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I'm a journalism freshman at MSU, and I hope to eventually publish my own novel one day.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Why Superheroes Don't Need Girlfriends

After watching recent superhero movies, there has been a thought lurking in my mind. I thought it about it while watching Smallville and the Spider-man movies. Yet after I read the summary for Superman Returns, that thought became crystal clear:

Superheroes are better off single.

Seriously, they are! I know that most of them currently are single, but they’re always pining over the love interest they can’t be with. It doesn’t give them comfort; it’s just another source of stress for them to deal with. I realize that this is mainly the writer’s fault. They insist on using the classic superhero’s dilemma: “I can’t be with you because my enemies will use you as a target.” It’s understandable, but it’s been used so many times that it’s been reduced to a tiresome cliché.

And are most of these women really worth the angst that the superheroes go through? No, they aren’t! Yes, they’re beautiful, yet beauty, as they say, is only skin deep. When you look past their facial features, there isn’t a lot that is likeable, at least from what I have seen.

When is the last time we have seen a superhero’s girlfriend that has been supportive to her boyfriend instead of a source of emotional anguish? Was there ever a love interest that wasn’t a damsel in distress whose safety isn’t a constant concern to the hero? Granted, she usually has no idea of the superhero’s secret identity. Still, it’s hard to sympathize with their characters when they act so annoying.

Let’s begin with Smallville, already infamous among Superman purists for messing around with the mythology. Throughout the five seasons of the show, Clark Kent has been pining for Lana Lang, one of the many women in his life whose initials begin with L. Obviously, he cannot tell her about his abilities because 1) she would freak and 2) her parents were killed in the meteor crash that brought him to Earth as a child.

Lana knows that he’s hiding something and isn’t happy about it. Whenever she isn’t lamenting about why everyone “abandons” her, she harps on Clark for keeping secrets from her. She does this in almost every episode, which is why a majority of viewers are sick of her—aside from the fact that every guy in the whole town wants her). Chloe, Clark’s friend, was smart enough to wait for Clark to tell her his secret (even though she already found out in the fourth season), so why does Lana have to throw a fit about it?

Even worse, last season began her relationship with Lex Luthor. Okay, I’m supposed to believe that Clark and Lex became enemies not only because he was evil, but also because of some stupid girl? What is this, Dawson’s Creek? It’s bad enough that everyone else in Smallville is in love with Lana, not to mention that Clark saved her life at the cost of letting his adopted father die! Why don’t they just both get over her so Lex can start hatching more evil schemes and Clark can start being a journalist/superhero?

If next season is indeed the last, I hope that it will end with Clark attending a Smallville high school reunion, where he comes face to face with Lana for the first time since officially becoming Superman, and wonders, “What did I ever see in her?”

Now let’s move on to Spider-man, whose love interest is Mary Jane Watson. I won’t get it into the comics’ version, because even though Peter and M.J. had a rocky relationship because of her inability to accept her husband’s choice of career, they eventually worked it out. I have no problem with the comic book version of Mary Jane—it’s the shallow, snotty, self-absorbed, movie version of Mary Jane that I can’t stand.

I think I can summarize her character with a monologue from Peter in the first movie: “You may not have realized this, but we’ve been neighbors since I was six...” For the first part of the film, she barely acknowledges his existence—unless of course, he was taking pictures of her or complementing her acting skills. A nice yet somewhat awkward guy like Peter was certainly better than the creeps she kept hanging around.

And like so many other superhero girlfriends, she falls head over heals in love with the man in the spandex while basically ignoring who he is in real life. I can understand that she’d be attracted to Spider-man because mysterious guys are somewhat of a turn-on. But after her near-death experience at the hands of the Green Goblin, she suddenly comes up to Peter and declares that he’s the only guy for her? Yeah, right!

As disappointed as I was that Peter didn’t end up with Mary Jane in the first movie, I thought that he deserved better. That thought became more apparent in the second movie, when she’s rubbing the fact that she’s engaged in his face and sniping at him for missing her play. Again, I would have understood her callous behavior had it not been for the fact that this was supposedly when she “knew all along” that he was Spider-man (or so she claimed). If that’s true, then wouldn’t saving people be slightly more important than seeing The Importance of Being Earnest?

Still, I liked the Spider-man 2 ending. All I can say is that she had better have an attitude adjustment in the next movie. Scenes from the teaser trailer involving her with her ex, Harry Osborne, do not make me hopefully (though the trailer itself is overall awesome).

I could go on, naming other names. Many have noticed that other superhero films have taken the trend of b*****y female characters. It’s obvious that it was a big mistake to hire Katie Holmes as Batman’s “first” love interest in Batman Begins. I watched the movie with an open mind, but her performance just reeked of Joey Potter. She breaks up with him because she couldn’t handle the fact that he was Batman? Whatever, Joey Potter. If you can’t handle Batman, then go back to pining over Dawson and Pacey—like they could hold a candle to him!

And now, because they just have to continue the “tortured hero” angle, the Superman Returns writers have proceeded to ruin the one superhero girlfriend I still had any admiration for: Lois Lane.

Okay, I admit, she wasn’t much better than the other girls to begin with. For a seemingly intelligent woman, she can’t look past A PAIR OF GLASSES to realize that Clark Kent is Superman. Even worse, she barely gives Clark the time of day just because of those same glasses, while she has a big crush on the Man of Steel.

Nevertheless, I liked her. She was a woman with a career, something that would be rare in a 50s comic. Even though her adventurous spirit kept getting her in trouble, she didn’t act like a damsel in distress. I respected her. And whether you’ve read the comics or watched the Lois and Clark TV show, she proved that it is possible to be married to a superhero with a little patience and a lot of support.

In the new movie, Superman has been gone for five or six years. Despite the dubious time period, I can get over the fact that she’s engaged—even that she has a kid. But to write a Pulitzer winning article entitled, “Why The World Doesn’t Need Superman”? After all the times he saved her ungrateful life, she convinces people that they don’t need him anymore?!

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I can’t take it anymore. Yes, I know that’s only fiction, but I wonder how many police officers, firemen, and soldiers suffer the same problem within their families.

Frankly, it isn’t fair. Superheroes have enough to deal with their obvious savior complexes and the other issues they have. I realize that they, like, anyone else are lonely, but they should stop wasting time with women that are obviously not worth it, and try to find someone that will understand. It would a lot less aggravating.

I end this editorial with a plea to the writers of Spider-man, Smallville, and any future Batman or Superman sequels: it’s not going to kill you to let superheroes be happy. The miserable, lonely hero is getting old. Either give them better girlfriends or break them up. A lot of regular people are single, and some of them are all right with it. Superheroes shouldn’t be any different.

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