The Death of Superman : Loïs Perfectly Knows That Clark Is Superman, part 3 (2450 words)
A few astronauts are repairing a satellite; strangely enough a husband and a wife are in the team. From what I’ve explained above, there should be a problem between them because of Superman’s influence and indeed there is. Hank is being distracted and doesn’t seem to be taking his work seriously enough. He drops his wrench and doesn’t use the appropriate vocabulary to describe the problem of the machine that they are repairing.
=> Because of Superman, risks and accomplishments seem less important or meaningful. Hank move away from the satellite seemingly to admire the view but a second later he confesses that he actually is looking for a “red cape.”
The kidnappers were the last remnants of unsubmitted masculinity; Hank Henshaw represents the man who should normally never worry about his “manliness.” He has a wonderful wife, they have the same job, and they are officially acknowledged as “superior.” Of course in reality this is entirely subjective, but I’m talking in terms of cultural symbols. The astronaut is the alpha man, just like the doctor or the millionaire. I’m sure you understand my point. And so, showing us this man who is in space in the company of his beloved wife only think about that one time Superman saved his life underlines how deep the “superman complex” has now invaded the male psyche and how strong it is.
“You can always count on Superman” is the last line to be uttered before Doomsday’s meteor appears. It means that there’s no reason for men to be adults or to be responsible anymore. Men can just be irresponsible idiots because Superman will get the job done anyway and if they dare behave as if they actually were important and useful, Superman will appear and prove them wrong. So really, it’s pointless to even try.
Beyond this growing apathy, there’s even an honest fascination for the superhero. Just like the lab assistant, the astronaut could wear a Superman T-Shirt. These men feel so unworthy and insignificant that if you look at them, they’ll just point at Superman. The sole way they can gather a sense of worth is buy showing admiration for what is so much more worthy than them.
The fact that all this should happen in space puts forward that we’re in the absolute. We’re at the core of the dynamic. The harmony between men and women is compromised because the former do not feel worthy of their natural position as male of the human species.
Doomsday appears at that moment. I’ve already explored the two possible metaphorical meanings that the monster can bear in relation to Clark, but when it comes to humanity, it represents the birth of death. If men cannot be men anymore, if they surrender their part to the God Superman, then humanity is condemned. Doomsday is Superman’s real impact on humanity.
What I absolutely loved about this scene is that, to me, it tells everything you need to know about “gender roles.” Terry and Hank are both astronauts. They’re on an equal foot. He’s the team leader sure, but he’s not doing his job properly at that precise moment and Terry comes and warns him with much gentleness. She’s not condescending or judgemental, she is sweet but also very subtle. It would be stupid to be aggressive and it would be more problematic to have someone else talk to Hank.
They’re both highly skilled (and beautiful), and they work in the same field. These similarities combined with Terry’s gentleness put forward that these two make a very honest and balanced couple. If Terry had been angry and annoyed, it would have meant that their couple was about ego, that she was there to be the best of the best and had chosen Hank because he was the best. But that’s not the case here, they could both be farmers or work in a bookshop or a factory, they just have similar tastes and form a good pair.
Terry, as an autonomous individual, doesn’t need Hank. She’s an astronaut ! She’s extremely beautiful and sweet and smart. Hank has nothing that she doesn’t have. There’s nothing he can “bring to the table.” The sole important thing that he provides her and that she cannot get on her own is his love.
The problem is that, because of Superman’s influence, Hank now truly believes that he is useless.* As the unknown object flies straight into their direction he keeps on repeating “Superman is coming” and doesn’t understand that Terry doesn’t care about Superman, that she is strong and courageous and that if death has to take her, she’s ready. What she needs is not hope but the last words of love of her husband.
*Edit: Actually, it's not Superman's fault if men think that their love is unimportant. It's entirely our culture's fault.
The space shuttle is torn apart and Terry is sucked into space. If Hank had been holding her hand, things would have turned out differently. They could have died together in the last explosion. Instead Terry is going to die alone in the void without having heard her beloved husband tell her that he loves her one last time. I hope that this doesn’t come off as mushy because it really is not. “I love you” means “Your life was meaningful.” It is a real comfort that truly soothes the sadness of leaving the world of the living. On the contrary “Superman is coming” are nightmarish last words because it is an indirect assertion that Hank wasn’t worth her time. In Starship Troopers, before dying Dizzy tells Rico “it’s ok, because I had to have you.” And she’s actually right. Love is what makes life meaningful, we exist for others.
Worse, Hank carries on repeating "Superman is coming" even after Terry has been swallowed by the explosion.
And so, Doomsday’s arrival on earth represents Superman’s influence continuing its work of destruction. He seduced women, he emasculated men and now the problem is spreading to deeper spheres of the human psyche.
In parallel with the scene in space we are shown Lex Luthor in his base witnessing the tragic events. As I said above, he incarnates the invincible essence of the male libido and it’s quite logical that he should now be accompanied by a short-haired woman, metaphor of a woman who has abandoned her feminity (or is a lesbian). And so, sexual relationships are now in stand-by. Luthor is too smart to directly challenge Superman like the kidnappers of the beginning and his assistant has given up on her womanhood. But they’re still a man and a woman.
What I don’t understand -on a metaphorical level- is why he is disguised at the beginning of the scene. We’re are given the literal reason. What could hair and a beard mean ? Is it just that masculinity now needs to wear a disguise in order to go out of its lair ?
Superman and Wonder Woman’s training scene too exemplifies perfectly the statement I was making at the beginning of this article about DC's anime style.
Very often, when a character is seen training or practicing sports, it suggests that he is attempting at sublimating his libido. It’s not a rule, it’s not systematic, I just noticed it once in a movie and realised it worked in many others (Ex: Ex Machina, Commando, Silence of Lamb).
Without this prior knowledge I would never have thought of that about this scene. Still, Superman and Wonder Woman are focusing on training because they’re attracted to each other. We learn later on that they tried to be together and it didn’t work too well because Wonder Woman didn’t like to hide her identity.
Just like for the meaning of “training,” the fact that Cheetah and the robot should be metaphors for Superman and Wonder Woman’s sex drives is really not easy to guess when you only have one short scene to understand it, although I suppose it’s more obvious in the comics as Cheetah seems to be a recurring character (I only know her from Injustice 2).
Diana’s libido is wild, spontaneous and very voluptuous. I was happily surprised that they dared show Cheetah from very revealing angles that underline her “femalehood” and didn’t try to reduce the size of her chest. She truly is a walking totem of femininity and Wonder Woman deserves such a double.
Superman’s is the exact opposite. It is restrained and unspontaneous. Every single move of a robot is the result of an order, of a line of program. The robotic libido is the one of an individual who tries to keep absolutely everything under control. It is disembodied and cold. It is also the one of individuals who are entirely submitted to hierarchical structure or an ideology that leaves no room to them.
It’s very common to create secondary characters in order to describe the evolution of heroes’ libidos. Example in Star Wars: Han/Chewbacca, Luke/R2D2, Leïa/C-3PO.
So, Wonder Woman and Superman are fighting against their attraction for each other while taking a last look at their relationship as Clark Kent is about to make a serious move towards Loïs Lane.
I know it’s going to sound very far-fetched and vulgar but when Wonder Woman asks Clark to “flank” her she is also asking him to “f**k” her. That’s the solution to their fight. If they stop opposing their attraction, he doesn’t need to fight the robot and she doesn’t need to fight Cheetah anymore. Just as she does this suggestion, she opens a manhole in the ground (orifice).
The shooting drones that prevent her from getting rid of Cheetah represent aspects of Clark that arouse her, that’s why her answer to their attack is “Clark, flank me !” The problem is that Clark reacts to Diana calling him by his name and immediately tackles the need for codenames = the reason why they split in the first place. He destroys the robot he is fighting as well as the last drone => He isn’t excited anymore.
Diana’s arousal too disappears quite quickly, in two times. First, because of the story of the codenames and then because Clark confesses that he likes being called Superman. Cheetah vanishes. The robot is destroyed, not because Clark isn’t attracted to Diana, but because he identifies with Superman, a godlike entity that cannot have a libido.
It has to be noticed that although Diana and Clark talks about their relationship in the past tense, truly she gets rejected in this scene. Joking about calling Clark “Wonder Man,” and criticizing the use of “Superman” as well as the need for codenames is an attempt at reasoning her ex-boyfriend. Sadly she fails and ends up having to describe their relationship as “nice for a while.”
The last thing that she has on him is that she made him “sweat on the inside.” I suppose that she means that she knows he is attracted to her. But I’m not sure of that.
Also, she reminds him of the fact that he’s the only one in the relationship to hide his identity.
Diana Prince fights for justice and to protect humanity because that’s what she was raised for and now has integrated as part of her convictions. Wonder Woman is the incarnation of those convictions, she very humbly fight for the good of mankind. She thinks that Superman and Clark entertain the same relationship and doesn’t understand the Kal El part, the fact that there’s an alien who very logically doesn’t feel human behind all this and who craves for a token of unconditional love from humanity. All she’s got to say of the matter is “sounds like even your ego is superstrong.”
The scene ends on Cyborg letting them know that they need to get to the meeting room. We’re reminded of Doomsday’s progression = Clark and Diana’s little chat didn’t solve the problem. (It could have).
Also, and it is quite important, Superman has just let a few people die. Of course, it is never said that he always saves everybody but the fact that Hank the astronaut was so strongly waiting for him to save them suggests that he should have been there. If it had been Loïs in space, everything would have been fine. Plus, Superman most probably can feel Doomsday’s existence.
It’s unimaginable that Superman should be constantly making decisions of whether he is going to save people or not and so, I can only believe that he makes these decisions subconsciously, that which means that he is not exactly aware of them, but that they still inform us on how he feels about things: saving the astronauts wasn't important to him at that precise moment.
Clark doesn't realise it but their couple truly ends during this training scene, Wonder Woman was hoping he was going to make an effort for things to work out between them instead he chooses to go after stupid Loïs Lane. It's a very serious blow for a person like Wonder Woman who is a lot more humble, mature and honest than the journalist of the Daily Planet.
-----------------------Underwater Slaughter and Justice League’s Meeting-----------------------
Doomsday’s arrival on earth is a fecundation. Luthor and his assistant describe the meteor as “lumpy” and “pregnant.” It lands into the ocean, just like a spermatozoid would fecundate an ovary, space/void fecundates earth.
As soon as he leaves his destroyed spaceship, Doomsday starts killing men and women indiscriminately.
Lex Luthor’s conclusion underlines his psychological alienation: “The blue boy scout could have some competition.” For him, as long as Superman is revered, humanity is condemned and a new threat to it can thus be perceived as a detail or as something potentially useful.
The Justice League’s meeting about the arrival of the mysterious meteor is used as an opportunity to show how the superheroes deal with their private lives.
Batman experiences problem to get out his role. The Flash mocks him for announcing that he won’t be able to attend the next meeting because of a school reunion with Damien. The superfast superhero finds it funny to imagine Bruce Wayne actually do something as Bruce Wayne, because the man is so obviously stuck in his vigilante role.
When The Flash announces that he’s got a rehearsal on next week, Martian Manhunter is intrigued: “Is he in a play ?” he asks. As Flash's dynamic revolves around homosexuality when he talks about his upcoming marriage it doesn’t sound very believable. Nobody in the League is very convinced about it and the congratulations take a long time to come. Batman states “He’s getting married, somehow.” Superman asks “Does Iris know ?” so clumsily that the Flash answers as if he had asked “Does Iris know that you’re getting married ?” => “She’d better, she picked the date.” And Superman carries on in the same vein “Does she know about… you ?”
Paradoxically enough, the discussion with the Justice League’s members seems to suggest that Superman should confess the truth to Loïs while at the same time shows us that none of these people have found a way to be honest about who they truly are.
Wonder Woman is pissed off at Superman’s weighing the idea of telling Loïs and actually, at the beginning of the scene she tries to draw attention to her. "Wonder Woman dolls have sold very well."