September 9th, 2003

rivka as ww

I am a terrible person

Instead of finishing the beta I owe, or even finishing my story for my own damn challenge (page design still pending, sorry), I had to write about Precipice instead. Thus:

Queer as Lex: Further Reflections on Precipice

When I first watched Precipice, I thought it was all about chiasmus, a narrative in which characters' trajectories cross, replicating in miniature the story of the series in which Clark grows into good and Lex into evil. But on rewatching – and here let me explain that "rewatching" means fast forwarding through everything but Lex and Lionel scenes (God bless you, TiVo) – I found myself more interested in the interaction between parallels and crosses. (In that wonder of chiasmus and homosexual desire, Strangers on a Train, the train tracks that are part of the trope of criss-crossing also run in parallel.)

I began with the look on Lex's face as he coaches Lana to fight back, asking her rhetorically why she ought to be angry. It's not as if, he says, she needed Clark Kent to save her, again, and the way his face twists on "again" makes it clear that he's talking about himself. It's a beautiful bit of acting, showing that Lex is keenly aware that he's projecting but is unable, and perhaps even unwilling, to stop doing so. Self-knowledge is not the same thing as self-control.

In fact, Lex needs Clark Kent to save him, again, at the end of the story, while Lana saves Clark; she's more successful than Lex is with Lex's self-defense techniques. Lex's evident distaste for being the object of rescue makes me read Lex's ultimate dismissal of Clark – it wasn't Clark who saved me, it was you, Helen – as pure denial. Of course this casts Helen as rescuer, but Lex can pretend that he took a more active role: he asked her to help him; he chose her; rather than being swept away by the thunderclap recognition of destiny, he made a conscious decision to settle for apparent compatibility. And no one ever said resentments had to be rational. Also, it's perhaps easier to depend on the kindness of a new stranger than on the kindness of one who insists on remaining a stranger, rescue after rescue.

But I digress. Anyway, we have a strong Lex/Lana parallel in the story. We also have a strong Clark/Lex parallel, both of them accused (wrongly, sort of) of taking the law into their own hands, with the sheriff lecturing them together and seriatim. When Clark expresses worry about what Lex is going to do to Helen's stalker, Lex mocks the ability of the formal law to protect those he loves. For once, Clark just gives him a rueful smile instead of pretending that he doesn't know what Lex means. Clark knows the rules don't apply to either of them, even though he might have an inkling that this is not necessarily a good thing.

So why does this come back to Lex's queerness? Lex and Lana: parallel. Lex and Clark: parallel. Clark and Lana: many things, but not parallel. Lex disrupts the simple Euclidean geometry of relationships, just as he defies the easy syllogisms that underlie Jonathan's platitudes. Lex's identifications are unstable, constantly morphing just like his dark-haired, dark-eyed girlfriends. Indeed, I think that the CoCK, as Thamiris so wonderfully calls it, expresses not just Lex's desire to know Clark but his desire to be Clark, to know him so thoroughly as to incorporate him, to penetrate him and to envelop him, to own him entirely and to prove him impermeable and incorruptible, to have his CoCK and eat it too, a desire so infinite and so unfulfillable as to be almost the Platonic ideal of desire. It's no accident that the CoCK is a place where narrative stops, fragmented into constantly repeating experience under the unblinking gaze of Clark's photo, which I think is itself a stand-in for Lex's desire to see everything. The fetish, the ideal cock, works exactly that way in psychoanalytic theory. This is why I think that Lex/Lana is the most perverse yet plausible pairing available and love Lenore's Maybe, because it demonstrates Lex's desire to merge with Clark.

It ain't just the lavender, folks. As determined as SV Season 2 was to reheterosexualize Clark, there was nothing the producers could do to de-queer Lex, and plenty they did to keep him and his disruptive desires central to the narrative, pulling nice normal teens out of simple 180-degree love triangles into something more three-dimensional.

Okay. Beta, new story, and -- oh yeah -- article on free speech and copyright, written to keep my actual job -- forthcoming.