Originally published on August 27, 2011 on bclymeratmeetjustice.wordpress.com
Recently I’ve been thrust into the wonderful world of Netflix. One of the shows that I’ve been introduced to is a Japanese-Manga based anime called ‘Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood’. I’ve only just begun watching it, but already I’ve been reduced to lip quivering and tear hiding during one particular episode.
Said tearjerker goes like this: the show’s heroes, Edward and Alfonse, are guests in the home of Shou Tucker, a state certified alchemist who specializes in bio-alchemy and lives with his lonely young child Nina and her dog. Though Tucker is renowned for his past success in creating a chimera that can use human language (suspend your disbeleif, people), he is facing a looming deadline to produce a deliverable for his research. Meanwhile, Nina is desperately lonely while her father locks himself away in his lab each day to dwell on his predicament. During dinner with Ed, Al, and Nina, he admits that if he’s unable to meet the requirements for his upcoming review, he’ll lose his certification and his funding, adding that he wouldn’t be able to stand the life of poverty he lived before certification. When his bubbly young daughter attempts to lift his spirits, Tucker pauses and then promises to play with her tomorrow.
However, when Edward and Alfonse return the next day, they’re met with an unnatural silence. Uneasy, they enter Tucker’s laboratory and find him muttering to himself about his success. Ed and Al reluctantly edge closer and Tucker steps back to reveal his latest creation: a sad, confused beast that looks eerily familiar. Ed and Al’s surprise quickly morphs into horror when they discover that Tucker has used his own daughter and her dog to recreate his past success and transmute them into a talking chimera. Then, horror turns to rage and depression when they realize that they are helpless to change Nina back into the innocent young girl she once was. Nina is forever trapped in the form of something she is not.
In searching for photos and attempting to get the plot relatively straight, I found that many people were as haunted by the episode with Nina and her father as I was . There’s so much about this story that touches people on a deep level: especially in the context of commercial sexual exploitation.
Nina’s father, fueled by his need to make money and maintain his lifestyle, transforms Nina into a shadow of what she once was: she’s literally a monster to any eye that doesn’t know her for her true identity, like Edward and Alfonse. Victims of commercial sexual exploitation are transformed into something they are not – something that society brands as criminals or prostitutes.
Victims of sex trafficking are not voluntary participants in their own exploitation. However, so many societies still assign them the same stigma as they would a prostitute. In some cultures, they’re not even allowed to return home, for instance in this story involving victims from a small town in Vietnamn. Even victims of domestic trafficking here in the US face rejection and branding.
For example: In March of 2010, a sixteen year old was beaten by her pimp, Rasheed Davis, prior to being driven to a hotel to engage in a forced sex act with ex-football legend Lawrence Taylor. Because of Taylor’s fame, the case drew the attention of several people – many of whom saw only the chimera, not the girl trapped inside:
It’s funny that all of sudden this prostitute would decide to call her uncle so she can “stop living like this.” I’m sorry, but I don’t feel sorry for this girl…I really think [Taylor] thought the hoe was 19.
I feel the sentence is acceptable. Remember, the girl was a prostitute. It’s not like he attacked a virgin or something.
This is ridiculous. Now this little bitch who prostituted herself to begin with will not have to sell herself anymore cause shes gonna get millions.
Even though she was below the age of consent at the time she was forced into commercial sex and therefore automatically defined as a victim of trafficking, even though she was beaten badly enough to leave a black eye and facial bruises when she told Davis she didn’t want to do it, and even though Davis pimped her out so that he could collect the $300 that Taylor paid him to (knowingly or unknowingly) rape her, the victim was barraged relentlessly by media and members of the general public that failed to see her for what she was: a victim of a monstrous crime.
In Full Metal Alchemist, Nina was not simply victimized: she was victimized by her own father. Sadly, this is the case for many children who are commercially exploited. They’re sold by their own mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, relatives or neighbors. [Author’s Note 8/28: And Nina’s absent mother? Though Tucker had initially explained that she’d run out on the family because she couldn’t stand living in poverty, after Nina’s transmutation into a chimera, it’s revealed that her mother was the first victim of Tucker’s need for riches . She was the first person he transformed into a chimera. Human Trafficking doesn’t have to cross borders or involve foreign victims: many people are trafficked in their own cities by the people closest to them.]
Like Nina, people who are forced into prostitution are forced into a role that does not define them. However, unlike Nina’s narrative, there is a way of coming home in reality. The Ninas of the world are not monsters. Those forced into prostitution don’t have to live life in the form of someone’s “ho”, “bitch”, “trick”, or “girl” (or boy) forever – nor must they remain caged within the title of “victim”.
If you are a victim of any form of trafficking or know someone who is, restoration begins now.
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
Georgia Care Connection: 404.602.0068