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Art Critique of Robotech:  Gender Studies/Female Character Analysis Addendum or Part 7 of 6:  Kinship and the Absence of Maternal Love in Robotech
Posted: 06 December 2018 12:43 PM  
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Addendum/Part 7 of 6:  Kin/Absence of Maternal Love in Robotech

There are no micronian mothers in Robotech.  Rick is raised by Pop Hunter and Roy Fokker.  Lisa is raised by Admiral Donald Hayes.  Karen Penn is raised by Doctor Harry Penn.  Minmei visits her parents in Yokohama in the Japanese Macross but resides with her Aunt and Uncle aboard the SDF-1.  Captain Gloval is a father figure to the bridge crew and the entire SDF-1 population.  Rolf Emerson is a father figure to the 15th Alpha Tactical Armored Corps (ATAC).  Scott Bernard is a father figure to his group of freedom fighters.  Rook, Rand, and Annie are all semi-orphans.  Cabell clones Rem from Zor,the Masters clone Zor Prime from Zor, and Zor himself is a father figure disseminating spores and fertilizing several different worlds.  Haydon is the uber-patriarch of the known universe and the Masters, Dolza, Leonard, and the Regent are all patriarchs over their subordinates.  Finally, after the creation and broadcast of the three original Japanese cartoons, The Sentinels portrays Jean Grant as mother to Bowie Grant.  The only moms presented in Robotech are aliens.  Miriya is a mother in The Macross Saga.  Ariel comes close to being a mother in The New Generation by demonstrating unconditional love for her comrades, and, for purposes of this discussion, the androgynous Zor Prime becomes a mother to the 15th ATAC and Earth in Southern Cross.  Is the theme the inadequacy of paternal love?  Is there a message of moms being foreign or alien to us?  Is a mother’s capacity for unconditional love only explained by her super human background?  In summary, alien outsiders arrive as recent converts to micronian culture and fill the void in the character’s lives by providing a mother’s love.  This may be a phenomenon referred to as the zeal of the convert.  Furthermore, the alien achieves an idealized and divine version of motherhood through freedom from any emotional baggage or even past.  The alien becomes more human than the humans thus providing a measuring stick by which the viewers can assess themselves.  Of special note, the SDF-1 itself is the most iconic super-maternal image of the entire Robotech opera.  In Macross the SDF-1 is pregnant with a civilian population it incubates, gestates, and delivers safely to its nest, Planet Earth.  Paralleling this, the gravid SDF-1 eventually releases spores and fertilizes all of Earth in Southern Cross.  In this light the protoculture matrix can be viewed as a type of womb containing regenerative and rejuvenative powers.

The Praxians go beyond demonstrating the inadequacy of paternal love and illustrate the utter uselessness of it.  Meanwhile, Zor singlehandedly disorders and upsets the entire Tzuptum System, the Tirolian Local Group, and the micronians.  Dolza and later the Masters each fail their own respective cultures.  The Regent fails his race while his wife transcends to a new plane of consciousness.  Finally, Admiral Donald Hayes asks his daughter to betray her friends and responsibilities while he condones the SDF-1’s assignment as a decoy and a play for time.  For his flawed paternal advice he is incinerated in the Grand Cannon in an act of cosmic justice allowing Captain Gloval to ascend to his place as Lisa’s true father figure while Claudia becomes a sort of maternal figure for Lisa.
 
Not only does Robotech detail the inadequacy of paternal love, but it warns against bad moms.  The Regess is a controlling, unavailable, self-involved mother.

In regards to themes related to family, the three original Japanese cartoons are all loosely connected by Tatsunoku Productions, country of origin, culture of origin, & chronological proximity of creation.  To form Robotech & fit these three series together, Carl Macek created artificial contrivances to merge them as one.  In the case of familial love, Carl Macek exerted a large impact on any lessons, intended or unintended by the Japanese, when he created genealogies between characters from different shows.  Therefore, in the case of kinship, a note of caution should be heeded as well as discernment between the Japanese audience’s impressions and the American audience’s impressions when searching for social commentary within Robotech in an analysis such as this.  The three Japanese cartoons suggest the importance of family.  Max & Miriya and Lisa & Rick are the beginnings of two families.  The 15th ATAC squad forms their own family and Scott Bernard forms his own family of resistance fighters.  However, Carl Macek re-characterized Dana as the daughter of Max & Miriya and made Bowie the son of Vince & Jean.  This artificial creation to establish continuity within the series almost reverses the implied message of the importance of family as the parents choose to leave their children behind.  Maia Sterling is either left behind in the Shadow Chronicles or is serving a tour of duty away from her parents.

There is a theme of adoption or mixed families in Robotech as well.  Bowie & Dana are under Emerson’s guardianship, and Miriya, Zor Prime, & Ariel are each aliens adopted into a group.  As stated previously, the SDF-1 bridge crew & maybe the entire SDF-1 population, the 15th ATAC, Scott’s freedom fighters, & the Sentinels all form family bonds stronger than their un-relatedness would predict.  Minmei’s living situation with her Aunt and Uncle gives her a sense of vulnerability & of being a misfit.  She is fortuitously paired with Rick who himself was simply visiting his friend Roy.  Lisa is also orphaned after the rain of death.  The SDF-1 adopts the entire population of Macross Island.  Minmei is adopted as Macross City’s collective daughter.  Later, the population of Earth adopts all the Zentreadi.  In summation, Robotech espouses love, friendship, mutual respect, inclusiveness, teamwork, compassion, understanding, empathy, & cooperation as the sources of humanity’s resiliency & strength in the face of adversity.

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Posted: 07 December 2018 08:37 AM   [ # 1 ]  
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Many of the characters you refer to are adults, a stage in life where we move beyond the bounds of our parents.  When we grow up and move out of the house, we aren’t being neglected by the parents. My mother and father are dead, but I’m not an orphan because I was an adult when they died.  You’re making a lot of assumtions about the childhood homes of these adult characters and even about the current status of their parents. A peer of the same age group is not a parental surrogate.  (I have this argument a lot with Walking Dead fans about Carol and Daryl.)  A group leader is not automatically a parental surrogate.  Also, the very notion that Emerson raised Dana is a point of contention. 

Since I take issue with your logic on these points, I have to refute the sweeping claim that Robotech implies anything about the difference between paternal and maternal love -  parental love in general, perhaps, but not as divided by gender of parent.

You do make some valid points about the children we do see.  Minmei lives with her aunt and uncle instead of her parents.  Dana is left behind. Each of them begins her story quite immature and both are, even as adults, emotionally needy.  I can see the connection there.  Even if the parents have good reason for the “abandonment”, it’s seldom anything a child will be able to understand. 

I think the confirmed dead moms/wives we hear about are intended to compound the tragedy of the character’s backstory.  I think they also play more into your theme of including different types of family groups more than the maternal love thing.  Any character we know has lost his or her mother would still have the same problems if Mom was still there, indicating that Dad did all right on his own.  I suggest you rethink the subject from that angle, even if it isn’t gender-specific.

PS:  I love the image of SDF-1 as mother.  Very poetic.

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If it ain’t in the Robotech show itself… It didn’t neccessarily happen.

Thanks, Carl Macek, for introducing me to all these folks.  Even the ones who bug me.

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Posted: 07 December 2018 11:00 AM   [ # 2 ]  
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Hello again!  All really good points and well thought out.  I prefer to characterize my posts as interpretations instead of assumptions.  Lol!  A subtle nuance in semantics perhaps but I’m really not married to anything I propose.  I’m looking for subconscious intent by the artists or even conscious intent by the artists.  Hopefully the fans will have some fun with all this.

I think in works of art and even in life, a peer of the same age group can be a parental surrogate or alpha dog or leader.  The oldest siblings of orphans or latchkey children often perform the role of parent.  I think political and military leaders can be parental surrogates.

However, I think all your criticisms are perfectly valid and I see your point.  Thank you for your critical thinking.

I am not crystal clear on strict Robotech canon.  I assume canon states Emerson was a legal guardian but never mentions who had custody of Dana or Bowie.  I’m always trying to support an interpretation with evidence, but you are correct.  That one might be a bit of a stretch.

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Posted: 08 December 2018 04:41 AM   [ # 3 ]  
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Brofessor - 07 December 2018 11:00 AM

Hello again!  All really good points and well thought out.  I prefer to characterize my posts as interpretations instead of assumptions.  Lol!  A subtle nuance in semantics perhaps but I’m really not married to anything I propose.  I’m looking for subconscious intent by the artists or even conscious intent by the artists.  Hopefully the fans will have some fun with all this.

I think in works of art and even in life, a peer of the same age group can be a parental surrogate or alpha dog or leader.  The oldest siblings of orphans or latchkey children often perform the role of parent.  I think political and military leaders can be parental surrogates.

However, I think all your criticisms are perfectly valid and I see your point.  Thank you for your critical thinking.

I am not crystal clear on strict Robotech canon.  I assume canon states Emerson was a legal guardian but never mentions who had custody of Dana or Bowie.  I’m always trying to support an interpretation with evidence, but you are correct.  That one might be a bit of a stretch.


I think the subconscious intent of the artists is less about gender differences and more about the similarities.  It’s one of the reasons I like Robotech.  I am very against gender roles and Robotech does a good job of not playing into them. 

As for the parental surrogate thing, it could well be a difference in perspective.  I look at it from the psychological angle, having been through years of therapy as well as having a degree in social work. 

I love a good debate and am really enjoying this exchange. 

To the best of my knowledge, it was the novels that made Emerson Dana’s guardian.  It was one of many things that contradicted the show.  (Why would Dana repeatedly refer to him as “your” guardian to Bowie if he was “our” guardian?)  The novels also say she spent a lot of time in foster care, contradicting themselves!

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If it ain’t in the Robotech show itself… It didn’t neccessarily happen.

Thanks, Carl Macek, for introducing me to all these folks.  Even the ones who bug me.

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