Pauline Black, The Selecter and Siouxsie Sioux, Siouxsie and the Banshees
Punk had swept away all that had gone before and it was a time of reinvention really for women. There’s a very, very famous photograph that has myself, Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Viv Albertine, Siouxsie Sioux and Poly Styrene all collected together for the front cover of an NME and those were the women who did change the pop landscape.
Pauline Black, The Selecter
I think the first time I would have seen Siouxsie and the Banshees would have been Top of the Pops, 1980, when they were on there doing Happy House. It stayed with me and I could tell that, you know, there was a lot of depth to what Siouxsie was doing.
She, as an icon, was never a sex symbol. Her entire career was about refusing the male gaze, refusing to be sexualised in that way, refusing to be submissive to the male leer. In rock and roll terms that was a real first. She’s quite a kind of forbidding presence, really. There was a real toughness to Siouxsie, this refusal to compromise. And, I think fans, whether male or female, respected that. I got it completely.
I was really shy, cripplingly shy, at the time. I loved the idea that I could walk down the street looking quite alien and quite freakish and people would look at me, they’d stare, but they’d keep their distance. And I think Siouxsie inspired that in a way, because you cannot take your eyes off her. But you don’t want to get too close, because she is, frankly, terrifying.
There’s a reason I used the softest portrait of Balalaika for his essay that I could find: for all the talk of what a “badass” she is, she owns her femininity. She neither plays up her sexuality as a “vixen” nor downplays it as a “tomboy.” She wears her hair long because she wants to, and it doesn’t get in the way. She has long, well-manicured nails because she wants to have them, and they don’t get in the way. Anyone who makes the mistake of making assumptions about her sensitivities as a woman quickly finds out that she…thinks it’s completely irrelevant.
In essence, I think that’s what’s great about Balalaika as a female character: she just is who she is. She values her objectives above anything else. She doesn’t try to prove anything to anybody, because she stays so focused that she doesn’t have to.
Plenty of people call her “fry face” or “that Ruski bitch” behind her back, but never to her face. That’s not because they think she’ll take personal offense, or even that one of her male subordinates will kill them to “defend her honor.” It’s purely because if you’re the type of person who would say that, you’re on unfriendly terms with her. If you’re on unfriendly terms and you see her or one of her subordinates face to face, you’re already dead. Nothing she does is ever completely personal. She is ruthless, but never malicious or spiteful.
That’s not to say that she’s emotionally flat pragmatist robot. She clearly has a rich inner life. She often feels compassion for her enemies, and has real friendships with outsiders like the members of the Lagoon Company. In keeping with such complexity, she’s not opposed to random acts of kindness.
The same woman who got discharged from the Russian military for saving a child in Afghanistan here…
Is the same woman who looks a child assassin (who tortured one of her subordinates to death) in the eye as she has her snipers shoot them in the leg. The show doesn’t show it in real time, of course, but apparently it takes him several minutes to slowly bleeds to death in the clip below. In both cases she did what she did because it would be “shameful” to do otherwise in a way that has nothing to do with her sex or gender.
It’s no wonder the subordinate in question that the child murdered cried out for his “Capitán” until his last agonizing, grizzly final breath.
Balalaika deeply respects and cares for her subordinates as much as hey respect and care for her. That becomes very apparent towards the end of the clip when she converses with the snipers who shot the boy about how emotionally difficult the entire ordeal was. If you don’t have the stomach to watch, I’ll spoil it for you now: it’s her right hand man who says “that was hard to watch.” Balalaika sincerely apologizes.
There wasn’t a single moment of the scene in which she felt good about any of it.She simply calculated that such a method was absolutely necessary to honor the dead and maintain the reputation of Hotel Moscow, the crime syndicate that quite literally keeps Roanapur from collapsing in upon itself.
There are several moments throughout the series and OVA in which Balalaika seems outwardly calm and collected in moments of emotional turmoil. She will will freely admit to feeling grief, regret, and/or hesitation about a ruthless action she has taken or is about to take. However, Rei Hiroe has written her win a way that never lets you think for even a second that she’s afraid to cry or express her emotions, and it is glorious!
Balalaika is so pragmatic at her core that she is more inclined to kill a rival mafia boss because their men are generally unruly rather than of any real threat they pose to her operation. She says as much to her right hand man while observing a yakuza beating Rock in an attempt to get attention from Revy. Her ire is raised not by the attack on her ally: she simply cannot stand to see “soldiers” misbehave. Both she and Sergeant Bosco (her right hand) say they wish they could wipe out the entire yakuza based on that unruly scene alone. Of course, no action is taken. She remarks upon it and moves on so as not to compromise her larger objective.
I wouldn’t rule out possibility that she “breaks down and lets it all out” in private, and it certainly wouldn’t change my opinion of her. Given her position as the head of Hotel Moscow (and the most powerful person in all of Roanapur), those private moments are so few and far between that we never get to see them on the page or screen.
Alternatively, she may be one of those people who doesn’t express sorrow with tears. Either way, you never get the sense that she’s struggling to “keep it together,” in public, even when we know she feels emotionally devastated. That has nothing to do with being a woman: it has everything to do with being a good leader.
Carefully observe the body language and positions of Balalaika and her subordinates carefully in this short clip.
She leads her men into battle. No henchman is ordered to handle the man who’s been running around town calling her a “fry faced Rutsky bitch,” and plotting to assassinate her. No subordinate dares to insult her by trying to handle the man himself. She doesn’t need them to because she can hold her own physically and mentally in a fight as well as any of her subordinates.
If you pay attention to the overall context of the scene, it becomes clear that she didn’t come down there to kill him personally because she was offended by what he said about her. She felt it was necessary to maintain her relationship with Dutch and the Lagoon Company: a critical neutral party in her territory that she can’t afford to alienate. Balalaika is a very good friend to have indeed.
She’s a true leader that knows it’s her duty to protect and maintain order amongst her subordinates and the territory that she calls her own. In a better world, that would be the gold standard for leadership regardless of the sex or gender identity of the leader.
NOTE: I titled this “part 1″ because there’s a lot more I want to write about her as a character. This started out as a much longer essay, but I decided to break things up for the sake of clarity and readability. Expect more Balalaika worship in the days and weeks to come.^_~
Special thanks to@opinionatedashellblog, @odilekuronuma (who wrote 2 of the 3 Casca analyses I linked to above) and @murasakihime. I wouldn’t have been inspired to write about any of the female characters I have from Black Lagoon thus far if it weren’t for you.
I know, it sounds unusual. Must of the texts about our generation are basically about how our brains will stop working if we keep wasting our lives on our phones, on our laptops, posting stuff on social media because that’s how we try to fit-in nowadays.
But, have we stopped to think about the good we have? The good of all of this?
This generation promotes feminism, equality of genres. I literally know no girl of my generation who hasn’t stand up when she feels the most minimal sign of sexism, no girl who hasn’t louder her voice when a person is about to say something related to females being the weak genre. And even though I’ve known boys who act and speak in a way that reveals their mindset is sexist, I’ve also known boys who speak to defend women against inequality or to defend their own position in a world where they have to like females and be tough to be considered an actual man.
This generation promotes freedom. Freedom to explore our sexuality without being called a faggot, without being considered a whore, without being seen as a freak show for expressing our true-selves, and without being harassed for what we like or love.
This generation celebrates love in all of its ways and embraces the beauty of all our different cultures. This generation stands up to hate, to violence, to injustices, to terrorism, to discrimination, to inequality. And yes, we still have things we need to work on. But we are finally walking down a well-orientated path. The trend is not being the bully anymore. The trend is being the one who defends the victim, or the one who decides to stop being the victim.
We still have a long way to go, but we are getting there. Our job is not to start the change, but it is to improve it and passing it on to the next generation.
I just saw the last episode of this amazing show and I have so many feelings that I don’t even know how to start to describe them. I think that I have to start with happiness. The happiness of know that only the bad guys died this time. Happiness to know that they didn’t killed Arthur, a black man that in other series (americans, mostly) end dead. Happiness to know that Cophine my favorite couple had their happy ending and I’m glad for that and a little scared too because with those kind of series I’ll become used to want a happy ending for all my favorites w|w couples. This for me started with Carmilla. Happiness to know that despite of all the drama that we had, they ended together and more strong than ever and I loved the words of Sarah to John when she killed him. I survived you, we survived you, me and my sisters together, this is evolution. Sarah knows that the sestras are lab experiment and always will, but they are humans and no man or corporation will never be able to take away their humanity. This strong message of female empowerment is so amazing that is one of the most important things in the show. Unfortunately, this world is always managed by men mentallity that is always focused on themself but here, in this show they show us otherwise. I’m not saying that all the men are bad, because they’re really good men that deserves credits too. In the show, we have Arthur, Donnie and Felix and I like them. If there are other thing that I want to detail is Sarah. She spent almost the entire episode hiding her feelings about Siobhan’s death and I loved to see her in that flashback supporting with her pregnacy. I had tears with that scene and with the scene where finally she let herself to cry. It broke my heart to know that she was so used to have bad times, and have to fight for everything now without her mother that it’s broke me, because I know that feeling. I spent the same things and I know how hard it is to feel normal. The last scene was lovely and hear Cosima and Delphine speaking spanish, my language was awesome. I loved to know that Evelyne’s voice sounded so natural and not robotical when she talk, only because french is a romance language with latin roots. I just loved it.
Another thing to thanks of this show, my buddies. I’m so glad to have found so special group of people that I have no words. @madnanc@seanpgilroy@mlleclaudine@324niehauscormierb21@orphanzero@evelynespacifier@purplenightsky69@adherantnerdhi@foggyheartconnoisseur only for naming some, but there are more. If there are other thing that I want to detail is Sarah. She spent almost the entire episode hiding her feelings about Siobhan’s death and I loved to see her in that flashback supporting with her pregnacy. I had tears with that scene and with the scene where finally she let herself to cry. It broke my heart to know that she was so used to have bad times, and have to fight for everything now without her mother that it’s broke me, because I know that feeling. I spent the same things and I know how hard it is to feel normal. The last scene was lovely and hear Cosima and Delphine speaking spanish, my language was awesome. I loved to know that Evelyne’s voice sounded so natural and not robotical when she talk, only because french is a romance language with latin roots. I just loved it.
Another thing to thanks of this show, my buddies. I’m so glad to have found so special group of people that I have no words. I think that I have to say thanks to the Canadian film industry. Not only for Orphan Black, also for Carmilla, and Wynonna Earp that are canadian shows, and movies. I’m so happy to know that this industry that seems small, I don’t know if it is. doesn’t need big scenarios or a lot of money to make great productions. That is something that are very valious and now I know and hope that the canadians don’t dissapoint me because they spoiled me with all these good stories. This is not a goodbye per se, because obviously I’ll stay around for Wynonna Earp and Wayhaught, but is a goodbye for @orphanblack and Cophine. The best story, characters, and fandom ever.