Unwilling to Take Responsibility: Doctor Smith and Manipulation May30

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Unwilling to Take Responsibility: Doctor Smith and Manipulation

Screenshot from Netflix's rebooted Lost in Space.
In the reboot of Lost In Space that premiered on Netflix last month, June Harris is a survivor at all costs. She doesn’t care who she has to take down to preserve her own life. When her sister prepares to leave on an expedition to colonize another planet on the interstellar spacecraft Resolute, she offers June her beautiful house, car, and clothes—basically, all her possessions. Accepting her sister’s gifts could have been a fresh start for June, a chance to redefine herself honestly. But, June is a jerk. She drugs her sister, stealing her identity and taking her place on the expedition. And when it’s discovered that she isn’t who she claims to be, June kills a guy to keep him quiet, leaves people in distress who she could have helped, and puts countless others in danger during her continued quest to save her own butt.

When the Resolute is attacked by killer robots, several of the expedition’s ships crash on an earth-like planet, including the ship of the Robinson family. One of the robots also crashes there, and befriends (and becomes fiercely loyal to) the child, Will. June also finds herself stranded and in need of a new plan to ensure her survival and freedom. She takes the identity of a psychologist named Smith. By pretending to be a doctor and a trained member of the expedition, she puts everyone’s lives at risk because she has none of the survival or technical training that members are expected to have.

June preys on people’s unwillingness to communicate or be vulnerable with each other.

When someone lies, the freedom of everyone interacting with them is threatened. In a Catholic marriage, misrepresentation is clear ground for an annulment. The reason is that misrepresentation removes freedom; and freedom is a prerequisite for marriage. I can’t make a truly free, well-informed decision if I’m being bamboozled. I can’t participate fully in a relationship if that relationship is a sham. Not only is that relationship doomed to fail, but emotional, spiritual, and even physical harm can come to the one who is duped. Plus, the duper loses themselves. Nobody wins there.

June keeps little secrets, engendering trust, and sows seeds of doubt between other relationships wherever she can. She knows that the more people she has looking over their shoulders in fear and distrust, the more they will look to her for direction. She deliberately opens psychological wounds, leaving her victims—many who put their trust in her and reveal their emotional struggles because they think she’s a psychologist—in pain, confusion, anger and despair.

June manipulates Angela, one of the survivors who’s husband was killed by the robots, digging up raw emotions and leaving her with a gun. Angela attacks the Robot, which leads to the Robot injuring Will’s father, and ultimately Will’s decision to destroy the Robot. June’s meddling leaves the whole group vulnerable.

June tries to rationalize her evil by getting others to act out instead of doing her own dirty work. She says to Will’s robot, “I’m a good person. I’m not a violent person. I’m not a killer like you. The truth is, I’m not going to do any of the bad things that are going to happen… you are.”

It’s frustrating and painful to watch her manipulation of her crewmates. I’m reminded of some of the wounds from my own past—my hurt, anger, and surprise at the manipulation others have attempted on me. I also want her to get caught so badly—for her own good as well as for the good of others. Even if she does win in the end, even if all of her plans succeed, the deeper she goes into her false identity, the more she loses herself and anything really worth having. “When you pretend to be something you’re not so long, sometimes you have to say things out-loud to remember what’s true,” she says. No matter how often she reminds herself what’s true, it’s only herself, who is rapidly dwindling, who will reply. An echo of falsehood only reinforces falsehood.

I wonder what drives June’s constant deceptions. Is it fear? If so, what is she afraid of? Perhaps she doesn’t think anyone will accept her for herself. Perhaps she took a chance on people in the past and was let down. Or maybe she thrives on making other lives as chaotic as her own.

When someone lies, the freedom of everyone interacting with them is threatened.

June preys on people’s unwillingness to communicate or be vulnerable with each other. So much of the Resolute crews’ problems could have been solved if they’d simply talked with each other. For example, if the kids had trusted their parents with the fears June planted in Will about the robot’s safety, they wouldn’t have lied and hid the Robot. That situation caused more stress for everyone, and gave June the opening to plant seeds of doubt in the Robot, too.

People are too willing to follow June’s insinuations rather than face difficult conversations with others, maybe hearing what they don’t want to hear. She’s careful not to tell people what to do; just to make suggestive comments that, if taken as truth, will lure them into making poor decisions.

If I take responsibility for my actions, it means I take responsibility if I fail as well. That’s a scary prospect, and can tempt me to let my judgement be clouded by someone else’s manipulation. But if I remember to step back and reevaluate the situation—and if I’m willing to communicate with others instead of just taking action—I can, perhaps, make a wiser choice instead of being sucked into the craziness of another. Being comfortable with who I am makes me less susceptible to the lies of others, and I believe anyone who genuinely looks for the truth will find it.

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
Jen is a pastoral minister, wife, mother, ninja and writer. She loves sci-fi, superheroes, and classic literature, and prefers to share her Catholic faith through such lenses. Her book, "Comic Con Christianity" will be available from Paulist Press in Spring of 2018.
Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

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