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Welcome all to the first weekly addition of Discourse Dish, where I unpack current sources of controversy in superhero media and fandom. This week: Margot Kidder, famously Lois Lane in the Donner Superman saga, thinks Amy Adams’s Lane is underserved by the writing. Tumblr users respond and the ensuing discourse reveals a disturbing catch-22 regarding Lois Lane.
Margot Kidder played Lois Lane in the 1970s Christopher Reeve Superman films. Her version of the character reflects the feminist and sexual revolution of the period, which is really, really cool.
Of course, the films don’t always age well. Epicstream is quick to point out that “[…]Amy Adams’ Lois at least never had Superman take away her agency with a skeevy brainwashing kiss like the version Margot Kidder played did,” for example. None of this detracts from what the movies meant to women and girls of the era, of course.
Regarding Adams’s Lane, Kidder had this to say:
“They took one of the best American actresses’ around, Amy Adams, and didn’t give her anything to do! I mean, how stupid is that? They made her what used to be the girlfriend, which kind of ended in the 60s with women’s rights.”
My personal response to that comment at the time was ‘You did not see the same movie I did, clearly,’ and I was far from the only person to have that reaction.
One Tumblr user’s response:
“Lois did ::actual:: serious work in this franchise! She beat Batman as a detective! She put the pieces together before either of the men! And she gets zero damn credit for it! And that’s repulsive to me. It’s repulsive that nothing this woman can do in this franchise is enough.”
Another user strongly agreed with Kidder, claiming:
“But I also think Adams’ was underserved, mostly in BVS where they had to do the Damsel-in-distress deal THREE […] TIMES. Like. Chill. Her investigation was used as nothing more than a plot device, though she at least was portrayed as a driven journalist.”
Which lead to a response as such:
“Particularly in the ultimate edition, her investigation is clearly linked to her own guilt and pain over what happened. She’s struggling to know what to do or how to cope and so she does the only thing she knows how to do which is get to work. Her investigation reveals the true framework of how truly evil Luthor is, but, at same time, explores the other side of how the public can be manipulated to turn on someone on a dime.”
This user also describes having received death threats that called both the user and Amy Adams a ‘b*tch’ and a “c*nt.” I can’t overstate how messed up that is.
Kidder also has a history of maligning other takes on the Superman myths, despite having appeared on Smallville.
Overall, the whole dustup seems pretty unnecessary, but it reveals something insidious:
Lois Lane cannot win.
No interpretation of the character is good enough, according to any given group. If she needs Superman to rescue her, ever, it solidifies her as a damsel in distress. When she does serious journalism, people write it off as a “‘plot device.'” Not to mention, Kidder’s Lane has garnered more than its fair share of hatred over the last 30 years, too.
Like many other aspects of the Superman mythos, Lois Lane is used like a canvas, with people’s expectations projected on it, and when the actual image, whatever it is, inevitably doesn’t align with those expectations, people use it as a free pass to hate the character, and do so violently.
People focus so much on who they think Lois should be, they refuse to recognize who she is.
And that is the problem here.
People have given into their gut reactions when critiquing media, instead of actually interrogating a text, even casually. While this does lead to some good, especially given media always exists in a cultural context, it means that people don’t judge films based on the actual film anymore.
They judge it against their own preconceptions about what the film ‘should’ have been, instead. This leads to levels of negativity that make the whole landscape of media discussion a less productive place.
Characters like Lois Lane, and fans like those above, all suffer for it.