Friday, November 03, 2006

I haven't said anything-

up until this point about what KIND of fan fiction I'm writing. I really hate to get framed into something, genre conventions, whatever. Particularly since I think this piece is going to be 90% my work, and 10% material bothered from the author. The concepts and names are her, but believe me, I'm weaving my own cloth with the leavings.

Still. I might as well get it over with.

Full Metal Alchemist.

Yeah, bite me. :P

I'm a Roy and Riza fan. Actually, mostly a Riza fan. I have this huge hard-on for loyal subordinates, particularly if they die in demonstrative and tragic fashions. Riza hasn't gotten shot protecting Roy yet, but you just know she's cannon fodder. Maybe even in his eyes.

In my other lengthy works, Elyssa was another "loyal-subordinate" type. Marie as well, in her own way. Altair is a complete deviation from this pattern: she never trusts Thomas or Imogen enough to be loyal to either of them. One of the many reasons she interests me: Fand doesn't look like anything that's come out of my brain to date.

But Riza --well, she's been predictable up until now. I have to admit, I hugely prefer the Manga to the Anime (much smaller plot holes, much more dialogue, better developed characters) but the Anime is done and the Manga isn't, and there is NOTHING that I hate more than an unfinished series. So I'm stuck writing from the Anime and the Movie, with background details supplied by the Manga. Which brings me to the real trouble.

I love the idea of Roy and Riza as a semi-couple (can't imagine either one of them married, certainly not to each other) but I don't believe in writing relationships that don't have chemistry, or even the building blocks of realistic success. (Unless, of course, the intention is to write about failed love.) At the moment, I'm not in the mood to write an emo fic. Living with my stepmother and dad, and having gone through my parent's divorce, I have this notion that I'm entitled to happy endings in my fiction. Like Darwin.

Anyway, I certainly don't waste time writing romances about relationships that fundamentally don't work. Unfortunately, in the Anime, Roy and Riza's relationship doesn't work. For so many reasons.

Mostly, theirs is just an unhealthy relationship. It depends on habit, on roles that they've assumed. It has nothing to do with Riza and Roy, and everything to do with Mustang and Hawkeye. I say this mostly because I consider their relationship unbalanced.

All kinds of real life relationships work in an unbalanced fashion. According to conventional wisdom, someone always loves more. I don't believe that --but then again, I don't believe in "being in love" and I think relationships are best conducted on a "friends with benefits" basis. As I see it, in life, your only goal should be getting yourself happy. The people that are also happy with you, and that stick around, are the icing on your cake.

Lets be honest: Riza doesn't have a life outside of Roy. If she spent a little more time with Hayate, maybe picked up calligraphy or watercolors, and put some work into her apartment, she would be a more interesting person. She probably wouldn't be consciously happier. But when her relationship with Roy inevitably went in the crapper, she wouldn't be alone, either.

And Roy --well, you can't look at how he behaves in any of the FMA canon material and say to me, "He knows and cares about Riza as a person." In the movie, she is mostly his foil: he trusts her, to be sure, but there is nothing personal between them until the very end. (Which development the movie immediately undermines.)

Even in the Manga, where Mustang and Hawkeye have more to say for themselves, and their exchanges approach caring, Hawkeye's still the one doing 90% of the emoting. Perhaps I'm cynical, but I really think Roy would be too busy looking cool and playing guessing games to empty three clips (or the Alchemicial equivalent) into Lust.

I realize that saying all of this will make me very unpopular in the Roy/Riza community. I'm really sorry. I've been accused of being bitter and insensitive on the subject of fictional relationships, and I don't think that's unfounded. I just have a very specific set of criteria for what makes a good relationship. That criteria comes down to three points: Mutality. Diversity. Integrity.

Hawkeye and Mustang do have Integrity --a combination of loyalty and honesty-- going for them. Riza's widely billed as the Colonel's "shoulder angel," the only one among his confederates who can speak her mind without suffering the consequences. As for Mustang --he's never lied to her, except for that once in the movie. With the balloon. (le sigh) Plus, they're indisiputably loyal to one another. So --one point down.

But it's clear that the pair's feelings aren't mutual, and that they can't be mutual within the current framework of their relationship. Riza is always Mustang's subordinate, the Queen on his chess-board. She is important to him strategically, even personally, but she's still a piece he's manuevering for his own ends. Riza, for her part, has accepted that secondary role, and set herself to Roy's support. Admirable, to be sure, but from that vantage she'll never be a woman to him --only a third arm, another weapon for his ends.

And in a way, their loyalty and dedication to their self-appointed mission is limiting: it inevitably leads to a lack of diversity in their relationship. One of the great strengths of a sexual partnership is that it can create an emotional tie between very different people --a covalent bond, if you don't mind a bad analogy. The individuals participating in the bond have access to one another's skills and knowledge, and each borrows from the other. Two brains are better than one, etc. On the surface (and especially in the Anime) neither Riza nor Roy have much new to share. They have the same professional contacts, the same worldview, and the same goals. Their alliance does not benefit either of them, except emotionally-- in fact, their alliance would be selfish, given the scope of their goals.

Yes, that's a very dynastic perspective of relationships. But to me, there's no other reason for the bother with a relationship --given that you can enjoy all the benefits of a more formal arrangement, without ever living together. Fuckbuddies wouldn't necessarily share their social circles with one another, though, where an official "couple" would. Better that they get involved outside of the military and look for allies in their significant other's circles, if they really want to effect change.

In short: Riza and Roy have the foundation of a working relationship, but the chemistry isn't right as yet, and I think they'd bore each other over the long-term. "Hey, honey, what'd you do at work today?" "Same thing you did, dear."

All this said, the potential for chemistry is THERE. It's real, or we wouldn't all be perking up our ears and watching them so eagerly.

Some of that potential is just circumstance. They're both attractive, of similar ages: we know that the two of them have some history together. If Riza cannot draw Roy out the way that Ed can, Roy leans on her to a degree that he cannot with Ed.

Some of that potential is also changes in perception and characterization as the series progresses, particularly the most recent Manga releases. For example: adopting Hayate was a step in the right direction for Riza.

And truly, there is some direct evidence for a relationship between the two in the Manga. In 37 and 38, alerted by gunshots over the radio, Roy comes rushing to Riza's rescue: his timely intervention probably saves her from Gluttony.

And the coded dialogue that precedes the fight is especially funny once you know it's Hawkeye on the other end. "But wouldn't your scaaary lieutenant be mad at you if you don't get back to work?" As far as I'm concerned, that entire exchange qualifies as mad flirting: it's as though by roleplaying, they get to actually talk to each other about their jobs.

Take a look at Roy's face on the bottom of page 33 (of 37), or Roy's last statement on 36 (also of 37), "Please let me make it in time!" Given the evidence, I can't believe that Mustang doesn't care for Riza at all. (Reference also p. 16-17 of 38, "WHY DID YOU SHOW UP!" "First lieutenant . . . I'm glad you are alive.")

The question, to me, is whether Roy cares as much as Riza does. And my answer is --I don't think so. Not in the Manga, and certainly not in the Anime or the Movie. There's still a critical inequality there.

So the things I'm working to correct, in my fiction, are several:

I'm trying to put Roy and Riza on a more equal footing. Roy and Riza's respective military ranks have very little to do with this. Their relationship has always been a Chief/Indian construct. I'm not bucking for that to change entirely: but Riza can afford to exercise a little independent authority of her own.

Part and parcel of the above: I want to depict Riza working on more specialized projects, outside of her comfort zone. She's good with a gun, fine. She'll be giving range instruction and teaching sharp-shooting. Teaching something you know well is a whole other challenge. I want to put her with a field command, as well. Not anything large, but a small squad of soldiers with petty politics that she will have to address.

And then, of course, there's the lack of physical chemistry between them. There's a reason Royai fans fluttered when Roy reached out and touched Riza's hair at the end of Episode 51: we hadn't seen much between them to give us hope, up to that point. But that touch points up a real problem between them: Riza's an Ice Princess if there ever was one, and Roy is a Known Womanzier. Her past and reputation emphasize her innocence; Roy's legend has plenty of sexual undertones. I doubt that they're what they pretend, but they have a lot invested in those pretenses. I don't know about you, but I don't see Riza enjoying an exotic sheets-session, or Roy suddenly turning into a tender lover. (He's not even a tender human being, for Christssake.)

So I have to find some sexual medium that works for them, and that carries convincingly through fifty thousand words. (I hate stories where the sex comes at the end, like the lollipop after the shot. If characters have real chemistry, they're gonna be going after each other, and they're not going to wait with grace.)

These are just my current thoughts. I'll post my solutions here in a few days.



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