spoilers for Lost, Rebuild of Evangelion.
So, this post might get a bit incomprehensible to anyone not in the specific intersecting portion of the Venn Diagram of Fandom that I’m in. For anyone out here who both religiously followed Lost and is watching the new Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy, this post is for you. Stephen King once said that if you don’t write for yourself, you can’t expect your writing to be any good. Well, Steve, I guess I’m following your advice now. But I noticed something after my third go-through of my fansubbed version of Rebuild of Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance that made me think of Lost in a big, meta way. You see, both Rebuild and Lost are long-form, episodic fiction. Now, they’re not both TV and they’re not both movies, but their writers would probably think the same way.
You’re stuck in this situation for the long haul. You are here with set goals, and are doing your best to meet them. But after a while, it’s tough not to get bored of your situation. No one in the fandom is going to listen to you–who can you possibly talk to about your woes? Your wife hasn’t listened to a word you’ve said since your first paycheque rolled in, your kids don’t care about your show, you’re on a separate continent from your director. What do you do? You put yourself–the entire writing staff–into the show as a character. For the writers of Lost, that character was Desmond David Hume. For the writers of the Rebuild series, it’s Mari Illustrious Makinami.
When the second season of Lost rolled around, the writers had painted themselves into a corner. They’d created a series that had won the Emmy for best drama in its first season, they were adored by all in Hollywood. But when the show you won with is a serialized science-fiction series that’s barely revealed its sci-fi aspirations that has a firm beginning and ending, what are you to do? You never know when the series will end because you’re being kept on week-to-week, season-to-season with no real way to predict when you’re going to end. Assume you finish the series prematurely at season four. What do you do when the series greenlights season five based on the success of what you intended to be the series finale? It’s almost as though you’re a man, trapped in a small room, pushing a button every 108 minutes without any idea as to when it will end.
Get it? Desmond Hume has actually been explicitly stated by the writers to be their representation within the canon. His plotlines reflected the overall direction of the series–when he started messing around with time travel, that’s when the writers were first thinking about employing it in the next season; when he got a romantic sideplot, the writers were congratulating themselves on a job well-done. It says something that even when their heroes were receiving hatedoms larger than Texas, Desmond’s fanbase never waned. His romantic plot with Penny was seen as the true heart of the show. I guess it shows that Desmond is where the writers were really devoting their efforts. Even when the show got into heavy science fiction in the last three seasons, each time Desmond was pushed out of the story, the story found a way of dragging him back in.
Of note is Desmond’s final scene in the series, where Jack has come down to where Desmond is doing his best to sacrifice himself to save everyone else. Jack here represents the show. And the show tells the writers (Desmond) to get back upstairs and go back to their wife and children. Jack says that he’s got everything from here on out and that Desmond should be with the people he loves. The writers ended up sending off their character representative with the most kind and supportive action Jack has ever taken. In one sense, it’s incredibly egotistic, but in the heartwarming fandom-sense, it’s moving.
Mari Illustrious Makinami from Rebuild of Evangelion seems to be the same thing. She first shows up in the series in the second episode, You Can (Not) Advance. The first movie, You Are (Not) Alone was a direct translation of the first six episodes of the series to film, trimmed for time and ease of not having your butt go numb. The second movie is where the writers of the tetralogy first made their creative leanings known. The gore was up the first time around, along with the fanservice, but the second movie is where these things got weird compared to the series. The adaptation goes entirely off the rails, as it were, overloading the frames with fanservice and explosions. The second movie opens on Mari syncing with Unit-05, talking about how her breasts are being squeezed into this plugsuit and then owning an Angel with big, super-bad explosions.
Mari is literally the embodiment of all of the writers’ goals and objectives. Up the fanservice? She has D-cups that get a loving close-up in a new plugsuit where her breasts can breathe. Up the gore? She is probably the most dementedly dedicated pilot of an Evangelion in the series, piloting solely because she loves the feeling of cracking Angel skull. Provide more shipping? Her arrival in Tokyo puts her breasts in Shinji’s face. But perhaps the most important scene of all in decoding Mari’s status as an author representative is what happens in the final fight. Because the new writers are also here to try to save Shinji from the fate of the original series.
And, spoiler alert, Mari fails. In trying to pull Shinji up by his bootstraps, she gives him just enough motivation for him to kickstart the end of the world two movies ahead of time. Sure, she’s sexy, she’s fun and she’s violent–but she also represents the writers’ knowledge that an Eva with Shinji happy and confident is no Eva at all. The story comes down hard on all of Mari’s actions, painting her quirky charm and violent nature as ultimately useless and out of place in this series. It shows that even when the writers try to save the day, it would feel fake if they did.
After all that, where do I stand on this phenomenon of writers representing themselves in the story as characters? That’s a good question.