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01 June 2004 @ 11:37 pm
Gods, Love, and Sidearms. (Mythomania, baby)  
Smallville is basically formed on the idea of dueling pairs: of light twins and dark twins.
This idea is underscored even in the sets that it gives its two main locations: cool tones for Metropolis, warm tones for Smallville. In this way, the Manichean impulse toward the inevitable struggle between good and evil that rules all comic book descriptions of Superman and his Luthor is carried through, into a much more complicated medium. However, to fully realize the potential of this twinning motif, Smallville uses it over and over again. 

The notion of dualism is, naturally, extended into the idea of split personas -- public masks, and private lives, which is (of course) the main theme of the mythos from which our show is formed. We have two characters (Clark and Lex) who we *know* will be living double lives in the future, but who *now* must contend with the dualistic sides of their personality.

Lex lives a double life as a public figure (mayor/president of lexcorp/president) and as an archnemesis to Superman. He maintains an (at times) dubious public persona, but the depth of his involvement in crime is kept secret -- if it wasn't then how the hell could he become president? Clark's double life is a rather obvious one -- that of Superman and Clark Kent, of course.

So you have these two figures who separate their Godheads from themselves -- Superman and Luthor, vs. Clark and Lex. Their violence and primacy is separate from their mundane existences. So they are primarily dualistic personalities. Now, going with that -- Smallville is attempting to establish a parallel wherein they are the Cain and Abel paradigm. Which is another form of dualism, but I won't go directly into that, yet. With these two boys we have a variety of instances wherein they are splintered, twinned, and doubled.

Additionally we are given several characters who act as good twin/bad twin -- you have Jonathan Kent and Lionel Luthor, who certainly share a bond and could be seen as two aspects of the same figure; good father and bad father. And then there's Chloe and Lana -- who AlMiles have said combine to create Lois Lane, so basically they've acknowledged that these two girls are two faces of the same person, much like the above.

Now what does all of this mean on a weekly level? How does Smallville work it into the story lines of it's episodes? Well, first it parallels the two boys -- giving them a single Janus-faced father, if you decide to amalgamate Lionel and Jonathan into the overall archetype of Father; wise, powerful, loving and terrifying. *And* it puts them (Clark and Lex) into similar situations, showing again and again their similarities -- but further than that, it gives both of them alter egos at the start of Season 3. Clark has Kal, and Lex has Louis.

With both of these half-selves that the boys have they have forcibly separated from themselves the negative aspects of their personality. What is significant for the way that their lives will progress is how they choose to deal with these phantom selves.

Lex confronts his phantom self in a physical battle -- he attempts to tangibly destroy it, and in doing so, he refuses to acknowledge it. He doesn't re-integrate it, he remains incomplete, and refusing to deal with all of the implications of this splintered self. And in this way, he is left vulnerable, as he is never complete -- there is an argument to be made here that this is why it is, then, that this negative side of him ends up gaining the upper hand in his psyche.

If we were to treat this as myth, then we could say that Lex's attempt to kill Louis as a repudiation, and that by repudiating Louis he turned Louis into a whole other being -- a seperate self, who then combats Lex all over again, slowly grappling with him as a shade or ghost that haunts him, and eventually triumphs at the close of the series.

As Season 3 progressed, Lex was broken down further and further -- already not a complete whole, he was 'shattered' by the events of the season. If one were to read even more mythology into it, it could be said that his vulnerability (created by the exorcism of his literal demon) is what lead to the invasion of insanity. It's as though Louis -- his negativity -- stood as gatekeeper to his soul, and in his stead there came a steady flood of other demons, all at the behest of the Terrible Father Figure.

On the other hand, we have Clark, who does not go into physical battle with Kal, his phantom double. Clark, instead, chooses to incorporate Kal into his full persona -- in fact, at the end of Pheonix he verbally acknowledges that Kal is part of who he is. In his behavior throughout S3, we see Kal peeking out time and again. This makes Clark stronger, a complete and *whole* person, and therefore not as vulnerable as Lex to the whisperings of his shadow self.

I see Superman as Clark's Godhead. Superman is the divine within Clark -- the sublime that cannot be recognized within his aspect of mundanity (the reporter guise). He is the every-man and the godlike all at once, so I would say that Superman is part of Clark's singularly dualistic persona.

Ultimately, though Lex and Clark are two divided personalities, they are also two parts of the same whole. Even if you don't ascribe to the fanon romantic relationship, they are certainly two of a kind -- sons with destinies, and as we see them move toward their futures we also see them become one another's doubles, and phantom selves. Clark is Lex's conscience, as his own atrophies and falls away, and Lex is Clark's muderous impulse. It is Lex who keeps Clark honest -- as Lex posits during Talisman -- and Clark who will keep Lex from taking responsibility for his actions.

All of this discussion of Clark and Lex as one another's phantom doubles, or shadow selves, serves only to underscore that their desire for one another -- desire to kill, or fuck -- comes from a place much deeper than betrayal, or hurt. It comes from a primal desire to merge (as Clark did with Kal) or destroy (Lex and Louis), and the reason that ultimately neither of them can prevail is that for the both of them to go on as a balanced pair (an equatable equation, really) is for them to remain s they are; as matched set, two faces of the same divinity -- the god of Metropolis, both kind and cruel, fickle and perseverant, wholesome and jaded.

It means that those who serve Lex serve Clark, also -- as do those who work with Clark and Superman. It means that Mercy Graves is a priestess of Clex and so is Lois Lane. Clex, like Kali Durga in India, is the god of love and war. A god who creates, and who destroys, and what is interesting about it is that Lex is the creative aspect of their whole, while Clark is the destructive one.

They are an inversion of one another, and in all honesty, at the core, they carry out one another's deepest held fantasies. Who they are to one another -- their opposition -- is what creates the men we know, the men we find so endlessly interesting, and nothing else. And this is why -- this ever so fragile balance that exists between the two -- they *can't* just forget the past, and move on to the future. If they did that, they would almost cease to exist.

But, even if Clark and Lex could go on from a merging, their divinity would disappear. They would become only their mundane selves, without the powerful godliness that defines them.

To become the domestic lovers that so many slash fans would want, they would have to be *only* that. They would have to forsake, for lack of a better word, their greatness. An easy analogy to make would be that of Achilles, told that if he goes off to war his name will be remembered for centuries to come, but if he stays home he will be loved. He chooses to go to war, just as Clark and Lex do. War is the way they love each other, in the end -- through their violence to one another they provoke that which is sublime in the other. Each blow is a caress, each bullet is a kiss, each plot is an elaborate way of saying 'I love you', if viewed in this context. Their tenderness is transmuted into violence, and so one must view their violence as tender.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Suicides Underground - AIR
Adoable Frunk: ophelialyra_sena on June 1st, 2004 09:41 pm (UTC)
I think you're brilliant, but this goes without saying.

What sticks with me the most is that they would have to deny their destinies to ever end up together. They would have to be 'human', their base selves, to ever have a chance at a relationship that's in a range of normalcy.

I really like what you have to say about the Godhead. Thinking of Luthor and Superman as one divinity, wholly entwined with each other's duality, and separating that would mean the destruction of both personas. I love the fact that they need each other to survive. They *have* to be these two faces of one entity in order to exist, even though it manifests in a violent way.

Summary: It hurts so good.

Aelora: destiny joke - lilljaelora on June 2nd, 2004 07:16 am (UTC)
I'm going to build a shrine to you.

This is, most probably, the best meta I've ever read. It's the reason I watch Smallville. It's the reason I love the comics. It's the reason I can't consider Lex evil or Superman good - they're far too intertwined for that. It's why, even in my girl!Clark version of Smallville, I can't allow them to live happily ever after because it isn't *enough* for either of them.

Thank you so much for putting into words my reasons for loving these tragic destinies.
pure FORESHADOWING: broken supermannifra_idril on June 2nd, 2004 07:40 pm (UTC)
A shrine? For little ol' me? *toes dirt* Aww, shucks!

I can't consider Lex evil or Superman good -- they're far too intertwined for that

*nods frantically* Yes, that's exactly it -- and frankly, to consider either of them wholly one thing or the other is to do a disservice to the character, which is why I can't buy into the cult of St. Clark the Righteous or St. Lex of the Eternal Suffering.

And you're right -- it *isn't* enough for either one of them. For it to be enough, you absolutely have to go *way* AU on them. lyra_sena wrote this really spot on analysis of their sexual politics in view of that. I can't find the link right now, but I'll find it for you at some point in my life.

Now, this isn't to say that I'm not sometimes going to write a happily ever after fic or two, because what we're talking about here are bigger structural issues in the construction of the Superman/Luthor myth. The way that the characters are manipulated in the confines of any given fic can change, as can the focus with which we perceive them -- so, you know. All that I've articulated here is what I believe, ultimately, in terms of the boys, but we all need a little escapism now and then.

But escapism is still escapism...and you're right. Their ultimate destinies are tragic. *sighs*
GothGirl: freak rips tabs shirtgoth_clark on June 2nd, 2004 07:44 am (UTC)
Very well put.
pure FORESHADOWING: charisma!nifra_idril on June 2nd, 2004 07:41 pm (UTC)
Why thank you, sugar. *grins*
hooker 13: clarkreadsamberlynne on June 2nd, 2004 07:49 am (UTC)
To become the domestic lovers that so many slash fans would want, they would have to be *only* that.

I wonder if that is why I have such a hard time accepting happy!futurefic, where Clark is Superman and Lex is just a businessman that he loves. It doesn't seem to fit who they are. Although, I love Lex-pretends-to-be-evil fic, so I am not sure how to explain that.

An easy analogy to make would be that of Achilles, told that if he goes off to war his name will be remembered for centuries to come, but if he stays home he will be loved. He chooses to go to war, just as Clark and Lex do. War is the way they love each other, in the end -- through their violence to one another they provoke that which is sublime in the other. Each blow is a caress, each bullet is a kiss, each plot is an elaborate way of saying 'I love you', if viewed in this context. Their tenderness is transmuted into violence, and so one must view their violence as tender.

I love this. I mean, it's seriously fucked up, but I love it. Their relationship really is the picture of dysfunction, whether friend or lover. Once they hit the point of no return, the only way to express their feelings is through the fight, because any other expression would show weakness, in their minds at least, and that sort of negates the whole greatness thing.

The Achilles analogy really fits. I don't get choosing to die and have your name be remembered instead of living and being loved, but whatever floats your boat, I guess.

I am so glad aelora pointed me over here. I really enjoyed reading this. It gave me a lot to think about!
pure FORESHADOWING: brad sexnifra_idril on June 2nd, 2004 07:44 pm (UTC)
Although, I love Lex-pretends-to-be-evil fic, so I am not sure how to explain that.

*grins* Here's a theory: I think that people love it so much because it's a function of the paradigm I discussed above. Lex is doing his part to keep Clark whole. He's going through the motions of their equatable equation, thereby sacrificing himself for *Clark's* benefit, and who the hell *doesn't* love a noble hero, you know?

Virtual Insomnia: lex never change (onecoldcanadian)virtualinsomnia on June 2nd, 2004 09:19 am (UTC)
I am in awe of this incredibly profound meta. You have rendered me speechless. *worships*

War is the way they love each other, in the end -- through their violence to one another they provoke that which is sublime in the other. Each blow is a caress, each bullet is a kiss, each plot is an elaborate way of saying 'I love you', if viewed in this context. Their tenderness is transmuted into violence, and so one must view their violence as tender.

This, especially, was just amazing. Wow. Just... wow.
pure FORESHADOWING: DevilLobster - Caronifra_idril on June 2nd, 2004 07:46 pm (UTC)
*grins* Dude, I dig on speechless reactions. I'm glad you enjoyed this!
Sheera's Friendtinheart on June 2nd, 2004 12:40 pm (UTC)
This was blindingly well written... and I don't even watch the series!
pure FORESHADOWING: big pimpin'nifra_idril on June 2nd, 2004 07:47 pm (UTC)
*laughs* That's a very high compliment indeed!!
Pyraseraphina_pyra on June 2nd, 2004 01:45 pm (UTC)
*awe* ^_^
pure FORESHADOWING: angelina sexnifra_idril on June 2nd, 2004 07:48 pm (UTC)
*laughs* Thank you!
two dicks with a star for ballsmsdaccxx on June 2nd, 2004 01:48 pm (UTC)
Bouncing over via aelora's journal (and friending so I don't miss any more good stuff).

This is a wonderfully astute piece and articulates so well the nature and use of dualism in the Superman mythos. And, of course, why the Clex are as hot as all hell, especially when they're at each other's throats, bless 'em *g*

Mind if I link it in my journal? There are some people on my flist who'd love to read this.
pure FORESHADOWING: fabio!clarknifra_idril on June 2nd, 2004 07:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, dude, link away *waves vaguely, in a manner meant to imply agreement*. Also, by the by -- your icon? Makes me fall over to the side with gales of giggles. I'm loving it.

And *grins* personally I find it almost hottest when the boys are at one another's throats. I think it's something to do with the fact that it's as close to actively fucking as I think they'll ever get.

Mmm, repressed sexual desire....
Sister Sword of Courteous Debate: heroes - nortylakpepperjackcandy on June 2nd, 2004 03:01 pm (UTC)
To become the domestic lovers that so many slash fans would want, they would have to be *only* that. They would have to forsake, for lack of a better word, their greatness.

You say this like it's a bad thing. :grinning:

Seriously, though, I'm not married to the idea that Clark has to become Superman.

And that's pretty much my theme in fic. At any time, either one could go off in a new direction that will lead to a whole different ending for both. And exploring those avenues, either myself, or through others' fics, is most of the fun of this fandom.
pure FORESHADOWING: Clark RHPSnifra_idril on June 2nd, 2004 07:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, definitely, it's a theme worth exploring -- I mean, divine or not, Clark's an interesting duck, and who he would be without the Superman aspect of his personality is an interesting question to pose. And probably a fun one to answer in your fic.

Here's my thing about it, though: I don't know exactly how a Clark that repudiates that aspect of himself (the physically superior combined with the rigidly moralistic upbringing he received, which combine to form the basic building blocks of what I've been calling his 'Godhead') would be a *whole* Clark. And what's more, I'm not sure how Clark and Lex would then meet on an equal playing field. And that's what's sexiest about the pairing to me: they're equals.

But, also, the thing is, that what I'm talkiing about here are all structural mythological issues, you know? It sounds like you're interested in a more particular psychological focus on the boys. And that's defintely a cool view to take.
(no subject) - pepperjackcandy on June 3rd, 2004 09:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
suzycatsuzycat on June 2nd, 2004 03:07 pm (UTC)
pure FORESHADOWING: Cheekynifra_idril on June 2nd, 2004 07:59 pm (UTC)
*grins* Why, thank you.
Sage: bridge across forever (art by hope)sageness on June 2nd, 2004 04:42 pm (UTC)
*rereads again*

*bows before your brilliance*

I'm so glad I didn't read this last night. I wouldn't have gotten a thing written. Although revising with this in the back of my brain is going to add a whole new dimension. Which is Yay!

What's super-yay is that you just pushed me through the block on my long anti-shattered AU!! *bounces* Seriously, I just figured out how to get there from here & it's all because of this!! Yayayayay!

*chooses icon, ponders*

This makes me wonder what will happen to Clark when Lex dies? In the comics, Lex has poisoned himself with Kryptonite (again) and has become a metahuman in his own right. (He's currently presumed dead and probably literally underground...unless he found himself a way offworld. But that's comics-Lex, not SV-Lex.)

Also if you look at the comics, there's more to the mimesis. Superman/Batman are the blended Light/Dark that still works for good. There's also Batman/Joker -- and I'm hardpressed to think of another DC villian who's killed more individual people than the Joker. He's completely worthy opponent for the Bat as He Who Rules the Night. And, of course, Superman/Luthor -- the shining dynamic of charity vs. greed. And it's canon that Nobody gets under Clark's skin, whether as reporter or Supes, quite like Lex.

Anyway, back to SV. Let's presume SV-Lex is mortal, while it's been suggested that Clark is either immortal or destined to live for millenia. (And there's a really interesting Clark-as-Lazarus-Long meta waiting to be written, if it hasn't already.)

Can Clark still be Superman without Lex? Will he find a replacement nemesis? Can anyone fill Lex's shoes as a worthy mate/opponent? Or is Lex truly *incomparable*? And if so, *what* makes Lex that cool? Do we blame the meteor shower (again)?

It brings to mind the scene in Kingdom Come, where Superman's sitting on a throne-looking chair on a completely barren planet thousands of years from now, looking quite a lot like Theodin before Gandalf comes and snaps him out of what's-his-name's spell...except not wizened, just defeated and completely morose.

I think they were going for the same effect in SV with the future shot of Clark flying through space...presumably in search of other living beings. And damn, what a lonely search that would be...even if he does have an awesome-looking cape fluttering behind him. ;)

Perhaps Clark is flying to other planets in the Krypton meteor-shower kill-zone. If he and Lex bonded for life in the front seat of that old pickup, maybe there's another entity out there who got hit by kryptonite that day. (He's already established willingness to date outside his species, so...) And if everything we know about kryptonite is true, Clark and this hypothetical creature are destined to find each other.

But it still wouldn't be Lex.

It makes me wonder if Clark believes in an afterlife. Because mythically, there's comfort in the whole "we'll be together in Heaven/Hades". And as an aside, I can totally see *Lex* doing the whole Orpheus bit to bring the love of his life back from the dead, but I can't see Clark doing the same. Pa Kent's a farmer, after all. Nature's cycles are sacred.

I don't have a good answer for this, but I'm kind of fascinated by how Clark would cope with the loss of Lex. Mythic Chiron gave up his immortality both to ease his own constant pain and to give Castor & Pollux a solution to their constant grief at being always separated. I'm thinking that if Clark discovered Lex were working on a way to become immortal (snookering Ra's Al-Ghul out of a Lazarus Pit?), I don't think Clark would stand in his way. He might even find an extremely subtle way to make sure he succeeds.

Damn, I love these boys. I love your brain, too, even if you keep giving me yet more stories to write! *g*
Never store shuriken in your underwear: Rabid fangirls by spyderqueenporntestpilot on June 2nd, 2004 06:59 pm (UTC)
I'm not even sure what to say, that was a dead-on anaslysis of them. I like the point that Lex is the creative portion and Clark is the destructive. That's true, Lex may be the evil side, but he's the one that builds up Metropolis.

Where would you fit Jor-El into this?

Thanks msdaccxx for linking to this! I can't believe I can write out your lj name from memory now. *proud*
pure FORESHADOWING: Clark RHPSnifra_idril on June 2nd, 2004 08:13 pm (UTC)
Hmm...about Jor-El, do you mean in terms of as a father figure, or what? Becuase honestly, I'm finding myself wanting to say that Jor-El is what you get if you take 1 tablespoon Lionel Luthor, 1 tablespoon Jonathan Kent, a little nutmeg and a dash of bourbon and space crazy, and mix on high.

But, no, really. Jor-El on SV is somewhat of a conundrum to me, because comics canon Jor-El, is like, a way cool sentimental lovey guy. In his own way. And so then you have Terrance Stamp Jor-El (also, is anyone else in this world cracked up by the fact that SV's Jor-El is The Limey!?!?), who is basically a Meccha-Bastard.

I think that SV is going to change Jor-El next season, like something out of Manifest Destiny by Livia. He's going to end up being a better guy -- because think back on SV 1961. He's not a baddie there, in fact, he's mainly just a hottie.

So, in terms of analyzing Jor-El, I'm a little bit stymied, because I don't think we have the full picture yet. However, if I were to take a stab at it, what I'd say is that Jor-El is the two faced father, all at once. He punishes Clark viciously when Clark strays, but ultimately he wants to protect and guide his son. His love his harsh and demanding, but in the end, it *is* a form of (ableit fucked up) love.

But, you're right. He is a it of a sticking point, as of right now. I'll have to think further about him.
(no subject) - porntestpilot on June 2nd, 2004 10:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
more squee than substance: unstoppableimaginarytiff on June 2nd, 2004 10:50 pm (UTC)
I'm in serious lust with this analysis. *bows down to you* Thanks for sharing! :)
(Deleted comment)
Sai the Procrastinatrix!: rapturesaisun on June 10th, 2004 09:37 am (UTC)
Somebody threatened me with an evil spork directed me to this post, and all I can say is, "Wow." I'm not even into Smallville very much, but this... is going to make me buy pirated VCDs of all the seasons and watch each episode over and over again. Just. Wow. From what little knowledge I have of Superman mythology, I can honestly say that this just sums up the Clark-Lex dynamic very very well. It's deliciously tragic.