Okay, apologies in advance, but I need to DBZ out a bit. I just need to, guys, and for that I apologize. It’s like a kettle boiling with nerdy pressure, threatening to explode if I don’t talk about one of the silliest and yet most engaging pieces of fiction in my entire life. And this time, I need to talk about the bromance that is Goku and Vegeta. And by bromance, I mean Vegeta’s all-consuming obsession with Goku.
I want to be perfectly clear on this. Vegeta and Goku’s story is not a friendship forming through martial arts and a red-hot rivalry. They express their emotions through battle because they’re Saiyans, but if they were human, their relationship would be a different kind of physical. As in: those two would be humping constantly in the most toxic relationship you’ve ever seen. (If you have feelings about me talking about childhood icons boning like BDSM rabbits, go ahead and hit the brakes on this and I’ll see you next time.)
The Saiyan race were alien warriors, plunderers of the universe. They were fighting machines, and they didn’t do it to rule. Instead, an insatiable lust for the fight drove them. And even more than fighting, I’d argue that they loved winning. There’s nothing that overjoys a Saiyan more than reveling in an enemy’s defeat. To laugh and gloat over their accomplishments and how thoroughly their opponent was overcome. It’s not enough to beat them. They want them to know how fucked they were from the get-go. It is what drove, sustained, consumed, and eventually destroyed their race over the years.
And if there’s one real world equivalent to that for humans, it’s sex. Sex sells. Sex motivates. We do the craziest things in pursuit of it and in the name of it, its siren song driving people mad. We put our lives on the line for its sake.
So, taking all this into account, let’s talk about Vegeta, the last prince of the Saiyans. Though technically King with his father gone, Vegeta is unable to let go of not just his previous position, but the creed of his people. Most of the series details his inability to let go and his very, very slow ascent into selfless heroism. But at the start, all he wants is the central obsession of his race; fighting and domination. Even the mighty Freiza, destroyer of the Saiyan race, is in his sights as an eventual conquest, though Vegeta knows to bide his time with such large prey. But on the way towards that goal, he fights Goku, the only other pure-blooded Saiyan left, who has abandoned his Saiyan heritage and embraced a more human lifestyle (though even he can’t quite shake a few Saiyan instincts in his heart of hearts). They fight and the once mighty dominator is DOMINATED. The defeat is made even worse by the fact that, if not for his cockiness, he probably would have won. His very nature is his downfall. Not only is he felled by Kakarot, but he is left to live and seethe.
From there, the obsession takes hold. The pursuit of a rematch consumes Vegeta, something he never gets until near the end of the series. The destruction of Freiza, his eventual romantic relationship, and even his journey into fatherhood all pale in comparison to the importance of his relationship to Goku. That desire for a rematch, to prove that he can be the dominator, consumes him. The defeat of Goku becomes his obsession. In human terms, Goku was supposed to be a one-night stand, but he surprised him with the best sex of his life, and for the rest of the series Vegeta is left desperately trying to win him back.
Vegeta’s pursual of Goku changes him. It ignites a desperation to prove something to himself and his opponent. That he’s not the second stringer, not Goku’s understudy. That nothing has changed and that he is still the prince of Saiyans, its rising star, ascending into glory. His obsession pulls Vegeta out of a static existence and thrusts him into an adventure greater than he could understand – and he rises to the occasion. Sounds a lot like love to me…
I always wanted to do a… sort of “remake”, or send up or tribute to DBZ, but never found the right formula. I didn’t want to just retell it – aside from it being illegal and unethical as a writer to do so – but to put a new spin on the story and the ideas it presented. One of the ill-fated thoughts was how I could make it about sex, and how applying the fights to romance and that other physical confrontation could hold a new filter to frame the experience. It didn’t quite work, considering the obvious implications of adding sex to that much violence. Sex is a loaded gun in terms of presentation, and I want to write a story, not porn. Still, that element exists and the similarities are there.
To quote Oscar Wilde, “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” And what’s more about power than Dragonball Z?