Frieza, Dragonball Z
Those familiar with the children’s animated series, “Dragon Ball Z,” will recall Frieza as one of the show’s greatest villains. A collection of odd body parts, the most visually freakish aspect of Frieza’s image is his perverse, yet humanoid figure. Featuring claws, horns, a spiked tail, and scaly white and purple skin, Frieza is a mess of things that reject a single path of categorization. Frieza might be described as a monster of category crisis,who, while having a humanoid form, deviates wildly from what we might consider to be natural. To that end, Frieza’s freakery comes as no surprise if we consider how Dragon Ball Z’s head animator, Akira Toriyama, came to conceive Frieza. As Toriyama describes, “Frieza’s design is an amalgamation of what he thought monsters looked like in his childhood.”
Frieza returns in numerous episodes and is revealed to have the ability to transform into larger, more grotesque forms that pose great danger to the protagonists. He also appears as a cyborg in later seasons of the show, repaired after having been severed in two. His monstrosity draws upon his role as a recurring danger to the protagonists, coming back to life again and again to terrorize the protagonists.
Frieza stands as a particularly memorable villain from my childhood in his sexual ambiguity, as well. While he is portrayed as a male character, several aspects of his character reject a male persona. Several aspects of his character, including his long black nails, black lips (from lipstick), and female voice, work in conjunction to compose a notion of monstrosity that reaches beyond his other physical characteristics. A lack of any distinguishable genitalia or sexually dimorphic appendages we might otherwise see in a human counterpart also lends to Frieza’s ambiguity. We might consider Emily Grosz’s work in “Intolerable Ambiguity,” which mentions how the freak is an ambiguous being whose existence imperils categories and oppositions dominant in social life.
Works cited (w/annotation)
- Anderson, Michael. “Reading Violence in Boys’ Writing.” Language
Arts , Vol. 80, No. 3, Celebrating Local Languaes and Literacies
(January 2003), pp. 223-230 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/41484132>
Anderson addresses the recurring themes in pieces by young schoolboys. Often featuring fantasy, absurdity, and adventure, their writing nearly always includes a cast of outlandish heroes and villains. Anderson’s discussions make reference of Dragon Ball Z as a show that make use of these childhood themes to contrive memorable characters.
- Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Theory (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory:
Reading Culture. Minnesota: University of Minnesota, 1997. N. pag. Print.
Theories regarding “category crisis” and “escape” discussed by Cohen help to crystallize the perception of monstrosity regarding Frieza. As a course text, descriptions of Frieza’s monstrosity are inspired by the mechanisms of fear outlined in this citation.
- Csicsery-Ronay Jr., Istvan. “On the Grotesque in Science Fiction
.” Science Fiction Studies , Vol. 29, No. 1 (Mar., 2002), pp. 71-99
“Science fiction’s sense of grotesque wonder is the response to the new, boundary violating phenomena that are either discovered by observation, or synthesized by scientific invention.” This work by Csicsery-Ronay bears relevance to ideas of boundary disruption, and to the sci-fi genre of Dragon Ball Z. The discourse in this paper serves to articulate the monstrosity of Frieza’s multiple forms, which feature both organic and cyborg mutations.
- Rothkirch, Alyce von. “’His face was livid, dreadful, with a foam at the corners of
his mouth’: A Typology of Villains in Classic Detective Stories.” The Modern Language Review , Vol. 108, No. 4 (October 2013), pp. 1042-1063 http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5699/modelangrevi.108.4.1042
In concert with Cohen’s theses, Rothkirch’s work helps to identify several aspects of monstrosity which have been common among classic detective villains.
- Grosz, Elizabeth. “Intolerable Ambiguity: Freaks as/at the Limit.” Freakery:
Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. Ed. Rosemarie Garland Thomson. NY: New York University Press, 1996.
Phenomena of monstrous conception caused by the inability of the subconscious to categorize/recognize is a mechanic paralleled in several of our course texts, yet grosz addresses the issue of aversion towards sexual ambiguity, which I find may be far more salient to older viewers, as opposed to younger viewers of Dragon Ball Z.