Now, to all the BZP veterans, fear not, I am fairly canonically versed so won’t be asking the worst of the annoying, constantly repeated gender questions that pop up in this section of the forums. At least not an uninformed state XD. I will go on for a bit, but hopefully that’ll also provide more depth and something new to think about c:
Here, I will aim to analyse the subject of gender in the Matoran Universe in a fairly complete dissection, considering available canon information, and the most obvious concepts that it consequently implies. By doing so, I will guide you through the considerations I myself made, and then the subsequent questions it spawned. I hope this will also lead to constructive discussion regarding gender theories.
There are four main questions, but a few little ones dotted around so check them out too (:
*(Allergy Warning: Contains excessive brackets)
Also, apologies for the apparently serendipitous structure of the text.
[bonesiii: Sorry to add to the brackets, but several subjects relating to reproduction and origins controversies had to be edited out. Remember the rules. ]
I will start with some dictionary definitions:
a) Of, relating to, or designating the sex that has [certain organs].
b) Characteristic of or appropriate to this sex; masculine.
A) Of or denoting the sex that [...] bears young.
b) Characteristic of or appropriate to this sex; feminine.
Okay. Now let’s think about some Bionicle canon:
The Great Beings made the Matoran Universe, in which a multitude of biomechanical organisms inhabit a vast, complex constructed ecosystem that serve as part of the internal functions of the colossal Mata Nui Robot. Arguably one of the most important of these organisms is the species called Matoran.
These macro-tech workers live in a giant machine. However, this machine was obviously inspired in the ecosystems of true life on habitable planets (namely Spherus Magna).
The natural “systems” develop into remarkably balanced and sustainable networks. Look at the Earth for example. The planet’s active geology and the Sun fuel the vast web of life [removed]. Species compete [...], yet only stable systems hold out. Hence balance is generally maintained, and to a truly spectacular precision and order. So pervasive and remarkably self regulating are the workings of life that some have even modelled the Earth as a whole as an organism in itself, sometimes referred to as “Gaia”. However, in order for the Earth to maintain this overall stability, life itself must constantly be in flux; [...].
[bonesiii: I had to cut a whole paragraph here. Essentially, large-scale beings have distinct gender, and this relates to origins issues as well. Sorry but almost none of that is allowed here.]
So, one may expect that the MU [changes], so as to more accurately replicate the self-regulating merits of a living ecosystem that would be so obviously attractive to the architects of the Robot; the Great Beings.
However, as we well know, the GBs felt [gender-related] reproduction wasn't necessary. Instead, the biomechanical robots of the MU work their ecosystem as a collective unit (or at least they should have done, were it not for the unpredicted sentience “glitch”), with the collective goal of maintenance, not the closed goal of surviving long enough to reproduce and to outcompete other species that may stop you doing so. This system may thus be better compared to the Portuguese Man of War jellyfish, which is essentially a “colony” of specialised organisms working together for the collective goal of being a successful Man of War, even if each unit is not directly aware of its role in the colony, it just knows what it needs to do its job.
So reproduction isn't really needed in the context of the Matoran Universe, as we are so often told; and now we see that with a bit of thought, this can make sense. Hence, in a more mechanical, factory style system, the Matoran who die under whatever circumstances are simply “rebuilt/resuscitated” in the Red Star and replaced not with offspring. If a Matoran cannot be resurrected due to being completely destroyed, they may instead be replaced, when a completely new Matoran is brought into being with the enigmatic machines in Metru Nui, or if more Matoran are apparently needed, if it is in the best interest as the system as a whole (presumably the reason for Mata Nui’s involvement when new Matoran are made, since he is the only one with a truly holistic view of the MU who could appreciate if more Matoran would really be required).
Okay, with context reflection out of the way, time for the first (proper) question (finally lol):
1.Why do Matoran have gender?
Before I continue, I feel it is important to acknowledge the real world reason for it: relatability (which is also the primary reason that they are incredibly humanoid).
Since the BIONICLE brand was aimed at boys, it makes sense for LEGO to make the main characters male, since the target audience will better engage with such characters as they are more relatable. However, in order to not appear completely sexist, they must include female characters too. Of course, it would really make sense for the Matoran to have no gender at all, but hey. Hasbro did the same thing with Transformers. These are also classic exhibits of The Smurfette Principle and to some extent the Token Minority tropes (look them up if you don’t know what they are).
As a result, we have characters with seemingly pointless gender. So, any ideas guys?
Before you think of an answer, let’s think further about what we know regarding this matter:
First, I’d like to refer you back to the definitions of male and female.
Now; clearly, if Matoran do not reproduce, they cannot literally, biologically, have a gender. That is, unless they can reproduce, but just don’t for some reason. The Withheld Reproduction theory was actually one that I held for a long time until the Red Star’s purpose was revealed, and for the following rationale:
The MU may just not need [change], since these complex systems would only have to remain stable with one another for the 100,000 year operation period of the MU, which is an almost irrelevant time period in most cases (sentient intervention would of course greatly accelerate things). All the Rahi, Matoran and Skakdi etc. need only work harmoniously enough as a collective ecosystem for a (relatively) short amount of time. And if change was needed, the beauty of this semi-sentient network is that it can just be artificially managed (such as Makuta armour being upgraded due to their apparently unexpected evolution.)
Also, (I’ve been desperate to discuss this at some point) in Voyage of Fear the Matoran Whenua made an interesting remark about a Rahi he saw in the Archives. After observing it (I think swimming around shallows or something like that) he theorised that the Rahi may evolve from having fins to legs (or vice versa, I can’t remember). This fascinating bit of information suggests MU organisms can gradually evolve to their environments, on their own, in a very significant way. This would remove the need of reproduction, and the idea is further made impossible by the Red Star's function, and the MU's expected life. Thus, let’s conclude that they definitely can’t and just don't reproduce.
Then, by default, the attributed genders can only be due to their characteristics, i.e. that they are masculine/feminine. But is even that true? Let us examine the appearances of Matoran characters. Males are for previously mentioned reasons essentially the default, with female characters the deviation from the standard theme; hence I will refer to the differences female characters exhibit.
Looking at the sets, comics and books (movies don’t count), female characters really aren't structurally different from the male characters (I’ll talk about Roodaka and other species later ). The traditionally feminine characteristics, like wider hips, larger buttocks, slimmer builds, breasts and shorter heights are really not observed at all in the Matoran species (maybe some in Gali Mata...just. Certainly not her monstrous Mistika form. Even so, she would be an exception, Nokama and Hahli don't follow suite).
A canon reason would logically be that it’s because they don’t reproduce, so why would the GBs make a separation at all? The only thing that seems to suggest they are different is simply that we are told they are. (I think female characters did have feminine voices but I’m not even sure about that lol).
We’ve seen MU characters identify each other’s genders, so there must be some recognisable difference, surely?
One difference we do know was mentioned by Toa Orde. I’ll let this awesome quote speak for itself:
“I know, I know,” he replied. “All Psionics Matoran, Toa and Turaga are female, and I’m male. Simple answer is, I’m the reason they’re all female.”
Seeing the puzzlement in Chiara’s eyes, Orde smiled.
“I was the first Psionics Toa, and one of the first Toa ever created,” he continued. “But I was, let’s say, a little too … aggressive in using my powers. I had a temper then. A short fuse plus psionics leads to bad things … sometimes very bad things.”
“Like what?” asked Chiara, intrigued.
“You know the Zyglak? Those savage, brutal monstrosities that hate everything to do with Mata Nui and think everyone looks better with a dagger in them? Well, they didn’t used to be that bad. Oh, they were nasty and violent, but … see, my first job was to calm them down a bit. And, well, it didn’t quite work out that way.”
“Oh, no …” said Chiara.
“What can I say? I got annoyed and pushed when I should have pulled.”
“That still doesn’t explain why --”
“After that, someone decided that maybe a gentler touch was needed for Psionics … so all the subsequent Psionics types were made female.”
“Right,” said Chiara. She shot a bolt of electricity from her finger, frying a lizard that had been sunning itself on a rock. “We females are so gentle, after all.”
And even this isn’t anything solid. Whoever made subsequent Psionic types female (maybe Artahka?) considered it a logical, justified course of action to make such a decision (of course, it may just have been a sexist joke, but I doubt LEGO would allow that...I hope so anyway).
So, are females in the MU actually gentler? Let us think about this. Also bear in mind that we have to overcome the subconscious notion that they may be like humans, seeing as we are questioning if they actually have gender.
Gali and Nokama were certainly the peacekeepers of their respective Toa Teams, but Gali is said to have been able to display quite a temper at times. In support of the idea that gentleness is a general trait of Ga-Matoran at least (no such info on Vo-Matoran, in fact Chiara seems to suggest the opposite, then again she's just one example. From the little we saw of Nikila, she wasn't particularly aggressive non gentle, not that I think there was enough of her shown to really gauge her personality). Now let’s see what Dalu has to say:
“...I'm sure where you came from, Ga-Matoran are all gentle peacemakers who never raise their voices. That's what they ... we ... were like where I came from too."
Judging by Orde’s comments, perhaps this trait extended to Vo/Ce-Matoran too. Dalu shows us two things that I care to mention here:
- Ga-Matoran and probably Vo/Ce-Matoran display “gentle peacemaker” characteristics (Judging by Orde’s comments, perhaps this trait extended to Vo/Ce-Matoran too).
- Matoran have malleable personalities that respond to their experiences (i.e. Dalu’s semi-traumatic new life on Voya Nui forced her to change). And of course due to the rampant individualism shown by MU inhabitants, we have some that may just be natural exceptions (GORAST, GORAST, GORAST).
I would speculate these personality gender differences maybe be due to the Protodermic equivalent of hormones, in the way that higher levels of Testosterone show increased competitiveness/aggression in humans.
This now suggests female Matoran in the MU serve the more supportive, social function of maintaining societal amity. Ignoring the sexism of this notion, I would conclude there were, to some degree, designed gender roles of a social kind. Perhaps it even reflected the state of Spherus Magnan society, since the GBs felt the MU captured the “Great Spirit” of SM in a poetic sense too, hence the name.
Perhaps, further to this, the GBs just decided to make gender for the same reason we like to assign gender to robots. We like making things in our own image, and like relating to and personifying our creations, even if it doesn’t really make sense.
This however, still doesn’t explain what external physical differences allows MU inhabitant to gauge gender. So, what do you think?
Okay, I said I would talk about Roodaka. Specifically, I was to discuss the possibility of reproduction in other MU species. I don’t have anything on this myself so I’ll go ahead and ask:
2.Do any species other than Matoran reproduce biologically?
The only reason I ask is because of Roodaka’s species, Vortixx. The only Bionicle species (other than Gali Mata and Kiina, although they are more subtle in femininity) that LEGO released that was clearly intended to be female. I mean, c’mon, who could miss those breastplates; with a colour scheme that brought even further attention to them. Not only this, she had emphasised hips/rump, a lean figure, high heels, earring things and a pony tail.
More to the point, what are her breast(plates) for? I assume it’s just the Vortixx armour design, but one wonders. She remains a rather odd set in this sense.
Then of course there is the sub issue of gender ratios in the MU (and possibly SM). Reproduction is apparently non-existent, but we can hypothesise that they have designed gender characteristics (maybe hormonal differences for better social cohesion). As we know, the ratios are overwhelmingly male biased, but why? If the GBs decided to attribute gender (seemingly pointlessly, from what we know) why not make it 50/50? Was it reflecting the SM gender ratio? We don’t really know. But hey! Theories?
Now for lols, let’s consider what the gender ratios are specifically. If we look at it, it is rather unbalanced. Let’s start with the Matoran first:
The problem is, we don’t really know the population distributions among the element types (I like to call them races/ethnicities). Since we don’t know the proportion of Av-Matoran to the rest, and we don’t know how much less common Secondary Elements are compared to Primary Elements. Then we have the added fact that Ba-Matoran are rarer than most Secondary races, to an unknown degree.
But for the sake of this topic I’ll be arbitrary. I’ll assign relative population values to each ethnicity:
Primary Elements Population Value: 6 (For Each Element)
Av-Matoran Population Value: 6 (I’ll say 3 for male and female, assuming the gender ratio is equal)
Secondary Elements Population Value: 5 (Each)
Ba-Matoran Population Value: 4
Doing the maths gives an overall Matoran species gender ratio to be about 1.68 males to every 1 female. I consider the population values to be fairly reasonable.
We have no information on gender ratios of other sentient species such Skakdi, Steltians, Vortixx etc.
Note that female Skakdi are said to be more aggressive than males so the “Gentler Females “ doesn’t apply to them, but bear in mind that the whole species was experimented on by Makuta Spiriah, so we don’t really know how they were originally meant to be (they could well have followed the Matoran trend but Spiriah overcompensated in making them more violent, we really don’t know). Vortixx also arguably have less gentle females given their society (we cannot take Roodaka’s personality as a typical example, seeing as she is exceptional by Xian standards).
We do have explicit information regarding the Makuta, thankfully:
Originally 85 Male, 15 Female, hence a ratio of about 5.67 Males per 1 Female. The Makuta may have also followed the “Gentler Female” trend, judging by most female Makuta opposing Teridax’s Plan at the Convocation, which was dangerous and certainly not a calm, peaceful idea.
So, there is certainly a gender imbalance, which naturally leads to the question:
3. Why is there a significant gender imbalance in the Matoran Universe?
(Of course, the real reason is relatability, as I previously mentioned. However despite real world reasons I feel it is the joy and almost duty of a Bionicle fan to think about and theorise over the often ambiguous lore in order to expand it and keep the community rich and alive.)
Again, sorry for the long read, but on the positive side, I hope my posts provide deeper thought than most of the other posts in the Bionicle Storyline & Theories section that you read :L
Thank you for reading (:
P.S. Bonesiii, enjoy the mild techno-babble
Mata Nui! some of this was badly written and unclear looking back on it. Sorry 'bout dat
Edited by bonesiii, Jul 31 2013 - 11:38 PM.