The Devil Goes to Therapy—How ‘Lucifer’ Explores the Father Complex

 Lucifer in context – It’s rather funny to see how ‘daddy issues’ have become quite associated with women. In most cases, it remains a casual way of minimizing a woman’s basic needs in a relationship. But when Freud and Jung or even different post-modernists took on the topic of ‘Father Complex,’ they highlighted a far more complicated relationship between a child and a father. More interestingly, it reflects on how that results in different attachment types in adults. Yet for some reason or the other, this aspect of human psychology often gets hidden under the casual and deprecating use of ‘daddy issues.’

Interestingly, this is precisely where Netflix’s Lucifer is changing the narrative.

The show, on the surface, centers on Lucifer Morningstar—the devil himself.  Lucifer is a one-part police procedural, a one-part melodrama about a charming, oversexed, devilishly handsome playboy. At the same time, it is a rare show that embraces religion, the struggles of faith, and self-discovery. It is a psychological understanding of the father complex with a bit of debaucherous fun.

Who is Lucifer Morningstar?

Screenwriter Tom Kapinos has based the show on the version of the devil seen in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman (DC Comics). Other than many shared characters like Ramiel and Amenadiel, both interpretations of Lucifer Morningstar have ruled over hell for 10 billion years, rebelling three seconds after Creation. However, at some point during his reign, Lucifer becomes bored with his existence. He becomes weary of the various stereotypes and prejudices that people held of the devil or Satan. These include ideas where he purchased and traded for souls, and that he forced mortals to commit evil acts. So Lucifer decides to relinquish his authority over hell and open a piano bar in Los Angeles.

Lucifer as oroginally depicted in Sandman
Lucifer as originally depicted in The Sandman

A Recurring Motif of the Father Complex

The comic book Lucifer gets tangled in further cosmic mysteries soon after the TV show counterpart starts on an unintended path of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Kapinos’ Lucifer takes place five years after the prince of hell retires to LA. Charming, charismatic, and humorous Lucifer Morningstar leads a drug and sex-fueled life in his penthouse. The Penthouse is located above Lux, his high-profile bar in LA. A man who is wealthy beyond imagination on Earth, a king in Hell, and an angel in Heaven surely is not the poster child for daddy issues or that’s what it might seem. But Kapinos dives into the psyche of a man who has been isolated from his family for millennia. Additionally, he is often looked upon as a malevolent character; a man whose father has been chronically absent and yet expects unquestioned loyalty.

Right from Season 1, we see Lucifer struggle as a son who wants his father’s approval. But his fractured relationship with God leaves Lucifer despondent. His desire for simple communication and not receiving it sparks massive insecurity in his mind. Drinking and sex are the key coping mechanisms he uses to compensate for it. However, unlike humans, Lucifer doesn’t just believe God exists. He knows it does. Consequently, the one-sided relationship pains him in a way similar to how any individual with daddy issues would experience. This is the very fact that humanizes the bond between God and Lucifer. But instead of just using this as a prop to further the plot line, the show introduces us to Dr. Linda Martin who eventually helps Lucifer understand the nuanced aspects of the father complex. In that sense, Lucifer as a show is more about counseling than police procedural drama.

Dr. Linda Martin, the anchor point of Lucifer
Dr. Linda Martin, the anchor point of the entire show

Different Attachment Types Showcased by Lucifer

Through the course of the series so far, Lucifer has come to display major subclasses of insecure attachment types. The categories can be termed as dismissive, fearful, and avoidant attachment types. Often, the manifestations of these attachment types are directed toward Lucifer’s relationship with Detective Chloe Decker, Amenadiel, or even other people in his life. For Lucifer, the frustration of living with an all-knowing, all-powerful father piques his mistrust of people and their intentions. His pretense of acting nonchalant is what makes him blind from imminent threats. But unlike other TV shows that make cult following out of a non-redeemable “bad boy,” Lucifer actually shows the titular character progress through the first four seasons. Instead of being a snub against therapy, Lucifer’s slow-paced efforts provide audiences with a realistic expectation of the self-discovery and self-growth process. Improving one’s mental health is an exhausting and confusing, but necessary, toil.

Beyond Father Complex

Even though it is true that Lucifer is one of the few shows to shed light on filial bonds (father-child relationship), the show goes well beyond just one aspect of the human psyche. Soon after Lucifer’s sessions with Dr. Martin begin, the demon Mazikeen, Lucifer’s friend and bodyguard, spends time with the doctor, too. Mazikeen is feared by almost everyone, leading her to believe that she can be nothing but a killer. On Earth, Mazikeen discovers feelings of loneliness for the first time that stems from following a set notion of society.

Mazikeen’s lesson relates to another principle of self-growth that is prominent in the show—learning to be yourself. Lucifer, Mazikeen, and Eve struggle most with accepting who they are, rather than acting according to the wishes and expectations of others. Just like Lucifer and Mazikeen, Eve also constantly morphs herself into a person she believes her partner will like best. In creating someone they believe others want, Mazikeen, Lucifer, and Eve lose themselves completely until they find their way to the couch in Dr. Martin’s office—a rite of passage for a show that so casually incorporates messages of mental health into its plot lines. No one is too good or too evil, too whole or too broken to reap the benefits of therapy—not even the cosmically dysfunctional family of God.

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