'Evangelion' Ruins One of Its Best Plot Beats With Sexist Tropes

Doesn't matter how wild the twist is if you tie it to bad characterization.

by Ricardo Contreras
Jul 25 2019, 6:10pm

Screenshot courtesy of Netflix

Spoilers for Episodes 22-24 of Neon Genesis Evangelion

Evangelion is a messy series. For all the craft and care put into the characters and arcs in the first half of the show, which was rough in it's treatment of women even then, the back end has higher peaks and even lower valleys. And while lore dumps and twists are being deployed, it's Evangelion's women that end up with the brunt of the low points. For as shocking as it is to learn Rei was a series of clones all along, it's tied to it is the unfortunate flattening of Ritsuko, a woman seemingly motivated solely by her relationship to a man. We see this same story played out with her mother, and this repeated cycle implies some greater hidden truth to the actions these characters have taken. Instead of allowing these characters to have a sense of agency, they're locked into repeating the same mistakes, because "that's just how women are." We discuss this uneven treatment, the overly dramatic lore dumps, and that shower scene in this episode of Waypoints. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below:

Content Warning for this episode: discussion of suicide throughout.

Austin: For Ritsuko the body is nothing, the self is built through mind and soul, and so these bodies are just future selves who will be exploited by NERV, by Gendo. Whereas Misato's position, which at this point is kind of similar to to Yui's, is that all human life is valuable. No matter how oppressed it is no matter how hard the boot is on your back, because to live is to have the radical potential for joy. Even in the year after the second impact, even in hell on earth, there is the potential as long as we live for something incredible and great.

And so those competing views are, I think the heart of those two characters, in those two positions. Yui and Naoko and then replicated again in the cyclical, cynical nature between Misato and Ritsuko. Just like her mother, Ristuko says that her love of Gendo gave her the strength to put up with everything, but he only ever cared about Rei. Yeah Rob?

Rob: Fuck off! Okay, so the beat I guess sort of made a little bit of sense with Naoko in terms of there's a backstory there, right? Here it's just "Yeah, Ritsuko too. We're basically going to have her turn into the same character as her mother and become the same." Like literally we're going to replay this entire thing of the bitter woman defined by her intellectuality as opposed to her maiden like youth or her sexuality. The intellectual woman's going to be reduced to an embittered rejected shrew who's going to destroy the youthful body of the child she perceives as her rival. Beat was so tasteful and insightful the first time we're going to run it again.

Austin: Let's just double down.

Danielle: Good lord.

Austin: That stuff is so frustrating to me because of the core revelation works. The core revelation of like, even though you kind of knew something was up with Rei since the jump, "oh they're manufacturing bodies to endlessly replace this one pilot? And also this ultimate wife guy shit from from Gendo here works for me. But this added layer of like "And so the scientist who has this rivalry with the sexualized child has to kill the sexualized child over and over." It's just like, nah.

Danielle: Well you know what went wrong? It's because she's she's only the scientist and not the scientist, the woman, and the mother. That's clearly what went wrong here.

Rob: Magi had it all figured out.

Austin: They really did, if only the Magi were here to guide us. Yeah I think that that part of it just falls flat for me and it's so frustrating. Misato frames all of this as "The tragedy of those obsessed by Angels, and I'm no different." Which, yeah.

Danielle: Is it?

Rob: Is that the tragedy? This has to do with the Angels? Really?

Austin: The Angels. Yeah. uh-huh.

Danielle: This is all Gendo's fucking fault! Also this show has done nothing whatsoever to show Gendo as anything other than a fucking piece of shit. And not very attractive, not very charming, not very anything. I think the real enemy here is compulsory heterosexuality.

Austin: Compulsory heterosexuality, they're just like "Alright well he's the, it's him or Fuyutsuki!"

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