Tag Archives: Masculinity

OWLS April “Masculinity” Post: Fullmetal Alchemist and Power Dynamics

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

I am back once again to bring you another contemplative piece about… well, something. The topic for this month is masculinity, as described down below:

This month the OWLS bloggers will explore the concept of masculinity. We each have our own definition of what it means to be masculine and we will explore our definitions using “masculine” characters from various pop culture fandoms. We will discuss how these characters are “masculine” or show signs of a masculine persona. We will also share our personal stories about the amazing men that supported us in our lives as well as sharing some of our experiences growing up as a man or knowing men who struggled with the masculine identity.

Also, be sure to check out Scott and Lyn’s posts that will be coming out before and after mine, respectively.

With that said, my post today will be about Fullmetal Alchemist, so here it is:

One of the most iconic moments from both the original Fullmetal Alchemist as well as the Brotherhood remake is one of the opening episodes which takes place in the city of Lior. The Elric brothers end up in Lior after hearing about a miracle worker named Father Cornello, who also claims to be the prophet of the sun god Leto, and who also appears to have a philosopher’s stone, the thing the Elric brothers have been searching for in order to get Alphonse’s body back.

In their first meeting with Father Cornello, and Rose, one of Cornello’s devout followers who told Rose that he would help bring back her dead lover, Ed gives a description of the elements that make up a human body, and after said description explains that even with the power of science, bringing back a human life is impossible, and that Rose’s trust of religion to do the same is misguided. Eventually, after a short battle between ed and Cornello, the two brothers expose to the people of Lior that Cornello’s miracles are fake and that he is no profit at all, only a phony with a fake philosopher stone. Of course, the message of the episode is fairly pro-science, or in this case pro-alchemy and anti-religion, but when it comes to similarities, there is one big one that science and religion in the Fullmetal Alchemist universe share: the problem of masculinity.

It is important to realize that when I talk about these things, I am talking about them in terms of how they manifest in institutions and not necessarily about them as general concepts. With religion, well, that should be fairly self-explanatory. Cornello leads the church of Leto which tricks its followers into believing he is the prophet in order to gain power over him and so that they will do what they say. As for Alchemy, well, that is a long story.

Per the lore of the franchise, many of Amestris’ most successful alchemists work for the Amestrian government. Some work for government grants that are given based on an evaluation done every two years, while others are employed in the army. However, in the field of Alchemy, one thing, or rather one gender, is often missing. Women, while playing substantial roles in story of Fullmetal Alchemist, are generally missing in the field of Alchemy. Sure, Riza Hawkeye and the Elric Brother’s teacher Izumi are there, but they generally seem to be the exception to the rule. Alchemy, much like religion, seems to be a bit of a boy’s club.

I point this out not to say that Fullmetal Alchemist as a show is sexist or that no one should watch it, but rather to say this: much like in the world of Fullmetal Alchemist, power can corrupt, and it does not even have to be absolute power. When talking about Masculinity, one of the most important things to bring up is power dynamics. Whether it be in a work environment or even in a committed relationship between two people, unhealthy power dynamics based on gender can, and likely do exist. It is important to be vigilant so that unhealthy and discriminatory institutions can be called out.

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If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!