arevhat: (chiana bw faceless)
[personal profile] arevhat
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] damnedscientist 's latest thought-provoking post on Terra Firma, I inadvertently wrote an essay about Chiana this morning and thought I'd share it here as well, in case anyone was interested.  

It's not the most well thought out piece, and I missed some points I wanted to touch on, but it's the most writing I've done of any sort in awhile.  Thanks, Richard.



It was, in my opinion, perfectly in character. In fact, if Aeryn hadn't died and Crichton hadn't been in danger, I don't think Jothee would have happened.

On tumblr, when someone is liveblogging and reaches TWWW, a common reaction is along the lines of Oh Aeryn, my poor bb, don't cry, it's ok that you killed a Pilot and betrayed Velorek, you were a Peacekeeper, how terrible for you, I understand you and your pain. They get to DMD/SOD/SAL and it's OMG Chiana, you're such a slut, ew, gross, how could you do that to my poor D'Argo, what's wrong with you. And I'm just...

Because Chiana is every bit as much a product of her past and her culture as Aeryn is, but there's very little empathy for or understanding of her actions. Is it because her lowest point happens on screen in the present, and not through the distance of a flashback? Because she hurts a character we've also grown to love, and he doesn't forgive her in the end like Pilot does Aeryn? Because we know the man whose heart she broke, and he's still around to tell us about it instead of executed or imprisoned? Or because some fans don't really get Chiana's character to begin with, and so you wind up with her actions being interpreted as out of character or boredom or callousness or just being a horny, shallow slut? I think it's a little bit of everything.

Chiana's grown a lot by the end of S2, but she's still a very young woman, and still very much a mess. She was raised in a sinister, abusive society that wants to control not just your actions and words but your every thought and feeling. And they do it all with a smile on their lips and love in their voice, even when inflicting terrible physical pain. There is no freedom, no choice. If you don't conform, you are stripped away, leaving nothing but an obedient, empty shell.

Chiana describes herself as a slum kid in A Clockwork Nebari. We don't really know anything about her parents, except that she never saw love between them, and she and Nerri may have run away when they were still children. They grew up running, living on the streets, in derelict ships, on carcasses. Fending for themselves, alone in the universe, doing anything they had to do to stay warm and fed and alive. It's heavily implied that she's prostituted herself when necessary, and in Gigi's acting choices I see clear signs of a girl who's been sexually abused and/or raped before. Chiana may genuinely love sex for the sake of sex, it may be her favorite color as she says in Twice Shy, but it's not her strongest trait. It's her crutch. Her safety. Her tool. Her weapon. She finds strength in it because life has shaped her to believe it's all she has. It's why she offers herself to John in Family Ties, and why she sleeps with Jothee.

In Durka Returns, Chiana says "I'm not used to trusting anybody". Chiana may play things close to the vest, lie, and hide, but she is also often unflinchingly honest, her truths are delivered in such a way that they're difficult to register or hold on to. She's had no one, her whole life, except for Nerri, and even he left her. He was her "everything" when she had nothing else, and he left her. At this point the abandonment is all she knows. By the end of S2 she'll have experienced his death and grieved for him, only to discover he lied to her, faked his death, and does not want her near him. Whatever his reasons, however noble or well-intentioned, that is an incredible wound and a reinforcement of her belief that you can't trust anybody. And the people who love you the most, the people who are supposed to love you the most, will hurt you the worst.

She's not a brat for being a brat's sake, when she arrives on Moya. She's a brat because she has no reason to trust these people, who are offering her room and board and not demanding anything in return. She doesn't trust the situation. She doesn't know when it's going to go south, as everything else in her life has, when she'll only have herself again. She pushes them away to see if they'll kick her out, live down to her expectations. They don't, and she slowly starts to relax, trust, and build relationships. Notice when she reverts to her old, bratty behaviors - in Taking The Stone, when she's at her lowest point, when she believes Nerri is dead.

One of the interesting things about her relationship with D'Argo is that he used to be promiscuous too, the "planet slut" of the show, as Anthony described him. He didn't want serious, he just wanted to have a good time. Their relationship was born mainly out of mutual horniness in the confines of the ship, in my opinion, but there is potential there, even from the beginning. They're both young and rash and hot-tempered, despite D'Argo's pretense of maturity. They're both separated from their dearest loved one, and after SAL, both have been hurt by them, basically told to frell off. They've both gone through years of hell before finding relative safety and security on Moya. At the beginning they both seem to want the same thing - sex, companionship, friendship, someone to lean on and be there for them. And for awhile, it's good. Really, really good, for both of them.

And then, from Chiana's perspective, D'Argo changes the rules. She's happy with the way things are, but he wants more. She loves him, but he falls in love. Maybe she could handle that, maybe not - I do think D'Argo is her first "real" relationship. He's always raised his voice to her, always grabbed her, and she yells back or pushes back, but with his stress over Jothee he becomes more rigid, more closed off, more authoritarian. More controlling. She wants to stay on Moya, a place she's learned to trust and feel safe, a place she can call home while still running, and she finds out he wants to take her away to a farm. Marry her. Settle down. She doesn't believe he'll take no for an answer, and without even taking the Nebari into account, I think she has good reason to feel that way. Look at D'Argo's scoffing "how could she say no" to John in SAL, or his continued delusion in S3 that she was his fiancee.

But we have to take the Nebari into account. We have to take Aeryn's sudden death, and John's distress, and Zhaan's slow death into account. Zhaan is probably the closest thing Chiana's ever had to a mother. Her family is falling apart around her. She almost-kisses Jothee for the first time before Aeryn is returned to life. It's her safety. A way not to feel or deal. A choice she can control. She doesn't have cold feet when she finds out D'Argo is going to propose. She has post traumatic stress disorder. Rightly or wrongly, because of her past and her people, she panics. She feels she has no power in the face of D'Argo's plans, and his ability to control her and make her choices for her. No way to exert her individuality, to make her wants and needs known (forget about respected - Chiana has never been respected by anyone). Her decision is selfish and desperate and deeply damaging, but she is deeply damaged, and she's doing what she thinks she needs to do to survive, by using the only weapon she has.

Jothee wasn't about cheating (that's a whole other issue in their relationship, I have a feeling they never discussed monogamy, but when D'Argo's feelings deepened, he just assumed she'd follow his lead) or getting some while no one was looking. That would be out of character, I agree. But it works for me because it's about fear and pain and how sometimes it feels like you can never outrun your childhood and your family and what they've done to you. How you can never stop frelling up your life, how your head will never be on straight because it's been frelled up by others one too many times. And how, ultimately, no one will see that or care.

Original thread: http://terrafirmascapers.com/index.php/topic,40617.0.html
And post: http://terrafirmascapers.com/index.php/topic,40617.msg913933.html#msg913933

Date: 2012-04-25 03:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dargai.livejournal.com
I think the problem is who Jothee is in relation to D'argo. Sleeping with his newly rediscovered son seems a little inappropriate. Of course, the clearest foreshadowing to Chiana/Jothee is that D'argo speaks to them both like they're children, essentially making them both allies and equals. Frustrate and scare Chiana enough and yeah, she'll fall back on the single sure way she knows to connect, manipulate and be in control.

TBH, I'm a lot more squicked by Jothee's behaviour. Who finds their Dad and then decides to sleep with his girlfriend?

Apropos of nothing, as progressive as it was in some ways, Farscape wasn't when it came to sexual relationships. Aeryn, who grows up in a culture that encourages frequent sex, is never shown to have sex except with John (not counting that flashback). John, who appears to embody the mainstream idea of sex having emotional meaning has sex with other women while in love with Aeryn. And some of the responses at TF (not this thread, just threads I read when I was still an active member) have indicated that some fans don't like sexually active women. So Chiana is automatically the worst of the worst for sleeping with Jothee.

Date: 2012-04-25 03:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nebari-rebel.livejournal.com
I think the problem is who Jothee is in relation to D'argo. Sleeping with his newly rediscovered son seems a little inappropriate.

Well, yes ;) It's horribly inappropriate, on purpose. I'm fairly certain D'Argo would have forgiven her for sleeping with anyone else; he tells Aeryn in SIW that he can almost forgive her for this. And as Chiana says at the end of SAL, she had to do something he couldn't forgive.

Don't get me wrong - I think what Chiana did was awful, and inexcusable. I'm not making excuses, I'm explaining what drove her to it. The way I see it anyway.

TBH, I'm a lot more squicked by Jothee's behaviour. Who finds their Dad and then decides to sleep with his girlfriend?

Someone who likely witnessed their father's hyperrage towards their mother, whose mother was killed, who was taken from his father, who was sold into slavery, who has had a hellish life and has been thoroughly hardened and hates his Luxan side enough to mutilate himself, and yet still wants his father's love and approval...and who is then treated like a child and sneered at when he finds him. D'Argo doesn't recognize the man Jothee is - I don't think he wants to recognize it. It's too painful for him. But it's more painful for Jothee not to have his father see what's been done to him, and what he's probably had to do in his life.

I think it's perfectly possible that Jothee knows, on a logical, rational level, that D'Argo wasn't to blame for what happened to their family and to him, but on an emotional one? He literally cut his father out of him. Any hesitation he had over Chiana was brief.

I love this storyline because it is so fucked up - because both Chiana and Jothee love D'Argo and want him in their lives, and yet they're both trying to hurt him as badly as they can. And D'Argo is utterly, willfully blind until it all comes crashing down around him. My heart breaks for all three.

Apropos of nothing, as progressive as it was in some ways, Farscape wasn't when it came to sexual relationships. Aeryn, who grows up in a culture that encourages frequent sex, is never shown to have sex except with John (not counting that flashback). John, who appears to embody the mainstream idea of sex having emotional meaning has sex with other women while in love with Aeryn.

I agree, and it's really, really frustrating. Aeryn could personally just not have a high sex drive, or many partners in the past, for personal reasons, but that's not the way it comes across. It's more like she must remain pure for John, but the same standard doesn't apply to him.

And some of the responses at TF (not this thread, just threads I read when I was still an active member) have indicated that some fans don't like sexually active women. So Chiana is automatically the worst of the worst for sleeping with Jothee.

A lot of people aren't sex-positive, especially female sex-positive (not that one should really be positive about Chiana's actions here, but it seems to apply to her character, and characters like her, in general). It's fairly disappointing, but it doesn't seem specific to Farscape.

Date: 2012-04-25 03:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] damnedscientist.livejournal.com
Very nicely put together and thought provoking.

I'll read it again over here, just in case I missed anything over there. I love that there is so much depth to these characters, when you go looking for it.

Thanks, Arevhat

Date: 2012-04-25 04:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nebari-rebel.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: 2012-04-25 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vinegar-dog.livejournal.com
Great read, Arevhat! Funnily enough even though I always felt sorry for D'Argo, I never really blamed Chiana for her actions. D'Argo clearly saw their marriage as a foregone conclusion, which is not right as John pointed out himself in SAL while at the bar when D shows him the tattoos. D'Argo's behaviour was wrong, Chi's behaviour was extreme but an understandable reaction to D'Argo's claustrophobic possessiveness. Even though Jothee is not a favourite character of mine, I can even understand him...one can only imagine what traumatic experiences he went through in his young life for some of which he might openly or subconsciously blame his father ..so I guess my overall feeling of that situation is sorrow and upset for all three of them. They are family (in blood and not blood terms) and yet they hurt one another deeply. But doesn't that sound familiar? I guess you tend to hurt the people closest to you as it happens everywhere daily.

I agree that D would probably have forgiven Chiana a lot sooner if she had slept with somebody else other than Jothee - your son sleeping with your (supposed) fiancee must be something not too easy to digest no matter who you are.

As you said Chiana is a result of her upbringing, which she has to live with every day of her life - I love her story arc - she goes from being a survivor and therefore pretty selfish and self-involved to truly loving deeply in different ways all of the others. Of all the characters I always thought of her as the one who actually loves the rest of the crew most comprehensively and I have always liked her for that - her heart is truly open to the others and because she is far from perfect herself, she is more accepting than anybody else of other people's faults, which is not easy to accomplish.

As for Aeryn and her "keeping herself for John", I am not sure I agree. I mean we know about Velorek however we do not know how promiscuous or not she might have been after Velorek and before John, I always assumed that since sex is not taboo in the PK, she probably had many sexual partners before she got caught on Moya. After that, she didn't really have many chances, did she? John had Gilina, who happened on Moya by accident and then Jena on the Royal Planet (don't even start me on that) but Aeryn did not really have a huge amount of chances to actually "betray" John, did she? For example she was clearly attracted to Larraq - would she have slept with him if the circumstances had allowed it? Maybe, why not? He was gone too soon to tell.

Did she sleep with others in the time she was away between S3 and S4? I always assumed she probably did. When she later says "there was only ever John Crichton" I always took it to mean in her heart and not literally in her bed. Would people have reacted with shock and disgust had she been shown cavorting with Dagon the way John did with Jenna? Probably, but that's society for you - unfortuntaly those differences in moral judgement are still out there and they will be for a long time.

Anyway sorry for going on and on and on, but it's your fault for making think about FS! :D

I loved reading this!

Date: 2012-04-25 06:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nebari-rebel.livejournal.com
I'm very glad you enjoyed it, Laura! Thank you for reading and commenting! I really loved reading your comments, very thought provoking as well!

Funnily enough even though I always felt sorry for D'Argo, I never really blamed Chiana for her actions.

I never felt sorry for D'Argo until very recently...now my heart breaks for him, but for the longest time, I would just SEETHE with rage and vitriol...if you're ever digging through old posts on TWoP I'm sure you will come across some good old-fashioned D'Argo rants ;)

I didn't blame him per se, but I hated that he couldn't see his part in it, and when he did try to shoulder some of it, it missed the point by a mile and had a distinctly martyr-ish flavor to it. Chiana I did blame, in that I thought she did wrong and should have done something else, but I knew she felt like she had no choice. And Jothee I recognized as a hurt, lost soul as well, but couldn't stand for the longest time. It's all very confusing. I love it! And I love all of them now, and I'm so much better for it. It's such a richer experience.

And I absolutely agree that it's not something that D'Argo could have gotten over easily, if at all. When I wanted him to see his part, I didn't necessarily want him to forgive her. I'm completely intrigued by him saying he almost could, so soon after the fact. He had every right to be destroyed by it - but I wanted him to know why it had happened, for his sake and my sanity LOL

As you said Chiana is a result of her upbringing, which she has to live with every day of her life - I love her story arc - she goes from being a survivor and therefore pretty selfish and self-involved to truly loving deeply in different ways all of the others. Of all the characters I always thought of her as the one who actually loves the rest of the crew most comprehensively and I have always liked her for that - her heart is truly open to the others and because she is far from perfect herself, she is more accepting than anybody else of other people's faults, which is not easy to accomplish.

I adore this. It's made me so happy to read it - I'm saving it in my file of "nice things people have said about Chiana", if you don't mind =D

I find myself agreeing with your thoughts on Aeryn, and think that's probably what happened - partners we didn't see pre-series, and during the "summer vacation" - it fits the society and the character better, in my opinion. But I don't know why we weren't shown any of that when it comes to Aeryn.

I would have LOVED it if Aeryn had been recreating on the Royal Planet while John had resisted Jenavian. I think that would have been more in character for both of them, and put a different spin on the usual "guy sows wild oats, woman has and has no need for sex and shall pine stoically" bit. It is society - even in space. And I think it's a shame.

Anyway sorry for going on and on and on, but it's your fault for making think about FS! :D

I am going to take that as a compliment :P

Sorry if this is rushed or incoherent, I must start the risotto!

Date: 2012-04-25 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vinegar-dog.livejournal.com
Yum, risotto! LOL now I feel like Homer Simpson! Enjoy it!

P.S. I love your enthusiasm and appreciation for the positive comments made about Chiana - you even have a file! :)

Date: 2012-04-25 07:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nebari-rebel.livejournal.com
The risotto is taking forever! I'm so hungry!

To be honest I have many different notepad and wordpad documents with comments and quotes and article bits saved - one day they shall actually be organized into a single, easily accessible file ;)

Date: 2012-04-25 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nymeria-55.livejournal.com
Engrossing and very well thought-out essay!

I loved the sheer *fire* underlying each word, the fiery passion that comes through while you work to obtain some justice for a too-abused character. One that is too often viewed with superficiality, and without taking her past into consideration.

Calling Chiana a slut is like calling Walter Bishop a madman - if I can mix some examples here...

Thank you for sharing this! Is there a hope that it might be expanded in the future by including the points you did not touch on? Waiting.... Waiting... :-)

Date: 2012-04-26 08:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nebari-rebel.livejournal.com
Thank you for reading and commenting! I was hoping you would; I always love hearing your thoughts.

Calling Chiana a slut is like calling Walter Bishop a madman - if I can mix some examples here...

Mix away! I love the analogy =D

I would like to write more about the character(s)...I would like to do an episode review actually, like you're doing for B5 (I met Mr. Morden yesterday, good stuff!). It's lucky I'm in this fandom for the longhaul, because there is fic to be written first!

Date: 2012-04-26 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nymeria-55.livejournal.com

I would like to write more about the character(s)...I would like to do an episode review actually

That would be wonderful! **cheering/encouraging shouts**
So many insights come to the fore when you're putting your thoughts on... paper. And chatting about Farscape (or any show I love) is something I love, especially with people whose opinions I enjoy and respect.


B5 (I met Mr. Morden yesterday, good stuff!).

Oh, Mr. "what do you want"!! :-)
Keep him in your sights, because he's not just a passing extra....
And how are you enjoying the show so far? I know season 1 is not B5 at its best!

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