Home Featured Idris Elba’s Luther and My Love For Damaged Souls

Idris Elba’s Luther and My Love For Damaged Souls

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Luther

Last week, I finally got around to watching “Luther” on BBC America. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Idris Elba plays John Luther a British detective charged with leading a team in the investigation of serial killers. John Luther is smart, calculating and highly effective when it comes to catching bad guys; he is also a broken man. When we meet Luther in the series’ second season, he’s just getting back to work after the brutal murder of his wife. Barely scraping by, the stitching of his life is held loosely by his job, and the only two meaningful friendships he has: one with a sociopathic murderer whose attachment to him borders between fierce loyalty and obsession, and the other with an ex prostitute whose life he saved. These two women help push Luther forward as he goes through the process of slowly rebuilding himself.

The show has been entertaining. It’s smart, well written, funny at times, and the acting is superb. But the thing that has stuck out the most for me has been Luther’s relationship with these two women in his life. Since watching it I’ve come to realize that the most beautiful people I’ve known have all been damaged. People who, like Luther and his friends, were once broken, or nearly broken, but are still here. People who have endured for enduring’s sake. Like Luther, these are the people whose impact on my life has been the most resonating and affecting. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about why this is and what it says about me.

The first question I tried to get my mind wrapped around was: What does it mean to be damaged? I’ve always thought that life struggles are relative. Regardless of their cause, my pain is no worse than yours and yours is no worse than mine. While I still believe this to be true, I have realized that there are two types of pain: there is the pain caused by things we can control, and there’s the pain that comes from things beyond our reach. While the causes may not effect how painful an experience is, they do effect the subsequent damage we carry with us after the experience has passed. When we are the cause of our own pain, we can look back and point out things we could have done differently and ways we could have avoided it. More importantly, we can look to the future, learn from our mistakes, and avoid making similar ones. But when your life’s greatest pain is caused by things completely out of your control, there is no 20/20 hindsight and there is no guarantee that what has happened will never again happen. This is what it means to be damaged– to be particularly familiar with the unavoidable hurt that accompanies humanity.

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What happens to those of us who experience this kind of hurt? What becomes of those of us forced to survive unthinkable, unshakeable experiences? We become mutants. Yes, mutants; each possessed with special powers and abilities specific to what we’ve endured. Our endurance shaping every facet of our personality from how we walk and talk, to how we laugh and love. And each possessed with the uncanny ability to spot others like us. We attract each other. We notice those like us in crowded rooms and gravitate toward one another, our mutant pheromones overpowering any physical attraction we might have to other, “normal” people. And despite the palpable magnetism that exists when two mutants meet, we still clutch tightly to our powers and that which gave them to us. They are our secrets and around them, our strength and character is built.

I’ve known a few mutants in my life; truly known them and allowed them to know me. There has been no more rewarding experience than peeling back the layers of life a person has built to safeguard whatever it is that makes them special. I have a friend who, because of certain childhood trauma, has deeper and more encompassing capacity to love than anyone I’ve ever known. His power is his compassion and empathy. He feels in ways I didn’t know possible. Still, I have another friend who is so far detached from her ability to feel that she can act completely without conscience. Yet still, she chooses to be good. I know her life; she wakes up every single day and chooses to do the right thing. And every single day I marvel at her infallible moral compass because it is completely self-made and self-maintained. I have another friend who is the most optimistic person on the face of the Earth. She’s experienced the kind of stuff you read about in novels by authors like Edwidge Danticat and her perspective is fueled by a fundamental belief that things will get better. For me, these people are more than just acquaintances, more than mere friends, they are comrades– fellow soldiers in the army of survivors– traversing the world with an unfair advantage over mere mortals unacquainted with what it takes to continue on when perseverance is all you have left.

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There are people in this world who’ve never experienced pain or loss. They’ve never known what it means to bury someone before their time and they’ve never had their hearts stepped on by someone charged with guarding it. There are people in this world who’ve never had something go wrong when every fiber of their being needed it to go right. I love these people. They are beautiful, hopeful people. They have access to certain desires and emotions that no longer exist in people like me. In that way, I envy them. But if forced to choose, my heart will always be with the broken, patched up souls of those who are intimately aware of just how damaging life in this world can be. Our damage is the tie that binds; it is the source of our deepest fears, our greatest hurt, and every ounce of strength we have.

The broken John Luther and his two equally damaged friends reminded me of myself and all the people I’ve known who keep going despite the oblivion upon which their lives teeter. It reminded me how beautiful are the scars born of struggle and how strong are the mutant powers born of perseverance. Yeah, I really enjoyed the show.

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Have you guys watched Luther just yet? What are you thoughts on the show? And what are your thoughts on damaged people? Are you one? Do you avoid them like the plague? What experience do you have in dealing with people whose lives are shaped by not-so-great experiences?

We’re getting back into the swing of things now that the holiday season has passed. Stay with us as we continue to push forward and get better … till next time … stay low and keep firing.

Comment(40)

  1. WOW!!!! Bravo Sir! I'm speechless. This really made me take a look at the people around me and what draws me to them, why our friendships have become so strong?

    This was a really great read.

  2. Very interesting post. This is my first time seeing any reference to the show, but I'll keep it in mind. My thoughts on so-called damaged people, hm. I don't look at them with pity, because there's a certain unavoidable condescension in that. However, I do wish they didn't have to go through what they did, or feel as closed off from the world as they do. Despite my ability to be anti-social at will, I'm a fairly happy-go-lucky person. I'm only somber as a rare matter of occasion.

    I can't immediately recall any experiences with anyone falling under that category, but I'm a caring person who likes to be there for people when I can. Whether it be offering a non-judgmental and confidential ear or simply providing company, I'm open. I'm not good at forcing myself on people, though, so I would have to receive some kind of green light.

  3. I don't like to be the type that corrects people (at least not in person so I can see the confirmation that I was right in your face) however I only point this out so folks don't go into this series half-blind. You describe the beginning of the 2nd season of the show. The 1st season (available on Netflix streaming) sets up Luther's relationship with the sociopathic Alice and also reveals a much darker side of him.

    That said I'll try answering a question. I truely we are all at some point and to differing degrees, broken people. The key to the healthier relationships I have with others is the honest nature we all have about how we are broken AND how we deal with others in relation to those scars. I would rather have an "Alice" in my life than lots of fake people trying not to be themselves.

    1. You're correct Belve, I was picking up from the second season as the relationship with the prostitute picks up.

      And I agree, I'd rather have an Alice any day of the week.

      1. So what.. Most. Where did you catch the 2nd season I have been waiting all fall-winter for it to come out here in America.

    2. "The key to the healthier relationships I have with others is the honest nature we all have about how we are broken AND how we deal with others in relation to those scars."

      Yes.

  4. I loved Luther. I am realizing I have a thing for darker shows like this.

    I'm damaged so I attract damaged people. It's a mixed bag. I feel like only we can truly get each other, but I can't maintain relationships with people who are seriously harming themselves or harming others. Those who haven't or aren't trying to come to terms with their histories aren't birds of my feather.

  5. This is superbly well written & highly enjoyable read. I love the show. I Luther. Part of the intrigue off it is how readily available he is to try to solve other people’s problems when he is such a guarded, troubled & dark soul himself. That fact makes him not only sympathetic to other people’s plights but empathetic as well.

    What you described at the outset is season two; I highly recommend going back and watching season one. I think it’s only four episodes, as Luther is a mini-series, but they’re very well done. The first season speaks more to his character & lets you know more about him as a person.

    As far as this article, it’s certainly true, endurance builds character. Going through struggles helps us appreciate what we have in life & to be cognizant of not judging others since we never know what someone else’s life might be. My experience is that people who have overcome struggles & obstacles are often beautiful souls. Sometimes having hardships in common can create an unspeakable bond. For some reason this all made me think of Talib Kweli’s song “life is a beautiful struggle…” Thanks for posting this.

  6. Can't find it on DirecTV search. Is it out of the rotation? The Shadow Line is also a good BBC series of which I only caught a few episodes.

  7. I've been meaning to watch this show…

    I really like how you differentiated between pain thats out of your control and pain that maybe could have been prevented.

    I don't avoid damaged people, but I'm so highly emotional and empathetic, that I pretty much feel broken for broken people, and it's hard to take in.

  8. Have you guys watched Luther just yet? What are you thoughts on the show? And what are your thoughts on damaged people? Are you one? Do you avoid them like the plague? What experience do you have in dealing with people whose lives are shaped by not-so-great experiences?

    I've never seen the show, but I'll have to check it out because it sounds like something I would like and because I love Idris Elba lol

    I do know some people, a lot of people, who have damaged in various ways. Ways that you can see on the outside and ways you cannot until/unless you get to know them. I think I am in awe of how they keep going, day to day. They are the heroes. My heroes. I like how you stated that everyone's pain is different…in my head, I know there are some things I haven't experienced at all, that my friends have, but I still know pain. My heart has been broken (not in the romantic sense) and I'm just now beginning to see that it doesn't have to stay this way. Some of my closest and dearest friends are what many would call "damaged", but I look at them and I just want to love them. They understand me in ways some people don't or can't…and they..we..whether we know it or not, can also help someone else down the line. It doesn't necessarily make what went on better, but I think usually people don't want someone else to experience what they did. If they can stop it, they will. If not, they can be the shoulder to cry and lean on, the ear to listen and the hand to hold. I appreciate all of my friends…I realize all of this sounds awfully cliche, but it's true. I think we try to keep each other grounded when we feel like we can't do it alone.

  9. I absolutely LOVE Luther. When I moved to London, it was all the rage and I watched 2 full seasons in 24 hours! I'm a huge fan of crime drama's in general (criminal minds, law and order svu) mostly because I find myself wondering what gives people the strength to go on after such heinous life-shattering things have happened to them.

    To echo Belve's comment above, I think we're all broken to a certain degree. Everyone has a story and everyone is fighting a battle. My most treasured friendships are the ones where we've helped each other after life has completely beaten one or both of us down.

    The human spirit is so resilient that I don't avoid damaged people, I seek out the ones who've found meaning and strength through it all. Those are the people that inspire me most.

  10. Great piece Mr. Spradley! Always look forward to your articles on SBM. This one is deep…
    I can greatly relate to it, how I have become who I am because of my experiences, how I react to others who express themselves through their painful pasts….
    And more importantly, how I view my friends whom I assume have always had it smooth when it comes to especially relationships, and how I respond when they question my inability to freely fall in love….
    By the way, are you a practising psychiatrist or something close to that? 🙂

  11. Luther is a great show. Everyone around John Luther is jacked up in some manner but Alice and the girl from last season stood out. The show is well done in every aspect.

    Some of my crew are damaged and some aren't. I count myself in the damaged group but I think that's why we all gel. We help each other out more often than not. I will say that there are people who I know that are damaged and I do avoid them. Sometimes you can't carry a load for someone. Sometimes people can be too much of a mess. Too damaged. It takes a lot of wisdom to know when to withdraw. This was the case with my friend who was homeless, dealing with mental issues, and using. I helped where I could but he had to make the choice to get help.

    My recent post The Post Red Tails Breakdown… Just Some Thoughts

  12. Luther is a great show. Everyone around John Luther is jacked up in some manner but Alice and the girl from last season stood out. The show is well done in every aspect.

    Some of my crew are damaged and some aren't. I count myself in the damaged group but I think that's why we all gel. We help each other out more often than not. I will say that there are people who I know that are damaged and I do avoid them. Sometimes you can't carry a load for someone. Sometimes people can be too much of a mess. Too damaged. It takes a lot of wisdom to know when to withdraw. This was the case with my friend who was homeless, dealing with mental issues, and using. I helped where I could but he had to make the choice to get help.

    My recent post The Post Red Tails Breakdown… Just Some Thoughts

  13. Luther is a great show. Everyone around John Luther is jacked up in some manner but Alice and the girl from last season stood out. The show is well done in every aspect.

    Some of my crew are damaged and some aren't. I count myself in the damaged group but I think that's why we all gel. We help each other out more often than not. I will say that there are people who I know that are damaged and I do avoid them. Sometimes you can't carry a load for someone. Sometimes people can be too much of a mess. Too damaged. It takes a lot of wisdom to know when to withdraw. This was the case with my friend who was homeless, dealing with mental issues, and using. I helped where I could but he had to make the choice to get help.

    My recent post The Post Red Tails Breakdown… Just Some Thoughts

  14. I love Luther I watched the first season on Netflixs two weeks ago and I am definitely going to find out how to watch the rest of the series.
    believe an old Buddhist teaching says that pain is inevitable but suffering is option. I agree that we all have varying levels of damage but the part that I find the most endearing when I met these people is their ability to rebuild themselves and to still enjoy life; I believe that is the dividing factor in this division of individuals some of the most accomplished people have faced extreme tragedies and triumphed at life. These are the kind of individuals I admire and enjoy company with but individuals who are damages and think the world is out to get them do not hold my attention because its easy to throw a pity party.

  15. hm. i hate referring to myself as "damaged," so i don't. to me that implies something wrong, something broken. i am not broken. i have experienced things in my life that would lend to someone thinking i should be. but mental and emotional resilience is something i am blessed with, as are all the "damaged" people you write about in this post. i can speak about my life and life wounds with such detachment, it scares people sometimes. but i feel like, there is always a new day. as long as i'm here, there is always an opportunity for it to get better. i made that decision at age 13 and that's how i've lived since.

    i think that's the separator for people who have experienced traumatic/tragic events in their life. there those that succumb, those that bury to cope, and those that take it for what it is and go on about life. i went through each stage to arrive where i am now. i think it builds character, and certainly proves useful in my writing. lol

    i haven't watched Luther yet but it's on my netflix queue. i love writing about damaged/complex/dark people and their nuances, and i'm sure i'll love this show.

    greatly written Mr Most.
    My recent post Sleepy’s: Where Racism Happens

  16. Sucks we had server issues today of all days. This is a very well written piece and speaks to an interesting subject.

    For anyone that's read my writing, I think it goes without saying that I have issues. I don't consider this good or bad, I think it just is what it is. Life tests us in different ways and, like you, I dont put my own test above anyone else. They have just been things I have had to deal with and overcome just like anyone else. Such is the nature of life. I wish I didnt have to go through some lessons but I am wiser for them. I heard recently, and I believe it was a movie, (paraphrasing) life is the only place where you have to take the hardest tests first and learn the lesson after. I agree with this sentiment.

    Have you guys watched Luther just yet? What are you thoughts on the show? And what are your thoughts on damaged people? Are you one? Do you avoid them like the plague? What experience do you have in dealing with people whose lives are shaped by not-so-great experiences?

    I have not seen Luther, don't have cable. Maybe I'll look into it on Netflix based on this write-up, sounds like something I'd be interested in. I would say I'm attracted to damaged people and this is not a good thing. I would also consider myself a damaged person. I don't avoid them but I have come to recognize they are not the best people for me. Sometimes I have to proactively avoid that which I desire, sort of like an addiction if you will. Most "drugs" dont kill you immediately, it takes a lifetime for their true effects to show. I think the same can be said for some toxic people. They wont break you in a day but if you let them, they'll wear on you over the course of a lifetime until you are both broken and/or damaged. However, having dealt with people like this and overcoming some of my own demons, I believe, have made me a better person. I'm (no longer) bitter for it. A part of me is even grateful. Of course, I generally believe everything happens for a reason and have often found the most awkward of threads tying together my past, present and (I assume) future experiences. Sounds cliche, but what didnt kill me… well, you know the rest.

    My recent post Someone Like You

  17. I haven't seen the show but this post is amazing. Oneday, when my son gets older I'm gonna have a conversation with him that starts with: "Well son, I'll tell you life for me aint been no crystal stair".

    I'm "damaged" and proud–I never try to minimize it. I have scars, (literally) to prove it. I think it's important to embrace it. For many of us there is this on-going feeling of helplessness (which can sometimes be comforting) that only we can understand.

  18. First, welcome back, SBM, lol…missed y'all this mornting!

    I've pretty much been a "cut it off and move on" type of person. Eliminate the source of pain and get back to living. And I always thought that was what strong people do. I'm strong. So, that's what I did. It wasn't until about 3 weeks ago that I realized I'd left out an important step in the healing process…not even sure what that step is. I guess I did more burying than dealing. But, years of "stuff" pretty much errupted in one act…exposing the fact that, as much as I never wanted to admit it, I'm affected. Pain has changed me. But, that change has become a part of who I am. And it was so deep and gradual that I didn't even realize it had happened. Or maybe I did but I thought it was justified and acceptable based on the truth of my experiences. All that to say…I'm damaged. But, now that I know I am, I've chosen to do something about it.

    1. I've never seen Luther. But, I'll make it a point to watch it.

      I never shy away from damaged people. But I only allow damaged people that want to be better, do better, and live better than the damage that helped to shape them/us to remain close to me. My inner circle is a mixed bag…severe to mild/no damage. I think you need a bit of all of it to have a well balanced perspective of life and all it entails.

      Great post!

  19. I really understand the mutant analogy. The thing you develop to keep going after the injury gives you powers. You take pride in it. But your power will eventually turn into a chain, weighing you down. If you’ve held it a long time, Its part of your identity. The hardest thing in the world is to let it go and become a new person. New like a baby, bright eyes, trusting, open, giving without reserve. When its time, you don’t need the power anymore, you have to lay it down. It’s the only way to go from survivor to champion.

    I avoid damaged people who cling to their scars. Because they always end up sucking positive energy from the world like a black hole. I believe its unintentional, but its better to give positive energy to a vessel that has a bottom and can be filled. Otherwise you both end up empty.

  20. This post is so awesome – Like others have said I haven't seen Luther but will put it in the queue to watch for sure – I fit in this category of life altering uncontrolled circumstance(s) but like Muze said I don't consider myself damaged. I am who God made me to be and although in my younger years I did not understand today I am accepting and loving of it all. Its my testimony :o)
    I've always said our life experiences are not our own but for those who come behind us an need help in a similar circumstance. We love just the way someone like us or even opposite of us needs to be. We can say you too can survive – endure – EXCEL and there is nothing damaging about that at all.

  21. This was a great post highlighting a great show (I was very excited when Idris nabbed the golden globe award for his work here). (But you did give a little too much away for those who haven't seen the show, lol)

    Your categorization of pain into that that is self-inflicted and that is unavoidable is sooo on point and speaks to me personally. I identify with those damaged like me, in my case from personal loss that I still cannot justify or accept, burying people who I identified with so closely as self before the end of our story left me changed in ways that only death can. I am not the same person nor could I ever be.

    And one of the reasons I love shows like Luther (and Dexter, another member of the damaged soul population) and people like Luther is that every since this damage has been inflicted I search for the validation in others that my pain is real and shared. It doesn't lessen it but makes it bearable.

    A lot of people have written today that they avoid people that are damaged–I don't consider myself toxic because I'm damaged but I do feel everything more acutely and I feel actually more sensitive and empathetic to all pain, similar to mine or not. I embrace those who hurt because I know how much more painful it can be when you need people the most and they run away from you and not towards you.

    GREAT POST– superb writing,can't wait for your novel…

  22. Yo this was a good post.
    I haven't watched Luther yet and I probably won't be able to. It just sounds too sad for me. I did go ahead and put it in my Netflix queue though. Maybe I'll feel like a big girl one day. My heart goes out to damaged people though. I always try to relate and offer my shoulder but there are a couple folks that are just beyond me. I hate when people use their damage as a reason to do bad in life. That's insensitive though. Some people would consider me damaged but I don't like calling myself that. I just want to put myself far away from those experiences that I don't even want the label. It's funny though because I used to not think about these things. I just went on with life and suddenly I started thinking about them more and more for the last few years, trying to figure it all out. My therapist warned me against that though. Now I can't think about anything else. I have first hand experience with damaged people. My mom, my sister, my husband… long list. Somebody upthread said that nearly everybody has experienced some sort of damage. I think that's true.

  23. Have I seen Luther? Man, they don't call my European CHeeKZ for nothing. I loved it! Dark brilliant, smart with an amazing cast. Great story telling. Like I said, I am so sad I haven't seen season 2 yet, I was waiting to watch it legally buy I guess now I got to to the Kim Dotcom way.

    I'm such a fan of the artistic freedom that comes from overseas. Another mini-series that I am wating to check out is called Top Boy. I only saw the first episode, but it is suppose to be their answer to the Wire. It stars some well known grime rappers from Britain and was the major talk of the European hip hop community when it came out. Once again, I only saw the first episode but it looked good…. Also my crew loved Attack the Block. It was such a classic throw back movie to the days of Gremlins, the Lost Boys and Tremors… but black. Great post Most.. I could talk movies all day… as long as no one mentions tyler perry.
    My recent post House of Lies Review: Mini-Mougel

  24. It's a slightly better version of Law and Order. If you can ignore the British accents, bad hair cut and unusually short seasons, it's a decent watch.

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