Unpacking Lois Lane’s Grief in Zack Snyder’s Justice League

This past Tuesday, I watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League. To say that the events leading up to the release of this film have been unpredictable would be a massive understatement. I still can’t believe I’ve seen the movie. The best way to describe the experience would be waking up from a nightmare (the nightmare being the theatrical cut that was released in 2017). It’s unfathomable to think of the unnecessary and harmful lengths that were taken to prevent fans and curious moviegoers alike from watching Zack Snyder’s intended vision, and knowing that the world can finally see that vision has been vindictively satisfying, to say the least. But I’m not here to talk about that. I want to discuss Lois Lane.

Before the 2017 release of Justice League, I wrote We Need To Talk About Lois Lane, an essay detailing how Lois is both badass and underrated and why her importance in the superpowered world of the DCEU shouldn’t be forgotten as we prepared ourselves to watch the film. Well, we all know what happened. Thirst jokes and Lois sniffing a shirtless Clark Kent before telling him that he smells good. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist was reduced to a one-dimensional gag and it hurt to watch. That was not Lois Lane.

Thankfully, Zack Snyder’s Justice League came in to save the day. As stated before, I think and still do believe that Lois is vastly underrated, and I hope that her role in ZSJL won’t be overshadowed when her journey through grief is one of the strongest parts of the film, especially when you consider everything that she’s been through since her first meeting with Clark in Man of Steel.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

In ZSJL, Lois is still struggling with the death of Clark. It would be easy to write her off as a sad woman crying over her dead journalist/superhero boyfriend, but it’s deeper than that. Amy Adams portrays Lois with such nuance here—someone trying so hard to hold it together on the outside when inside, she’s broken.

Lois’ relationship with Clark is more than a simple tale of romance. Clark entrusted her with his secret, something that he believed he had to hide. The only reason he revealed it to her was to save her life. Instead of chasing what would’ve been a groundbreaking story that would only boost her esteem as a journalist, she chose not to in order to protect him. The truth moved her. Her determination knows no limits when it comes to her career, but she made an exception for Clark. It’s no surprise that they fell for each other.

Losing the love of her life crushes her. It’s interesting to watch because in this genre, we often witness superhero protagonists lose someone important to them. Those people are usually not superheroes themselves, and their deaths become a major turning point for the arc of the hero. But in this case, the roles are reversed. Watching Lois deal with her grief is something that feels intimate and it’s an important thing to have in a film where everything is so epic and on a grand scale. Her grief grounds us in reality and reminds us that Superman’s death goes beyond the cape. She’s also mourning Clark Kent.

Her actions are relatable because they’re human. It’s become routine for Lois to visit Heroes Park in Metropolis every morning—she gets two coffees on the way there, gives one to the cop on duty, she’s all smiles. “You don’t miss a day, do you?” The cop asks her.  She looks away for a moment, then responds: “I like it here.”

She knows both sides of Superman. She goes to the memorial to pay her respects, but then she returns home and opens a box with his cape in it. The same cape that he was wearing when he died. The weight of knowing who he was as a public and personal figure is heavy. Unbeknownst to most, she was engaged to him. She wears her ring every day; every single day is a reminder of him whether it’s in the open or behind closed doors.

Lois hasn’t been to the Daily Planet since Clark died. How can she go? To only further be reminded of him? How much more is she supposed to take? Grief can be crippling, it can consume your life. She isolates and shuts herself off from everyone because that’s the only way she thinks she can manage. It isn’t until she has a heart-to-heart conversation with Martha Kent that something finally clicks in her.

Lois and Martha’s meeting is one of the most emotional scenes in a movie that already has a lot of emotion in it. The two most important people in Clark’s life—his mother and his fiancée—having an honest discussion about loss. Martha brings up the fact that Lois hasn’t been to work since Clark’s death and Lois tearfully replies, “I can’t.”

Martha understands. “They talk like they knew him. But they didn’t know Clark.” She tells Lois. “You’re the only one who knows. Who feels what I do. Burdened by a secret on top of grief.” That’s what Lois has been struggling with since the day Clark died. It’s a kind of pain that’s made for this film, but nonetheless a pain that can be sympathized with. Martha visits Lois because she wanted to see her, to reassure her that she’s going through this as well. Lois doesn’t have to mourn alone.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Sometimes it’s just as simple as saying: I miss him. Everything that Lois is feeling can be described in those three words that mean so much to anyone who’s experienced loss. And while Martha knows, she has one piece of advice for Lois: “Come back to the living.” It’s a hurdle that seems impossible, to move on after someone’s death. But acceptance is a part of life. You can’t grow until you accept the reality, no matter how much it hurts.

And although we know that Clark will come back to life and reunite with Lois, it’s still relatable and needed to watch her journey as she deals with grief. There’s nothing weak about it. She’ll always be a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, but she’s also a person going through a traumatic loss. At some point in our lives, we all experience it. We circle the stages of sadness, denial, routine, acceptance. There’s no one way to deal with grief but the process is universal. It’s human.

Lois’ subplot is a small part of this overall grand adventure, but it’s so important to the core of the film. Without it, the story would lack the heart that was seen in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Without it, Clark wouldn’t have agreed to help the rest of the League after he’s resurrected. It’s Lois who brings him back to humanity, reminds him of who he was. Who he is.

This world may consist of superheroes, but it’s the human experience that makes each journey individual. After witnessing the complete butchering of Lois’ character in 2017, I can’t be happier that I finally saw her as intended, treated with the respect that she deserves, and once again proving that not all heroes have superpowers. After leaving Lois’ apartment, Martian—I mean, Martha privately reflects on their conversation: “The world needs you, too, Lois.” Truer words have never been spoken.