For such a simple and lighthearted genre, superhero movies can have some really confusing lessons, mostly because the people writing them aren't trying to convey a lesson at all. But that's not the case with Superman, right? There's no brooding moral ambiguity there -- he's a boy scout with the strength of a god. These are pure good vs. evil stories, and Supes is always on the good side.
Well, except for when the movies are telling us ...
In Superman II, Lois Lane, who had continually ignored the mild-mannered advances of Clark Kent while throwing herself at his alter ego, Superman, finally figures out that Clark Kent is Superman, and they have supersex on his superbed in the Fortress of Solitude.
"Ignore the red hairs. Those are just Jimmy's."
But then things get kind of awkward, as they tend to get when co-workers exchange fluids. Eventually they separate "for the good of the world" (more on that later), and Lois confronts Clark about how difficult it will be to work alongside him and pretend like nothing ever happened. Here's the scene:
Superman then kisses Lois and magically makes her forget everything about their romance, effectively erasing it from existence. Because that was the only solution to their problem, right?
Um, no, not really. If you think about it, Lois isn't in a unique situation here. So she has to sit in front of her ex every day and pretend she doesn't have strong feelings toward him? That's the outcome of every office romance ever.
We've all been here.
They could have just, you know, been adults about it and gradually learned to cope with the situation, or if Superman really wanted to make things easier for her, Clark Kent could have gone to work for The Daily Bugle or something. Instead, he went for the easiest solution, which also conveniently restores things back to how they were before and prevents any awkwardness between him and Lois in the workplace.
In fact, you know what that sounds a lot like? It sounds a lot like Superman had sex with a co-worker, regretted it, and then made her forget all about it so that he could avoid facing the consequences. For those whose lips don't have amnesiac properties, a similar effect can be achieved by slipping a roofie to the other person.
"Some mild heat vision on your hippocampus and you'll feel much better."
In short, the lesson that this classic movie from our childhood teaches us is that there's nothing wrong with having sex with someone who won't remember anything about it afterward.
So, after Superman slips the little Man of Steel to Lois Lane in Superman II, he decides to give up his powers to be with her (otherwise he might break her in half one day while they're doing it). Lois and her effectively "humanized" alien boyfriend then stop by a burger joint, where a seating misunderstanding results in not-Superman being beaten up by an out-of-shape, middle-aged truck driver with the somewhat anti-climactic moniker of "Rocky."
Superman's true nemesis is his waning patience with humanity.
Oh, but that's not the end of it. When Superman regains his powers and saves the world, one of his first orders of business is returning to the scene of the incident and having a talk with the trucker to teach him a valuable lesson about respecting the personal space of others. Just kidding! Superman deliberately instigates a fight with Rocky and lets him break his hand trying to punch his super-abs.
Pretty sure they're gonna have to amputate that whole arm.
OK, so the guy probably had that coming. However, at this point Superman spins the already humiliated and defeated Rocky in a chair with superspeed, pushes him over the diner's counter...
Ruining the lunches of like eight people with that guy's butt.
... and lets his body crash into a pinball table, breaking the glass and knocking him out.
"Remember, kids: It isn't murder if you flee the scene before they die!"
Superman then shoves some money into the diner owner's hand before flying off to settle some other petty personal score, completely OK with having shattered every bone in Trucker Rocky's hand. It's one thing to trade blows with a physical equal like General Zod because the fate of the world depends upon it; it's another thing entirely to provoke a physical encounter with someone far, far weaker than you because he embarrassed you in front of your lady friend (who doesn't even remember any of this anymore).
Keep in mind, the whole concept of Superman is that he's physically and morally superior to the average man on a godlike level -- to him, we're like clumsy, stupid children who don't know what they're doing. This scene is the equivalent of taking a dump on your baby and eating his toys because, hey, he started it.
He basically does this to the depowered Zod also, presumably murdering him.
So what Superman is teaching us here is that it's perfectly fine to sink to the level of someone inferior to you in every sense, as long as you make sure to pay for any property damage you may have caused. Also, do you think the trucker learned his lesson? Hell no. He's just gonna take out his frustration on some other poor sap. As soon as he's out of the hospital, that is.
In the unexpectedly goofy Superman III, Richard Pryor steals the movie by A) being in it, for some reason and B) creating an artificial piece of kryptonite that, basically, makes Superman a jerk (well, a bigger one than usual). Supes stops saving people, embarks on a campaign of superpranks (like straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa) ...
"'Italy'? More like 'Shittily.' As in that's how you make your buildings."
... starts drinking in the middle of the day ...
The lack of interest those barflies show in the world-famous demigod makes us suspect that this isn't Superman's first binge.
... and starts banging chicks he meets at the Statue of Liberty. Seriously, here's the scene where you hear her moaning in orgasmic pleasure after taking Superman into her room as Cinemax music plays.
"Manners, please. My bulge is over here."
Oh, and he also causes a huge oil spill at the request of said chick, just to get into her panties.
Anyway, after shaking off the effects of the kryptonite by punching himself in a junkyard, Superman goes back to being Superman ... and acts like nothing ever happened. In fact, when he meets with his hot date again, he flat-out pretends he doesn't know her. When she asks about "the other night," Superman simply replies, "That wasn't me. That guy is gone."
"He joined the Foreign Legion. I'm his brother, Dru."
So, Superman thinks that because he was under the influence of a mind-altering substance, he shouldn't be held accountable for his actions. Sure, he quickly fixes some of the damage he did while he was evil, but that's not the same as taking responsibility: What about the ecological damage caused by the oil spill? What about the emotional trauma inflicted upon the Italian singing guy and the Olympic runner whose torch Superman blew out? No amount of superstrength can fix that.
And then there's the woman Superman just pretended not to know -- which was clearly a lie. The fact that he immediately undid his pranks confirms that he did remember his actions as Superjerk, so he should remember her, too. We get that the kryptonite magically made him evil, but think about the horrible message this sends: You can get away with anything as long as you "weren't being yourself."
Clean costume = clean slate.
Thousands of people use that exact same excuse every day -- we call them "assholes." How many times have you heard someone say, "It wasn't me, it was the drugs/booze/artificial kryptonite created by Richard Pryor"? Too many.
Also, we didn't see Superman and his date stop for a leaded condom before hooking up, so presumably he didn't use protection. What if he got her pregnant? Then again, that wouldn't be such a problem for Superman, because ...