The biggest and most important element of the recent Oscar Isaac Disney+ series Moon Knight is undoubtedly its depiction of DID—also known as dissociative identity disorder. It’s the very foundation for the character, as Marc Spector has to come to grips with his alternate persona Steven Grant over the course of the show. Not only that, but he has to learn to peacefully coexist as they both navigate being possessed by an Egyptian Moon God.
Using mental health issues as story elements in the way they are here can be a hit-or-miss type situation. Thankfully, it seems that Moon Knight has been hitting all the right notes for the audiences so far.
However, in the final moments of the season finale, some began to worry. The post-credits scene revealed Jake Lockley to the world, as he’s presented as still being buddy-buddy with Khonshu, while also putting a bullet through Arthur Harrow’s head.
The problem? Well, many believe he is being set up to be the secret evil persona of the bunch—a common trope in media, such as movies like Split, that is often disliked and criticized heavily for stigmatizing DID. So do fans have to worry about Marvel Studios falling into this trap?
The Evil DID Trope
In an exclusive interview with The Direct's Russ Milheim, Moon Knight head writer and executive producer Jeremy Slater commented on all of the fan complaints that Jake Lockley might fall into the evil DID personality trope, while also answering how Steven and Marc balanced their scales with Jake on the sidelines.
So why did the writers decide to wait to touch upon Jake Lockley in the first place? Slater made it clear how he felt that "once you introduce a third [persona] into the fray" of this introductory story, "it becomes impossible:"
“My initial pitch to Marvel was that three alters, three personalities sort of clashing with each other over the space of six hours is going to be way too chaotic and hectic. That it’s possible to tell a story like this and build a really strong emotional bond between two people, between Marc [Spector] and Steven [Grant], and really make the audience care about that relationship. But once you introduce a third into the fray, it becomes impossible. Like, Steven’s sacrifice at the end of 105 wouldn’t have any sort of weight to it if he had Jake there to sort of console him. So right from the beginning, I said [that] the first season could only concentrate on these two and we’ll find fun ways to tease the existence of Jake so that the fans recognize it. Marvel was really supportive of that approach right from the beginning. Then, in the course of our [writer’s] room, we started talking like, ‘what’s the best way to tease Jake? What’s going to really get the audience about a potential season two, or a movie, or another appearance down the line. ”
He then went on to mention how "[he's] seen people on Twitter unhappy" because they feel he's "falling into sort of the evil-alter trope," something he feels that "[nobody knows] nearly enough about... to make a determination like that:"
“The idea of bringing in Jake [Lockley], and not having him be evil, because I don’t—I’ve seen people on Twitter unhappy that they think Jake is sort of falling into sort of the evil-alter trope that you see in movies like Split and things like that. From my perspective, we don’t know nearly enough about Jake to make a determination like that... ultimately, whoever takes over the reins of the story next gets to decide that, but [also] from my perspective, the interesting question about Jake is, what is his relationship with Khonshu? Why is he so willing to do these horrible things in service of Khonshu. Why is he the one guy who sort of believes in Khonshu’s mission? What does he know that our heroes don't? I think there’s a lot of questions like that that haven’t necessarily been answered."
Slater went on to admit how he felt "that making Jake a generic evil guy would probably be the least exciting, or least interesting, direction to take that character in the future," and held his ground on how he "[think[s] calling him evil would be a mistake at this stage in the game:"
"I think that making Jake a generic evil guy would probably be the least exciting, or least interesting, direction to take that character in the future. So, I have no idea where Jake goes from here, and which writers and directors will bring him to life, but, I think there’s a lot of potentials. I think we’ve only teased the existence of this character at this point. We kind of still don’t know anything about him… I don’t think he’s evil. It’s Marvel’s decision, not mine, but I think calling him evil would be a mistake at this stage in the game.”
Avoiding the Trope Pitfalls
Many are no doubt thrilled to hear how Slater talked about his thoughts on Jake. Simply to know how aware he is of the trope, and his hope to avoid falling into it, was probably reassuring for most.
Hopefully, whoever takes over the reins of Marc/Steven/Jake’s story next will be just as aware of how to avoid the trope. Fingers crossed that Marvel Studios as a creative whole will continue to avoid the mistakes many believe the film Split, an M. Night Shyamalan project with James McAvoy, made and continue on a more nuanced and faithful path in representing DID, in a similar vein to media like Mr. Robot.
From the sounds of it, Jake will probably end up being the protective big brother type: the person who is willing to do the hard stuff so that both Marc and Steven don’t have to see or know about it. Sadly, fans will have to wait an unspecified amount of time before they get to find out just what type of person this mystery third persona is.
Moon Knight is now streaming on Disney+.