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

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May 2012

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