strong black female

Balalaika is the Perfect Strong Female Character: Part 1


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.

Unlike Berserk’s Casca, with her frequent emotional breakdowns on the battlefield over her commander/love interest, in front of her male subordinates, that gets men killed on more than one occasion…nobody feels the need to baby or defend Balalaika’s her. They respect her. They don’t treasure her as “their only flower.” (Sorry Judeau, but that line makes me cringe every time.)

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. 

That’s why I call her The True Goddess of War.™

Originally posted by warriormonk-devildog

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. ^_~

Screencap source: Apres Moi Balalaika tribute AMV.

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.


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.

Simon Price, Siouxsie and the Banshees fan

Caitlin and Iris

Honestly I’m so tired of seeing anti Caitlin or anti iris tags because of ships or just in general. Everyone has the right to not like someone especially a character but here are my two cents. If you hate one girl you’re hating Barry because they are both two amazing women in his life who deserve to be respected. Like Caitlin helped save iris’ life and iris helped save Caitlin’s and they both trusted each other to do so. Both of these women are amazing, smart, beautiful, and so much more!!!! And yes they’ve both made mistakes but everyone does! I’m also not saying the hate they get are equal because Candice gets so much hate because she’s African America and that shows how closed minded and stupid people are who can’t handle a strong female black character but it’s also not a competition about who gets more hate. The point is that they are both fantastic characters who deserve respect.

Originally posted by snowestgifs

Madi Scott. Madi Scott has a name and a history and a family and her own internal conflicts and motivations.

So when I see posts lamenting the fact that she’s also in love? That she’s deeply, deeply loved by one of the show’s main characters? Posts fretting over the fact that she doesn’t fit neatly into the “strong black woman who don’t need no man” trope?I want to fucking scream. The urge to scream is actually keeping me from falling asleep right now. Because there is no fucking shortage of black woman characters who exist solely to serve as emotional support for other characters.

You don’t know how many fucking black woman characters that I have loved over the years who weren’t even given a fucking LAST NAME (Michonne, Guinevere, the Maroon queen, for fucks sake) or whose connection to their history/roots/family were flat out ignored (never fucking forget Alisha Bailey being buried in a ditch in the fucking woods without a single family member present).

And then there is Madi, who we’ve seen: confronting and then mourning her absentee father and negotiating diplomacy, the legacy of slavery, and the future of the entire Maroon community with her mother AND coming to terms with her role as future queen AND forging a partnership with the pirates AND managing tensions between her people and the pirates AND leaving the comfort of the Maroon camp - the only home she’s ever known - to sail the high seas AND marching to war alongside her newfound allies AND falling in love AND saving others in peril and (gasp) falling into peril and needing to be saved (which is downright subversive given the many black fictional characters who exist solely to save other, often white characters (Bonnie fucking Bennett)

And despite all this, over and over I see concern trolling posts handwringing over her “lack of development.” And I shouldn’t be surprised but I am anyway because from where I am standing, Madi is one of the most well-developed black woman characters I’ve ever encountered.

And like, you don’t get to erase all that she is, you don’t get to deny her rich characterization and backstory and the historical context upon which her character is founded because you don’t dig her and Silver together or because she disrupts your fave ship. And you don’t get to tell black women, real or fictional, that their chief role in life is to be “strong, standalone and independent black FEMALES that don’t need no man.” Black women can love and be loved and be strong. And you will fucking deal.

  • me: ah, Romeo and Juliet is my favourite Shakespeare play and I really want to see a good retelling or sequel that respects all the important elements of the play but still manages to give it a new twist!
  • still star-crossed: messes up the timeline of the play and the background of some characters, dismisses some important details like Rosaline's freaking chastity vow that had started the whole mess, and generally looks like it's going to be the usual Benvolio/Rosaline romance that has been done five thousand times already
  • me: meh
  • also still star-crossed: has a strong black female lead, plus multiple poc characters looking gorgeus in period clothes and who occupy positions of power
  • me: you know what just sign me the fuck up
The Signs as Strong Female Characters

Aries: Seras Victoria

Originally posted by izukumi

Taurus: Nelliel Tu Odelschwank

Originally posted by bleachallmysoul

Gemini: Mikasa Ackerman

Originally posted by animebigworld

Cancer: Akane Tsunemori

Originally posted by lilium

Leo: Asuna

Originally posted by animebigworld

Virgo: Erza Scarlet

Originally posted by kryota

Libra: Yoko Littner

Originally posted by crystalpilot

Scorpio: Clare

Originally posted by fuckyeahclaymore

Sagittarius: Yoruichi Shihoin

Originally posted by bleachallmysoul

Capricorn: Balsa Yonsa

Originally posted by blackcatula

Aquarius: Revy

Originally posted by leonardotaku

Pisces: MiraJane

Originally posted by the-hikikomori-42