opusculus: Black hole (Default)
[personal profile] opusculus
Because the way to start a new journal is totally to essay at ridiculous length, right guys?

I actually got around to watching Black Lagoon the other day. It's really a pretty fun and awesome action series if you don't mind it getting a tad overheavy on the nihilism on occasion, and it made me want to ramble on strong female characters and why Simon R Green's skeeves me out while I like Black Lagoon's when in some ways the dynamic is very similar.

Simon R. Green, if you don't know him, is a noir sf/fantasy author who consistently writes very strong and very crazy women, who are generally kept saneish by a mild-mannered male partner. Black Lagoon is filled to the brim with very strong and very crazy women, generally kept saneish by a mild-mannered male partner. At a quick summary, they're very similar and it should be pretty obvious what I find problematic about it.

The fundamental difference really is in how they're written. The women in Simon R Green's books are almost always written as the designated love interests. They're strong, but the heroes are probably stronger. They're strong, but they have crippling emotional weaknesses (Hazel was a drug addict in the past and gets addicted at one point in the series, Suzie Shooter was molested by her brother and can't bear to be touched, and I fully anticipate Molly in his newest series to have some kind of crippling weakness besides her need for chaos to be revealed soon). They're strong, but they're never allowed to be stronger in a fight than their male partners, and their craziness usually ends up making them a lot more fragile. He has a few characters who don't fall into that trap who are among my favorites of all time because strong and crazy awesome is always fun and there aren't enough female characters along those lines (Jenny Psycho has been one of my top 10 favorite characters for years), but for the most part they're always weakened into being less than the guys.

Black Lagoon never quite falls into the same trap. Revy and Rock's relationship comes closest, since she's the psychotic bounty hunter killer and he's the mild-mannered salaryman dragged out of his normal life by her bursting into it, and they quickly developed into a relationship where he's making her saner while she's making him more dangerous. This could damn well describe pretty nearly everything Simon R Green's ever written, and to be honest I deeply disliked Rock for that at first. But the key difference for me is that he's not a fighter. He's turning crazy awesome in his own way, and starting to love the chaos around him and ride it in his own way, but he's doing so in a way that still leaves him in the damsel in distress role more often than not. He's the one who gets kidnapped by everyone from terrorists to high school girls while she rescues his scrawny ass. He might be capable of some crazy awesome plans, but he's never going to be a fighter. And I really like how their relationship is basically a race to see if Revy's conscience sprouts before Rock's dies.

And while all the other crazy awesome psycho women tend to have men who serve as their morality pets, it's just handled with much more variety in the gender roles than Simon R Green tends to do it. Boris may be Balalaika's sanity pet (calling him a morality pet would probably be overstating both their morals), but he's her subordinate officer and he subordinates himself to her hard, not the other way around. The kid may be Roberta's morality pet, but kids are like the expected morality pet and even if gender roles do play a larger role than I really like in their relationship what with him being a great future patriarch yadda yadda, their relationship is complicated enough that I still really like it. I will say though, I was disappointed when Shenhua and Sawyer gained their male morality pet. I mean, I love their relationship and ship it like burning because crazy adorable mute goth girl chainsaw killer + crazy knife fetishist taiwanese assassin + crazy silver haired bishonen whose entire role in the series is to look like your standard badass before getting shot for making "In the name of the moon" speeches, all living together and having crazy bounty hunting antics = FUCK YES. But goddamnit, crazy awesome psycho women can be crazy awesome psychos without needing a guy to make them saner. Simon R. Green pretty much wore out my tolerance for that trope a long time ago.

Other things I like about how Black Lagoon handles it is that none of these relationships are ever explicitly defined as romantic, and even if they might be sleeping together (something I really wouldn't want to even try to hazard a guess about three of the four mentioned relationships), it's not the focus of their relationship. Hints of romance are there with Revy/Rock and Shenhua/Rotton, but it's not really the focus of their relationship. And I like series that keep the ships a little undefined, usually. I also really like how neither gender ever gets pegged as the smart one. That's surprisingly rare when I think about it. (...Man, the fact that I have to be happy about that depresses me.)

...I don't believe I just talked that much about relatively mindless action anime/book series. Go me?

Date: 2010-04-21 08:24 pm (UTC)
inarticulate: Sae's ghost smiling, from Fatal Frame 2 (for everything else there's mastercard)
From: [personal profile] inarticulate
Oh, ugh. :/ I've only read a few of Simon Green's novels way back when, and I didn't even notice that trend. But it pings me as problematic, too-- a similar kind of phenomenon to my old nemesis "female warrior is ├╝ber-strong until she finds a romantic interest and then kya kya save me, brave hero~!"

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opusculus

January 2012

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