The other day I was talking to someone about Steven Spielberg’s 2001 movie, A.I.. When I first watched it, I cried when David was abandoned by his mother in the woods. That’s long before I studied object relations theory & narcissistic abuse. 20 years ago, I did not have the knowledge to help me pinpoint why I cried, nor was I even aware that there’s a reason for this reaction that could be traced back to early childhood. Now I know the abandonment scene triggered my own attachment trauma. Also, I had mixed feelings about some scenes, for example, sibling rivalry and the controversial ending scene. Well, technically, sibling rivalry is not the correct term because Monica’s real son, Martin, is very aware that David is an android, so he feels entitled to bully David in whatever way he wanted. Martin is conscious that David is just an object, so clearly he has never seen David as his sibling. Recently, I re-watched a few clips from A.I., and cannot help but notice many parallels between the dynamics of a narcissistic family unit and the human parent–robot child interactions.
Martin reminds me of my older brother. They derive a sense of satisfaction from bullying another person / android / animal. I’ve met people who tried to take my brother’s side & said there must be legitimate reasons why my brother bullied me. No, there wasn’t! I knew he bullied me simply because he felt immediate satisfaction from breaking me down. Both he & my mother had the same smirk after they bullied me. That’s the difference between a narcopath & a normal human being. A narcopath does not need a reason to hurt another innocent human. They hurt others simply because they gain pleasure from hurting others. For example, my brother once mutilated my stuffed animals for no reason & he also threw things at stray cats & seemed proud of himself when the cats looked startled & frightened.
When I told my mother what my brother had done, she looked annoyed with me & told me just to let my brother be! Let him do whatever he wants! Of course, she stood by his side. My father is no better. He has been too busy gaining his narcissistic supply from his job & church activities, so most of the time, he’s absent. Several times I told him about the hell I went through at home & being bullied in school, he just brushed me off. Therefore, since early childhood, I’ve learned to stifle every feeling & numb myself as much as possible since no one’s going to help me, anyway.
Over those years, my brother was groomed into a narcissist, and I was groomed into an echoist. Thanks, mom & dad, for your legacy 😨
We are programmed by our mother to love her, just as David is programmed by Monica to love her, to call her Mommy. Just like David, we did not know we were being set up. We did not know a mother or father is capable of choosing not to love her own flesh & blood, and even of abandoning the child. As nerdy as I’m, lol, I wondered if anyone has analyzed this movie from a psychoanalytical point of view. I haven’t found any article with that viewpoint yet, but I found this quote from “A Matter of Life and Death: ‘A.I'” very resonating:
“Two millennia earlier, some time after she programmed David to love her, the original Monica discarded and abandoned him. He became unacceptable once her own son recovered from his coma and returned home, even though initially David was treated like a second child. But after a series of taunts and challenges by Martin toward his sibling rival, the boy robot started to malfunction. ”
However, we are not immortal, like David. We won’t have a second chance to make our narcissistic mothers love us, as David is granted the chance by the aliens 2000 years later. In fact, we have attempted numerous times to make our narcissistic parents love us before the desperation that they will never change pushed us into going low-contact or no contact.
We love them so much that we were willing to abandon ourselves / give up our true self in exchange for their love. Besides, it is NEVER the child’s responsibility to make his/ her parent love him/her because an infant is born a blank slate. It’s the adult caretaker’s responsibility to love the child.
The only way out, and possibly the only liberating way, is to accept that my mother does not love me. It has nothing to do with me. It is her choice. And now as an adult, I’m calm to accept & respect her choice. Whether she wants to try to understand how her toxic legacy affected me is no longer my concern. In the narcissistic family unit, the only liberating way for the victim is, ironically, giving up any hope of closure. As the robot played by Jude Law says to David, “She loves what you do for her … But she does not love you. She cannot love you”, these lines sum up narcissists’ “love” quite poignantly.
The truth is no matter in fiction or reality, the line between machines & humans is more & more blurred. Some say feeling sorry for David is stupid because he’s not human. But don’t many of us have the experience of being used as objects, for instance, by our narcissistic parents, siblings, or even by a lover? When you’re objectified by another, you feel dehumanized. At least personally I know quite a few people who are as cold as a machine and have no problem taking advantage of others because those people have no empathy, and their victims are nothing but objects to them. We’re living in an age when many humans are acting like the walking dead for their lack of empathy, and possibly lack of souls.