5 Terrible Lessons We Learned from Superman Movies
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 ...
Superman II: Roofies Are a Necessary Evil
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.
Superman II: Revenge Is OK, if You Pay for Any Property Damage
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.
Superman III: You're Not Responsible for the Things You Do While Intoxicated
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 ...
Superman Returns: It's OK to Trick Someone into Raising Your Baby
In Superman Returns, Superman returns from space after a five-year absence to find that the world doesn't need him anymore (except it totally does, because he can lift planes and stuff). While he was away, however, Lois Lane had a child and became engaged to Richard White, aka the guy who plays Cyclops in X-Men.
"Finally, a chance to be a different kind of stock character. Without glasses!"
However, in a surprise plot twist, it turns out that this roughly 5-year-old child who can throw pianos and bend steel with his hands is actually Superman's son -- presumably the product of a one-night stand unrelated to the Fortress supersex described above, because Lois actually remembers having it (and still doesn't seem to give a shit about Clark). The problem is that she has been telling everyone that the kid's father is Richard, including Richard, who has spent half a decade raising another guy's son as his own.
"Haha, such strong arms!" *passes out*
There's no indication whatsoever that Lois told her fiance that she was already pregnant when they started dating -- he clearly thinks the kid is his. So how does Superman react? Sure, he's understandably shocked at first, but by the end of the movie, Superman is apparently fine with this arrangement as long as he gets to visit his still unrecognized son at night and quote Marlon Brando monologues to him while he sleeps.
"Tattaglia is a pimp. He never would have outfought Santino. But I didn't know until this ..."
We shouldn't be surprised that Superman condones this type of behavior, because after all, lying is a central part of his character. While most parents teach their children that honesty is the best policy, Superman's taught him to deceive the world around him and actively encouraged him to lead a double life for his own good. Lois was simply following his example, consciously or subconsciously -- when some deadbeat demigod ran off to "find himself" in outer space and left her with a bun in the oven, she clung to the son of her editor and fooled him into raising her space baby. Everyone wins! Except Cyclops, who can't catch a break in any franchise.
At the end of the film, Lois and Richard are still engaged, proving to the impressionable girls in the audience that there are no negative consequences for this course of action whatsoever. So don't say Superman films cater to boys only.
The Entire Franchise: All Relationships Are Evil
If there's one theme running throughout all the Superman movies, it's not something like "justice will prevail" or "protect the innocent" -- it's "relationships suck, and you should never even bother with them." Seriously, in these movies, if Superman so much as goes half-mast looking at a lady, you know something terrible is gonna happen.
Take Lana Lang, Clark Kent's high school sweetheart and romantic interest in Superman III. Superman's attraction to her gets him to come to a parade in Smallville, where he's exposed to the kryptonite that makes him evil. Later, he almost lets a man fall off a bridge because he's too busy hitting on Lana like a creep.
"Have you ever snorted coke off invulnerable buttocks?"
There's also the time Clark dated his boss: not Perry White, but Mariel Hemingway's character from Superman IV. Clark's feelings for her translate into his dimwitted radioactive clone having a psycho crush on the same lady, which gets her kidnapped. She probably got some type of skin disease for being alone with the guy for five minutes.
And then, of course, there's Lois Lane. When she and Superman first hook up in Superman II, a talking hologram of Supermom (or Superdad, depending on which version of the movie you're watching) flat out tells Superman that he can't be with a woman and protect humanity, because "the concepts are mutually exclusive." Apparently, you can't have a girlfriend and be good at saving people at the same time.
"Superman, we can't control this fire!"
"Hm. Probably because you're all married, losers."
And this isn't like in the first movie, where Jor-El says "Don't interfere with human history" and Superman disobeys him because it's the right thing to do -- this time, his parents' terrible advice is actually proven right. As we mentioned before, Superman gives up his powers to be with Lois, because that's not a lot of pressure to put on a girl after a first date or anything. Meanwhile, because Superman has been busy gettin' busy, three superpowered criminals have conquered the Earth ... and the only thing that can stop them is, of course, Superman, who no longer exists, thanks to Lois Lane.
She then beats him up and steals his shirt.
In other words, Superman, who can punch planets out of their orbits when he's single, is completely emasculated by bringing a woman into his life. Because he dared to love, he grew soft and weak -- his boner conspired with Lois Lane in order to destroy not only him, but the rest of the world as well. Fortunately, in the end Superman gets his powers back, super-roofies Lois, and beats up that trucker dude, and the movie ends with the lesson that being in a relationship is the worst. Shit, we may have finally discovered why so many comic book fans are single.
Related Reading: Curious about why it's so difficult to make a decent Superman movie? Soren Bowie explains why the Man of Steel just isn't very interesting. Were you struck by how filled with douchebags the new Superman movie is? So were we! But we bet you'd be surprised to learn that Superman is actually one hell of a realistic character, right down to his tights: Science shows that wearing them makes him faster AND tougher.