity, i.e. shave while making a sandwich, shave while ordering flowers online, etc.)?

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Why can’t they have the “doomed love” convo literally ANYWHERE else? Lois’s apartment, a fire escape at the DP, an alley where they can reminisce about that mugger? I know, I know, convenience.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I feel like an old man here because I want to say MY Lois Lane doesn’t smoke. Not to begin with and especially not after the x-ray cancer scan in the first film.

        Of course, MY Lois Lane can also spell….

        Liked by 3 people

  3. I remember that shots of guys shaving with an electric razor while at work or even in the car were fairly commonplace on 1970s TV, especially on cop shows. Possibly it was a form of paid product placement.

    I’m just judging by the screencaps but it looks like Margot Kidder lost some weight between the two films? She looks rather gaunt in that close-up near the end of the post. Maybe it’s just the camera angle.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Shaving in the p.m. thing….

      The cultural undertone I think is that testosterone levels and beard growth are linked. So a man who had to shave twice a day to stay fashionable was more interesting than one who did not. There’s also a little bit going on about swarthiness being associated with bad boys and criminals. Lastly, There was also this sub context of a man shaving as a man who is doing something very masculine and rather intimate. To to see it done so carelessly and in public conveyed a little bit of a social shock/thrill. I suppose that last part depended on how you were raised and what gender you were. The closest thing today I can think of today is when they show shots of someone sitting on a toilet. (For the sake of this discussion I’m excluding barbershops. That’s a different social situation which didn’t factor into my viewing life when I was a tween and teen girl in the 70s.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wiki says Remington introduced the first electric shaver with rechargeable batteries in 1960, but I don’t think they were that common yet into the late 70’s. I think it was partly a status thing (those who die with the most toys win), and partly performative productivity (look at me, I’m so busy I don’t have time to shave before I come into the office), There’s an “Electric Shaver Museum” page with links (https://pedewei.home.xs4all.nl/index.htm) that might offer more info on cost and market penetration in the late 70’s with some digging.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I totally forgot this scene. Even with Danny’s great description, I hardly remember it now.

    I guess the office is supposed to show she got a promotion. The clutter looks realistic to me. Who’d have suspected then, that the TV is now the most dated looking thing there? But yeah, Whirlwind Writer belongs in the center of the action, not shoved to the backroom. Not in a little cubbyhole of isolation.

    The whole conversation here could have been in the newsroom, where people come in from such a long commute that they don’t have time to shave at home. Got to leave home early, given how often cabs get their hoods smashed in and block traffic these days.

    For the ending conversation, they could have had some excuse that a little maintenance project in Perry’s office required that the windows be blocked off. To make it Lester silly, maybe the clueless painters painted from the walls, right over Perry’s interior windows to the newsroom. Ba-dum tssh!! Then they could have been in there for a moment while Perry was gone, for Lois to cry and Clark to kiss away her remembering why she was crying.

    The health food lecture from a smoker is a funny idea. Would have been funnier with a lit cigarette, a drag that makes her cough, a magic x-ray peek into her lungs, a sly bit of super-breath to put it out. Was that in the part of the movie I forgot?

    Man, there is so much wrong with this film, if we’re all tossing out half a dozen obvious suggestions on better storytelling than what fifty million Salkind Snacks could buy in ’78.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve got to say it again because it is so blatant and obvious when I look at these stills you’ve chosen but whoever did the makeup and hair—and the wardrobe!—for Margot Kidder in the Lester bits of the film did her dirty. She looks like she’s aged about ten years, they’ve dressed her like a frau, and the whole thing is almost mean-spirited. Margot Kidder had a rough life, but in her youth she was absolutely adorable and I don’t get why they chose this look. It’s jarring. I know that I am going on about her, and I’ll stop after this, but she really was a good hearted woman—she was the nanny for my step kids when they were very small, growing up along the Hudson River. No stories to tell other than that I liked her.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. My theory about electric shavers is, you don’t see them any more because of the attitude towards work. In the 80s you could skip shaving at home so as to get to work on time. Today you don’t see that because, when you’re at work, you’re supposed to be working dammit! Shave on your own time!

    Like

  7. I thought maybe part of Lois having an office was because there were walls. Having walls means not having a bunch of people in the background stuff potentially ruining takes. You can quickly do a different shot without having to pay all the extras and stuff. If you’re in a hurry ditch the extras – it hurts the movie, but if you’re working on budget sometimes you have to give even where it hurts.

    Liked by 1 person

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