Thursday, February 9, 2012

GW Meta: My Thoughts on Catherine Bloom and Dorothy Catalonia (& Select Fandom Responses)

In which I blather about how these two girls prove that, unless you’re some guy with an eerie kind of ESP called Space Heart, your level of I-feel-you-ness with someone is never going to be precise.

THE ESSAY

Comparative analyses between Catherine Bloom and Dorothy Catalonia are seldom because (1) they never interacted in the show, (2) it’s more fun to compare Dorothy to Relena, and (3) what’s the point? Venn-diagramming their personalities is just a waste of time, because everybody seems to know that nothing will meet in the center.

I was originally typing up a post about how Catherine is more than just a chipper, overprotective knife-thrower (it’s for fuckyeahcatherinebloom, a blog I started a week ago), but halfway through I couldn’t stop thinking about Dorothy. I stumbled upon an interesting similarity between them that is only a similarity if we talk about their seemingly striking difference: their attitudes toward war.

The pilots were not the only ones exposed to death at an early age. These girls also lost their loved ones to war when they’re still young. Cathy was about five when her parents got killed in an air raid, and Dorothy was 12 or 13 when former OZ General Chilias Catalonia, her father, died (I believe it’s in AC 193, when Treize officially took over OZ). The way they responded to these events is the interesting part. We’ve seen what they’re like in the show, and the common impressions among viewers consist of Cathy being a mother stereotype and Dorothy being as crazy as a peach-orchard boar. If only we try to zero in on the meager information about their semi-identical pasts, it’s easy to notice how they can prove us that hate and hurt are like fingerprints—that no two people feel exactly the same way about the same thing.

Cathy’s “hatred” is straighter and clearer. After surviving the attack that killed her parents and separated her from her little brother Triton/Trowa, she outwardly expresses how much she despises warfare. She seems to have sworn to herself that once she finds people she can consider her second family, she will do all her best not to lose them again.

catt

I think the fandom should refrain from thinking that the creators only included Catherine on the show just to be a motherly female counterpart for Trowa. Or a potential key to pilot 03’s enigmatic past. She’s more than that. Just because she’s the only major GW gal that doesn’t engage in any kind of political or physical combat doesn’t mean she’s not fighting her own war! Call it over-analysis if you want, but I think the creators put her there to make us see that even civilians have their own battles too—and what’s more dangerous to fight than a war you’re waging inside your head and heart? She’s a symbol that says, “we’re all involved; we’re all victims.” In my mind, Catherine tries to survive being the survivor. This is not emphasized, but think about it. The legwork is left to us after we’ve glimpsed her past in a handful of panels in Trowa’s Episode Zero. In the series, we’ve witnessed how she reacts when a loved one’s in peril. The bigger part of her life happened off-screen, but it doesn’t take so much to bridge the gap.

There’s a big possibility that the ghost of trauma haunts her. But instead of letting herself be crushed under its weight, she fights it. She tries to exorcise it by rebuilding and protecting what has been previously destroyed in her life.

Dorothy’s “hatred” is more twisted and complicated. Up to now, many GW fans still misunderstand her “love” for warfare. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again: the AC era teems with all kinds of politicians, soldiers, and pacifists, but if I were to choose a favorite character that genuinely wishes to wipe all kinds of war, I’m going to pick Dorothy. And then I hear you: “Are you kidding? That batsh*t crazy girl who pirouettes and shouts at the fighter planes to hurry up and start a war like she’s in some kind of a warped After Colony Disney movie—she wants peace?” Well, YES. DESPERATELY SO.

“You can’t do away with wars by just taking weapons away from the people,” she reasons. “You first have to change the hearts of all mankind.”

Dorothy graphic

Her unconventional albeit spine-tingling suggestion is an evolved version of Treize’s philosophy: to stage a war so gruesome, so horrible, that after everyone witnesses it, they would never want to have wars ever again.  For her, subscribing to utopian fantasies is not the best course of action. So she opts to take the extreme path. She opts for bloodshed. She opts for death.

It’s implied that her father’s untimely demise contributed a lot to this belief. I have no inkling as to how much she loves him, but I can guess. After all, only an extreme amount of love can trigger an extreme amount of hate. She must have been so pained by his death and was shocked to find the world still continuing to make a chaotic inferno of itself, despite all the fatalities and casualties that heap up every day. She must have thought, “Why do you keep on doing this? You’ve seen it, you’ve known how it felt! Isn’t this enough? Why are you acting as if you don’t know how it hurts? Oh…maybe you don’t. Well, let me show you. Or better yet, let you show you.”

This is why I believe Catherine is much stronger than her when dealing with grief. The whole thing’s quite similar to the usual Relena-Quatre analogy. Cathy’s response is of true strength, of rising up from the rubble, like Relena’s when her father died (although the latter’s is initially tinged with revenge). Dorothy’s is more akin to Quatre’s after Mr. Winner’s death, although his is overly vindictive (Pre-ZERO: “I’ll never forget this, and I’ll make sure you people don’t forget this day, either.” During ZERO: “What the colony really needs is a war!”). So if you’re still baffled why Quatre thinks she’s kinder than him, remember her confession at the end that makes her cry—“If I don’t [help to change mankind’s hearts by staging the worst war], humanity will perish just like my father!” Twisted? Perhaps, but Quatre recognizes no trace of an eye-for-an-eye mentality there. In her own distorted way, Dorothy is still trying her best to salvage humanity.

In a nutshell, Dorothy wants to end wars by using them as a lesson for the most intelligent ‘animals’ that refuse to learn—human beings. She believes this is the only possible way to strip the people of their drive to fight each other. She wants the worst war to happen because the small ones won’t be enough to teach mankind. She can’t do it single-handedly, so she switches sides, manipulates, and provokes people. A warped kind of love and desperation fuel her, and in truth, she’s just as lost as her namesake in L. Frank Baum’s storybooks. I love Quatre’s little speech, but I think what Dorothy needed to hear are just the few words Trowa tells her in the end: “Maybe what you are attempting is correct, but it still won’t bring true peace.” Trowa is referring to the overall space mishap that’s happened during that time, but it coincides with what she’s wanting all along.

Catherine fights. Dorothy wishes for peace. This is why I love Gundam Wing, you know? The characters are layered; there’s more to them than meets the eye. It’s been a long while since I last watched the show as a whole, but I’ll definitely sit down one night for a non-stop GW marathon. I know I’ll discover something new in every rewatch, especially now that I’m older. ;p


THE RESPONSES

CathandDots

The reason I wrote this essay is mainly because I know other fans will throw in their two cents, especially that most of them are older and  have been invested in the fandom longer than I have. I'll learn more. The following are two of the responses from the Gundam Wing Tumblr community, which I thought of sharing here. You can find more by accessing my original post here. Just scroll down and click on their answers. ;)

Response 1 by Octavia-Agusta:
Preach. However, saying that “Catherine is much stronger than [Dorothy] when dealing with grief” rubs me the wrong way. This is mainly because I see them as dealing with their grief in their own ways. I don’t think handling a certain situation a particular way means you are stronger than this person when it comes to this or that. It means you are handling it in a way (and perhaps the only way) you know how.
Octavia is right. But that’s my point all along! Grief and pain are like fingerprints, as I’ve mentioned in the opening paragraphs. I only said Cath is stronger because her response to grief is more on moving on, on rebuilding, than dwelling in the past. Hers is more positive. There’s so much going on with Dorothy’s grief, and it’s hard to tell because she wears—and switches—masks all the time. But what’s clear here is that Dorothy’s own version of trauma swerves off the usual path…and it’s not really positive, either. That’s why I compared her grief to Quatre’s. Look what it did to him.

My bad, if anyone else misunderstands what I meant to say.

Response 2 by Dorothy-Catalonia (roleplayer):
OOC: More amazing stuff from CinderellaInCombatBoots! A great insight into two often misrepresented characters. 
Also raises a lot for me to think about. I really do need to commit to rewatching the series, and possibly liveblogging so I can keep notes for myself. 
Whenever I see someone say, “Dorothy desperately wants peace,” it troubles me. I always sense the implication that she’s just not so bad, that really she’s altruistic, like Treize. I don’t see that in her. She has too much passion for battle, I can’t believe that everything she ever said about the beauty of conflict was for show. She’s genuinely proud of her father and grandfather and the way they died. I don’t think that’s because she sees them as sacrifices to The Ultimate Cause (ending all wars forever). She admires humanity’s resiliency and determination, and she admires their willingness to see their causes through, even unto death. 
Dorothy may want peace, but she doesn’t want a Utopian world of sunshine and daisies, either. It would bore her, for one. 
As for Catherine, I never saw her as a mother-figure. I reserve that spot for Sally, who offers acceptance, kindness and guidance, but allows her young heroes to still run free and make their own mistakes. I think one reason for this is that I always saw Sally as more mature than Catherine, who is very impetuous. Cinderella’s right, people need to stop writing her off. Catherine IS the civilian survivor, and we mustn’t overlook her.
I’m not following either of the GW-RP tumblelogs, but  I think this poster would be an amazing role-player for Dorothy: she’s got a good grasp of her character.  Most of the time, Dorothy is indeed like a scientist that loves to watch gerbils as she sets up little changes in their environment—but not without forgetting she is one of the gerbils, too. More layers! I believe Dorothy admires human’s more animalistic nature, which explains her belief that kindness is detrimental to survival. Ironically, for someone who loves to see the ‘beast’ in all humans, she is so…human. Flawed, emotional,  and intricate, with the architecture of her psyche that is so hard to figure out.

She may not have an altruistic streak, but I don’t think she’s selfish, either. Isn’t boredom such a little thing to sacrifice if it means not having war victims anymore? If it means there won’t be any bereft twelve-year-old Dorothys anymore?  Anyway, I believe she can always celebrate the greatness of humans striving for survival through something else, not only through wars—even if it doesn’t bring her the same excitement. She does love the idea of heroes dying in battle (her father and grandfather included); she even mentions once that she wants to die like them too.

I may be reading too much into her, but I think she believes the peace that awaits them will be more beautiful and glorious if it’s hard-won. If it leaves a colorful history in its wake, and especially if she’s involved in achieving it.

Still, I think her grief contributes to her being a character that is not all black, not all white, but all different shades of gray. I admit, I’m not really engrossed with her character until the moments aboard Battleship Libra (Relena is my favorite until that episode). I just can’t get over what she said about not wanting the world to vanish like her father. It’s that one-liner, and the tears that punctuate it, that opens a crack in her personality where an old Dorothy can be glimpsed. Sadly, we weren’t able to pry further into this because the show ended an episode later.

But at the end we see the lesson she’s learned, when she’s visiting Treize’s grave for the last time: “I’m tired of living in the past.” At that point, she won’t let the ghost of her yesterday’s grief affect her today.

why am I so talkative in this fandom lately? I should just go back to making graphics and gifs lol

4 comments:

  1. Reading this and knowing how you fangirl over this anime makes me want to watch it too! Really! Hehe. Was it really that good??? I love this essay, I've been eyeing Dorothy for a while now because of you.:) I guess I have to watch it to see for myself.

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    1. Oh, I think it's one of the best anime series out there! It's super old though (1995? It was aired in the Philippines about the same time they aired Ghost Fighter/Dragon Ball Z for the first time). It's military science fiction and is loaded with politics--think animated social commentary with giant robots. :) If you're into that kind of thing, I think you'll enjoy it. And Dorothy is amazing! A lot of GW fans don't like her, she's a largely misunderstood character.

      I'm glad you're interested in trying this show out... unlike other people out there who avoid anime like the plague, thinking these are supposed to be *left* in the stage of childhood. Some anime series out there have more sense than most shows nowadays, to be honest. ;)

      Thank you, Riza! :)

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  2. As I've said before: This is an amazing essay! I especially loved your analysis of Dorothy. I’m stll a highschooler the last time I saw this, I just let FFN and LJ become my fandom’s lifeline while I trudge an adult-ish life. This makes me want to watch the series again

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    1. Oh yes, I've seen this comment at Tumblr. Thank you, Sally! The recent GW Tumblr revival makes me want to have GW marathon too. ;) The fandom is awesome. :') Most fans have matured already, although...you know, it's still different if we're going to talk about the shipping wars. Haha. :)

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