“It’s clear as day. He needed and wanted someone to rescue him.” — R. Dorothy Waynewright, The Big O episode 8, Missing Cat
When I wrote my last post, I was sure that I had something nailed. In the first seven episodes of The Big O, Dorothy Waynewright is, to borrow an allusion, a mechanical songbird content to be in her cage. I believed I was justified in criticizing how the show treats her and Angel.
Now I’m not so sure.
Don’t get me wrong. The first seven episodes of The Big O are a man’s world. Upstart women are brought to heel continually. How the show treats women characters is problematic, which is why I let my first post run with the additional note.
When I finished that post, I was feeling kind of smug. Then I watched episode eight, and I’ve started to question how I feel.
To explain, I have to talk a little about a girl and her cat.
While the episode opens on a grisly murder, I’m going to skip to the part where Dorothy finds a lost little cat wandering through the alleyway. She picks him up and takes him home.
Roger Smith learns about this when the cat destroys one of his hourglasses and makes a mess of the desk. So the symbolism here is not lost on me. Perro, the cat, is brought into the house without telling Roger, then destroys a symbol of his power.
If you don’t understand what I mean, he is the only person with working timepieces in the city; making him one of a few people focused on the future. This is what makes him “not guilty” and allowed to pilot The Big O.
Now, Roger convinces her to look for Perro’s owners, which she does, but only after convincing him to take her on as a client.
(Just for those keeping score at home, that is two times that Dorothy has asserted herself as an independent person with her own desires, and not just a pretty thing in a cage.)
Well it turns out, for plot reasons, that the cat’s owners turn up, and Roger Smith isn’t able to convince them to give up the cat (for reasons that become obvious later) and he allows her to give the cat back.
As she’s giving the cat back, a mad scientist scoops up Dorothy and the cat and guns down the cat’s owners. The scientist, named Eugene Grant, it turns out is turning people into pets for profit. The kitten was really a boy named Roy, and was the son of the the people you initially believe to be the owners.
Grant takes the cat/boy and mixes him into a giant chimera. Then as Roger and Angel are about to rescue Dorothy, the giant Perro/Roy monster attacks, wrecks the building, and gets into a fight with The Big O.
There are a couple of important points here. Dorothy could leave her captivity at any point, but chooses not to because she wants to find Perro/Roy. Also, Roger and Angel actually put her into more danger, and don’t rescue her. She ends up rescuing herself.
(Just for those keeping score, that is four times when Dorothy acts as an individual seperate from Roger Smith’s desires. That’s not bad for a 22 minute show.)
At the end, Big O is about to kill the monster when Dorothy intercedes. She puts herself physically between the savior of Paradigm City and the thing she wants.
In the end, Roy/Perro decides it’s better to be dead than live as a monstrosity. He walks into the burning building and it collapses.
What does this mean?
I’ve been writing ahead, so my last post was written about a week before this one. When I watched this episode, I had a really tough decision to make. Do I take down my last post? Is it even valid anymore to say Dorothy is just a housewife?
Truthfully, I don’t know. When I wrote it, it was true. I will stand by the fact that for the first seven episodes in this series, Dorothy exists to serve Roger’s will.
I also will add that in episode 9, she does show some signs of independence, but that episode has a lot of different issues that I plan on touching on later.
So the question become does one episode in a series change a character’s fundamental role? Does it redeem the obvious sexism that existed before? Do these seeming acts of independence really make her a fully realized woman or are they just acts of petulance being humored by her well-meaning patriarchs?
I’m not well-versed enough in feminist theory to have an answer to these questions, which in the end is why I’m putting up both posts. I’ve laid out my cases, and I will let you decide what you think.
Thanks for reading.
This is part of a larger series of posts about The Big O that I’m writing as I watch the show. You don’t need to read them all to understand, but I think they’re kind of spiffy.
The posts are:
Episodes 5-7: Wait? Women can be in big robot shows?