Essay: Maternal forces in Lex Luthor’s life (Spoilers to Ep2 of Season 4 Smallville)
Lex Luthor crashes his car off a bridge and would have died had the boy he hit been human. The boy he hit was not human and he brings Lex back to life: he breaks him out of a confined watery space and throws him onto the brightly lit riverbank. As Lex coughs up water, he stares into the first face present in his new life with all the wonder of a lover – or a newborn child.
Lex’s relationship with his biological mother Lillian was deeply scarring. We know she was victimised into deep depression by Lionel. It’s likely that she suffered from physical post-natal depression following Julian’s birth and possibly when Lex was born as well. Lillian killed Julian, believing this was the best way to protect him from Lionel. This could have turned her into a monster in Lex’s eyes, but he doesn’t see her this way. He could also legitimately resent her for the rejection of him that her depression must have created and for the fact that her mental illness forced him to ‘parent’ her at a young age. Rightly or wrongly, he deflects all of the blame onto Lionel. For Lex, a mother is a figure to be loved, revered, protected and idealised. Mother is also someone who withholds approval and who is ultimately out of reach.
There is something so creepy about the fact that Lex’s first words to Lillian on seeing Julian dead in his cot are ‘What about dad?’ In this moment, Lex is about to move prematurely into adulthood by unhealthily ‘parenting’ Lillian, protecting her from Lionel, and displacing his own father. The question also implies that the son and mother already understand that Lionel will disrupt and abuse this new turn of events. So even before Lillian kills Julian, I suspect Lex and Lillian have been saving each other from Lionel’s anger and abuse.
The relationship that Lex develops with
It makes sense that Clark’s ‘secret’ would disturb Lex at a subconscious level, because it has much the same affect as his mother’s mental illness had: it excludes Lex and gives Clark a darkness and mystery that Lex cannot control or access.
He desperately wants to ‘parent’
He is also tainted in
The children of depressed parents frequently channel and express their parents’ emotions, and they are likely to experience mental illness themselves. Following Lillian’s death Lex continued to live in a corrupting and abusive relationship with his father. The fact that Lex suffers from recurring mental illness is therefore no surprise: in fact, it’s convincing that he would be more insane, had his physiology not been changed by the meteor explosion.
Lex must have abandonment fears. Not only was his mother an absent figure in his early childhood due to the sick family dynamics, she died in his adolescence. Lex was old enough to feel this second loss deeply, but he rarely discusses it. Anger is not an emotion that he often displays. However, when
If it is true that ‘a mother’s love’ is the only thing that can save
Clark and the