The Electra Complex
Daughter Convinced by Therapist that She Wants to Fuck Dad
The scene opens on Bruce, a handsome blue-collar man, as he sits solemnly at the dining room table cracking his knuckles. He is staring blankly at a photo of his wife. The woman died two months earlier after a sudden illness and his family has been devastated, especially his step-daughter Laurie, who went from being a typical happy girl to a distant, resentful stranger. Now, he is waiting for her to come home — and she is late. Two hours late for their appointment, a session with a therapist that Bruce has arranged in the wake of his wife’s death. When she finally returns home, he stands up to confront her but before the man can say anything, Laurie lashes into him. He’s not her real father, he can’t tell her what to do anymore, she’s 18, an adult, she’s going to leave any day now. They quickly descend into a screaming match in the living room, where Bruce tries to talk reason with his daughter and she hurls insults and hits him. Finally, he is forced to grab her and pin her down, to stop her tantrum. There is a long, intense pause as they stare, breathing hard, inches from each other. He tells her they are going to this therapist and that’s an order. She spits in his face. The father, beside himself, grabs her by the wrist and pulls her outside to the car.
Scene cuts to a neatly appointed office. A therapist sits behind her desk, working on a laptop, when there is a knock on the door. She opens it to reveal Bruce, looking defeated, with his angry, tear- stricken daughter beside him. He is still grabbing her wrist. ‘Sorry we are late,’ he says as she lets them in.
The father and daughter sit down as the therapist begins her session. She tells Laurie that she has been counselling Bruce since her mother’s untimely passing and that both felt it was important to bring Laurie into the sessions. She asks Bruce to describe to his daughter how he has been feeling since the funeral. Looking down at the floor, Bruce explains his sorrow, especially over the distance he has felt with the girl he raised as his own. It feels as if he lost not just his wife, but his daughter as well. She is so angry that they barely talk anymore and it’s tearing him up inside. The therapist asks Laurie to share her feelings. Laurie clams up at first but, after some soothing words by the kind therapist, breaks down and confesses that she secretly hates herself for her mother’s death. Bruce is dumbstruck. He tries to comfort her, she didn’t cause her mom’s illness. But Laurie, crying, tells him that she doesn’t hate herself for mom dying, she hates the fact that she secretly wanted her gone. She had wanted her gone for as long as she could remember… all so she could have Bruce to herself.
The therapist, who has been calmly taking notes, walks back over to her library and pulls out a book. ‘I understand the root of this now,’ she says. ‘Have either of you heard of the Electra complex?’ The shocked family says nothing. ‘It’s a Neo-Freudian psychological theory, proposed by Carl Jung, about a girl’s psychosexual competition with her mother for possession of her father.’ Bruce stands up and tries to shut down the conversation, saying it’s inappropriate. The therapist advises him to sit and continues. ‘The term itself is derived from the Greek myth of Electra. During female psychosexual development, a young girl is initially attached to her mother. Most often, because of the powerful connection of the womb and breastfeeding. But, when she discovers her father (or father figure, in this case) and the fact that his body is different from her own, she develops a sexual attachment to him leading her to sub- consciously want to remove her mother and be with her dad.’ Laurie starts laughing nervously. The therapist puts her book away and walks up to Laurie, placing her hand on her shoulder. ‘What is making you laugh?’ She asks. Laurie tells her she is laughing because it’s uncomfortable. ‘And what exactly is uncomfortable?’ Laurie looks at Bruce in defiance before turning back and telling the therapist that suggesting she fucks her step-dad makes her uncomfortable.
The therapist smiles and walks over to Bruce, sitting down in his lap and starting to stroke his face affectionately. Without pause, Laurie jumps up and grabs her. The therapist smiles and steps off, noting that she had just proven her point. Look at how the daughter reacted to competition! This is clearly a case of Electra. She tells Laurie to sit back down and listen: they are going to focus this session on an exercise. To work out her resentment towards her mother and anger at her step-dad, the therapist advises Laurie that she must roleplay as the woman herself. ‘Put yourself in the role of your mother. Bruce will be himself. And I will play you.’