Don’t you wish your girlfriend was HOT LIKE ME
TPTB may have been guilty of obsessive Lana-worship in the past, but having Clark watch Lois strip to the tune of ‘don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me’ has tipped the scales in the opposite direction, as far as I am concerned.
The ways in which Lois was allowed to eclipse Lana in this episode were seriously incredible. Because Clark and Lana are still together – these are the days of Clark’s teenage romance. Yet not only was Lana absent this episode, Clark attended a strip club, was aroused by Lois and seemed (momentarily!) genuinely sad to see that she was moving out. Following on from his jealous hissy fit in Aqua, this accounts for some serious undermining of Lana’s role in his life.
This was crystalised in the final scene where Lois literally supplants Lana’s position in the Talon apartment. Clark draws attention to how significant this is by reflecting on how ‘weird’ it felt to be there with Lois, as he’d spent so much time there with Lana. Lois, who still doesn’t quite understand how significant the spatial dynamics are in Smallville, joked something like ‘I’m just taking her sublet not her place as your girlfriend’. Clark whirls round on her angrily, but we don’t get to hear what he would have said in reply – Chloe interrupts. It doesn’t matter because the depth of his discomfort has already been indicated, and that’s what is significant. The subversive nature of this move unsettles him subconsciously.
When Lois first swept into Smallville she crossed all sorts of invisible boundaries and trespassed in space that was ‘sacred’ to each of the characters (the Kent kitchen, Clark’s loft, the male changing rooms, etc.). Over time, Lois has grown to understand the need for privacy in the Smallville universe. She now understands that unwanted penetration of private space is undesirable: Lois asks Clark if he still had a key to the apartment as she doesn’t want ‘unexpected midnight visits’. The apartment is very much gendered female – it’s perhaps the space where Clark first penetrated Lana. Lois is making sure that once the space is hers, it will be respected and protected from unwelcome masculine invasions.
Lois and female strength
While watching this episode, supacat commented that Lois is never a victim. This episode really showed just how true that was, as Lois ran the risk of being demeaned and reduced to the role of sexual object. Instead she came out as powerful figure.
The strip scene was beautifully handled. Although Lois was literally ‘exposed’, it was Clark as male viewer who was most discomfitted. Initially physically awkward on stage, Lois gradually gains comfort with displaying her sexual side. We saw her nerves behind stage but she puts them aside for a greater goal and uses her identity as an adult woman to display her sexual side convincingly. At the other end of the spectrum, Clark arrives dressed as an adult male but can’t escape responding boyishly. He orders a coke, he squirms in his chair, his eyes are drawn helplessly to Lois, yet he looks as if he’d like to run for the door when she approaches. While Lois is able to separate her physical actions from her self-identity, Clark is trapped in the role of the helplessly aroused. The fact that it is his surrogate-sister Lois in his lap thrusting her breasts at him disturbs him but is not enough to prevent his reaction. If there’s a victim in this scene, it is Clark.
Lois is later captured by a sexually obsessed murderer. Although not quite bought, she has certainly been obtained as sexual object. Yet at no point did it feel as if Lois was a passive pawn. She fights off her attacker at the first opportunity and continues to do so in the helicopter. She is overpowered in the same way a powerful male might have been: by introducing a weapon (electrocution). Once Clark as male hero turns up, she chastises him for not being quicker and continues to bash her attackers. She manhandles her own kidnapper to the police, something few female victims on television are shown doing. Lois is awkwardly gracious about acknowledging Clark’s help at the end of the episode: she does not fall weak at the knees because he rescued her, she simply thanks him for his contribution.
Lois and Chloe, destiny and familial relationships
Lois was also shown to be stronger than Chloe in some ways this episode. It was beautiful to see the two of them together at the Daily Planet. In the police investigation it is Lois who steps forward with the observant comment about the victim’s boots. She is the one who ultimately goes further in investigating the crime: putting herself in the shoes of the victim. Chloe, while courageous and determined in her own right, just can’t quite push herself this far. It was a clever way of showing Chloe’s limitations in comparison to Lois’s canonical destiny.
At the same time, the relationship between the two cousins is one of reciprocal giving. Lois is incredibly awkward about asking for a small favour (help with moving) and repays Chloe excessively by accompanying her on her investigation, being literally exposed, and having her life threatened. However, Chloe comes through in another way for her cousin: tipping off Interpol about her attacker. It’s interesting that Chloe does not tell Lois this directly. Clark discovers it, giving us the opportunity to see Lois’s genuine reaction: she stares after Chloe with her eyelids fluttering and a gentle smile on her face. Her genuine gratitude for this familial loyalty is wonderfully and subtly crafted.
Siblings and lovers
In this episode both Lex and Lois are shown to have access to Clark’s private internal world. In different ways, each of them has had the opportunity to establish an exceptional level of intimacy with Clark, which they will be able to draw on in their future lives.
Lois threatens Clark with his nightlight; as a sister-figure to him and having literally occupied his space, she is shown to have the power to humiliate him. This power is used playfully, not vindictively: Clark calls her ‘sailor’ in return and she smiles involuntarily at the joke. It’s charmingly intimate because their chemistry works so well. This moment establishes a private joke between the two of them and the draws them into deeper intimacy.
Lex and Clark are at a totally different stage of course. Clark storms into the mansion with an accusation and Lex refers to the ‘barrier’ that Clark has drawn in their friendship. Yet despite themselves, they are drawn into old patterns: Clark confides his feelings about Jack to Lex and Lex recounts the dark side of a hero-myth. Clark may be trying to limit Lex’s role in his life, but Lex will always be able to access that part of Clark that responded to him in the first place. Lex still plays out the role of saviour, getting Chloe and Clark released from custody. He chastises Clark for getting him in trouble during his political campaign, but only playfully. In these scenes, it’s almost as if the longer they spend talking, the more they regain their previous intimacy. They can’t keep up the fight. It shows how artificial the ‘barrier’ is and it adds tragic power to their future selves.
Within the Smallville universe the two couples (Clark/Lois, Clark/Lex) have been given familial intimacy with one another before their destined lives. They are siblings to each other before they are lovers or enemies. A link is drawn between power and intimacy, which means that this adds both warmth and darkness to the show.