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Brittany N. Williams

All My Role Models Are Evil: How a Lack of Representation Birthed a Supervillain

It started with Superman. Well, it really started with Lois Lane, but the Big Blue Boy Scout was there too because of course he was. So, some exposition first: I grew up on the old Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons. You know, the old, in technicolor, “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” cartoons. The ones made between 1941 and 1943…so you can imagine how Lois Lane was written. Got a solid picture in your head now? Great. Now back to the start.

Imagine five year-old me, shorter and more adorable (though not by much. Ha, ego). My cousin wanted us to play Superman. He would, of course, be Superman and I could be Lois Lane (because there was no other woman to be). I agreed. I thought the Superman cartoons were exciting, as he fought giant robots and stopped speeding trains with his bare hands… Except, Fleischer-era Lois Lane doesn’t do any of that. What does she do? She gets rescued. Like, I’m not sure they even let her do any real reporting. 1941, right? And for the next forty-five minutes (it was probably only ten, but felt like eternity), I sat on my living room floor, waiting for Superman Clarence to come rescue me.

However long I pretended to be tied up alone, that moment stuck with me. When I found Clarence off doing something that was definitely not rescuing me, I swore right then that I would never be the damsel in distress again. But those early days watching weekday and Saturday cartoons of the early 90s didn’t give me many alternatives.

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