Wonder Woman Vs Lois Lane: Why Are We Forced To Choose?
By Alex Cranz
She was the daughter of a general with a passion for truth and justice and tight blue long underwear. The object of affection for the most powerful and recognizable man in the world she teased, frustrated, delighted and humoured us through multiple tv shows, a series of best-selling comics and a couple of movies you might have seen.
She resonated with women.
In a world of super powered men she was an extraordinary woman who managed to survive without the powers of everyone around her. An apt symbol for a woman operating in a man’s world. Yeah she couldn’t punch through concrete or go toe to toe with gods but she could inspire in ways few others could and she was one half of one of the greatest love stories of American mythology.
In fact in the pantheon of American gods there was only one woman who could truly rival her for the most recognizable woman in comics.
She was, in fact, an actual goddess, or a shapely lump sentient clay depending on her origin. She wasn’t known for her cleverness but for her strength. Where Lois was a modern Penelope thriving through thoughtfulness and a savvy understanding of events and often watching the move violent adventure from afar Wonder Woman was Atalanta, bravely waging battles along side the more traditionally male heroes.
Lois Lane was representative of a woman’s reality and Wonder Woman was our dream. It’s why she was the one appearing on the cover of Ms. Magazine. Why she was the one coopted as a symbol of the Women’s Rights Movement.
Neither is or was better. They’re two halves of the coin. Two characters that both speak for a vital part of our cultural narrative.
But in comics, where the money is had in epic twelve issue battles, Wonder Woman has had a clear advantage. Comics are, after all, fantasies. Men who dress like bats and violently take the law into their own hands are heroes there. Wonder Woman, in her sexy swim suit and with her massive cultural cache and wide array of gruesomely cool villainesses and villains is a potential gold mine.
So DC Comics, rightly from a business perspective, have embraced her as the female face of their brand. She’s a known entity and recognizable to anyone. Even the kids down the street who’ve never read a comic in their life but might one day.
Only her rise has come at the cost of Lois Lane’s decline. Where once the two characters coexisted peacefully (and were even friends in stories) now Wonder Woman has subsumed Lois Lane’s place in the pantheon. (The Dionysus to Lois’s Hestia if you want to continue the Greek mythology comparison.)
For seventy years Wonder Woman and Superman cooperated. They were the rare female/male friendship that didn’t end in sex. They were friends–though a little flirty when the script called for it. He had Lois, an icon in her own right, and she had Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, that one Amazon she made eyes with and her own independence.
Not anymore. Now they’re a couple! A super couple. There’s no room for mere mortals in their stories now. It’s just the two of them being stronger and better than anyone else. Only…only this bid to make them an iconic super couple didn’t occur in a vacuum so in addition to rewriting seventy years of cultural history Wonder Woman’s taken a step back. Now she’s not just the female lead of the DC Universe. She’s Superman’s Girlfriend.
She’s no longer a woman we aspire to be and empathize with. She’s repainted as an object of Superman’s affection. No longer an icon for women, but an object for men.
There is something good that’s come from this.
In film and television Lois Lane and Superman have always found a great deal more success than Wonder Woman. Lois Lane appeared regularly on television in the 50s, in that one ill-advised televised musical in the 70s, all through the 90s and 2000s and up through last year on Smallville. She also appeared in a just a few films. In fact the most successful Superman films of the last three decades have been the ones that fully embraced the Superman/Lois Lane romance (same with television, where Teri Hatcher was one of the most searched woman on the internet while being one of the most talked about women on Lois & Clark)!
Wonder Woman, conversely, hasn’t been quite as successful. Her television show is memorable today but in actuality only ran three seasons in the seventies! And it took a great deal of work on the part of the production company just to get a tv network to air those three seasons. Then in 2011 there was the ill-advised pilot starring Adrianne Palicki that FemPop has gleefully torn apart on more than one occasion. But now, fresh on the heels of her new-found editorial driven popularity at DC Wonder Woman is getting ANOTHER pilot.
This time it’s at the CW which renewed Smallville for six out of its ten seasons and guided the show through its supremely geeky later years. And where the last pilot was penned by David E. Kelly who seemed to be doing it more for money than any real affection for the character this time it’s being helmed by Allan Heinberg who wrote the character at DC when he wasn’t busy producing and writing Grey’s Anatomy, The O.C., Gilmore Girls and Sex in the City.
But in celebrating this new pilot and Wonder Woman’s potential to finally explode into awesomeness in the public consciousness we have to ask ourselves is it worth it? Is her success worth Lois Lane’s failure? And why, after all these years, are the two forced to compete? Both for Superman’s affection, and for ours. It’s been forty years since the image below and it would seem that very little has changed.