Tag Archives: bad relationships

The Emerging Problem Of Superman And Lois Lane

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I think I’ve made it fairly clear that I’m a big fan of superhero romances. I’m a big fan of romance in general, but romance between superheroes has a special place in my heart. I was a comic book fan before I was a romance fan. As the years have gone by, it has been among my favorite combinations. I put it up there with pizza and a cold beer.

It certainly helps that superhero comics have inspired some of the most iconic romances of the past century. Say what you will about Rose and Jack in “Titanic.” I still find the love story between Batman and Catwoman is much more complex and compelling in terms of depth, not to mention many times sexier.

Superhero comics have informed a lot with respect to my fondness for romance. I also think they offer unique insights into the complexity of romance. Love is complicated enough. Adding superpowers and super-villains into the mix only compounds the drama. Sometimes it can end in tragedy. Sometimes it can make for some truly epic romance that strikes all the right emotional chords.

In some instances, though, mixing romance and superheroes can cause problems. Like relationships in the real world, there are many ways to screw it up. Comics have done plenty to mishandle romance. Just ask any Spider-Man fan about a story called One More Day and watch them recoil with disgust. I’ve even noted a few examples.

However, there are some instances where romance in superhero comics cause unique problems that are subtle in substance, but vast in implications. It doesn’t always involve relationships that are inherently toxic to multiple characters. Sometimes, those problems can emerge in even the most iconic relationship.

In the pantheon of superhero romances, the top spot is usually reserved for Superman and Lois Lane. In terms of romance in superhero comics, they are the gold-encrusted diamond standard by which all others are measured. Their love is isn’t just iconic. It’s a foundational component for both characters.

Superman loves Lois Lane. Lois Lane loves Superman. That romance is established in the pages of Action Comics #1. It’s a critical part of how both characters evolve over the years. You can’t tell Superman’s story without Lois Lane and you can’t tell Lois Lane’s story without Superman.

In the same way Superman always does the right thing and Deadpool always makes the dirtiest joke, this dynamic is fundamental. It establishes the kind of romance that is pure, unconditional, and uncorrupt. There’s no need for a previous love interest to die or a love triangle to provoke drama. Superman and Lois Lane just love each other and that’s all there is to it.

However, even with a romance this iconic, there is a problem and it’s actually a very recent problem. It affects both Superman and Lois Lane, but I believe it affects Lois to a much greater extent. It stems from an issue that I’ve been noticing more and more lately with certain romances. When it shows up in the most iconic romance in the history of comics, though, I take notice.

The nature of the problem has less to do with love and more to do with how a relationship defines certain characters. In both fiction and real life, it’s common and even romantic for two people to become so close that their lives become heavily entwined. There comes a point, though, where it stops being romantic and starts being destructive.

For most of their history, Superman and Lois Lane’s romance was built around simple, but effective dynamics. Lois Lane loved Superman, but not Clark Kent, who she didn’t know was Superman. Superman kept his identity from her to protect her many years, which created plenty of tension and made for some great moments.

Eventually, Superman reveals his identity to Lois and they eventually get married. I remember that moment. It was an amazing milestone for both romance and comics lore. The problem only came when that dynamic was complicated by a new theme that has since permeated the narrative.

It didn’t start at any particular date, but I think “Superman Returns” marked the unofficial turning point. That movie, on top of turning Superman into a deadbeat dad, made a small, but critical tweak to the Superman/Lois romance. In essence, it turned their love from a strength to a liability that is detrimental to the ideals of Superman and romance, as a whole.

At the beginning of that movie, Superman’s actions are the same as they’ve always been. He does the right thing because it’s the right thing. That’s who he is and why he’s so iconic. Towards the end, though, what he does becomes less about doing the right thing and more about resolving his relationship with Lois Lane.

Suddenly, doing the right thing and saving Lois aren’t just supplementary plots. They’re indistinguishable. One is the other and that’s a problem for reasons that go beyond romance and heroism. It wouldn’t have been that big an issue if it had only played out in one sub-par Superman movie, but in recent years, the problem has escalated.

It manifested in its most overt form in “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” a video game with a comic book series tie-in that essentially provides a worst-case-scenario for Superman. In this story, Superman is tricked into killing both Lois and his unborn child by the Joker. It’s not just an atrocity and a tragedy. It fundementally breaks Superman.

I’m not just referring to his spirit either. The death of Lois Lane also marked the death of Superman, as an ideal. In both the game and the tie-in comics, he’s no longer a hero. He’s a tyrant who becomes everything he once fought against. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a villain, but he’s definitely not the beacon of goodness that so defines his character.

While it makes for a powerful story, the particulars of that transformation are profound and not in a good way. It implies that Superman’s heroism is directly tied to Lois Lane and not supplemented by it. If she dies, then Superman ceases to be that iconic hero who stands for truth and justice.

That sends the message that Superman’s love for Lois Lane isn’t a strength. It’s a crutch. She’s not just his connection to humanity. She’s his lifeline. Beyond putting a burden on a character whose appeal is her ambitious pursuit of truth, it reduces Lois Lane to a singular role and one that’s impossible to maintain.

Unlike Superman, Lois is human. She’s going to age. She’s going to eventually die. Under this dynamic, Superman will eventually lose sight of his ideals. He’ll eventually stop being the hero that fights for truth, justice, and the American Way. Without Lois, he’s destined to give up and for a character who once moved the sun, that’s pretty weak.

This issue came up again in the plot for “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” While I enjoyed the movie and don’t think it deserved half the criticism it got, there was one major issue that I felt undercut the story. Once again, it came back to Superman’s relationship with Lois.

Throughout the movie, Superman constantly questions his role and responsibilites as a hero, especially after seeing Batman’s approach to pursuing justice. That’s perfectly appropriate with respect to humanizing his character, but at the end of the day, he bases much of his decision to save the day around saving Lois.

That’s not to say that there isn’t merit to saving a lover, but this is Superman we’re talking about here. This is a hero whose entire appeal is built around him having god-like power, but still doing the right thing. When the right thing is only ever in the context of saving his girlfriend, then that undercuts both the ideals and the romance itself.

It’s largely for that reason, among others, that I find the romance between Superman and Wonder Woman more compelling. Back in 2012, there was a brief period in DC Comics where the timeline was tweaked, which happens fairly often, and Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane was nullified. That gave these two iconic heroes a chance to be together.

I could probably write several more articles about why I think the Superman/Wonder Woman romance is special in its own right. In many respects, I think it’s healthier than the Superman/Lois Lane relationship. It may never be as iconic, but it fundementally avoids this problem.

Wonder Woman can take care of herself. She can save herself and be a hero on her own terms. Lois Lane, however, is becoming more and more defined by how she defines Superman. For the most iconic superhero couple of all time, that’s pretty shallow.

The recent comics have done little to address this issue. With yet another tweak to the timeline, Superman is back with Lois. They even have a child now. However, the nature of their relationship is still on uncertain ground. I still feel it lacks the complementary dynamics that made it work so well for so many years.

There’s a chance it could change. Given the fickle nature of comic book continuity, it’s very likely that the Superman/Lois Lane dynamic will continue to evolve. However, I think it’s going in the wrong direction if Superman’s reasons for doing the right thing are that dependent on Lois.

Whether or not this problem deepens or subsides remains to be seen. Superman and Lois Lane are still the most iconic romance in the history of comics. That will continue to hold true, even if the problem deepens. Superman and Lois Lane are great characters in their own right. That aspect cannot and should not get lost under the weight of their iconic romance.

As much a romantic as I am, I don’t deny that it is possible for a love story to go too far. Loving someone and being dependant on them are not the same thing, especially when superpowers get involved. If a relationship becomes too dependent, then it can be more damaging than a mountain of kryptonite.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Marriage and Relationships, romance, superhero movies

How Learned Helplessness Dooms Your Sex Life (Among Other Things)

When I was growing up, I considered myself lucky to be surrounded by so many loving people. I like to think my fondness of romance, as well as my desire to become an erotica/romance writer, is a direct result of seeing so much love among friends, family, and all those close to me.

It wasn’t all smiles, chocolate, and gratuitous tongue-kissing. Every now and then, I encountered certain couples that stood in stark contrast to the love I saw so much of throughout my life. They weren’t abusive or hateful. In a sense, they were their own tragedy, albeit not of the Shakespearean variety.

Picture a couple that’s about as passionate as a sick cat. There’s no fire in their romance. If there was, it burned out years ago and neither one of them cares enough to spark it again. They don’t necessarily hate each other. At best, they tolerate one another on a day-to-day basis, resigned to the fact that this is their life.

What I just described is not the kind of relationship that ends up on Jerry Springer or leads to protracted divorce hearings. They’re rarely that dramatic. If anything, they’re the antithesis to drama. That’s why those involved are so miserable. In a relationship like that, a clogged toilet counts as an adventure.

These kinds of relationships are not as easy to notice, but they do happen. You might even know a few, but I’d bet a stack of old Playboys that there are more than you think. Instead of love, passion, and heart, these relationships are fueled misery, laziness, and failure. At some point, those involved just stop trying to escape it.

In a world where people get worked up over dipping sauces and dress colors, it seems outrageous that anyone could be that callous and numb. It’s even more outrageous to think that a relationship could be built around it. However, there are powerful, unsexy forces at work and they’re not to be taken lightly.

This brings me to the concept of learned helplessness. If you’ve every taken a psychology course, you know what it is and you probably have an idea as to how it acts as kryptonite to love, romance, and passion. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a fairly easy concept. According to Wikipedia, the phenomenon is defined as follows:

[A] behavior typical of a human or an animal and occurs where the subject endures repeatedly painful or otherwise aversive stimuli which it is unable to escape or avoid. After such experience, the organism often fails to learn or accept “escape” or “avoidance” in new situations where such behavior would likely be effective. In other words, the organism learned that it is helpless in situations where there is a presence of aversive stimuli, has accepted that it has lost control, and thus gives up trying.

In terms of common behavioral traits, it’s somewhat bland. That doesn’t make it any less powerful, though. There is real, distressing science behind it, starting with experiments conducted in the 1960s. If you’re a dog lover, though, these experiments should be particularly disturbing.

If you’re also a fan of meaningful love, then you should be even more disturbed because it’s not hard to see how something like learned helplessness can creep into a relationship. For those trying to tell powerful, sexy stories, it’s important to know the signs.

The challenge, however, is that learned helplessness is one of those things that doesn’t happen all at once. Whether it’s those cruel experiments on dogs that I mentioned or continuous torture by the CIA, one painful experience is rarely enough. While love can manifest in a single moment, as is the case with “love at first sight,” learned helplessness takes a longer, more tedious road.

Sometimes it starts with boredom, a powerful feeling that I’ve discussed before. Sometimes it starts with frustration. Maybe a couple tries a few times to spice things up, but it doesn’t work. Maybe they try to shake up their routine, but that doesn’t work either. The key ingredient here is failure and frustrations, two experiences that tend to accumulate rapidly.

The couple involved may never get angry, resentful, or bitter to one another. Learned helplessness rarely inspires abuse or outright hatred. However, that’s part of what makes it so debilitating. When a relationship becomes abusive, one part of the relationship has a much stronger incentive to either escape or fight back. It’s hard to be lazy or apathetic when you feel like your well-being is at risk.

With learned helplessness, laziness and apathy are weaponized. That’s because without that incentive, neither side has the energy or desire to shake up the situation. Ending a relationship always requires some amount of upheaval, work, or effort. Someone under the influence of learned helplessness sees that as more trouble than it’s worth.

Beyond just rendering a relationship stale, the effects on your sex life can be just as debilitating. Once a couple gets to a point in their relationship where they’re just resigned to the fact that this is their normal, sex becomes less a treat and more a chore. Even if the orgasms still feel good, they’re barely distinguishable from masturbation.

That, by far, is the clearest sign that learned helplessness has consumed a relationship. As soon as sex becomes a chore, then it’s safe to say that two people have crossed the point of no return. They are beyond the point of rekindling whatever flame they once had. They just accept their misery and dispassion.

In defense of those poor souls, they don’t always have the luxury of ending that relationship and starting fresh. Sometimes, it’s because of their age. Sometimes, they’re in an environment where they don’t have anywhere else to go and few resources to work with. Then, there are times when the inconvenience just doesn’t justify the cost. It’s just easier to stay miserable than deal with the stress of rebuilding.

There’s little question that misery, depression, and boredom are bad for your love life, your sex drive, and everything in between. Learned helplessness is just the catalyst. Instead of blowing up in your face, love just whithers slowly like a piece of rotting fruit, getting emptier and deader with each passing day.

In some cases, it’s difficult to avoid. Some people just find themselves in relationships where they lose control and accept their misfortune. They’re content to just accept the misery and make the best of it, however fruitless it might be.

In others, you can take steps to avoid that kind of misery. Think back to those awful experiments involving dogs. After a while, the dog just stops trying to avoid the pain. The key to avoiding that kind of misery is to keep making an effort. Don’t stop trying. Do what you can to avoid mistakes. Moreover, do what you can to improve your situation, however possible.

That might mean pushing yourself when you don’t want to. It’s like exercising, which sometimes requires extra motivation. Within a relationship, it’s even more difficult because both you and your lover have to share in that motivation. You have to want to maintain that passion, even as you get older, have less energy, and feel less sexy.

In my experience, the most successful couples I know never truly stop dating each other. Even when they’ve been married for decades, they still carry themselves as a couple that’s still dating. They still go to interesting places, try new things, and explore new activities. Some aren’t always sexy, but they have the potential to be.

Every couple is different, but nobody benefits from learned helplessness. Whether you’re a dog, a dumb-ass, or a hopeless romantic, falling into that pit of apathy will never inspire your passion or increase your sex appeal. It’ll drain it, bit by bit.

Nobody deserves that. I certainly want to avoid that if and when I ever find a steady lover. I’m not a relationship expert or a therapist, nor should anybody assume I’m one, but I hope to help in whatever way I can. Whether it’s making people aware of learned helplessness or writing sexy novels, I intend to do my part.

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Filed under gender issues, Marriage and Relationships, War on Boredom

How Idiots Fall In (And Make) Love

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I know I’ve been talking about idiots a lot lately. I’m sorry if I give the impression that I’m belaboring an issue that doesn’t need to be belabored. We’ve all had problems with idiots at some point in our lives. Most people know that they tend to complicate, obscure, and frustrate many productive endeavors in life. Anyone who thinks otherwise just hasn’t dealt with enough idiots.

Well, there’s still one last aspect to this issue that I want to touch on. I was going to talk about it in my post about how idiots affect our love lives and our sex lives, but I felt like it would’ve derailed the underlying point I was trying to make. For this particular issue, I want to focus on method behind the idiocy. Specifically, I want to apply that method to love.

That kind of insight matters to me, particularly, because I’m trying to be a quality erotica/romance. That means it’s not enough to just know how to craft meaningful love stories with plenty of sex appeal. I also have to be mindful of how these stories can go horribly wrong and the quickest way to do that is to mix idiots with love.

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Make no mistake. Idiots can ruin love, sex, and everything in between just as they ruin so much else in life. It’s rarely pretty. It can be downright tragic. Most of the time, though, it’s just pathetic. People have a low enough opinion of the human race thanks to idiots. They way they can undermine love only strengthens that opinion.

So what are the specifics of idiots screwing up love and making life difficult for aspiring erotica/romance writers? Well, there are a number of dynamics at work, but they’re best summed up by this chart I found a few days ago while doing my other post on idiots and love. It’s as humorous as it is uncomfortably true.

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It’s usually difficult to sum up complex subjects into a simple piece of clip art, but this comes pretty damn close. Sure, it’s a bit cynical in some areas, but the message is clear. Stupidity is not a key ingredient to meaningful love.

Let’s break down some of the dynamics at work. For the most part, it comes down to a mix of incentives and motivations. When a smart guy and a dumb girl get involved, there aren’t a lot of factors that would lay the foundation for a meaningful relationship.

A smart guy won’t be able to share deeper emotions with an idiot woman. She’d do more to frustrate rather than inspire his passions. She’d be immature, childlike, and annoying. Being an idiot, chances are she’d find a way to screw up contraception so the odds of her ending up pregnant would be pretty high.

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The man, in this case, would have both the opportunity and the means to exploit the woman’s stupidity. It would be less about developing love and more about getting some easy sex from someone too stupid to know understand what was going on.

This kind of dynamic appeals to the kind of smart men who tend to be assholes. Even if they want to find love, they’ll jump at a chance for easy sex. It’s productive manifestation of their biological imperative. Sure, their offspring won’t benefit from having an idiot mother, but it’ll still put the smart man ahead of the game in terms of evolution.

A similar dynamic plays out with smart women and stupid men. Let’s face it, there are plenty of stupid men out there who don’t know a healthy romance from a wet fart. As a man, I freely admit that such stupidity can make for comically toxic romances that are even worse than the ones we see on “The Big Bang Theory.”

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A smart woman may have an incentive to avoid having an idiot man’s stupid kids. However, she also has an incentive and means to extract as many resources out of him. Being smart, she could easily manipulate him into a situation where he marries her and is legally obligated to provide for her.

Some women are able to do this to smart and successful men. Just look at Anna Nichole Smith, may she rest in peace. If men like that are unable to avoid those kinds of legal pitfalls, then idiots don’t have a prayer.

Smart women will rope them into unfavorable arrangements that involve giving them a significant chunk of their income. Those same smart women will easily be able to outwit their idiot husbands into cheating with far smarter, more attractive men. If they’re really smart, they’ll even get the idiot husband to provide for a kid they think is theirs. When it comes to human biology, it’s basically a perfect win/lose scenario.

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Again, this kind of dynamic depends on one part of the romance being kind of an asshole. Idiots are easily manipulated and doing so requires more than a few dick moves, to say the least. The kind of smart people who take advantage of these situations are, by and large, bullies on the same level as Biff Tannen from “Back To The Future.”

It’s not quite as tragic when two people who are equal idiots get together, but it’s just as inane. These are situations where two people are too stupid to understand what meaningful love is, the role that sex plays, and how to make something of it. If you want a perfect example of that, just watch a few episodes of “Married With Children.” That’ll tell you everything you need to know about how idiots approach sex and love.

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If you need a real-world example, there is one clear sign that seems to come up often among those who may not realize that they’re being idiots. I’ve seen it happen a few times in my own life. I’m sure others have experienced it too in some form or another.

It often happens in a casual conversation with friends. It probably happens with women just as much as it does men, although I imagine the men are a lot more eager to jump into the realm of idiocy when given the chance. The conversation usually unfolds like this.

“So how are things going?”

“Well, I’m thinking about asking him/her to marry me.”

“Really? Um…why now?”

“We’ve been together for a while now. This is just what people do.”

Read over the last part a few times to get the full context of the idiocy. Even on the surface, the logic is shallow. Does just being with someone for a certain amount of time mean you have to marry or commit to them? Some may make appeals to tradition, but those traditions can sometimes be more excuse than reason, which can cause a whole host of problems.

I’ve heard real people make these arguments. They’re good people who sound smart most of the time, but when they make these kinds of excuses in their love lives, you almost want to hit them upside the head to restart their brain. It doesn’t help that sometimes they’re the only ones who don’t realize they’re in an unhealthy relationship. It’s tragic, but that’s what happens when you’re an idiot.

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It gets even worse when you start to mix idiocy and sex. In this instance, I’m not talking about people who put themselves in bad situations that make them victims of serious crimes. That’s a whole other matter that’s neither sexy nor funny. Instances when people are just stupid with their sex lives are far more common and far less reported.

It’s not just men who don’t understand how a vagina works. It’s not just women who overestimate a man’s coordination when he’s horny. Idiots will eagerly have sex at the wrong times for the wrong reasons. It’s one thing to just have sex because you’re horny. It’s quite something else when you have sex to accomplish something stupid.

We’ve heard these kinds of conversations before. If you’ve ever been to high school or known someone who attracted all the wrong people, you’ve probably heard something along these lines.

“We’ll have sex and that’ll shut him/her up.”

“I’ll have sex with him/her to stop them from breaking up with me.”

“He/she wants to have sex with me and I’m not sure how to go about it. Should we break up?”

The people who have these conversations may not be drooling idiots, but their logic and understanding of a situation utterly fails. They treat sex as a means more than an end. They think it’s part of some unwritten rule that they don’t understand. It should be a general rule of them. If a rule is unwritten and hard to understand, then chances are it only applies to idiots.

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Idiots having sex and falling in love can cause all sorts of problems. Sometimes, as is the case with “Married With Children,” it can be hilariously entertaining. Most of the times, though, it can be tragic and downright toxic.

That leads me back to the top of the chart I cited earlier, namely the part that identifies what happens when two smart individuals come together. They’re not idiots. They’re not making excuses. They’re together for the right reasons, sharing honest, meaningful emotions. That, my friends, is real love, the kind that makes for much hotter sex.

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Idiots can fall in love. Idiots can have sex and make idiot children. Even when it’s comical, it’s still more a cautionary tale than a meaningful story. That’s why I leave those kinds of stories to the Chuck Lorre’s of the world. I’d rather tell stories about non-idiots finding and/or making love.

That’s the kind of love I try to pursue in my novels. I made a concerted effort to forge that kind of love in my latest book, “Passion Relapse.” Whether or not I succeeded is up to the reader. At the very least, I made sure the story wasn’t derailed by idiots.

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