In 2001, my older brother and I sat down to watch the pilot episode of a new show called “Smallville”. I was twelve years old and while I adored Superman as a kid, I didn’t expect this to be the beginning of what I now refer to as a heart-wrenching love affair with this series and its characters.
As a devoted Lana Lang fan, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I had no idea who she was when Kristin Kreuk first appeared on screen asking our young Clark Kent if he was “man or Superman”. My knowledge of the Superman mythology at that age extended little beyond the series, “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”. Yet there was a character named Lana Lang and while she is often described as Clark Kent’s high school sweetheart, it became quite apparent throughout “Smallville” that there was a lot more to her than the small-town girl who stole our hero’s heart. I’ve often told people that I grew up with “Smallville” and that I wouldn’t be the person that I am had I not been such an avid fan of the show.
The glory days of the series taught me that family was important. It taught me to see the best in others, that honesty was invaluable and that sometimes we had to make sacrifices for the people we love. Yet it also taught me that these sacrifices should never be at the expense of our own growth as human beings. While I enjoyed following the journeys of all the “Smallville” characters, Lana was always my favorite. I celebrated when she was happy and I cried with her when her heart got broken. When she dreamt of Paris, I too dreamt of running away to a place where nobody knew my name and run I did. Perhaps I can’t credit Lana for the travels I’ve been lucky enough to experience in my life, but she did instill in me that desire to break free from what felt safe in order to grow into a stronger person who was surer of her place in the world. While Lana’s generous spirit, open heart and business-savvy qualities were things I strived toward, what appealed to me most about this character were her flaws. She has often been criticized as being too perfect, but I’ve always believed this couldn’t be further from the truth. From season one it was apparent there was more to her than the pretty, popular cheerleader persona she wore. This was a girl who had lost her parents when she was three-years-old and felt deeply alone in the world. Her propensity to rely on others to fill this void in her life has always been the root of Lana’s mistakes, and it is this flaw that makes her character most fascinating to watch. As human beings, we cannot exist without imperfections. We all have them. Lana struggled with her need to find love outside of herself in order to validate her own self-worth. She often put others before herself, choosing to stay in a relationship with Whitney when his dad got sick despite her changed feelings. When Clark wouldn’t open up to her, she felt she wasn’t good enough. Yet as the seasons progressed, we got to see her gradually break out of this pattern and grow into a stronger woman capable of standing on her own two feet. From the onset, Lana always had a fighter’s spirit. In season one, she challenged Lex Luthor and got him to agree to a partnership for the Talon coffee shop. Tired of being a helpless victim, she learnt to defend herself in season two against her attackers. It became more and more apparent that a lot more lay beneath this mask of perfection she put on.
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We saw her truly break free from this façade in Season Four. She knew that being around Clark would never allow her to grow into the person she wanted to be, so she left for Paris. This was a turning point for her character, for although she still had feelings for Clark, she knew she couldn’t allow him to hold her back from pursuing her dreams. Lana’s controversial relationship with Lex Luthor sparked a lot of heated debate and criticism toward her character. Her tendency to see the best in others drove her into this relationship and the painful experiences that came with it. At the same time, it brought out darkness in Lana that the audience had never seen before. In the end, she was able to beat Lex at his own game and was no longer at the mercy of her emotions.
We saw her protect Clark the way he had always protected her and she grew to a fuller understanding of who she was and what she was capable of. Her last scene on the show had her tell Clark that she knew what she wanted to do with her life. It had her on an equal playing field with Superman himself. While they physically could not be together, Lana had finally reached a place where she no longer relied on others and realized that she was deserving of a place in the world. It hasn’t always been easy following Lana’s journey, and there were many instances where I disagreed with her actions. Yet as I sit here reflecting on her character now, I realize I could not have asked for a better role model to grow up with. Despite her jaded past and the mistakes she made, she was able to overcome and accept the flaws she knew she had. At the same time, she learned to recognize the better qualities within herself and she fought for them in order to make the world a better place. On that final note, I think we can all stand to learn a little something from Lana Lang.
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Article a guest piece written by Lily K. Lynn
All Images of Lana Lang are property of Millar Gough Ink as well as Warner Brothers, Television.