Every time I open my heart to someone I care about, I end up being very disappointed. If you ever betrayed me, I don't know what I'd do.
--Lex Luthor, SV 6x21 "Prototype"
One thing that gets to me when I read reviews, essays and fanfic about Lex is that he can be seen as the complete *victim*. Everyone is mean, hurtful, denying him what he needs. He's the monster that shouts love to the heart of the world and no one answers. And so any villainy on his part is excusable, rational, because he thinks it is. But what he asks is too much. He lies to himself all the time and therefore lies to us.
He sees Clark as the ultimate betrayer, but what does he really ask of Clark? "If only Clark had told the truth," fandom says. "If only he'd really been there for Lex," they say again. And what we're doing is placing adult sensibilities on a teenage boy. That's a casting problem, I believe, because we see a twenty-something on the screen and we expect him to act like it. But Lex rammed into Clark with his car when Clark is only fourteen. Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen is too young to be anyone's savior. And what Lex wants from this boy is an adult relationship; he pursues it within *days* of meeting him, plying him with gifts, complimenting him and playing the emotional equivalent of 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours'. So of course, Clark responds to that; it's enticing. No one has ever noticed him like that before. And because of his age, Clark imprints like a duck, emotionally tied to Lex for the rest of his life.
But we get lost in the secrets. By looking at them literally, the metaphor gets lost. What Lex is really asking for is the complete revelation of self, the dissolution of all private space, a bright light and no shadows to chase his own shadows away. He's asking for an intimacy that he has no right to ask for. And when Clark, fearful, doesn't give it to him, not completely, Lex decides to become angry and take it from him, bit by bit, surreptitiously. We see that lab table hovering in the future, with Clark's name on it. What we see is a symbolic rape. Clark says no and Lex says yes anyway.
And fandom says that Clark deserves this, that he drove Lex to this. Clark has to pay, not only for how he failed Lex, but how everyone else fails Lex. And why? Because this is what Lex wants.
What kid deserves that? Jesus. Everyone has the right to say no. Even Clark.
It's just all twisted and dark, and the elements of romance make it darker still. Lex is so clearly besotted and then so clearly disillusioned and cannot let go of any of it. And perhaps Clark blames Lex for more than he should, but he's experiencing that anger of realization that comes with maturing, of the changing light of a relationship that he thought he was ready for but wasn't really. There is so much anger and loss that comes with that. Clark should be allowed to experience that as well.
But then he experiences hope, that the relationship isn't dead after all, that he can correct his mistakes. Yet Lex doesn't feel this way, he acknowledges only Clark's errors and none of his own. He'll respond to Clark, because he hasn't let go, but it will all be twist and rationalization, revenge for betrayal.
Lex has been betrayed, yes, by the most important people in his life. His childhood is extremely tragic. And he certainly blames everyone for it. Except for Lillian, for some reason. Her, he still lionizes even after the revelations of "Memoria", allows the Lillian in his head to sit in judgment of him. I think he *still* exempts her from his "disappointment", accepting her postpartum psychosis reasoning. He still sees her actions as the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate act of love. And if he feels that way, horrible as it is, then he betrayed her by revealing that secret to hurt Lionel.
Which then begs the question: Can Lex keep another person's secret? He should have never been asked to take that burden upon himself in the first place. It almost destroyed him and his mother allowed it. So why does he have to have Clark's? It's almost as if Lex is asking for that ultimate intimacy, setting up Clark as the next Lillian in his life, allowing him to have that judgmental power, a moral arbitration. And I have to wonder why Lionel, in "Bound", told Clark that Lex is seeking his mother in the relationships that he has with women (who in no way resemble her, it's Lionel that has the redhead fetish, not Lex) when, I think, that Lionel can see that Clark himself is clearly the emotional substitute. But Lionel, for his own reasons, declines to tell Clark that.
And, in a way, these women are pale substitutes for Clark, a brief release, a shadow of the real thing. What makes Clark uneasy, more than the casual sex aspect which the Kents have pounded into his head as a big no (even on Red!K, he felt that he had to marry Alicia in order to have sex with her, that's how deep that lesson goes in his psyche), is that he can sense how large the demand is that Lex places on him - emotional, spiritual and physical. And he says no, back up, physician heal thyself.
Because really, the demands that Lex places on Clark would be too much for anyone - let alone a kid. And Lex is the ultimate passive-aggressor here, manipulating the situation so that Clark would have to act, prove his love for him by offering up his secrets, his body, whatever Lex wants. And Lex wants it all.
And Clark never does. He says, only this and no more. Lex never accepts that; he sees any sort of boundary as betrayal. He doesn't recognize that Clark has the *right* to boundaries. It doesn't matter that he's willing to offer the same in return, he still has no right to demand that of another person. He created his own disappointment and screwed up Clark in the process, because Lex's strong belief that Clark should have been his all and everything will turn into Clark's lifelong infection. He got to Clark when he was still emotionally developing and Clark is a *huge* co-dependent.
Clark will carry that guilt for the rest of his life, never be rid of it, and Lex will never shoulder any of the blame.
Lex will never shoulder any of the blame for any of the relationships in his life, and he sabotages them all, sets them all up for failure. What he wants is impossible. He wants a true partner, but one that he can control. He can't have both, anymore than Lionel could. He's repeating history because he doesn't care to learn from it. By denying his father, he becomes his father.
He may have been a shy little trampled flower in his formative years, but he's certainly not now. He offers up his past as a smokescreen, an excuse, for his appalling behavior. And like all classic passive-aggressors, none of it is his own fault, always someone else's. Lex is so charming, so sly, so seemingly *earnest* that a lot of people believe that.
That's not to say that his needs aren't real, just that no one can fill them. Clark came the closest, and he's the one Lex has pushed the farthest away, in anger, retaliation. All his fault, he tells himself - when what he really needs is to get himself to some sort of 12-step and learn about accountability.
But he won't. So he'll pursue Clark for the rest of his life and make it look like Clark is the one attacking him. Because, by that point, he'll crave that physical contact he'll get from battle, he'll crave hurting Clark to reflect his own hurt.
But Clark will never get himself over to Al-Anon or any of the Co-Dependents Anonymous equivalents so he'll keep it up as well, thinking that he'll be able to stop Lex, be able to change him.
It will be a lifelong relationship, hurtful and painful. And so very addictive to be a witness to, unfortunately. I wonder about myself in that regard.