The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby NinjaOfIce » Wed Dec 28, 2016 2:18 am

Earlier this year I took an introduction to Art Theory course at University. One of the assignments I chose to do was to summarise an author’s article on the topic of the archetypal femme fatale. The author of the article, Virginia M Allen, argued that the femme fatale was one side of the Madonna/Whore dichotomy that often female characters in historical literature can be classified as. After some time this concept reminded me of the differences in Rei and Asuka. A Madonna character is loyal and maternal, which reminds me of Rei, through her relationship to Gendo in the beginning of the series and being that she is a clone of a mother. On the other hand a Whore character is your typical femme fatale who uses her sexuality to take advantage of men often with evil motivations. While Asuka doesn’t fully fit into this archetype, sexuality is a more important part to her character then Rei’s, as we see her associate sex with adult relationships through interactions with Kaji.

Something that seems to further this is that Freudian Psychology features a complex named after it (as we know Eva features other Freudian concepts). According to this a Madonna-Whore complex occurs when a man isn’t sexually aroused in a committed loving relationship and instead to a whore archetype. I wonder if this has any relation to episode 9 where Rei can sync perfectly with Shinji, but He ends up succeeding with Asuka?

Anyway, I thought this would be interesting to share to see if anyone found it interesting or had similar thoughts.

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Re: The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby Mr. Tines » Wed Dec 28, 2016 4:22 am

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Re: The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby NinjaOfIce » Thu Dec 29, 2016 2:01 am

Cheers, they're some interesting thoughts.

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Re: The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby Bagheera » Thu Dec 29, 2016 7:49 pm

I think it's a bit of a non-starter with both Asuka and Rei, since they're both too immature to fully map with either side of the spectrum (not sure about Shikinami, though). I think it gets really interesting with Misato, though, as she embodies aspects of both. But she doesn't fully commit to either, due to her complexity; you have to look at her relationships with various characters to really tease out various aspects of the Madonna-Whore dichotomy (and then you get to the issue of how she is perceived by others, and how she perceives herself vs. how she actually is, and . . . ).
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Re: The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby Director Black » Fri Dec 30, 2016 11:28 pm

If this is what Anno had in mind, then it's sure as hell a deconstruction.

Rei and Asuka have been praised and loved by many for not acting like typical girls.

Asuka wants to act like a grown-up, but is still unprepared to grow up. The whore complex you're mentioning is her trying to make herself feel worthwhile through her low self-esteem.

Rei starts off as loyal, but through learning through the world with Shinji, she becomes aware of herself and is more then just a "puppet".
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Re: The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby SoryuUberAlles » Sat Dec 31, 2016 11:19 am

View Original PostNinjaOfIce wrote: A Madonna character is loyal and maternal, which reminds me of Rei, through her relationship to Gendo in the beginning of the series and being that she is a clone of a mother. On the other hand a Whore character is your typical femme fatale who uses her sexuality to take advantage of men often with evil motivations. While Asuka doesn’t fully fit into this archetype, sexuality is a more important part to her character then Rei’s, as we see her associate sex with adult relationships through interactions with Kaji.


You couldn't link to a copy of the article could you? Strangely the fandom and feminist literary analysts have tended to produce it is a kind of character-archetype analysis. I'm only familiar with it as:

the other wiki wrote: In psychoanalytic literature, a Madonna–whore complex is the inability to maintain sexual arousal within a committed, loving relationship. First identified by Sigmund Freud, under the rubric of psychic impotence, this psychological complex is said to develop in men who see women as either saintly Madonnas or debased prostitutes. Men with this complex desire a sexual partner who has been degraded (the whore) while they cannot desire the respected partner (the Madonna).


If you do it that way the analysis seems a lot clearer: Shinji-kun's sick psychopathology! Shinji clearly does think of Rei in a motherly way. Even Rei is shocked in the 'you seemed like a mother scene' that he would think this way!

Hmm. I'm going to look up some Freud and get back to this one. :freud:
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Re: The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby Kendrix » Sat Dec 31, 2016 2:25 pm

View Original PostSoryuUberAlles wrote:If you do it that way the analysis seems a lot clearer: Shinji-kun's sick psychopathology! Shinji clearly does think of Rei in a motherly way. Even Rei is shocked in the 'you seemed like a mother scene' that he would think this way!


Except that seems to distort the whole scene for the sake of making that one reference; It all starts because Shinji was supposed to meet with Gendo and decides to consult Rei for tips - the whole thing quickly turns a little awkward as Rei is not as certain about her relationship with Gendo as Shinji first assumed she was. She asks if that's why he was looking at her, he flexively makes an affirmative sound and the immediately realizes that it was a bit of a foot in mouth moment, given that it could be misunderstood. Not wanting Rei to think that he doesn't care about her personally, he scrambles to say something, and the first thing that comes to his mind is the dust cloth thing -
(From her side, the quest or wether he was just talking to her because of Gendo, just like everyone else has only ever used her as means to an end; She hoped/thought he might have been looking at her for)
Realizing that this, too is akward, as random thoughts/associations often are, he tries to spin it into a sort of compliment or something that makes sense -
And Rei isn't the 'WTF' kind of shocked, but rather displays all sighns of being flustered/nervous/embarassed complete with a blush.

And she has reasons to have a strong reaction here; Being an artificial creation raised in sterile labs, implied to be infertile and unlikely to survive to adulthood given her shoddy, fragile hybrid body; She wouldn't ever have that normal human life nor is she sheduled to live past the date of Third Impact, or have the freedom to pick out what she wants to do in the future. At the very least he just told her she's got positive characteristics in being caring & dutiful/ that her future husband & kids (which she'll never have) sare gonna be lucky (which AFAIK wouldn't be that awkward or out of place in Japan), and heck, maybe even a bit of a regular blushey/embarassed teenage girl reaction to being complimented by a boy. Or something Lillith related I guess.

Not really anything reductionally going on in this scene per se; He's just blurting out someting related to some half-conscious memory since he was already in the headspace where he'd be thinking about Gendo and the circumstances of their parting. If anything it shows just how little he remembers Yui, he has little clue where the association comes from;
In general it makes no sense to completely reduce the relationship based on something neither of them knew about, especially since it's based mostly on their shared experiences as EVA pilots & Shinji being able to emphasize with her isolated lonely situation in life; The initiative was very much on his side side there.

What is even a 'maternal' way to wring out a dust cloth? Shinji only had that association because he had faint memories of Yui cleaning out toddler generated messes.
Yui could have wrung out her dust cloths in 1000 different ways and Shinji would find them 'materna' simply becuse that's how she did it.
I mean just think: Yui was born into power & privilege, the only reason she'd have been cleaning was because she dug the whole husband-and-kids thing and wanted to; From what Fuyu says of the size of the Ikaris' house in ep 21 she could easily afford a Maid. Meanwhile Rei was dutyfully performing cleaning duty and is not actually particularly cleanly in her own home.

It's probably some unconscious thing about what's the most comfortable posture to do this in with this particular makeup of muscles and sinews, merely a comment on the physical resemblance that simply objectively happens to be there.

---

If anything the characters are all far too complex to fit such cathegories - Though Misato can be said to struggle with some of this in the self-doubt she experiences concerning her sexuality, and there is a bit of a plot of Shinji having a somewhat selective perception (as lampshaded in the pre-instrumentality train sequence)

Neither of the two is ever unambiguosly idealized or devalued, though Shinji certainly has moments of treating Asuka in a diserespectful way - But they didn't get along since day one and were basically antagonistic to each other no matter how teenage lust and Shinji's avoidance of conflict may have complicated matters. There were flashes on real cameraderie early on but they evaporated the moment Shinji's synch ratio started approaching Asuka's.

Not even Yui is really a saintly madonna figure, though Gendo and Shinji seem to remember her this way, (which doesn't require particular pathology in Shinji' case given how little he knows and how young he was) she turns out to have been the mastermind who out-plotted everyone else, and also identical with the terrifying monster that is EVA 01.
ep 16 explicit - seeing someone as either all good or all bad depending on the situation - so that may be the more appropiate concept to apply here.

If anything, you might look at it in terms of 'maiden (Rei), mother(Yui, Misato), crone(Ritsuko) & seductress(Asuka)' and how most of the characters are introduced one way and then shown to have shades of another (Yui is actually pretty crone-ish, Misato has a seductress-like side, Asuka has a vulnerable, maiden-like side and the mess of her origins would give Rei both motherish and croneish associations) in ways Shinji can't really cope with, and there's also discrepancies in how the ladies view themselves. Heck, even that seems to reductive in the end.

Let's remember that a 'femme fatale' is not just an 'edgy sexy' character but one who, be she villainous or anti-heroic, uses sex appeal as a weapon & tool for manipulation and/or leads the hero to their doom, something no one in the show really does - Gendo might be closer to that than anyone else, if he wasn't a dude.

Though possibly, Rei could be interpreted as another common fictional archetype that is sometimes the 'femme fragile' - A sort of ethereal, beautiful character who is nonetheless unavailable because of her frailty and/or tragic fate. Though even here things are complex because she doesn't exactly have some victorian soap opera disease but happens to be a conditioned child soldier slash artificial homunculus who proceeds to turn into a continent shaped monstrosity, and does exude a certain strenght in a 'stoic warrior poet' kind of way and the protectivenessthey have for each other goes equally in both directions.
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Re: The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby Bagheera » Mon Jan 02, 2017 6:22 am

View Original PostSoryuUberAlles wrote:If you do it that way the analysis seems a lot clearer: Shinji-kun's sick psychopathology!


Yeah, but at Shinji's age not knowing which way is up re: women isn't really a pathology; it's just the natural state of being a teenager. With that being the case I think the clinical use of the term is even less helpful here than the one described in the OP (the "common" iteration of the term, even if it has little in common with Freud's definition).
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Re: The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby Kendrix » Tue Jan 03, 2017 11:26 am

View Original PostBagheera wrote:Yeah, but at Shinji's age not knowing which way is up re: women isn't really a pathology; it's just the natural state of being a teenager. With that being the case I think the clinical use of the term is even less helpful here than the one described in the OP (the "common" iteration of the term, even if it has little in common with Freud's definition).


Yeah; He's not "cheating", he doesn't ever get to the stage of a commited relationship in the first place and that's not even unusual for his age. (Or his degree of being busy piloting/fighting various mindmelting monstrosities)
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Re: The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby lilim » Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:38 pm

you can definitely view them that way in a general sense if you want to but i don't think any of these characters are treated that way by the rest of the cast, or even by the writers/creator.. something i love about Eva as a whole is that almost every character is given so many different shades as a person - hardly anyone is presented as being only one thing - which is why, yes, you can say for example that "Asuka is a bitch" or "Shinji is a whiny baby" but if that's all you really see you're definitely missing so much about the way they're crafted and presented. the fact that on the surface they are these things, and quite strongly so, but you also get fantastic examples of what ELSE they are, what else they may want to be, why they're even showing that side of themselves to begin with, is what makes them relatable and interesting. and in this case they explore WHY Asuka treats sex the way she does, why she wants to use it and to what end. they discuss the same things with Misato. Rei never seems concerned with sex at all and despite the sexual imagery associated with her (even with her and Shinji) i couldn't really see her being used to convey Madonna; Asuka and Misato both have complicated relationships with sex and men and complicated to the point that i can't see them effectively conveying Whore..
if eva only showed things from Shinji's view, and if he actively engaged in consensual sexual relationships with them regularly it it may be easier to draw these kinds of comparisons but it isn't like that.
Shinji sees Rei in ways that are maternal, because there is a real reason for him to whether he's aware of it or not. he sees Misato in ways that are sexual and is made uncomfortable by it because he expresses the desire to have her in his life as a mother figure, even though she constantly disappoints that expectation. he seems to see Asuka in both ways but neither is satisfying to him. as a mother figure (when he looks to her for comfort, or to help him) she's totally absent and unable to be there or she outright refuses to console him, and as a sexual partner she's either aggressive in a way he doesn't seem to know how to handle, or passively rejects him by pursuing an uninterested man much older than her even though he (Shinji) is her peer, her fellow pilot, and lives right down the hall.

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Re: The Madonna-Whore complex in Rei and Asuka?

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Postby SoryuUberAlles » Thu Feb 16, 2017 7:41 pm

View Original Postlilim wrote: Rei never seems concerned with sex at all and despite the sexual imagery associated with her (even with her and Shinji) i couldn't really see her being used to convey Madonna


That's actually how it works. Or at least, the way it works in Freud.

So just to update people:
1. Freud came up with the idea that many men resolve the oedipus complex - the fearful guilty secret that resent their fathers for stealing love from their mother - by establishing an ideal 'madonna' to respect in order to acknowledge paternal mastery and their filthy suppressed erotic yearnings are displaced into their symmetric opposite, the 'whore'. Freud speculated that this complex is so widespread as to be a cultural standard.
2. Feminists have used this licence to extend this sexual complex to all womanhood - the nonsexual are incorporated into the shiny new 'mother, whore, virign'. It's how western society both demands, mass-produces yet hates and confines women and their sexuality.
3. The kind that Chuckman seems to a be late 'archetypal/literary' method that seems to be invented by wiccans. But because its literary it finds its way back into Evangelion. But it all starts with Freud!

So the point is that if Shinji really does have a madonna-whore complex then there are, as Lacan says, three 'times' in Shinji's oedipal drama.
1. Love for Yui
2. Fear of Gendo
3.1 "What I feel for Ayanami, it doesn't go with words...like 'like' and 'want to go out with.' It's as if she's a part of me that was torn away a long time ago."
3.2 And Asuka gets Three Days of Grace AMVs (you know the ones I mean).
"You're just turning this into a mixture of gibberish and fan service! That's not the Evangelion I know!" - An Asuka, one of many.


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