woooooo arguing about FMA again! But it’s not Mark Watches, so it can’t get ugly yay. I figured I’d post my response for Riza archival purposes
In response to “the women in FMA whose character arc doesn’t revolve around a man are static characters like Izumi and Olivier”
-it is absolutely untrue that Izumi is a static character. She starts out the narrative feeling she is irredeemable because she committed taboo, and now she’s healing and progressing to a place where she is comfortable to herself and feels she can be redeemed. Moreover, May’s character arc isn’t oriented around a man at all, but entirely about her feelings about her clan and also struggling with her own morality and her attachment to the people she’s met in Amestris, even if she does like boys a lot. It’s difficult to tell whether Olivier changes or if we just learn more about her, but regardless she gets more layers at the story goes on. Also, the conclusion of Winry’s character arc as we saw in Briggs really had little to do with Ed, and everything to do with her own principles, agency and her carrying on the the legacy of her parents.
I’m not saying that it’s not open for criticism that Riza’s arc is so tied to a man’s, just considering the general trend of that with women in fiction. There’s room for improvement, like, I’ve seen lesbian!Roy/Riza AUs that are really good, but even though it could be improved I still find the arc feminist, bc, as I outlined here, it’s about a woman reclaiming her agency and having a lot of importance placed on her judgement and control in an equal partnership where she has the final say.
In response to “I feel uncomfortable saying Riza reclaimed her agency bc she relied on Roy to burn her back”
-Relying on someone to help you out, telling them they owe you a favor and asking them to pay up doesn’t mean she lacks agency. She’s reclaiming the right to make her own choices, and she puts a lot of emphasis on this. She CHOSE to tell Roy to use the gift she gave him to burn her back. She CHOSE to join the military. She is CHOOSING how her life is used, how Roy’s alchemy is used, it was her choice to take responsibility for her actions to the very end and tie her life to Roy’s. Basically it’s important that she asked Roy to do this because this is her way of calling him out for going back on their deal- “okay, you fucked up, now you’re going to help me make sure nobody ever fucks up like you again. I did you a favor, and I think you owe me this.”
It would be one thing if she just switched from obeying her father to obeying Roy, bu she doesn’t obey Roy, she works WITH him, she gives him input, she is constantly following her own principles and morality and ideals, and when those conflict with Roy’s actions, she defies him, checks him and strikes him down.
Being strong isn’t about never relying on anyone. We all need other people to survive. We need people to check us and balance us. A lot of FMA is about relying on other people and needing to work together (and that’s what a LOT of manga is about, and honestly I think the fact Western fans react so badly to this and say “so-and-so is not strong because she depends on so-and-so” is a bit of a culture clash- we’re taught that relying on anyone is bad in America, but that’s not such a big thing in Japanese culture). It’s about it being an equal give-and-take, where you make your own choices and do it on your own terms, where you both need each other and work together with mutual contentment. Yes, Riza depends on Roy to an extent. But she does it because it was a choice she made, and she has her own principles behind this decision, and it’s about respecting her own desires and taking responsibility for her own actions.
What I’m looking for in a female character is not that she never relies on anyone, but just that she makes her own choices and decisions and is allowed her own development, arc and story- Riza follows that spectacularly. Riza’s life isn’t about Roy, but is about her own personal ideals and convictions. Roy just happens to be a big part of that and she feels she needs them to acheive her dream just as he needs her. You can have a problem with that, but please don’t act like it gives Riza less agency. That’s not what agency is.
Other stuff, including saying Ed was presented as right re: the argument about killing w/ Miles because Miles called his views admirable
As for Ed, the reason he isn’t presented as entirely wrong or yelled at for the thing with Miles is you’re right, he ISN’T supposed to be wrong. But he isn’t supposed to be the only right point of view either. Miles calls his views childish because they are, and admirable because they are. There’s a good and bad side to both of them. If Ed can stick with his views without hurting anyone, they’re noble. But it’s childish to believe he will be able to do so without a lot of sacrifice, and that was Miles’ point, and what motivates Ed to go all out taking responsibility when he screws up in the fight with Kimblee.
Just because FMAB doesn’t entirely condemn Ed’s feelings doesn’t mean they’re the only way. Again, many of the heroes are shown to kill, and it’s treated as mostly okay as long as they do it to protect others rather than out of personal hatred.
I do agree Scar probably should have mentioned what Roy did to the Ishvalans in his speech. That is a flaw.