You wanted to do it. I wanted to do it. We all wanted to do it. Though we may sympathize with Amuro Ray to some degree, in that moment we want to slap his face. But, the privilege was granted to the Eternal Captain. Action was needed, and the one most capable of action was choosing to have a sulk. For the sake of the lives of his crew, Bright Noa had to whoop that trick.
Suggested Soundtrack for Reading – The Prodigy “Smack My Bitch Up” (I know, I know. Low hanging fruit.)
All joking aside, the Bright Slap incident is actually quite morally complex, lacking out-and-out “winners” and “losers.” First, let me state that Amuro is not wrong. He questions why human beings fight wars, and his spiritual sickness (some might say “tantrum”) at the notion of another battle are perfectly rational, and perhaps morally correct, thoughts and feelings to have. Unfortunately, they are very, very ill-timed. The White Base crew is locked in a struggle with Garma Zabi and his men (actual trained soldiers, unlike our heroes), and, without Amuro in the cockpit of the RX78-2, the crew is not faring too well. Amuro basically holds the lives of those on board White Base in his hands. They need him to pilot the Gundam and to fight in order for everyone to survive. This is a lot of responsibility, true. But, should he lack motivation, Amuro might recall that his own life is also at stake here. Yet, he is consumed with his own self-pity, anger and frustration.
Bright is also not wrong. He has to slap Amuro back into the moment. Whether you want to call the Gundam pilot a philosopher, as the Eternal Captain so cheekily does, or merely another angsty teen, Amuro must have his gaze lowered from ethical notions to focus upon the here-and-now, on what is happening right in front of him. To draw an atypical parallel to Gundam, Dostoyevsky‘s Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that the people must be able to eat bread of earth before they can eat the Bread of Heaven. Human beings must attend to their bodies, must survive, before they can attend to ideals, philosophy or theology. Or, as Kimberly Wilkins put it, “Ain’t nobody got time fo dat!” It’s quite a doozy of an irony that it takes a war to acquire the time and space to decide the war is wrong. Before thinking about the wrong-ness of war and killing, Amuro must participate in both. In order to protect and to live, he has to set aside his humanity, intentionally or unconsciously. It’s the sort of thing one might have to be slapped into.
Like I said, you can sympathize with the kid to some degree.
It turns out that just slapping Amuro won’t do the job; rather than waking him up to the present reality, Bright’s chastening only serves to further irritate him. So, naturally, The Eternal Captain slaps him once again. Not even Bright’s backhand can produce the desired effect: all Amuro does is express his shock and disgust that Bright would strike him.
Enter the woman.
Only when Fraw Bow steps in and says that she’ll pilot the Gundam does Amuro acquiesce. Certainly, part of the reason for this is due to gender politics. “I may not like it,” says the Gundam pilot, “but I am a man.” I’m not sure if Amuro believes that he has to pilot the Gundam because a woman simply can’t or if he thinks that Fraw can pilot it and he just doesn’t want to be shown up by her. Either way, he certainly has some ideas about women. Sentiments of this kind aren’t Amuro’s alone, though. Bright and Fraw are hardly innocent here, and each does their own part in reinforcing antiquated gender identity theory.
Putting aside his outmoded social thought, I want to give Amuro the benefit of the doubt. I’d like to think that the above represents only a part of the reason that he decides to get in his giant robot and fight. I want to believe that, when he thinks about Fraw Bow trying to pilot the Gundam, he thinks about all the horrible things that would likely happen to her. Such thoughts could easily create a ripple effect: what terrible things would happen to Sayla, Hayato, the civilians, etc. if Amuro doesn’t pilot the Gundam? I’d like to think that this sort of rationale serves as part of his motivation to fight.