I mentioned when linking this article about Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that while I understood why a lot of arospec and/or ace people connect to him, I don’t. Nevertheless, I still linked the article–because I think there’s a convincing argument to be made about Odo, and the article pulls out a lot of the textual support to make it. I don’t connect with him not because I’m unconvinced but because I don’t want my life to end up like his.
To continue the conversation about representation that focuses more on storylines and themes than checking off a box on a spreadsheet, a salient question might then follow, do we need to know how the story ends before we can make any judgements?
Certainly that’s at least part of the source of my disconnect with Odo. I watched DS9 having already known the entire story because it was reading The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion that convinced me to watch it at all. If you have the whole thing laid out in front of you, it’s very clear what we’re looking at is a guy who is carrying a secret, unrequited torch for a close friend for years while convinced he doesn’t have a chance with her largely because of how he innately is. The story ends with him nobly leaving behind his love interest, whom he had finally gotten together with, to go help his people, in what is likely to be a long, if not permanent, absence. Is it so surprising that I, a teenager without community or clue, would see this ending to a fiction bearing striking resemblance to my deepest insecurities at the time and instinctively and categorically reject it?
But that’s why I say I can see where others are coming from. It’s very easy for me to see how someone who watched the show without knowing its ending would get emotionally involved enough not to care, or how someone at a different point in their life would not even have a problem with it at all. Honestly, I might be in that latter camp if I were watching it for the first time today.
In general, I find myself focusing on endings. The most recent example that stands out for me is Yagate Kimi ni Naru, which had a lot of themes that were thought-provoking and personally relevant, but I was scrupulous to reserve judgement until the end and ultimately had that instinct validated. I also saw a video recently on Robin and Barney from How I Met Your Mother, which I have not seen and witnessed enough of the backlash around to make me glad I hadn’t. Or, to use an example in the opposite direction, I despised Katagoshi no Koibito when I watched the drama the first time around up until the literal last few minutes of the show, which ameliorated my opinion so much I went back years later to read the book.
But while I think the focus on endings is natural, I wonder if there isn’t something to the idea of taking meaning where we find it, as we find it. Captain Marvel was brought up to me again recently, and I was linked to this rant by Rowan Ellis, which, despite how angry I got about this in the first place, did succeed in making in me laugh. Watching it, though, I kept thinking about how all the ambiguity she was pointing out was for me a feature and not a bug. It was the thing that allowed me to make a space for myself, one that surely I will eventually be denied as the films inevitably continue.
I did not include such a disclaimer last year when I linked an article by the same author about Rey from Star Wars, because I think it takes a subtly different tack. Namely, it doesn’t matter if Rey “is” or “isn’t” asexual or aromantic in the end; the meaning for her in Rey’s story will stay the same because she made the meaning. Is this not perhaps the most powerful representation?