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Random "Asylum" Musings

Random "Asylum" Musings

The Future of Fandom and I were fizzing with excitement and anxiety before this ep aired. We didn't even watch from our usual Pile O' Fangirls on the sofa, but dragged the cushions up to be practically nose-to-nose with our pitiful small but adequate TV. The Distant Future of Fandom had to hide under the bend of Mommy's legs for the deeply disturbing, why-is-this-on-at-8:00 electroshock-torture bits.

1. Before the S3 premiere I seem to recall there was a WB poster or ad showing RedK!Clark, with the logo: "He was supposed to be the good one." I immediately made the connection -- "and Lex Luthor was supposed to be the bad one, but it's the other way around." At the time I thought TPTB did not intend their copy to be read my way, but I now wonder if I underestimated them.

We all recognized from the pre-S1 promos on that SV would draw parallels between Clark & Jesus Christ. As I was feasting upon the shreds of my fingernails in the weeks before "Asylum" aired, it occurred to me that Lex's suffering was starting to take on some of the characteristics of Christ's Passion: flogged, spit on, tortured, and (at the end of "Shattered) denied by his best friend. Lex is the man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. The way Lex's face has been repeatedly bloodied (especially at the end of "Tempest") then reminded me of the pictures of Christ with the crown of thorns, face streaked with blood. "What will they give him next?" I wondered. "Stigmata?"

Well, damn. When Lex fell off the barbed wire fence, hands bloody, I was immensely pleased (on a symbolic level), and even more pleased when I saw that other people saw the symbolism, too. By the end of "Asylum", Lex has become more of a Christ figure than Clark is. Like Isaac -- like Christ -- he is sacrificed by his father. He is tied down, beaten, tortured -- not in punishment for true personal wrong-doing, but because of someone else's sins, sone else's secrets.

2. Because we know that, in the end, Lex will be labelled the Wrong one, the Evil one, the Villain, his story resonates for me with 2 other fan-fictional mythic retellings: "Three Versions of Judas", by Jorge Luis Borges (a short story in Labyrinths), and Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis. In "Judas" a mad theologian decides that for Christ to be most fully self-abasing and humbling, he must have incarnated as Judas, not Jesus. Faces (IMO Lewis' best novel) is the story of Cupid and Psyche, told from the POV of Psyche's ugly sister, the conventional villain. The point that reminds me most of Not-the-Usual-Villain!Lex is that when Psyche is enduring her travails -- punishment for poking at secrets she should have let be, as you'll recall -- the sister bears the pain of them for her.

I really wonder, now, if SV canon is headed that way -- to a world where Lex willingly takes on the role of villain for Clark's sake, for love.

3. And here in canon they *do* love each other. When a promo showing the scene where Clark breaks Lex free was aired in late December, I wrote, "If it's a dream sequence, then whichever one of them is dreaming it is in love. If it's *not* a dream sequence, *I*'m in love with AlMiles and willing to forgive them an ocean of CLana." Yes, I am indeed very happy. Even under the greatest duress Lex never betrayed Clark, and Clark did indeed come to rescue Lex.

4. Not to mention the hugging! And hand-holding!!! (the latter in particular, because neither has done that before. restrained squee.) I was almost embarrassed for Lex in the first scene, because it look as though he was about to just climb right up Clark like a tree. No wonder Clark looked uneasy when Lex grabbed his face -- they're in a crowded public room, not to mention the cameras!

5. Speaking of that first scene: Lex's painting is *fascinating*. Most people feel it's supposed to be Lex, a self-portrait, but the strong eyebrows, high cheekbones and full lips remind me of Clark, so I think it's Warrior Angel. And by gum, when I see this pic of WA I have to agree with myself:

The Future of Fandom thinks the shape on the left, the blue world cracking open, is Krypton. I wonder if it's Earth, which Cassandra's vision (speaking of Christ imagery) shows Lex destroying, perhaps as Krypton was destroyed. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the chemicals he got in Belle Reve let Lex experience (or re-experience) what was in Cassandra's vision. (this plot bunny free to good home.)

Isagel has a further, detailed analysis of the painting, especially the style, which she compares to Rothenberg.

6. Belle Reve has absolutely nothing to do with a RL mental institution, but it doesn't bother me as much as it might (in, say, Law&Order) because I figure this is pretty much how it, Arkham, and other mental health spas are shown in the DC Universe. Am I wrong? Have conditions been upgraded since the 60s?

I do kind of resent the way ECT is made this monstrous, horrible treatment from which any feeling person should recoil. I've never had ECT, but I know people who have, and it is (for instance) the safest treatment for a severely depressed pregnant woman, safer than drugs.

7. In the steely world of Belle Reve there is nothing stronger than Lex. The idea that Lex is the true Man of Steel has been floating around in the fandom since S1, but it's now at the edge of text. While Clark is wavering, uncertain, indecisive, torn, Les though torn in body is stronger of will, more focused and certain, than ever. I *loved* it when he tried to bite Lionel -- he may be caged, but Lex is *not* a tame lion.

8. This of course is most un-Christ-like: no gentle Jesus meek and mild for Lex, he goes to his cross kicking and screaming all the way, crying vengeance upon his crucifiers. When Lex is nailed up with the criminals I can't see him resigning himself and blessing them -- my vision says he'll flex his arms like Samson and break his cross himself, though the heavens fall.

That's what we're waiting for.

9. Lex's ECT is not presented as a medical procedure, but as a rape. I won't go into all the ways the scene was coded as rape, because it's just too disturbing and I'm a wimp. But I really understand why some people had to stop watching SC after this -- what has been done to Lex should not be forgiveable. I can see not wanting to trust TPTB enough to keep watching.

10. But what about Clark? I cannot be truly angry at him for not rescuing Lex sooner, because Clark's not all that competant at dealing with Real-World-type problems (cops, doctors, judges, etc.). In the past, that has been what Lex is for (as someone-or-other pointed out, I can't remember whom). But I especially can't be too mad at Clark because he clearly, clearly, canonically loves Lex.

11. And Clark loves Lex despite the wishes of his no-good family. Sorry, Martha, you join Jonathan for this one. (Though FoF thinks Martha needed a little time off and asked her evil identical twin to stand in for her, happens all the time.) I don't think anyone who started watching SV with "Shattered" could guess how much the Kents owe Lex or that they had ever said he was "family" to them. Before this arc, I thought the Kents believed that "family means no-one is left behind or forgotten." But some things seem to be more important than family, for them.

To me the Kents' behavior has been best summed up by Lenore:

"both Ma and Pa Kent seemed terrified that they're going to end up with a gay alien son and are willing to compromise almost any value to see that they don't."

(read the rest of Lenore's post for a brilliant analysis of this ep as All About The Gay.) I really think TPTB intend adult viewers (and intelligent teens like FoF) to get moral motion sickness from the abrupt shifts between "Lex is being tortured!" to "but at least your secrets are safe" to "but why haven't you visited Lana? Such a nice **Girl**."

12. I can understand why so many people were exasperated by the Lana parts of this ep, Livia most eloquently. Oddly enough, I actually think there was a point to the Lanaville sections,*facepalms of astonishment* which are meant to point up certain issues for Clark.

(note: my willingness to accept Lanaville may have something to do with Ian Somerhalder. Or possibly with the Cloud of Hotness that envelopes him.*mrrrrow* Some people apparently think he's ugly, to which I reply, "ha! more for me!")

Lana's problem, which Adam jolted her out of, was that she was giving up too easily and other people let her get away with it. Clark's problem, especially at the end of the episode, is that *he* gives up too easily, and other people (parents, Pete) encourage him to do it. If Clark didn't give up so easily, he would have faith that Lex could heal -- as Lana needs to have faith that *she* will heal -- and he would tell Lex the truth, working through the pain -- as Lana has to work through the pain -- of helping Lex remember.

13. Why do I say Clark gives up? At the very end of the ep Clark seems to be deciding that since he, Clark, would rather not remember suffering, Lex would rather not remember, too. Haven't they *met*? How can Clark not realize that Lex needs knowledge for his safety, and wants it because it's his *life*?

Maybe Clark feels that Lex is too fragile now for any revelations. But the longer he puts off telling Lex all (and I mean *all*) about what happened, the worse things will get. Doesn't Clark know that Lex has a mutant power of healing? Even if Lex doesn't remember now, he *will* remember, it *will* all come back, and Clark should be proactive. Tell Lex now, ya Big Dumb Gay Alien! You know he loves you!

And even if Lex doesn't get those crucial memories back, he's still smart. All the things he found out before he will find out again. If Clark had the people-smarts of a hamster he'd know he should tell Lex soon, before Lex finds everything out for himself. Good thing for Clark he's so pretty . . .

14. One small thing that puzzles me -- when Clark and his parents are talking at the end, Clark very clearly says Lionel should pay for his "crime," singular. Clark knows Lionel has more than one blot on his record, so which one crime is he thinking of? Patricide/matricide? (why is there no one word for parenticide?) Does he not think of what Lionel did to Lex as a crime, because Lex seems "happy" now?

15. I've seen people argue about "Lionel Loves Lex, versus Lionel Is True Evil" and IMHO both are true. I think the truly Evil people in this world (insert name of your least favorite politician here) don't feel Evil to themselves, they just feel like people who are doing what needs to be done. Evil doesn't feel different from normal, from the inside.

Though Lionel's version of love is seriously, *seriously* messed up. I think TPTB (and the actors!) have done their best to make Luthorcest canon, but I think Lionel thinks either it wasn't wrong ("I was toughening him up!") or that it was Lex's fault ("he made me do it! looking so sexy and all"). Yup, Lionel is evil.


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by Mary Ellen, "Doctor Science, MA"



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updated January 29, 2004

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