Sub-texts of Dragon Ball Z: The evolution of Goku

Dragon Ball Z is one of my favourite cartoons, if not THE favourite ever to exist. With it’s cliff hangers and on-going saga’s, this serial had me hooked. 

Even the villains kept me interested because of their outlandish character profiles and aesthetics. These got me asking: ‘How will Goku conquer this one?’, until he would turn Super Saiyan.  

This brings me to the point at hand. As we (DBZ fans) know, in order for Goku to be the champion, he has to counter attack with  the ultimate level (above-mentioned) when the Kameha-meha isn’t enough. He is surrounded by fiery cyclones and Gale-force winds before his make-over is complete. He stands tall and focused, as a Blonde and blue-eyed Demigod. This image was very exciting and it caused optimism.

The following may have been the last thing on my mind then. However, now, as a young adult and Media Studies Graduate, I cannot help but defamiliarise (and demonsterize where necessary). Through the transformation of Goku, I feel that DBZ reinforces the idea of Aryan-ness as the superior and the strongest/ fittest, where victory is made (Circa 1930s and ’40s; Hitler’s Nazi regime). Goku’s hulk-esque appearance at this stage also reinforces the importance of the Alpha-male, combined with the racial OCD that Hitler himself had.

I have always thought Goku was Asian (duh). The Black spikey hair and Alabaster complexion, his Martial Arts Costume and insatiable appetite for rice (eaten with chopsticks) clearly gave that idea. So, in hindsight it appears that he had to undergo a whole racial transformation to win his fights, because his natural (Asian) looks are too mortal. 

However, if I would cross the fence, I would conclude that DBZ (through the same transformation) blurs the boundaries of race and culture. I mean, the characters also speak English with an American accent. The female characters in particular are racially ‘ambiguous’ as each one has their own hair colour in Coco-power-ranger diversity. 

At the end of it all, this internal discussion was spurred on by the question: “Why did Goku have to turn Blonde to win?”

Am I reading too much into this? Don’t answer that. 

-Trudy Rozani



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