I know why the caged bird sings. But I wish I didn’t.
The following review is about the bonus story in volume one of “Portrait of M & N”. We’ll save that for a different day, as I have a lot I want to say and I don’t want to be distracted by the masochism and narcissism. Instead, we’ll be looking at “A Girl In A Birdcage”.
I’ve been holding onto this review for years. I bought M&N in Israel, and I thought the primary story decent enough. Now, I have some issues.
However, when I read the bonus story, I was horrified. Keep in mind, this was a number of years ago, and I wasn’t really the amazing reviewer you see before you. Yet even then I could sense that I was going to hate this. As such, I wrote up a separate review and put it aside for later.
It is now later.
Problem is, it doesn’t really fit what I want to say. Maya Angelou died today, so obviously I want to insert “caged bird” references.
And then there’s the killings. That’s what this is really about. I want to mostly blast the main character. It’s time to shut up and start talking.
We have Kobato, just your average high school girl. She gets forced into a relationship with Roger, but that’s not his name. I don’t want to call him by his name, because he offends me. If you can’t find him in the manga, here’s a clue: He’s the only other male character there. Roger forces Kobato to date him, alienating her from her female classmates and possible boyfriends.
Now, in the poem “Caged Bird” by the late and great Angelou, the caged bird sings for freedom. Kobato likens herself to a caged bird throughout the story, feeling isolated from the world.
This is the first problem with the story. There’s no way to put Roger and Kobato together without being entirely wrong. Here are some ways Roger shows his “love”:
-Leaning over her in a way that looks like he’ll rape her if she moves
-Literally telling her, “Until you answer me, I’m not letting you go.”
-Forcing her to come home, making her feel “horror, anxiety, regret, sadness, etc.”, as if those weren’t enough.
-Screaming at her if she calls any other guys good looking
-Literally trying to rape her
Roger, Edward Cullen is the wrong role model. And that’s my obligatory Twilight comparison.
This could have been a story about the perils of guys like Roger, since he’s so obviously abusive. Well it isn’t. Instead, Kobato starts falling for him.
Stockholm Syndrome. Dammit.
She is a caged bird, but since she starts seeing he’s awkward, that makes him cute!
NO NO NO NO NO. YOU CAN’T JUST SEE THAT HE GETS EMBARRASSED BY A NEW HAIRCUT AND FALL IN LOVE WITH HIM.
“It certainly is a small bird cage… but the food may be pretty tasty.” Dammit, dammit, dammit. BUY A HAMSTER!
Kobato tells Roger that she tried to give Valentine Chocolates to her teacher in grade school, but a bully chased her and Kobato fell down the stairs. Remember, one character in this story is male. In the hospital, Kobato met a sweet boy who couldn’t speak, but he was a great comfort. One male character.
Of course, it turns out that Roger was a fat kid and that he was the bully who hospitalized Kobato. Kobato’s faceless brother forced him to leave when he put two and two together (THANK YOU), and Roger’s family moved away. Now he’s back to beat up Kobato some more! Then Roger says something to his classmates that is so obnoxious that it somehow turns into sound and penetrates my brain:
“I was fat and nobody liked me, so what? Does it make you happy that I used to be that way?! You are superficial fence sitters. Conformists! YOU are the ones too ugly to look at.”
I see. Don’t worry, there’s plenty more out there like you. They’re called cretins. No fence sitting there, pal.
So Kobato goes to cheer Roger up, but he tells her she can do what she wants. Hey, maybe Roger finally learned the difference between real love and Hollywood love.
Oh, um… Kobato is drawing chocolate around her mouth.
Hey, uh, Kobato, he let you leave. Be smart, Kobato.
NO KOBATO NO!
Well, now they’re together under a curtain, naked. Wonderful, just wonderful. It can’t get worse can it?
Oh. Last page. Um… It’s a “future vision”. Roger has a bundle and arrows, while Kobato is by the birdcage with eggs in her lap. THEY GOT MARRIED? Come on! How are these two fit for each other? Hollywood ending protest aside, she got abused by him during childhood and as a teenager, so you married him?
Wait. Why would either of them have condoms? Who knows if they even know how to apply…
OH GOD, THEY DON’T LOOK DIFFERENT IN THE FUTURE VISION. SHE DROPPED OUT AND BECAME A STAY-AT-HOME MOM WHILE ROGER WENT TO WORK.
It’s pandering sludge like this that fills heads with the wrong ideas. Granted, it’s only a bonus story, but Portrait of M & N isn’t exactly different. Only marginally better. But that’s still not good.
The caged bird sings for freedom, but that’s not why Kobato sang. She sang for imprisonment. She thought that she wanted to make her own decision, but why do that when men can do that so much better? No, clearly women should depend on the sanity of strange men.
See, we joke about Twilight because the notion of love is insane there, that any woman would want love that way. The problem is that it’s true. Oh, not that we should accept love from people who hurt and abuse us, no sir. But the fact is that many people think that the expression “you only hurt the ones you love” is true. That is even more false than “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. You should still go to the doctor, especially if he tells you that he wants to cut apples out of your diet.
And the truth is, the author said this about the reaction to her story:
“One of the most common comment was ‘I would love to be fiercely loved like Kobato was.'”
And yes, like Twilight, the author is a woman. Do they really view love this way? Not women, I meant psychotic authors who should help the world instead of destroying it. Love is hard to describe for all people, but “he wants to hurt me” should never be the answer.
I know why the caged bird sings. And it makes me want to cry.