[SEED]: An Essay on Meer Campbell.
Maybe because Meer bashing and cheap shots at the girl frustrate me even more than Shinn bashing and Cagalli bashing and Jona bashing and everyone bashing put together.
Through the Looking Glass: Behind a “False Reflection.”
On The Surface.
The image that most of us are clinging to, I think, is Meer’s stage persona: a ditzy, energetic girl with inflated ego and cleavage who prances around in a bathing suit and creeps into Athrun’s bed, considering this to be perfectly normal behavior for a fiancée. Let’s run Meer through:
- She shows up onstage, dressed distinctly un-Lacusly, but still acting like Lacus from a distance.
- She fangirls Athrun shamelessly. She doesn’t have that same easy grace that Lacus does, and chatters earnestly at Athrun in a way that even Suit CD Lacus never did. She pesters him about Lacus and is not as perceptive as her idol, nor is she as self-reliant and secure.
- She beams and gasps fangirlishly as Athrun resumes a position in FAITH.
- She reappears onstage. Performing live, she’s nothing like Lacus – she is much more visually oriented. She seems to be enjoying herself.
- She appears onstage again. More special effects.
- She runs up to Athrun happily, with more fangirlisms, clinging. She amuses herself with Haro while Dullindal and Athrun talk.
- She shows up in Athrun’s bed, complete with skimpy nightdress. She believes that this is how fiancées act, right? She acts, alright, bitchily to Lunamaria, slamming the door in the girl’s face.
- She is polite to Heine.
- She has to be shoved onto her shuttle by Athrun, still attempting to “correct” his un-fiancee-ish behavior.
- She wonders where all her fanboys are at the shuttleport, is furious that someone has impersonated her and stolen her shuttle.
- She reappears in Dullindal’s speech, obviously in a coached position. Interestingly, here, she speaks with great conviction: even if she’s not saying something that Lacus would, she, in her concern for people, speaks very strongly.
- She flops over after the speech, apparently exhausted.
- She is at Dullindal’s side as he presents Destiny and Legend to Shinn and Athrun. Her expressions here are interesting: she stops looking so mindless and shows some worry, sadness, shock, perhaps responding to Athrun’s hostility.
- She eavesdrops on Dullindal and Rey’s conversation about knocking Athrun off, tells Athrun to leave and, initially, goes with him, then refuses to go any further.
- She mopes around (in an office? Closet?), listening for progress on what’s going on with Athrun. She is obviously genuinely distressed when she finds out that his ZAKU has gone down.
- She is seen sitting sadly in a hotel room, watching the coverage of Operation Ragnarok.
The bulk of her screentime, Meer is prancing around in her skimpy outfit, ditzing to Athrun, acting a touch nastily to Lunamaria… but, then again, for most of SEED, Rau le Creuset acted sane. Let’s look a bit deeper.
Why is Meer dressing up like this? Not because she wants to molest Athrun, or because she wants to dance around in tiny clothes. In her dinner with Athrun, she tells us that she’s doing it because she’s never needed, and she’s been offered the opportunity to make a difference.
“He told me ‘Right now I need your ability for the sake of PLANT right now.’ That’s why!”
“It’s not your ability that we need. It’s Lacus’s.”
(Sadder.) “That’s true, but right now… no, it’s not just now. Lacus-san is always needed by everyone. She’s strong, beautiful, and kind. I’m never needed by anyone.” (Putting on a bright smile.) “So I don’t mind if it’s just for now. If I can help the Chairman and everyone else in place of Lacus-san, who isn’t here right now… Then that alone makes me happy!”
Meer wants to be liked. She wants to be needed. She doesn’t want to be ignored, and she wants to make people happy. Meer is delighted when Athrun tells her that her performance was almost identical to the real Lacus – it means that she’s doing something useful right. That is her motivation. That is Meer Campbell underneath the outfit and the performances.
An Artificial Lacus.
So, Meer begins to act like Lacus. She seems to have a fairly skewed idea of Lacus is, and is patently misguided, but she means well. Bear in mind that her Athrun-stalkerage does seems to be born of a belief that this is how Lacus, as a fiancée ought to act, and we reach a reasonable jumping off point to assume that most of her new persona is a mask she’s putting on, and that many of her new habits are assumed because she believes that’s what makes people happy, and that’s how she needs to act to fulfill Lacus’s roles. (And really: she’s probably getting positive feedback for acting this way – masses cheering for genki genki Lacus-sama, posters of her in “that outfit” in demand by ZAFT mechanics, etc. Face it: Athrun’s probably the only person who’s expressed any disapproval about how she’s acting)
To see how much of this is artificial, let’s look at Meer in the past and at her most distressed. In the brief shot of pre-surgery Meer, is she wearing, say, a strappy, slutty concoction? No. She’s reasonably (if hideously, IMHO) dressed. If this is how she dresses before her transformation, is the buttfloss outfit her own idea? Probably not. For me, this puts a crack in the skanky-mask she’s put on. More likely than not, she’s had someone else make decisions for her about what she’s going to wear, and someone else has sculpted that element of her persona. So: how much of this new Lacus has been created by someone else? How much of it is Meer’s idea, and how much of it is Dullindal’s PR herd creating someone who, erm, motivates young male soldiers?
Well, then, how much of it has sunk into Meer? She is determined to be helpful and make people happy. What makes people happy? Images of her waving, encouraging, being cheerful, being energetic, smiling – being, really, something bright and chipper in the middle of an angsty Gundam war. Energetic as she is when we first meet her, she isn’t really so over-the-top until she’s been on her concert tour for a while, and she’s had so much fan encouragement for her behavior. Because people need her, she’s willing to take on another personality – to be Lacus, because she’s not needed, but this other person is.
This, I believe, is what leads her to act as she does towards Athrun. She isn’t naturally inclined to do things like latch onto him so much as she does in episodes 19 and 21 (her approach is much more cheerful and less physical, IMHO, in her first appearance), but has been encouraged to do so by the understanding – no doubt encouraged by the PR flock – that this is what will make people happy.
“I Prefer Lacus.”
Every little girl dreams of being a princess when she grows up, and Meer Campbell takes the chance when Dullindal offers it to her. To Meer, despite some fans’ convictions, the chance to become Lacus is not about acting like a slut on television: she is acting on the truly noble impulse of wanting to help, and the slightly less noble impulse of being needed, respected, and necessary.
The fact that her overriding impulse is to help people can be seen when she goes to try to bail out Athrun after overhearing Rey and Dullindal’s conversation about how yeah, they probably need to take him out of the picture. Her first move? Go to Athrun, try to set things straight. This impulse to help, however, is what keeps her tied to Dullindal.
“No! I’m Lacus! I’m Lacus, okay?! I prefer Lacus!”
She flashes to an image of being cheered on by adoring fans – to being needed. Why does she prefer Lacus? Not for some stupid, petty reason. She prefers being Lacus because it makes people like her, because it makes people need her, and because she can do something! That’s the sort of empowerment she gets out of being Lacus – being a somebody! Being something! Who wouldn’t prefer that? It’s not about being petty or being a slut – it’s about doing something with herself!
At the same time, she hasn’t lost her humanity. She isn’t just Dullindal’s lapdog (it should be obvious enough when she goes to Athrun that she does have some willpower, and that she can take steps to protect the people she’s come to care about). And, of course, she cries when she finds out that Athrun’s dead. No: it isn’t good enough that it was “for the ZAFT;” Meer takes it rather personally.
Athrun’s “death,” however, seems to have genuinely rattled Meer. Where she once stood strong to cheer on soldiers and endorse military action against Logos, she’s very visibly shaken. She looks horribly depressed during Operation Ragnarok, visibly upset by the wide-scale death and carnage.
Just, perhaps, like Lacus.
A quick summary and extrapolation:
- Meer Campbell is not a whore. It does not define her, and this aspect of her “personality” is a construct which, although she’s picked it up, she is probably more than capable of letting go. It is, by now, familiar, but it’s just a façade.
- Meer wants to help people, an extension of wanting to be needed… even if she doesn’t always go about it in the best of ways, she really does want to help. Moreover, Meer believes that she (as Lacus) is needed, and has a duty to help people.
- Meer is capable of independent action in the name of what she believes is right (Athrun).
- Meer is becoming increasingly disillusioned with the fighting that she once cheered on.
I would like to see, and believe that we may see, Meer take action on her own. She is upset with Dullindal’s orders to shoot down Athrun. She is upset with the fighting. She wants to be useful, and so… I believe she may try to use her influence to help in an Archangel-ish way, condemning the fighting. I would like to see Meer experiment: I believe that she is fully capable of it, and is gathering the motivation to do so as Athrun’s “death” and the Ragnarok carnage force her to reconsider her role in what’s going on.
Much of “Lacus Clyne” is an act, a mask that she believes necessary. Occasionally, we see her break that always-happy mask for personal gain or shock – her catty smile as she slams Lunamaria away, her distress at Athrun. There is a Meer Campbell beyond “Dullindal’s ho lolz she suks” – one who, while she may be a bit petty in some cases, means well, and means something other than big boobs.
Briefly, let me conclude with what I see as Meer’s main faces:
- Meer Campbell. This is the smiling, generally sweet, ordinary, and determined girl we first meet. She wants to be helpful, isn’t sure if she can do it, but wants to try! This Meer cares about things. She has personal causes and has emotional investments in individuals (ex. Athrun). She can get upset or petty – “Someone stole my shuttle?!” “I’m sorry, but Athrun will come to breakfast with me” – but really has one positive motivator: lending a helping hand.
- Stage Lacus. Stage Lacus gives Meer her bad name, but she keeps up this genki genki act. There isn’t much to Stage Lacus, because Stage Lacus is only skin deep… but, unfortunately, many people only see Stage Lacus.
Meer Campbell, perhaps, suffers from the unique disease of being “realistic,” and having multiple sides. It’s time for people to stop seeing just one aspect of Meer Campbell. If you think she’s just a slut, you’re ignoring massive amounts of characterization. If you don’t believe she has a personality, you’re ignoring massive amounts of characterization. If you’ve come to the conclusion that Meer is useless, you're ignoring massive amounts of characterization. If you’re convinced that she’s brainless, you’re not even watching the same series that I am.