Man, don’t turn your back on Superman during date night is the lesson of the day. After their champagne dinner at the Fortress of Not As Much Solitude As Usual, Lois excuses herself to change into something more comfortable, and I can’t imagine what that means, since she’s never been here before and they didn’t arrive with luggage.
But while she’s out of the room, Superman takes the opportunity to call his mom and tell her that he’s quitting his job, which is probably something that he and Lois should have discussed first.
“If this is what you wish,” Lara tells him, based on a procedurally-generated AI conversation from the distant past, “if you intend to live your life with a mortal — you must live as a mortal. You must become one of them.”
So I’ve got a question that I’m not sure they’ve considered: How come?
I mean, there isn’t a single word of explanation for this pronouncement. Lara just says it, and then directs him toward the mortalizing booth.
“This crystal chamber,” she says, pulling a crystal chamber out of precisely nowhere, “has harnessed the rays of the red sun of Krypton. Once exposed to these rays, all your great powers on Earth will disappear forever. But consider: once it is done, there is no return. You will become an ordinary man. You will feel like an ordinary man. You can be hurt like an ordinary man.”
There’s probably other stuff that he can do like an ordinary man too, but she doesn’t need to go through the whole checklist. He’s in love with Lois, and that means he can’t be Superman anymore, according to a rule that I am not familiar with.
Because obviously he can do both; he’s done it lots of times. In the newspaper strip, Superman married Lois all the way back in 1949, and they stayed that way for two and a half years, at which point they decided it was all a dream.
There was also a “Mr. & Mrs. Superman” feature that first appeared in the Superman comic in 1978, depicting an alternate reality where Lois knew that Clark was Superman, and she actually helped him with super-tasks as well as covering up his secret identity. The feature moved over to the Superman Family title, and ran on and off until 1982.
Then, in the regular comics continuity, Superman and Lois got married in 1996, and when DC walked back their unpopular “New 52” universe reboot in 2015, one of the things that they had to fix was to make sure that Superman and Lois were still married. And then there’s the television shows Lois and Clark and Superman & Lois, which are both based on the premise that a Superman/Lois union is not only possible, it’s inevitable.
So obviously there’s nothing inherent in the structure of a Superman story that makes it impossible for Superman to fight crime and also go on dates with ladies sometimes. So what’s going on?
It’s clearly not about the schedule. You could imagine that the problem might be that spending time with Lois would take time away from his superhero activity, but clearly that’s not an issue, because he spends lots of time out of uniform.
If the problem was that he needs to focus on being a champion of truth and justice, then he shouldn’t have a secret identity at all. Being Clark Kent is literally a full-time job, in the sense that Clark actually has a full-time job, and Superman needs to be there the whole time. By definition, being Superman is a side hustle for Clark, a hobby that he pursues in his off-hours.
In fact, being a top reporter at a major metropolitan newspaper is a particularly absorbing job; it’s not a predictable nine-to-five experience. I’m sure that real journalists find it difficult to maintain a healthy work/life balance; imagine being a secret alien king of the sky on top of that.
Besides, we saw in the first movie that Clark goes on nighttime dates with Lois. Her knowing that he’s Superman would actually be more efficient, because he wouldn’t have to waste time finding excuses to go do Superman stuff when he’s with her.
The typical cliche explanation for why a hero needs a secret identity is that if anybody knew that Clark was Superman, then it would put his loved ones at risk; his enemies would know that they could attack him by hurting his girlfriend.
But that doesn’t really work as an explanation either, because Lois already has such an elevated risk profile that supervillains would hardly register. This is a woman who falls out of helicopters and into crevasses even when it has nothing to do with Superman, not to mention her habit of attaching herself to major tourist attractions during a bomb scare.
Also, everybody already knows that Superman is close to Lois, and the Daily Planet staff. That’s why the Kryptonian villains go to the Planet office to find him. So that can’t be the reason either.
If there isn’t a practical reason why Superman can’t date Lois, then I have to conclude that the reason is cultural, or religious. The fact that Lara can say that Superman “must” live as a mortal, without any evidence or explanation to back that up, suggests that there’s some kind of Kryptonian moral code that forbids mixing with outsiders. She’s essentially “banishing” Superman from Kryptonian society, for choosing to marry an Earth woman.
The fact that Kryptonian society doesn’t exist anymore means that this cultural attitude is even more self-destructive than it usually is, when people abandon and denounce their children for marrying outside their race/religion/culture. Kicking your only son out of the house for being romantically transgressive is difficult when the house already exploded thirty years ago and half a galaxy away, but somehow Lara manages it.
In fact, if you look at it from that point of view — Lara and Kryptonian society are explicitly choosing to punish Superman for choosing to marry someone that they don’t approve of — then her moist-eyed warning to be sure of what he’s doing seems gross and gaslighty. She’s framing that as a choice that Superman is making, when it’s actually a choice that she’s making, to kick him out on the street just for being attracted to human girls.
Okay, do you want an even more depressing interpretation? Cause here it is: I actually think that this is about masculinity. Superman is the ultimate embodiment of individual masculine-coded power: he’s strong, and fast, and he can’t be hurt. He doesn’t have powers that are culturally coded as feminine, like the ability to talk, or heal people, or empathize with other people’s problems; his skill set is more in the area of punching people in the face.
So dating Lois is a problem, because it threatens to dilute that masculine power with icky girl stuff. As she said in the previous scene, Lois would give the Fortress “a woman’s touch”, and that touch would destroy this bachelor pad man-cave, domesticating the warrior. This is what all the comic book writers and editors were afraid of, in that 1977 “Super-Symposium” that I wrote about a few weeks ago — that the idea of Superman taking out the garbage and caring for a child was simply unthinkable, because that would feminize him.
Ultimately, it’s all about the guy’s nuts; if we allow Superman to ejaculate, it would disperse his animal spirits, making him weaker. Apparently, Superman is supposed to stay away from women and keep himself mentally and physically pure; that’s the only way that he can maintain his massive superpowered erection.
So what we’re about to see is Superman becoming weaker and de-masculinized, just as Lois is getting a craving for “big-sized” hot dogs. They definitely should have talked about this first.
We ask why people think
Superman is more powerful than Lois Lane in
2.33: Who You Callin’ Kleenex?
— Danny Horn