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serafina20 in ship_manifesto

Clark/Lex, Smallville

Title: Friendship of Legend
Author: Serafina
Spoilers: through S3
Email: serafina20@gmail.com
Personal Website: Piek Ric



Clark Kent and Lex Luthor are one of those pairings that I find so obvious, it's hard to articulate exactly why they belong together. It's more than the fact that both Tom Welling (Clark) and Michael Rosenbaum (Lex) are beautiful, beautiful men. It's more than the fact that they're best friends. It's more than the longing gazes they give each other, and the non-existent personal space when they're in a scene together. It's more than the fact that they try to help each other, and, when the situation is tight, go above and beyond the call of duty to help the other out. It's more than the fact that we know they'll wind up enemies, and that there's a very thin line between love and hate.

It's more than destiny. Their relationship just *is* and has been from the moment they met.

Their meeting establishes their deep bond with each other and was such a pervasive image of destiny that a year and a half after the episode aired, the writers reproduced the Clark/Lex meeting with Clark and Lana in an attempt to generate interest in their pairing of choice. Clark and Lex's meeting was so powerful that it remains one of my all-time favorite first meetings on television. Clark and Lex "meet violent," to quote Al Gough and Miles Millar, the creators of Smallville. This riffs off the conceit of romantic comedies, where the protagonists meet in some contrived, cutesy way. Clark and Lex's meeting is violent and life-altering. Lex hits Clark with his car, driving them both off the side of a bridge at sixty miles an hour. Lex dies and Clark lives.

This moment is something of a revelation for Clark. He'd known he was stronger and fast than other people, but he didn't know he was invulnerable. His parents had kept his alien origins a secret. His meeting with Lex is an awakening. He discovers things about himself that he didn't know before, and while the text declares that Clark finds out he's an alien, it's very easy to code this queer and see his awakening in a new light: upon meeting Lex, Clark is thrust out of his small-town, boy-meets-and-marries-girl mindset. He's introduced to a new way of thinking and a new world in the form of an older, wealthy, sexy, and sexually ambiguous man.

This meeting serves as an awakening for Lex as well. He drowns during the crash and has an out-of-body experience in which he's flying over Smallville. When Clark gives him the kiss of life, Lex is brought back to his body and finds this beautiful young man--whom Lex had thought he'd killed--leaning over him.

Clark is a complete unknown to Lex. He's not materialistic and expects nothing from Lex except friendship. This is a new experience for Lex, who has grown up surrounded by people who want him for his name and fortune. When Lex tries to give Clark a truck as a reward for saving his life, Clark returns it. While Clark may have been tempted to keep it had his parents not refused, he also never would have thought to ask for a reward for doing what was right. This sense of right and wrong and goodness in him resonates with Lex when Clark returns the gift. From this point on, he wants to repay Clark for his life and becomes obsessed with doing so.

Lex’s decision to repay Clark is interesting, because it is directly tied to with Clark's love life, an area that Lex seemingly has a vested interest in. Clark is in love with the girl next door, Lana Lang, so Lex makes it his goal to help Clark get her. In Metamorphosis [1.2], he hints to Lana that her boyfriend, Whitney, may not be the nice guy he seems to be, and juxtaposes the two boys, saying, "Kinda makes you wonder if you're with the right guy. One chucks footballs; the other helps save lives." In Cool [1.5] Lex offers Clark tickets to a concert, dares him to ask Lana out, and throws in the limo as a barging chip. This action also enables Lex to try and help Clark in another way, namely to subsidize the Kent farm, which is chronically in debt, and secure a stable future for Clark. In Craving [1.7], Lex tells Lana point blank that he prefers her "new" escort to her party (Clark) over her old one, when Whitney drops out at the last minute. He also helps Clark out with Lana's birthday present at Clark's request.

This list goes on. By season 2, Clark needs less help with impressing Lana (although in Red [2.2], Clark, who is high on red Kryptonite, borrows a car from Lex for his date with Lana), he still goes to Lex for advice. While Lex's help and advice about Lana may on the surface seem to negate a sexual interest between the two of them, it never actually seems to dispel the homoerotic undercurrent/undertones of their relationship. For one thing, Lex's interest in Clark's love life goes well beyond what one would expect from a friend. Lex seems very invested in getting Clark and Lana together, and it's easy to read his motivation as him being frightened or uncomfortable by the depths of his feelings for Clark. Although we see Lex with three women over the course of season 1, he only seems emotionally attached to one (Amanda in Zero [1.14]) and even then, his concern for her seems to be more platonic and brotherly than romantic. It certainly has less heat and subtext than most of his conversations with Clark, which often contain a visual indication of their interest in each other with what fans have termed "eyefucks." These longing looks and slow once-overs that both Clark and Lex lavish on one another are missing in Lex's romantic scenes with female characters. Plus, the woman Lex eventually does fall in love with and marry, Helen Bryce, looks very much like a female version of Clark: dark hair, slender, and strong yet soft features (e.g. big eyes, full lips). Lex's affections seem to be displaced or redirected from the one he wants (Clark) to a person who would be considered safe. After all, there are many obstacles that stand in the way of Clark and Lex getting together romantically: age, location, gender, socio-economic standing, Lex's fame, Clark's innocence, Lex's bad-boy history, and small-town bias against outsiders and anyone different from the "norm." Due to these outside factors/forces, it's easier on both of them to turn their attentions to partners who are deemed more socially acceptable. At the same time, these obstacles make for a deeply romantic and engaging subtextual relationship. What makes it even more attractive is the fact that the same obstacles are there in the brotherly, platonic friendship the show attempts to portray, which makes it extremely easy to incorporate canon into any further exploration of Clark and Lex's romance in fanfiction.

Lex is a powerful resource and aid to Clark in many ways. He's Clark's resident Love-Doctor, he tries to find ways to help Clark's friends and family, and he's always there to help bail the Kents out when they're in trouble. In various episodes, Lex has offered his lawyers or doctors to help Clark's family, despite having experienced almost nothing but accusations and suspicion from Clark’s father, Jonathan. Even still, Lex does whatever he can to impress not only his love interest, but his love interest’s parents as well. This is love.

But with love also comes obsession. Tired of half-truths and evasions of some of the most important experiences of Lex's life, Lex becomes obsessed with finding the super-being behind the innocent façade, as well as figuring out what happened to him at the bridge the day he met Clark. As he says in Hourglass [1.6], "It's a little strange to be walking around when every shred of evidence says I should be dead. An unsolved mystery, I guess." Lex cannot let a mystery go unsolved. Over the course of three seasons, Lex hires a reporter to dig into Clark's background (X-Ray [1.4]), collects archival evidence on Clark's abilities, weaknesses, and mock-up scenarios of feats he thinks Clark has performed (revealed in season 2). He steals medical files on Clark's mother (Fever [2.16]), and steals a vial of Clark's blood (Calling [2.22]). All the evidence and information he collects on Clark and his parents is stored in a trophy room that has a larger-than life portrait of Clark hanging on the wall. The destroyed Porsche from their original meeting, a computer simulation, the video surveillance of Clark's super speeding from Rogue (1.9), and a blown up photocopy of Clark's family tree done in Kryptonian symbols from Rosetta [2.17] are all on display for Lex to watch obsessively. While in Covenant (3.22), Lex claims the room is all about himself, it's clear that Lex's identity is bound up with Clark, in sickness and in health.

But before the obsession reached this level, it was fun, flirty, and tragic all at once. We know where it ends up with Superman and Lex Luthor becoming archenemies, but, in Smallville we get to see the beginnings of the friendship that will be the stuff of legends, to paraphrase Lex in Hug (1.11). In fact, Lex is rather fond of grand statements like that one. In the pilot episode, he tells Clark that he doesn't want anything to get in the way of their friendship, which is odd since, up until that point, they didn't have one. To their memory they've met exactly once: on the banks of the river after the crash. In reality, the first met minutes after Clark crashed to earth. In Lineage [2.7] we see the Kents help Lionel Luthor get Lex to the hospital. On the drive over, Wee!Clark reaches out and touches the unconscious Lex. Wee!Lex opens his eyes and almost smiles at Clark before drifting out again. Fate has brought them together violently, not once, but twice, and the bond they share is deep, immediately recognizable to at least Lex, if not them both, in the pilot when they meet again.

True to Lex's wishes in the pilot, Clark and Lex become fast friends. Although at first glance they have little in common, it's their contrasts that make them such a strong pairing. Clark is innocent of the world, a boy who strives to do the right thing, who is afraid to rebel because of his strength and secrets, and who can trust and talk to his parents when he is trouble. Lex was never innocent. Although now he tries to do the right thing, for most of his life, he rebelled and did what he wanted. The one parent he loved and trusted is dead, and the other he isn't quite sure how to act around. He was popular during his teenage years, but that popularity was bought. He's never been able to trust anyone to like him for who he is. Until Clark, and Lex rewards that trust by repaying it the best way he can. Although he does dig into Clark's background, he also reveals himself to Clark in ways he doesn't to other people: Lex talks about his dearly departed mother several times, he tells Clark how he lost his hair (Craving [1.7]) when he withholds the same information from others, and, most of all, Lex allows himself to be vulnerable to Clark. For the first time, Lex finds someone he can be open with, and although he never quite gets exactly what he wants from Clark in canon, in fanfiction, he very often can.

Clark and Lex fill a void in each other. In Clark, Lex finds a refuge, someone who can accept the man behind the glamour. And for the most part, Clark does. In later seasons, he does start taking advantage of Lex, his personal ATM, but this is partly because, in his need to protect Clark and become part of his life, Lex attempts to give Clark everything he can. In Clark's case, Lex is an outsider who never knew the geek and the outcast that Clark feels he is. Lex looks at him and sees someone special, someone fascinating. Lex is exotic, he flirts with Clark quite obviously in many episodes, especially during season 1. Clark comes to depend on Lex's attention, and is baffled when he doesn't receive it. For example, in the second episode of season 2, Heat, when Lex rushes past Clark after a fire at the school to see how Clark's teacher is, the expression on Clark's face goes from joy at seeing Lex come to his rescue, to abject shock when he is passed by. Even Pete, Clark's high school best friend, expresses surprise at Lex's actions.

Lex is Clark's bridge into adulthood. He introduces Clark to a world not defined by the Kents or Smallville or small-town expectations. He has a castle with 75 rooms, owns all the cool toys, and is exactly what any teenage boy would want in a best friend. Combine all this with the ambiguous sexuality Lex exudes from his wardrobe and walk to his penchant for playing with phallically shaped objects, and you have two characters begging to be slashed.

There are millions of possibilities to explore with Clex slash. Some authors choose to write the decline of the pairing, how they go from being lovers to enemies. Others choose to ignore the "Rift," instead writing future-fics or alternative universes in which they learn to communicate, to share secrets and to find ways to reconcile their different world-views into a peaceful life. Still others write alternative realities in which a key factor was changed so the characters and their relationships are explored from a new angle. In some ways, Smallville is an alternate reality of the Superman mythos, so any thread or arc explored is merely building on the AU-ness of the show.

As I said before, this pairing is hard for me to explain because it feels right. Season 1 was all about the homoerotic undertones of Clark and Lex's relationship. The Television Without Pity recapper, Omar, pointed it out in many of his reviews, and even chronicled the “Gayest Look of the Episode”. A few magazines mentioned it in their reviews. Even Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling joke about it in the commentary of Red in the Season 2 DVDs. Whether their relationship is riftless or tragic, it will always remain passionate. It is, after all, the friendship of legends.

Fic Recs

As hard as the essay was to write, this section was even harder. There are so many good fics in Smallville fandom, and I only read a small portion of them for various reasons. I generally stick to AU's and riftless, happy-fics. I've included some of my favorite fics from early season 1, since they're the ones I cut my teeth on, and some of my recent favorites as well.
Archives:

Smallville Slash Archive
Level Three

Project Series by Te

Identical Series by Lanning

Dogpoet's Darkness Before Dawn and Heart of Darkness (among others):

Dogpoet's Rambling

Henry Jones Jr.: I love everything Henry writes. Here are some of my favorites
The Business Offer An AU ending to the episode Cool
Angels Kiss AU ending to Zero
Mouse, a Definition Hysterical alien!Clark first time written with Kel.
Love Isn't Blind A riftless future fic.

Mako: A nice series of stories about Clark and Lex's relationship in the early days.
Stone by Stone
Star After Star
Night and Day
Truth or Dare

Rhiannon: This explores the trials and tribulations of Clark and Lex's relationship through the years.

The Orbiting Series (and more)

(Thanks to pepperjackcandy, svmadelyn, and wunderful29 for betaing this essay.)

Comments

Lovely, lovely essay, and I like how you pointed to Lex hitting Clark with his car as an awakening on more than one level. Good job!
Good job!

Thank you!
Good job!

Thank you!
I totally agree with you on how right the Clex feels. Smallville is my very first fandom and was my introduction to slash. When I discovered Clark/Lex fanfiction, I was ecstatic. Everything just fell into place for me. I knew why I was so strongly drawn to Smallville--I was registering the subtext even before I had a name for what it was.
Wonderful essay. I really like the character analysis and the way you've detailed the effort they've both put into building this relationship. It's passionate and volatile and it's exactly why I love it.

I generally stick to AU's and riftless, happy-fics.

Heh, I'm right there with you. Let's just wallow in the denial.
Nicely done. This isn't even my fandom, but I have seen a number of episodes and find the relationship as presented quite interesting. I think you hit on a number of great points on why it works.
Very nicely done.

::applauds::
Yes, exactly. That's my only real reaction to this. You put down on paper everything that's lived in my head since the Car Crash of Destiny first came on-screen. They are just so...well, not perfect, but beautifully flawed. How can anyone not love that?

See no Rift, read no Rift, write no Rift. La la la. Fingers in ears.
Clark and Lex fill a void in each other.

Yes! I can't tell you how I've tried to explain this to people (but, they have nothing in common!) but now I can just point them to your essay here!
great essay! really well explained. and I absolutely agree with you on the Clex. it's just so right! :)
Even Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling joke about it in the commentary of Red in the Season 2 DVDs.

Really? Dammit, now I have to get season two. **pouting**

I was waiting for this, I knew you would do an excellent, very specific job and you did exactly what I expected.

Oh, and since I don't think you mentioned it? Everyone go read Corner of the World by the author herself. Eee! Mouse, a definition, Cher, I love that scene in the cornfield. **happy smutty thoughts**

nice essay

Very well written and presented.

Yes, exactly

Beautiful, hon. You hit the nail on the head. I loved this essay from start to finish. Trust me, it was clear and something I could definitely point to and say, 'See, this is why we slash them.'

Thanks for posting this.

**hugs**
*grins* Once again, great job with this! Thanks so much for all the work you put into it. That's so cool of you.
As I said before, this pairing is hard for me to explain because it feels right.

I think this is why the CLex are my only OTP. Seeing either of them with anyone else (in canon or fic) just feels wrong to me, no one else seems to spark with either of them as much as they spark together.

Thanks for writing such a gorgeous essay on my favourite pairing.
Great essay, serafina. Very well done.
I completely agree with you. They are so easy to pair. They just look and feel perfect together. Very nice essay.
Oh Serafina, this was beautiful! Why were you worried? Such a wonderful look at a very complex relationship.
Why were you worried?

*snerk* You didn't see the orginal essay. :) This one came after the worry.

Thanks for setting all this up. I've really enjoyed reading the essays, and it was a lot of fun writing this and the next one!
Oh, that's cool. Good job!
Great essay, seraphina! I remember watching the pilot and thinking: "Isn't it too fanfic-y for the audience? Could they get away with such a daring reinvention of classical myth?"
Time proved that Gough and Millar made the right decision. The dynamics of Clark\Lex relationship is the main thing that keeps the show interesting (at least, for me). Although I have to confess I never tried to delve into their relationship as deeply as you do. Thanks for great insights!

Terrific

Terrific essay. I had no intention of watching SV, not being a big superhero person, but honestly...the slash screamed out at me from the 1st season previews. Thanks to great chemistry between TW and MR and fabulous acting by MR, the relationship, whether friendly or antagonistic just leaps off the screen and has changed not only my views of canon Lex and Superman, but made me reexamine the relationship between all superheros and their archenemies.
I was a Clex fan for no reason but because they are pretty...
^___^
But now you gave me so many good reason.
Thanks to you I love them more with better reason.
I’m really glad that it was you who wrote about the Clex pairing. Your essay reminded me again of how much I enjoy these two characters. Great work.:-)
Bravo, love. This turned out really well!
Hello! C: I loved reading this manifesto, you have done a marvelous job in explaining their relationship.

Even Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling joke about it in the commentary of Red in the Season 2 DVDs.

Oh my! Do you by chance have video/audio of this commentary? I'd love to see it ♥
So obvious that it's beautiful <33
I just have to comment to give you a big round of applause! *clapping* Yay! This is awesome and wonderful. Great job!
blue by darkhavens

September 2015

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