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010: Pacific Rim, or: how to have a perfectly amazing story about two people THAT'S NOT A LOVE STORY
{misc} robot love
Once upon a time, I used to track various tags on Tumblr related to the TV show Elementary. In those tags, I saw various fans being upset that everyone was celebrating the way the creators said "they won't" in regards to the "will they or won't they" (bang like rabbits) question that media and culture tries to project onto a show about a man and a woman with a strictly platonic but very close friendship. "But I ship it!" these people opined. "I hate seeing everyone saying how glad they are they won't ever be together!" This strikes me as funny for many reasons but particularly for one. Basically every television show ever broadcast in the United States asserts that a man and a woman cannot be friends without some (possibly hidden, but always there) romantic or sexual intentions upon said friend. Our media slams this into our faces every single day, to the point where it's the only message getting through and a vast majority of people start to actually believe it. "If it's not true, then why does the stereotype exist?" they say. Because media shapes our worldview and what goes into our media is limited by the worldview of those who own it. And yet this (admittedly rather small) group of fans is upset that they're given a text in which this doesn't happen.

Now, Pacific Rim. Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim. Quite a few of my friends told me to go see this movie. Friends I trusted. So I went. I walked into the theater about five minutes before the trailers started and saw about 20 people in there already. Which was weird, because most movies I go to there's like no one in the theater. What was extra-weird was that it was literally 100% male. Not a woman in sight. Not a sister, or a daughter, or a mother, or a date. Ok, sure. I sat myself in the back row and only narrowly avoided kicking the loud dudebros in front of me in the back of the head throughout the movie. (This is relevant, I assure you.) A few more people trickled in during the trailers: all men.

First: I loved the film. It had just the right balance of character, plot, and action. The world-building rules were amazing, coherent, and very well done. This was accentuated by the fact that for a while I was going "there is really no reason in this scenario why a bunch of giant monsters would come through a dimensional portal and wreak havoc on earth. No reason. So you'd better give me a reason." Aaaaaand they did! Quite a good one. I was very pleased. My favorite part was my two scientists. They were fab.

Second: Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori supported each other, trusted each other, cheered for each other, stood up for each other, and relied on each other. They made no cracks about gender, there was no "proving" of a woman's worth in wartime or combat, etc. Mako got her chance, they both took it.

During the scene where Mako and Raleigh are doing their stick-fighting-thing (that has a name, I'm sure, but I don't feel like looking it up right now because I'm a bad blogger and it's beside the point), the two dudes in front of me engaged in a loud argument that effectively ended with one of them shouting "Dude, you can't be serious! He totally let her win!" The rest of the argument dealt with whether a woman was strong enough to take down a man in a fair fight and how he obviously let her win to get some sex. Which was the moment when I decided that if Mako and Raleigh kissed at all in the film it would be unequivocally ruined.

Because that's not what the film is about. It isn't a love story. It isn't about a virile masculine man boning a sexy Asian lady and showing how superior he was physically and mentally (which, let's face it, is what about 95% of the action genre is about. The genre is a masculine fantasy in which the superiority of white men to the rest of the universe is violently affirmed.) Pacific Rim is about trust, equality, learning to work together, standing up for each other. It's about putting aside differences.

And in the end? In the end they didn't kiss, not even once and I was so overjoyed at the fact that I was nearly crying. Mako hugged the crap out of Raleigh, the screen went black, the credits came up, and I fist pumped the air. The perfect cap to their story. It's not about sex, kisses, extorting social and sexual favors out of each other in some sort of strange damaging dance that we've been led to believe is "romance." Love is about mutual trust and companionship. It doesn't follow prescribed and expected story tracks that exist for the gratification of the already over-gratified and self-entitled males in the audience. Love isn't drama and porn. It's friendship, support, and cheering for someone when they need it.

So in that way, yes Mako and Raleigh's is a love story. It's a story about two people who love each other. It's not a sappy story about falling/being ~in-love, or a plot cookie that turns Mako into a piece of sexy window dressing. As del Toro himself said:
One of the decisions we made as we went along in the process of the movie was, let’s not have a love story. Let’s have a story about two people…

Bless you, Guillermo. You are king.

What I then found doubly interesting was that when I logged onto Tumblr this afternoon and started looking for Pacific Rim stuff on the blogs of trusted friends (i.e. people whose opinion I value), all I saw with respect to Raleigh and Mako were things related overtly to a romantic relationship. That was it. Since I had been touting the movie in my mind as "AMAZING. THEY DIDN'T EVEN KISS. PLEASE, YES, AND THANK YOU," I was a little shocked at all the shipping. I thought maybe I'd missed something and had lost my mind. Which is actually when I found that del Toro quote and was inspired to write this.

Because it's strange to me how often fandoms, when presented with relationships that aren't sexual or romantic, shove them into sexual boxes. Now, I'll grant you that Mako and Raleigh are great together and that I could certainly see romance in their future. But not in this movie. The closest thing we get is Mako eying Raleigh's fine bod (which I interpreted as her eying his Jaeger scars, but I am decidedly not as shippy as I used to be.) The sexualizing of all relationships in fandom is a subject for another day, so I guess the point of me bringing it up here is simply to say, for once, the dudebros read sex and the fangirls read sex in the same text for different reasons and I find myself a little bit miffed with both of them, simply because non-sexual relationships/friendships between a man and a woman are so rare in media and it's completely refreshing when I find them. Shipping is all well and good--I love shipping. I ship Mako and Raleigh too. But to say "I ship it" in fandom parlance pretty much instantly means "I want these two characters to bang." And I don't really want these two characters to bang. I "ship" the relationship that they have, which is reserved, supportive, and awesome as is in that moment for those characters. I've sort of grown away from shipping culture lately to the point where I value non-sexual/romantic relationships almost more than their sexual/romantic counterparts, just in being rarer within fandoms (though, I suppose, not necessarily within texts.)

But Pacific Rim isn't a love story--it's a story about two people. And that's why I love it the most.

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SAME!!!!! AAH SAME!! And I feel sort of rude being like "I'M SO SICK OF PEOPLE SHIPPING THINGS" but like... idk, it's just that I really did love that there was no romance. And that there were all these places where they could've turned it into romance, and even the closest they came was Raleigh saying "I never had the greatest timing."

And I also feel like, somehow, in most stories that are explicitly "love stories" they just sort of skip the respect and trust parts of relationships and go straight to this sort of othered state-of-being. Like "this is being in love" and "this is not being in love" and somehow there's supposed to be this like ~magic switch that gets flipped. When really the people I love the most are the people I trust and respect the most, and the people in my life that I thought I've been "in-love" with are like just infatuations based on fantasies I made up.

Which is also why I think the entire concept of "the friendzone" is so utterly fucking ridiculous. I'm more inclined to "fall in love" with a really good friend of mine than I am to "fall in love" with some random asshole who decides to hit on me and try and cultivate me for sex. Like, the entire idea of it is absurd because it somehow demonizes a necessary state in the relationship progression which I just find hilarious and deliciously self-sabotaging to anyone who believes such a thing as "the friendzone" exists. (Beside the Pacific Rim point, but I've been thinking about it lately.)

Anyway, yeeeees. Pacific Rim and it's lack of romance while still having very deep, meaningful relationships is very near and dear to my heart. She didn't kiss him and I literally fist-pumped and it just sealed the deal entirely.

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