Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Super Hard of Hearing

A couple of days before I left for Alaska I watched, for the umpteenth time, Superman (1978), this time on a shiny new Blu-Ray. The high-definition picture was astounding, but so was the audio - so much so that the crystal-clear sound cleared up a decades-old personal mystery.

Midway through the film, Lois Lane interviews Superman about his past, his politics, and his powers. One exchange goes something like this:

"Is it true you can see through anything?"

"Well, pretty much, yes."

She asks a couple more questions before suddenly switching gears:

"What colour underwear am I wearing?"

"Hmmm," Superman says.

"Oh, I've embarrassed you."

"No not at all, it's just that this fabric must be made of lead," Superman says, pointing. "I have a little trouble seeing through lead." This line has puzzled me for years. Are there fabrics that use lead fiber?

The questions continue. A couple of seconds later, Superman says "Pink."

"Excuse me?" Lois asks.

"Pink," Superman says, pointing at her hips.

For decades, I figured this meant that Superman could eventually see through lead, if he tried hard enough, or that there was sufficiently little lead in the fabric of Lois' dress that his x-ray vision eventually penetrated it.

But that's not what happens.

In fact, Superman says not "This fabric must be made of lead," but "this planter must be made out of lead." There's a lead planter standing between Superman and Lois. And sure enough, right at the moment Lois moves into a position where the planter isn't blocking Superman's sightlines, that's when he says "Pink."

Lead fabric, lead planter. It's a silly little piece of trivia, to be sure, but this issue has nagged at me for years. What a relief to have high fidelity audio clear up the matter.


Totty said...

The flaw in that bit is that x-rays won't represent colours as seen under visible light, so truly "x-ray" vision wouldn't help there. And I have to assume (or rather, I hope) that he's somehow passively receiving x-rays that are naturally occurring rather than going around irradiating people's junk.

Liam J. said...

The S really stands for Sterile.