Saturday, March 3, 2018

Is Gaslighting Excusable in Supernatural Situations?

I've been watching season two of H2O: Just Add Water.

There are some new characters this season, including Charlotte (Brittany Byrnes), who was gaslighted by her boyfriend, Lewis (Angus McLaren), in an episode I watched recently. 

Charlotte is overbearing, manipulative, annoying, and clingy. It's hard to feel sympathy for her even when enduring gaslighting. But still I disapprove of Lewis's behavior. I'm very anti-gaslighting.

Lewis, and then Charlotte, invite themselves along on a family camping trip involving the three local mermaids—Cleo (Phoebe Tonkin), Emma (Claire Holt) and Rikki (Caribe Heine).

Charlotte doesn't know her new boyfriend's friend group is made up of supernatural beings. These supernatural beings go even more supernatural on the camping trip because of the full moon.  Charlotte witnesses some strange zombie-like behavior from Cleo, and then she sees moonlighting and water effects. She knows something's up. When she tries to tell Leo about it, he's dismissive and tries to push her to believe she didn't experience what she thought she had experienced.

In Leo's defense, I understand he's worried about outsiders knowing the mermaid secret. I think there probably is a point where they can trust certain people and open up about the secret. For example, is it really necessary for the mermaids parents and siblings not to be in on it?  But Charlotte is a different story. I don't think she's proven herself trustworthy yet. I'm not sure if she ever will. But is gaslighting the only way to deal with things?

Phoebe Tonkin and Claire Holt currently star on an American supernatural TV show-The Originals.  Here, instead of being mermaids, Tonkin is a vampire-werewolf hybrid, and Holt is a super old vampire. They live in New Orleans, which is full of supernatural beings. These beings also feel the need to keep the supernatural secret from most of the non-supernatural.  I can't remember if gaslighting has ever been used on the show. Instead the main tool is compelling which is a form of supernatural hypnosis. I was going to say this was better for the minds and souls of the tricked—less emotionally stressful. But now that I think of it, the humans do seem somewhat distressed after being compelled too often.

There was a touching scene where a tormented detective (Jason Dohring) was finally let in on the secret of the town. His whole life he felt something was going on but didn't have the validation to give him vindication. Once he knows the truth, He seems to feels a lot of relief.

How many of us would feel this relief if we finally learned the things we suspected were true—supernatural or not supernatural. Even if the news was scary, might it still be a relief to know we're not imagining things?


Whether or not compelling is less psychologically damaging than gaslighting...I guess it doesn't matter, since the Aussie mermaids don't have that tool at their disposal.

Last night I was thinking about it all and thought of another way that Lewis could have handled Charlotte's experiences. Why not just listen and act accepting of her experiences? When she mentioned the moon effects, what if Lewis said something like, Wow! That's so weird! I wonder what that was all about!  It sounds really cool. I wish I saw it.

Yes, he'd still be doing a major lie of omission. Lewis very well knows what it's all about. But at least he wouldn't be pushing Charlotte to believe she had imagined things. He wouldn't have been saying things that might have lead her to start questioning her perception and sanity.

When I watched the next episode, I saw Lewis having his own alternative to gaslighting. Charlotte begins asking too many questions, Lewis simply tells her that sometimes life has mysteries and that's just that. Well, he didn't use those exact words, but it was along the same lines.

Charlotte seemed content with that answer.

I think in most cases, gaslighting is NOT about hiding an exciting, mysterious supernatural secret.  In most cases, it's about a wrongdoer trying to hide his wrongdoing.  In those cases, the life-is-full-of-mystery tactic probably won't work.  If a wife wants to know why her husband is late coming home every night, and why he doesn't answer his phone, he probably won't score points by saying, Sometimes life is full of mystery.

Well...actually that might work if he's been out late planning a huge surprise party for her.  But if he says something like that, it might be too much of a hint.

Now I'm imagining a super manipulative man—cheating on his wife, using the mystery line, and then quickly planning a surprise party to cover his tracks.