Batman v Superman: Lex Luthor, Mental Illness And Me

Shannen Murphy Shannen Murphy
September 20th, 2016

I'm a writer and blogger who's been focused on analyzing representation of LGBT and disabled folks in superhero, sci-fi, and fantasy media since 2014.

Batman v Superman created some fascinating characters, with Lex Luthor being one of the most hotly debated. Here, we use Lex Luthor to dive into issues of metal health from one fan's perspective.

Batman v Superman: Lex Luthor, Mental Illness And Me

Batman v Superman Lex Luthor

Credit: Warner Brothers

My name is Murphy, and I have a neurological disability. This disability -- temporal lobe epilepsy -- comes with a couple of friends: undiagnosed ADHD and something called Geschwind syndrome. My epilepsy affects my day to day life -- not just because of my medication, but because those undiagnosed friends affect who I am as a person. They create parts of my personality, and show in my behavior in social situations -- and I see that behavior mirrored in the DCEU's version of Lex Luthor.

First, let me say that I don't mean to imply that Lex necessarily has my disability. But, given his symptoms, he could. He could also have a number of other disorders, and definitely has one I, luckily, do not: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But for the most part, our behaviour and our symptoms mirror each other. Allow me to explain, by taking you on a tour of my brain, and by interpretation and extension, Lex's:


People write this disorder off as 'overdiagnosed' or 'a lack of willpower.' However, in reality, ADHD exists as an obstacle in many people's lives, and goes particularly unseen in adults.

Symptom categories include:

  • Inability to focus
  • Hyperfocus
  • Impulsivity
  • Emotional problems
  • Hyperactivity/restlessness.


I display all of these, and Lex particularly shows symptoms in the impulsivity, emotional problems, and hyperactivity/restlessness categories.

For impulsivity, listed symptoms include talking over people/interrupting and having trouble behaving in socially appropriate ways.

Lex shows these symptoms in his scenes with Senator Finch, and while on top of LexCorp tower. He invades people's personal space and dominates conversations. His way of comporting himself obviously makes people uncomfortable, but he doesn't seem to notice or care.

Emotional problems, for ADHD folks, can include a sense of underachievement, frustration, a hypersensitivity to criticism, and having a short, explosive temper.

Lex displays these symptoms particularly in concert with his abuse trauma. When speaking about his father, or in situations that bring his father to mind, Lex loses what stability he has. He also loses his temper when told no by the senator. Jesse Eisenberg plays these moments beautifully, and this instability creates an undercurrent through the rest of his performance.

Finally, we come to hyperactivity and restlessness. The body language Lex exhibits pretty much speaks for itself. He moves in short, sharp bursts and flurries, and speaks that way too.

Additionally, his speeches very much mirror the jostled and unfocused thought patterns of many ADHD people, including mine. Watching him during his library fundraiser speech actually made me embarrassed, because I realized that that's what I sound like. My brain works that way, and I know it shows.

Overall, Lex's behaviour really mirrors an ADHD person, and that really gets to me. However, it's not the only reason I relate to him.


Geschwind Sydrome comes comorbid with temporal lobe epilepsy. First categorized by Norman Geschwind, the syndrome consists of 'chronic, mild, interictal (i.e. between seizures) changes in personality, which slowly intensify over time.' Not all Geschwind people show all of the symptoms, of course, but I exhibit most of them.

The five changes:

  • Hypergraphia -- the tendency for extensive and compulsive writing.
  • Hyperreligiosity -- intense religious feelings and 'philosophical interests'
  • Atypical sexuality -- about half of the people with Geschwind report having a decreased libido.
  • Circumstantiality -- people often speak around the point, but always circle back around to it.
  • Intensified mental life

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