Voltron and Problematic Characterization

Since we seem to be on a characterization kick, why stop now?

The small, mobile one likes robots, so while ditzing around seeing what was available in the cartoon robot department on Amazon Prime, we discovered Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar, Voltron was a mid-80s port of a Japanese show called GoLion, I believe, about five robot lions that can combine to form a giant “people robot,” as the small one would say, whose purpose is in theory is to defend the galaxy, though he spends most of his time defending Planet Arus, which the bad guy is unfathomably interested in and so spends a lot of his resources on, for whatever reason.

(This is not to be confused with a new TV show called Voltron Force, which I know nothing about except it’s some sort of modern take on Voltron.)

Now, Voltron used to be on Cartoon Network back before CN started to make its own shows, and I used to watch it, because one of my online RPing friends was obsessed, and had a Star Trek/Voltron crossover RP I would occasionally do with him. So, going into watching this with the small one, I had fond memories of the show.

But when we actually started to watch it, I was kind of horrified. Yes, in general it’s a shining example of a lot of the terrible tropes 80s cartoons tended to have. But I was especially upset with the treatment of the single female on the show, Princess Allura.

Original Voltron Force

(Guess which one she is?) From voltron.wikia.com

Beyond being the token female in pink, she’s supposed to be the leader of Planet Arus. But the other characters don’t think much of her at all, despite the fact that she’s continuously trying to learn new things or be responsible, efforts that are constantly shut down by her male companions, either her advisor or the other members of the Voltron Force. There’s a scene early on when her old governess returns to the castle, flips the princess over her knee, and spanks her in front of everyone else. And everyone else laughs.

My husband doesn’t want the small one watching Voltron anymore because he thinks it’s too violent. I don’t want him watching anymore because wow, what a horrid way to treat someone.

I will admit that this is not a new form of characterization, the ruler that they won’t let rule, because it’s too dangerous or they want them to appear incompetent or whatever. But coupled with the constant derision of the other characters, and the humiliation that seems heaped on the character, it’s really unfortunate. And that she’s the only female main character on the show–that’s not going to teach the small one anything about respecting people, especially women.

And it’s too bad, because if you look at Allura without her male companions, she’s pretty great. She’s been isolated in an attempt to protect her, but she wants to learn and protect her people, and is willing to do whatever’s necessary. But when you add in everyone else, she’s just a giant joke, the woman who won’t get in her place and let the men do things.

Oy.

The lesson here may be not to revisit shows from your childhood. Or it might be that, if you only have one woman on the show, not to treat her like crap.

Have you watched any shows or movies recently, Squiders, that you used to like but couldn’t get over some aspect of now?

Advertisements

4 responses to this post.

  1. I still like Wile E. Coyote, regardless of what the violence squad says. Not quite the topic you were on, but such things have been scrutinized for years now.

    I’ll try harder. If Anakin loved the princess, why didn’t he just walk away from the Jedi and live happily ever after? Everyone wins, even Yoda who said he couldn’t handle it. It makes no sense that he has to morph into Darth Vader and become evil, which still doesn’t land him the girl.

    Reply

    • Oh man, the prequels are rife with bizarre character development. Like poor Padme, who honestly dies just because she’s supposed to.

      Reply

      • Maybe I should try doing things wrong in my stories. I could create the next Star Wars.

      • You know, sometimes that works amazingly. And sometimes you ride on the tails of a beloved franchise where you did not have full creative control the first time around, apparently for good reason.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: