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28 September 2005 @ 09:38 pm
Lana essay  

I'm sorry. I had to get it out of my system. If you put yourself through reading this, you should totally go and watch the vid 'Company of men' by Talitha as therapy afterwards. :-)

The pink wonderland of Lana

Early in my SV-watching, I resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to respond to Lana as a character. However I have sometimes been able to appreciate her role in the show (when I remind myself to look past the pink clothes, tiaras and headbands). In Season 4, Lana plays an important role, whether we as fans like it or not. I *hated* the witch-plot and all its absurdities, but I found Lana’s own characterisation convincing. In this essay I want to explore what we learn of her by the end of Season 4 and what she says about the Smallville universe.

 

Character establishment

Often we focus so much on the way that the meteor shower defined the Lex, Clark and Lana that we forget what defined them before it. In the pilot we got to see brief flashes of each of them in their pre-meteor-shower forms. Lex is a frightened child dominated by his father and told that he is responsible for things that are actually not within his control (the helicopter landing). Clark is a cheery alien child desperate to bond with a family. Lana is dressed as a princess and is waving her wand over some stone frog statues, trying to turn them into princes. These three retain these defining characteristics in the show and I don’t think we should ignore the importance of these establishing scenes.

 

Turning frogs into princes

Lana is always the princess character in the dramas that she creates in her life. She is a fantasist, a reality-escapist, a romantic and a nostalgic. This is what traps her as a victim of her own nature. The meteor shower robbed her of her parents who could have shaped her into a different woman. She is destined to forever be the little girl in fairy costume trying to change the ugliness of the world into a romantic ideal.

 

Lana’s expectations in the romantic arena are all derived from classic fairy-tale romance. She likes being rescued, she likes being idolised, she likes romantic gestures like roses and candles. With Whitney then Clark then Jason she hopes to gain fulfilment of her romantic ideal. They all fit her mould of potential princes in both their looks and their apparent one-dimensionality and willingness to play at romance. I don’t think Lex ever fully fitted this mould for her, although she engages with him when he acts as a hero-saviour figure for her.

 

The ultimate ‘froglike’ characteristic for Lana is secret-keeping. She is badly scarred by her relationship with Clark and is at her most sympathetic for me when she rails against him. However, I do think Lana’s reactions to secrecy stem from a very self-centred part of her psyche. She can’t stand not being the central defining figure in her romantic partner’s life.

 

Lana’s cycle when faced with a lying boyfriend is first to try and regain their attention (e.g. offering to sleep with Jason) and then to enter righteous indignation. In the indignation phase, she expresses desires to escape the relationship. She seems frustrated by her own behaviour patterns, and this comes to a head at the end of season 3 when she takes the ultimate step in fighting her destiny and moves away from Smallville, even abandoning the home of her nostalgia-obsession: the Talon..

 

Lana in Season 4

Lana’s path matches that of the other major characters in Season 4; Clark and Lex cannot escape their destinies and neither can she. It’s particularly creepy that in trying to escape from the limits of romantic love, she travels to Paris, the capital of romance. And sure enough she reverts to type, falling in love with another clean-cut American boy-hero and trying to live out her romantic ideal.

 

Her pattern of needing male saviour-figures is shown to be not confined to her romantic life. Men define and control Lana’s entire world. Without their approval, she is emotionally destroyed. Without Clark’s physical protection, she would have died. Without Lex’s continuing financial aid and support, she would not be able to pursue her romantic goals in life: the only goals she sets.

 

**pause while I scream around the room about how much she abuses and takes advantage of Lex emotionally*

 

In Season 4 Lana accepts that she cannot escape her destiny. Jason, whom she had hoped would forge a new healthier relationship with her, turns out to be both duplicitous and dangerous. In what reads as resignation to me, she returns to Clark.

 

What is more interesting is that she chooses to remain in Smallville, reversing the decision she made at the end of Season 3. In doing so, she faces the other defining force in her life: her death-fear. In the episode ‘Scare’ we got to see that Lana’s worst fear is that everyone around her dies. This is a convincing and justifiable fear. Not only has she lost her parents, her first boyfriend and her childhood best friend Emily, she’s been forced to face death again and again throughout her adolescence as the victim of meteor freaks.

 

Psychologically Lana has a guilt complex that she survived and her parents died. She idealises them to a massive degree. She is also afraid that there is something in her that attracts death. She faces these fears directly when she kills Genevieve Teague. I think in this moment she subconsciously accepts how trapped she is, lost to the fear that deaths will define her existence. Physically and emotionally shaken, she tries to wash the blood from her hands but cannot get it off. For Lana, the bloodstains of those who have died will stain her for life.

 

In her shock, Lana again looks to men for protection. But this time she does not opt for a single saviour figure. Hedging her bets, she gets Lex to fly her out of Smallville but delivers the stone (and murder weapon) to Clark. She trusts neither of them completely but is prepared to get what she can from each of them, at a time when Clark and Lex are lining up as opposing forces. Lana will be caught between them, but having learnt that she can never have the pure single love affair she longs for, she may yet be able to struggle between them, retaining what she can of her romantic existence.

 

The character of Lana ultimately works to reinforce many of the recurring themes of the Smallville universe.

 
 
 
Cris: Lanaduskwillow on September 28th, 2005 12:59 pm (UTC)
Hm.
I've always been Lana fan. But I don't like her with Clark - those two just don't work together, they don't challenge each other at all.
At first I didn't find her all that interesting (I liked Chloe much better, still do), but I didn't have anything against her either. But later I started to warm up to her. She had her little moments now and then. I really liked her in season two. She started teasing Clark a bit, she started developing friendship with Lex, and I liked a bit of character inside we got from that whole storyline about her real father. I got into the fandom at the end of season 3 and started catching up, and there was a lot of Lana hate, so I was determined not to let that cloud my judgment. I guess it worked. I still like her.
I must admit I never saw her as such a perfect fairy princes. I think on the show we always view things after they are coloured with Clark's impressions, and he's the one who sees her that way - perfect, innocent, on a pedestal.
I think there is a lot more to Lana than that. She was going over museum brochures when she planed her trip to Metropolis with Whitney, she liked when Lex recited poetry to her in that season 2 episode with Byron guy, there's repressed passion in her (we got to see it in Nicodemus when she was under the influence). I think she wants to see and do a lot of things, but she's stuck in Smallville, where everyone will always see her as a little girl in fairy costume (like she told Clark in the Pilot), and she can't change much while there. I always thought that's why she wanted to get away and go to Paris.
As for people in her life, everyone either dies or leaves (Nell, her real father), so I find it reasonable she would want someone to stay and be completely honest with her, so she can prepare if some surprise is coming. The girl just wants someone she can count on (like she admitted to Clark - she was with Whitney because he was always there when she needed him). Add a little romance (she is a teenager after all) and that's it. I never saw her thinking of herself as better than others. It's usually others, especially Clark and Lex, that see her that way.
Um, this got longer that I thought it would. *g* Now this is why I never discuss anything - one sentence turns into another, and another...and I end up with a lot of text with even more typos. :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on September 28th, 2005 01:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's great! You're helping me understand her better. As you can see, i've really struggled to get a handle on her. I think because, as you point out, we as the audience often see her through the eyes of the guys. Sucky male writers at work there I think!

Yes, I don't hate Lana, although I sometimes hate what they do *with* her. And I also like Chloe and Lois a lot better.

Like you explain, I sympathise with her desire to have a guy she can trust. She genuinely does get screwed over really badly by guys. I'd hate to go through what she does. I guess I just wish she'd do more to fight that and not keep running back for more. I like her best when she stands up to them. And she has had a few great moments of doing that.

I really didn't like her and Clark being drawn back together at the end of the season. It's so true that these two together really don't challenge each other - they are too similar.

I find her attraction for Lex more interesting, because it seems like he sees in her what he used to see in Clark: purity, uncomplicated innocence and kind-heartedness. Also, she's the very last person he is able to be his 'good' self around: generous, loving, appreciative, supportive.

There you go... I try to talk about Lana and I just end up talking about what the guys think of her.

**gives up**

Thanks for replying! (Don't ever feel bad about the length or the typos. :) )
rhiannonhero: SV: The Bitter Endrhiannonhero on October 10th, 2005 04:54 pm (UTC)
I agree with a lot of this analysis, but am uncomfortable with some conclusions that are drawn here.

Lana’s expectations in the romantic arena are all derived from classic fairy-tale romance. She likes being rescued, she likes being idolised, she likes romantic gestures like roses and candles.

Forgive me for no longer being able to quote episode titles, I'm too far lost on the SV front to keep track of them any longer. :) Regarding this statement, though, I think that Lana does like being rescued and does like romantic gestures, but I don't think she likes be idolised.

In fact, I think that like Clark, her biggest fear is that she'll be found out for the fraud she feels that she is and that she'll be left all alone. (Left alone, i.e. people dying, leaving her, etc.) I think she seeks out one dimensional guys because they make her feel safe on one level, knowing that they aren't going to start looking below the surface and questioning her "goodness".

However, she also rebels against this because she fears that she won't be accepted or loved if she's not perfect. There is that scene where she tells Clark that she's not everything people think she is and Clark utterly refuses to accept that from her, saying something along the lines of that to him she's perfect.

I thought Lana was completely crushed to not be able to let her own "secret" of imperfection out in the open with Clark--which is, actually, where I think her abhorrence of secrets comes from. I think she wants the safety of a one dimensional guy, but also wants to be accepted for who she is really, and not the idealized creature these guys see her as.

And I think she is continually disappointed when she finds that she can't be herself with them because they are lying to her. If they can't trust her with their secrets, then how can she trust that they won't leave if they find out she's not perfect? I think that's why she was so touched and relieved by Jason's response to her revalation in the cave regarding her tattoo. But later, of course, she found out that despite her honesty, she was still not trusted with his secrets--so how safe was she really? Not very safe. (In a way, there is a parallel here with Lex regarding the trust factor.)

However, I do think Lana’s reactions to secrecy stem from a very self-centred part of her psyche. She can’t stand not being the central defining figure in her romantic partner’s life.

Again, I think her issue with secrecy is more about a need to feel safe with the other person, and to believe that they won't leave, than it is about needing to be the central figure in their lives. :)

I know this is a late comment. I understand if you don't respond. I also know it isn't very well expressed in some places. I'm pregnant at the moment and all of my words have been stolen by the baby! ;) I have a hard time being eloquent at all these days.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: mystery Lexbop_radar on October 11th, 2005 12:12 am (UTC)
Oh thank you so much for engaging with this! As you can probably tell, I really struggled with Lana as a character, and this was the essay I've been least satisfied with. Which has been bugging me a lot because I do want to understand Lana in the context of the show - and the more I thought about her, the more interesting she was.

I think you expressed it very well! I do remember the scene where she tries to tell Clark she's less than perfect - I never really understood that scene because I think I bought into the male view of Lana as 'perfect'. At the time I was thinking 'what are you talking about girl?' But she genuinely does have her own secrets and her own imperfections. Your explanation of her fear is very clear and seems very understandable for a young woman in Lana's position.

I like the Lex-Lana parallels in the way they've both been so scarred by Clark and his secrets. It's quite tragic that Clark really does just want Lana for her perfection - at the moment he is caught up in idyllic teen love but he's still refusing to be emotionally intimate with her (in the last episode dismissing her when she said there was so much about her that he didn't know).

More and more I see Lana as a really tragic figure, which makes her a lot more sympathetic. Rewatching season 1 recently, she seems to want safety from Whitney, but also to be needed by someone. If a boyfriend finally shared his secrets with her, she would find it deeply fulfilling to help protect them. But they constantly withhold on her. It's understandable that she wants to be needed when she was orphaned so young and may feel she has been an unwanted burden on Nell.

(Also, although on first viewing I mocked her windmill-fetish, I think it's really sad that her biggest dream is to overcome her fears to be able to see out of Smallville. That actually works for me as a metaphor for Lana now. She DOES want a life beyond Smallville and it's limited secrecy-ridden relationships. Also: this makes the explosion of the windmill in Ageless, really really *creepy*.)

Thank you! And congrats on your pregnancy!
daybreak777: lana happydaybreak777 on October 12th, 2007 07:43 am (UTC)
Ooh, Lana essay! Just stumbled upon this, even though it's old. I have questions!

1. Early in my SV-watching, I resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to respond to Lana as a character.
Do you still feel this way? Even after Sugar?

2. Men define and control Lana’s entire world. Without their approval, she is emotionally destroyed.
Poor Lana. I hope this is not true still. Interesting thing, how between the vid and three episodes that she was only minorly in, I've figured this all out about her. Save yourself, princess!

3. She is also afraid that there is something in her that attracts death.
OMG! I did not know this. Lana Lang meets Kara Thrace.

4. The character of Lana ultimately works to reinforce many of the recurring themes of the Smallville universe.
But she could be more than just a prop or device, yes? I think that Lana can get that pure single love affair. She needs to have it for herself. Mommy and Daddy weren't there to give her that pure, unconditional love. She's the only one who can truly love and save the princess now. I hope she soon realizes that.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on October 12th, 2007 09:36 am (UTC)
OMG! This is so old I'm so embarrassed! *hides face in shame*

Do you still feel this way? Even after Sugar?
Noooo! But it wasn't Sugar that changed my feelings. I warmed to first in S5 and then a lot in S6. Before that, duskwillow whose comments you can see above had already made me think differently about Lana.

Save yourself, princess!
I think those three words actually sum up Lana's paradox--perhaps her goal or what she's never allowed to do. She's cast as the princess in every man's fantasy and increasingly she feels how entrapping this is and struggles to escape it. Once I realised saw that, my whole perspective on her changed. Before that I just disliked her as the symbol of the way SV stereotyped women. I should have applied the knowledge I'd learnt elsewhere about this show--it pays to look below the surface.

OMG! I did not know this. Lana Lang meets Kara Thrace.
Heh. Yes, she lost both her parents in the meteor shower that brought Clark to Earth. Then she lost her childhood friend and since then she's had several storylines that involve boyfriends or potential boyfriends (or just friends) dying. She fears death and she used to hang out in the graveyard where her parents are buried--so it's a kind of love-hate obsession.

One of SV's dominant themes is that you can't escape your fate, and your fate is determined in large part by your parents--you're doomed to repeat their mistakes despite yourself. It's a pretty bleak message for a superficially shiny show. Anyway, it turned out Lana's 'father' was not her true father--her mother had fallen pregnant by another man. Also, her mother had always dreamed of leaving Smallville and travelling but she ended up a young mother. That's always made me wonder if Lana will get trapped by motherhood/marriage too.
daybreak777: laughing in the wrong placesdaybreak777 on October 12th, 2007 01:57 pm (UTC)
One of SV's dominant themes is that you can't escape your fate, and your fate is determined in large part by your parents--you're doomed to repeat their mistakes despite yourself.
This theme sounds familiar, AtS, BSG. Destiny, destiny.

That's always made me wonder if Lana will get trapped by motherhood/marriage too.
She almost did! But that was fake!baby and she stole 10 million dollars to boot! And I don't think she and Lex or she and Clark are going to work out. There is Lois for Clark and she can't go back to Lex. She just can't.

If what you are saying is true, at the end I want Lana to leave Smallville. For herself. That place is stifling her. But in the meantime she and Clark can hook up a little bit before she says her final goodbyes. :-)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lana :Dbop_radar on October 13th, 2007 12:04 pm (UTC)
I think that would be a wonderful ending, yes!