Tim Hanley’s INVESTIGATING LOIS LANE: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter shows that Lois Lane is a paradox. On the one hand, she’s one of the world’s best known female characters, a talented, fearless, award-winning reporter. On the other, she’s “Superman’s Girlfriend,” later wife, so even when she has her own book she’s seen as more an attachment to the Superman legend than a hero in her own right. And that’s Lois at her best; at her worst, Superman and his writers (overwhelmingly male) have written her as the butt of the joke who has to be humiliated or taught a lesson, even in her own book. The Curt Swan image here, for example, involves Superman tricking Lois into thinking she has kryptonite vision to teach her a lesson (5,000 in a series).
Since the Silver Age, Lois has gone up and down, embracing feminism, reverting to Superman’s girlfriend, dating Clark for a couple of years, eventually marrying him. But Hanley concludes that hasn’t helped: before the New 52 reboot ended the marriage (it’s been retconned back since) Lois spent most of her time at home with Clark instead of the at the office, and her apparent death was used as a way to torture Superman a half-dozen times. Hanley does a good job covering all this and Lois’s appearances in other media. Despite a couple of minor errors (Lois started her nursing career well before her brief “women’s lib” period), it’s well worth reading.
I reread SEEING IS BELIEVING: How Hollywood Taught Us to Stop Worrying and Love the Fifties by Peter Biskind to see if it provided some insight into 1950s SF films for Alien Visitors. The book is in general an interesting analysis of political themes in 1950s cinema, which Biskind classes as centrist (the system is good. People should trust the army/government/medical establishment and work within the system), radical (the system is a conformist monster. Individualism and rebels are the ones to trust), left-wing (trust the white-collar technocrats or lone geniuses, depending whether you’re centrist or not) or right-wing (trust the GI over the officer, the local cop over DC officials). Thus Biskind sees the 1950s films about the burden of command (as described in The War Film) such as Twelve O’Clock High as liberal centrist: the enlisted men must trust their officers and choose duty to the platoon/battalion/group over saving their buddy.
As to insight, it’s a mixed bag. Biskind’s analysis of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is that it has an anti-communist message but that’s just a cover for the film to attack American conformism (just as the giant ants of Them are a communist allegory, but just a cover for attacking American radicals). While the film can be interpreted as anti-communist, it wasn’t written that way, nor initially seen that way, and Biskind’s idea of a double-attack is just plain silly. However I do think he has a good point that any criticism of conformity doesn’t translate into supporting non-conformists (that had to wait for the 1978 remake). He does have some interesting points about the role of scientists in the movies and whether trusting the aliens makes them visionaries or fools. So worth the reread.
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