Title: The Queen of Obscure and Irrelevant References
Spoilers: Seasons 1 - 3, season 4: episodes 1-2
E-mail: chiri @ chiriru . net
The Queen of Obscure and Irrelevant References
The Queen of Obscure and Irrelevant References
Used as the character's hallmark from the first set of Chloe Chronicles onward, this quote is one that Chloe fans know well and perfectly sums up her purpose, attitude, and spirit. The character of Chloe Sullivan was introduced to the world for the first time in October of 2001. She was brand new, she was snarky, and she was (at that time) the sole reporter of the series. Needless to say, she reeled me in completely before the first ten episodes aired.
At First Glance:
When the Pilot finishes the exposition of the meteor shower of 1989, Chloe Sullivan is the first character outside of the Kent family that we see. Her interplay with Pete before Clark arrives at school exposes the essential Chloe. Her inquisitive nature in pondering the thumps on the bus or her high school crush with a certain Super-Mope. Her "vehement denial" was duly noted by Pete.
The Chloe/Clark/Pete troika of the Pilot thoroughly fleshes out these first impressions: Chloe exposes her Wall of Weird, and gives the audience her ticket to snooping on a weekly basis. She reaffirms her friendship with Clark so we know why she'll be dragging him along her adventures. Chloe snarks on the town and the popular students alike, under-scoring her own separation from all things 'Smallville' and giving the audience an outside view to collaborate with. In the Pilot and Metamorphosis we see Chloe run through an emotional gambit of character traits, most notable of these are her curiosity, sarcasm, and loyalty which sets us up for her own personal coming-of-age story.
What we know for fact about Chloe Sullivan prior to her introduction in the Pilot is limited. Despite being owned by DC Comics, she has yet to appear in a non-Smallville serial, and all the clues we have to Chloe's prior home life are contained within the series. In Obscura [1.20], Clark notes that she moved to Smallville in eight grade already interested in journalism (and her editorial take over must of happened pre-pilot as she was transcribing graduation speeches in junior high [X-Ray, 1.04].) From her gravestone in Crusade [4.01] and the fact that she didn't start driving until Nicodemus [1.15], we know that Chloe is the youngest of the SHS grouping. Jitters [1.08] notes that she lives with her father, Gabe Sullivan, who works for Lex Luthor. Lineage [2.07] gave us the biggest clue about her past history; her mother left for reasons unknown when Chloe was five and has no interest in Chloe's life.
Freshman year was the best for the character as far as full-filling her wants and needs, heat-sucking and telekinetic boyfriends aside [1.05 and 1.19 respectively]. It was in the first season that Chloe had her first article published in the Smallville Ledger on Eric "Superboy" Summers [1.12]; it was the first season when Chloe Sullivan received an summer internship at the Daily Planet based solely on the merit of her writing, despite the fact that she was unable to interview for the position[1.20]; and it also was the year she went from being on the fringe with her meteorite theories to having people, including college professors like the now-dead Dr. Stephen Hamilton, agree and collaborate her work [1.07, 1.15].
Furthermore, her freshman year wasn't merely a success professionally, it was personally. Chloe grew socially in her freshman year as well. While Hothead [1.03], shows Chloe receiving hate mail for her efforts and a social circle of two (Clark and Pete), by the later half to the season not only are people vying for Chloe's editorial endorsement in the Torch [1.18] but she's also become friendly with Lana Lang and Whitney Fordman, arguably the two most popular students in SHS, and possibly with more unknown students ("I'm not exactly psyched about having to fight my way though the high school hierarchy all over again." - Chloe Sullivan [Tempest, 1.21]).
Chloe also had her first attempts at Smallville dating in this year, and looked like she was lined up to be in a possibly lasting relationship withClark Kent by the end of it all [1.19-2.01]. Her style was fun, quirky, and just a little off-beat, which is probably a reflection of how Clark saw her that year (as it is his story in a way and we do tend to see characters though a Clark-filter).
Sophomore year, on the other hand, was more about emotional baggage and a downward slope in terms of character development. While on the professional front she continued to plug away towards her goal of working at the Daily Planet, using sources and other not-so-legal ways of getting her stories, the arc of her character this year was mostly personal pain about the revelations about her family life and the dissolution of her friendships. Chloe "lost her spine" this year in the audience's eyes, though the majority of her crying time was done in private.
Her friends systematically retreated during the season, leaving the character at almost a polar opposite from where she was a year ago: her friendship with Pete lessened after Duplicity [2.03]; with Clark it sustained multiple fractures in episodes like Lineage [2.07], Dichotic [2.09], and Fever [2.16] but finally broke in Witness [2.20]; and her friendship with Lana never fully came about as Clark stood as a major sticking point between them the entire year.
In this nadir, she foolishly agrees to a proposition with Lionel Luthor to get what she wants - the ability to write for the newspaper she adores [2.23]. Chloe's look and scenes change this year - we see her much more emotional and cynical about people; Chloe is often investigating or working alone; with a defensively snarky attitude and dressed in garish and/or 'sexy' clothing.
As a junior, we see Chloe Sullivan systematically try to get her life back on track. She salvages her friendships and forms an alliances with Clark and Lex to take down Lionel (notably in Magnetic [3.07], Truth [3.18] and Forsaken [3.21]. This season shows her biggest professional down turn when Lionel gets her fired from the Daily Planet[3.11].
Chloe does, however, become a chess piece between Lex and Lionel. The difference between this happening in Witness versus Magnetic is that Chloe now realizes she's being played. As a result of staying true to her word on escaping from Lionel's control, the season finale showed him giving Chloe the ultimate pay back.
As far as social dynamics go, while we see that Pete and Lana both seem to pick up somewhat of a friendship with her again, the arc this year is about Clark and Chloe mending fences with one another. She stands him through his 'Kal' days [3.01-3.02], continues to protect him from Lionel [3.02-3.10], and ultimately puts her life on the line for him [3.22]. I find it then ironic that Chloe goes back to her look of season one this year to a degree, but it is also more refined, as if it showcases that Chloe is growing-up either on her own accord or because past events have forced her to.
Chloe Sullivan's senior year has just started, so there isn't much evolution or history to sum-up. What we do know is that Chloe, despite her friendship with Lana or her back room dealings with Lionel, remains still true in part to that little fifteen year old with her inability to give up journalism [Crusade, 4.01] nor her loyalty to Clark [Crusade, 4.01, Gone, 4.02]. However, I think it is pretty safe to say that by this point Chloe is a pretty savvy and smart woman who has grown out of the naive, over-trusting kid we knew in her freshman year.
Chloe has a good conscious on her side-- even though she messes up, she always comes back to doing what she can to set it right. She's not afraid to apologize and mean it when she finally gets to that point. Chloe's also not the type to sit back and wait for someone to help her while she can try to do it herself. Chloe doesn't let public opinion sway her or her beliefs. She's got the ability to connect with people, to get people to help give her what she wants. She's also got loyalty to a point where it is almost a fault, notably when it concerns her father and Clark. Chloe is also, mostly, an optimist - it doesn't matter how often her Torch gets knocked down or that she gets knocked down, she picks everything up in time.
Chloe has sort of an ego-issue, rather than admit that she needs help in terms of the emotional, she tends to hide that all away. She's also egotistical - she honestly thought that Lionel would be interested in her work because of her work. Chloe also tends to snoop in inappropriate places like Clark's personal life. She often uses snark and her ability to help Clark (later, Lionel) as a way to prove to herself that she's needed. Chloe can also be very ambitious doing what she thinks it will take to get in the Daily Planet and stay there. Most of all, Chloe doesn't always weigh the long term consequence of her actions which often puts her in bad situations.
Gabe Sullivan, father:
"Among his peers he's considered witty." - Chloe Sullivan, Jitters 1.08
It is notable that the person Chloe is the most devoted to is rarely on the series. Her father is integral to who she is - he raised her on his own since she was five [2.07], he's a hard worker to the point where he was Lex's plant manager at LuthorCorp and LexCorp [1.08, 2.02]. In Jitters, Gabe runs out of the plant with his daughter hand-in-hand, despite all of her snarky jabs at how un-cool he is. Additionally, while Chloe is embarrassed by her father, she'll still start to rush a gunman to save him in the same episode. Finally, although her friendship with Clark is strong, when Lionel Luthor threatens her father's job, she continually backs down [3.02, 3.10].
"The difference is, she's not interested in me." - Chloe Sullivan, Lineage 2.07
At this point, it is unknown other than her mother abandoned her and that her mother doesn't want her despite the fact that Chloe knows where she is (which implies that Chloe has found her mother at some point in time and was rejected by her.) [2.07] Although her mother wasn't around, Chloe still influenced by her. The topic of parents who simply left their children always upsets her [1.14, 2.07, 2.17, 3.18]. Also, she believes that everyone should be interested in knowing about their parents - and episodes like Zero [1.14] and Lineage it backfires horribly simply because Clark doesn't share that view. Her search for Clark's biological parent was a reflection of her inability to cope with her own parent leaving, and her desire to know more about her mother, and possibly change that for one of her friends.
Whitney Fordman, friend:
"Whitney. You sure you're in the right place?" - Chloe Sullivan, Obscura 1.20
In the Pilot [1.01], Chloe refers to Whitney and his posse as the "assketeers" and one year later, she demands of him on video that he come back home, safe, and alive to give her an exclusive Torch interview [2.02]. The evolution of her friendship with Whitney sounds almost laughable, mostly because it happened off screen - and such a friendship makes sense when one considers that as Clark made friends with Whitney and Lana, so did Chloe and Pete, as does the off screen element as they are both considered supporting characters. The biggest proof of this was their one on screen shared scene where Chloe snarks about his driving ability; the tone and construction of that scene revealed they were more familiar with each other than the show let on otherwise. Her influence over Whitney wasn't great (unlike her other SHS friends, he never became journalism bound) but there was general (and mutual) respect between them by the time he left the series, if nothing else.
Shipper links: Uncharted Territory
Pete Ross, best friend:
"Pete hijacked the phone line for me." - Chloe Sullivan, Kinetic 1.13
Pete is one of Chloe's closest friends. He's the guy she regularly taps into for help on her crazy schemes [the "Chloe Chronicles"], he's the guy who tries to hook her up with Clark - repeatedly - because he knows she likes him, and he's the guy who recognizes her as at least a good friend and as a potential girlfriend as early as the Pilot. Be it his crush or not, Pete is one of the guys who is almost always on her side (notable exception in Drone [1.18] where he shuns her in favor of Clark). Chloe tends to see Pete as "the funny guy" to some degree, she confides in him [2.01], but in some ways she needs Pete to add some levity to her lifestyle [2.14].
Shipper links: Friendly
Lionel Luthor, former boss/enemy -
"We're after the same thing, Miss Sullivan--the truth." - Lionel Luthor, Witness 2.20
Lionel Luthor didn't know Chloe Sullivan existed until Lex noted her digging around in Witness. Lionel used Chloe's emotions and dreams against her, giving her a job as a columnist at the Daily Planet in return for researching Clark Kent [2.22]. Chloe never gave him anything he didn't already have, but in return for staying true to the Kents, she was banned from ever writing at the Planet and her father was fired and blacklisted [3.11, 3.18]. Chloe discovered he murdered his parents and collected evidence on him - the first time, Lex ended up in Belle Reve because of her attempts to expose Lionel's crime [3.09]; the second time Lex was poisoned and Lionel attempted to kill Chloe and Gabe Sullivan in an explosion [3.22].
Shipper links: On Your Word
Lana Lang, close friend/"sister":
"Actually, I admire it. You know who you are and you go for it." - Lana Lang, X-ray 1.04
Lana and Chloe are good friends, all fandom rivalries aside. It was Lana who approached Chloe first and ignored the snide remarks about popular girls to ask a personal favor - one Chloe did happily [1.04]. They stayed in sort of a semi-friend zone for the first year of high school. It was their sophomore year when they started really becoming friends and when Lana eventually roomed at casa de Sullivan - talking about the important things in life like skipping class to go shopping and the trials and tribulations of dating in a town full of meteor mutants [2.09].
Perusing through the Torch shows that Lana joined the newspaper and obviously Rosetta [2.17] underscored that Chloe though highly enough of Lana to mark her as a sister noting that her family isn't about "the people that don't care about you." In the third season this tentative friendship eventually fell apart due to Lana admitting that she doesn't trust Chloe in the episode Truth [3.18], and we've yet to really see some resolution.
Shipper links: Smallville Ladies, Smalltown Girls
Lex Luthor, ally:
"Are you the only on that blames the meteors instead of me?" - Lex Luthor, Craving 1.07
Lex officially meets Chloe in Craving, having followed her research on kryptonite mutations. His own fascination with Smallville's weird and unexplained leads him to Dr. Steven Hamilton, though it is due to Chloe's own recommendation of the scientist [1.07]. Lex seems amused by her at first, offering her internship at the Inquisitor and interviews [1.13, 1.19], then when she exposes the link between him and the Nicodemus, he becomes a little more wary [1.15].
Yet, he still follows her work - close enough that he taunts his father with it nearly a year later [2.20]. It takes until her junior year for Chloe and Lex to make any sort of real friendship connection - and that is because Clark tells her to go to Lex for help [3.05, 3.07]. They form a partnership against Lionel not once, but twice and Lex promises her to take care of her. He saves her life over the summer between her junior and senior years, though we've yet to see what the consequences of that are.
Shipper Links: Chemistry, Naughty Seduction, Verbal Judo
Clark Kent, best friend/love interest:
"The only thing constant has been you. I'm glad for that, Chloe." - Clark Kent, Drone 1.18
Chloe's relationship with Clark-- be it romantic, platonic, in happiness, or in anger, is probably the most visible of her relationships on the show. Her character evolution is often followed by the evolution of her relationship with him. She was Clark's first for a lot of things - his first kiss, the first girl we see him ask out on a date-date, his first semi-romantic relationship, the first friendship Clark ends, and assumably the first girl who had a crush on him. [1.20, 1.20, 1.19-2.01, 2.20, 1.01 respectively]
She calls him on his behavior multiple times in the series; she's helped him out countless more. He's watched over her shoulder to protect her and save her life but he's also refused to let her write herself off and has tended to believe in her despite transgressions previous.
Chloe's been his best friend, his almost-girlfriend, the friend he's taken for granted, the friend who proved her loyalty despite their mistakes. At the end of whatever situation they are in, Chloe and Clark are together as friends at the very least.
Shipper links: The Hallway, The Reporters, Summer Lovin', Winter Wonderland, Cat's Out of the Bag
The Draw of Chloe Sullivan:
I personally find part of the draw of this character is the fact that Chloe is inherently likable. Part of this is due to the nature of the character, Chloe is active, not reactive, thus giving her the ability to have story lines that can really grow as the character grows.
Another part of this is because of her underdog status, first to Lana and now in some cases, to Lois as well, I've found myself wanting Chloe to succeed against odds which says she can't if nothing else than simply because of comic book history. Still, no matter what bad business deal or boyfriends or other predicament she gets into, I find myself wanting for her to come out on top in the end.
A draw to the character as well is the fact that she is open ended. One can theorize what will happen to her from episode to episode as easily as one can try to set up a possible future for the character to explain why we never hear of her, whether she's paired up with a superhero, is a superhero, changes her dreams, or achieves them fully. The fact that we just don't know makes her somewhat of a mystery - she's one of the few characters where you stop asking 'How does it happen?' because you know the end and instead ask 'What happens? Why?'
She's, also, one of the few younger characters in Smallville, aside from Clark and Lex, that we don't really know the whole sordid back story for. Lana's parents are dead, I don't think there's much mystery to Lana beyond that. Similarly, Pete grew up with four siblings, that's not a huge mystery either. But we know nothing about Chloe's life in Metropolis or what really made her mom leave, so we want to know more about that as well.
Yet another is that her strengths and weaknesses are human and identifiable - if they aren't strengths we have, they are ones we wish we had or that people had more of; if they are weaknesses we have they are ones we wish we had less of. Chloe can be almost too human in a show that is about iconic American figures - and some times she gets the riot act for that from fandom (although I sometimes have to wonder if it simply hits too close to home at times). Indeed, I think Chloe is the favorite over Lana because more people can relate to Chloe over Lana. Chloe's beautiful, but she's not the town beauty queen, and few of us can ever be that, so a more proportionate amount of the population will relate to Chloe. Few people are also unconditionally loved like Lana, but we can all relate to having a boy we crush on not like us back.
And of course, part of it is that Allison Mack plays her part brilliantly thus making these draws and not drawbacks. I wouldn't think it's a stretch to say she's the best actress on the series, even over Annette O'Toole.
I think these things keep people interested in the character. Her combination of qualities were such that people could relate - hence the fandom term of a 'Chloe Sue' in fiction where people saw a little to much of themselves in the character. She has the ability to live in a world that we can't; to say things that some of us wouldn't; to go places we wouldn't dare simply because it is in her nature. Her status as the outsider to Smallville gives us kind of a character to see through at times as well as one who has enough of her own identity/personality to explore and it's that duality that I personally see as what makes Chloe Sullivan particularly appealing to myself and to fandom.