An open letter to Noah Hawley, Jeff Russo and company,
*Trigger warning: Sexual Assault
I don’t normally do this kind of thing. I read reviews and watch reviews, I don’t write them. But I had to this time. Like a force of nature. It has taken me a couple of days to be able to put all of these complicated emotions into words. I have watched the season finale twice now trying to make sense of my thoughts and feeling. I can’t write this fast enough and yet I also want to take my time and speak carefully.
I am so dedicated to the story that you are telling through Legion. I have loved the comics, and connect with characters through each episode. I will listen to the soundtrack on repeat (especially Season 2!). I was geeking out so hard on this season’s finale. Together you all make incredible storytellers, I would even go as far to say that no one writes an X-men story better for television. Not to mention such an incredible cast, and such incredible audio/visual work (those covers!) AH, I’m such a nerd for this show (Where are the awards people? come ON!)…. You could say that I am a fan.
In all seriousness though, I am now.…undone, confused and I am heartbroken. Please, hear me out.
We know from the comics that David (Dan Stevens) isn’t always the hero. We knew that it was likely that his story would turn him into a villain this season. That’s fine. Still EPIC. David is a very complicated character, and you have done such an incredible job in bringing this character to the screen. He is Legion, he is troubled and he is powerful. He deals with mental illness and is a psychic mutant. His inner world, reflected in certain ways my inner world- and that is what a show runner wants right? For the audience to relate to their characters, their quirks, their inner workings and their dialogues? A Mutant who is also mentally ill? Hell yes. Being someone who has dealt with mental illness, medication and hospitals, I related to him and his struggle.
But I can’t say that I relate anymore. David sexually assaulted his girlfriend. He began to think of himself as god, as it is implied through his conversation with Lenny (Aubrey Plaza, hey girl hey) in the back of the truck once Division 3 arrived. He was deluded, believing he could force her to love him, not considering… or ignoring… that she had already made up her mind. She was sure of herself, and he thought he knew better. He manipulated her. He manipulated Syd and took away her free will. He violated her mind and then disregarded everything she had just said, every action she had just taken. The manipulation was furthered after her memory had been manipulated, when she states that he needed to sleep in his own room that night- something didn’t feel right for Syd, although she didn’t know what. Disregarding her again, appearing in her room, David then coerced Syd into having sex with him. Syd later finds out telling him “You drugged me, and had sex with me”.
Almost the same exact thing happened to me (minus the fact I am a mere mortal). I was raped. Now, my favorite comic book character of all time is more relatable to the man that raped me and that is sad and terrifying on levels that I am still trying to grasp. The parallels were… anxiety inducing for me. See, my rapist tried to tell me he was god, I’m not joking. Before any of that happened, he was a friend. I didn’t want to be with him, but we were friends. Soon (and disturbingly) I found out he was obsessed with me, “in love” he’d claim. He began to disregard everything I said and did in protest. He thought he could make me love him by “willing it so”, after I told him I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him, I only wanted to be friends. He was deluded. He coercively raped me, despite my saying “no” and protesting verbally and physically and it broke me. In his confession, my rapist even said “I wanted to love you and I wanted to be loved by you”…. I didn’t want that at all, but it didn’t matter. He did it anyways. Just like David. And he got away with out taking responsibility, just like David. And I, too, have been told “that isn’t how it happened” when yes, it is exactly how it happened.
I am heart broken and feeling conflicted by the show-runners choice to write the story in this way. There are some bad things that people can come back from. People make bad decisions, people can be misguided and people can come back from that. But rape is inexcusable. Not all villains are rapists. Mental illness cannot be blamed for rape. And most people are not morally capable to commit to rape. It takes a certain type of person to dehumanize another person and get off on it, and my favorite character just took that sharp, sharp turn. It is like I can hardly breathe. Rapists rape people. Perverted people sexually assault. For control, for power. Lust.
It isn’t just selfish, wrong, a mistake. It is disorienting and world shattering for the victim. It takes reality and fucks it up. It takes your skin and makes scars. It turns you from a human into something more unseen, something terrifyingly less “real”. It removes yourself from your own body. It dissociates you. It’s the exact reason I have the word “ghost” tattooed on my skin. A reminder of how far I have come.
Something I have been asking for a long time now as I search for resolution, healing, as well as justice after my sexual assault: Can a human being ever have some semblance of a normal life again after committing sexual assault? Do they deserve that? How can you ever forgive someone you once called a friend after they commit sexual assault? How do you move on? What do you do from here? What about the rapist’s friends? How do they move on knowing what their friend has done? How do you reconcile all of this!?
David Haller our Hero, and we know there’s David Haller the villain, he is complicated. Just like us. And now there’s David the rapist. No amount of alternative reality can undo the fact that it happened (I’ve already tried that).
This twisted turn of events in Legion isn’t going to be the decided factor of whether I continue to be tuning into the show in the future. This is a very important topic that you have placed into this show… and it can’t be swept under the rug. Not for people like us. You have brought a devastating type of grief in to the last episode of the season. For 2 years we have followed this story-line and these well portrayed characters. We are invested in their lives. And now, this feels like something far too heavy and dark… something far too real for me. But… it happened, in the show and in my real life. It happened. What now?
The show now reflects these questions that I and many other victims have been asking for the last few years after a sexual assault takes place. It is my hope that you might see the importance of speaking to survivors as you write the coming season. We are all looking for answers or resolution somehow just like Syd (Rachel Keller) character must be now.
To quote a conversation between David and Amy (Katie Aselton) from an earlier episode in season 2. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this” “I know, but it is.” S2E6
Thanks for listening and CONGRATS ON GETTING RENEWED. #LegionS3
Please for all of us, find a way to address this.