As we explore the character of Mecha Amidala, first we must consider what it means to be “Mecha.”
To be Mecha is to be the one inside the monster. To control the hardened body from a soft organic inner space, a body within a body, to be subsumed within the artifice that sustains you. To be Mecha is to project your body onto a canvas of metal, to imagine yourself the machine, your whole body a phantom, and you inside it. To be Mecha is to be queer, to maintain a psychic imprint of yourself within another body, to despair in those moments when your concentration lapses, when the sweat must be wiped from your brow, when the heat of the machine, the exhaustion of yourself, piloting yourself, becomes too much to ignore, and you see your body as it is, in all its softness, all its impermanence, it’s physicality and unwillingness to transcend, refusal to be transcended.
No wonder I am interested in Attack on Titan, the boy inside the monster, organic Mecha, born of flesh, born of destruction, a biting down, self-mutilation, enraged recollection of a history of trauma, the body overcome by grief, the memory of those lost.
No wonder I am interested in the space between the player and her avatar, that disconnected connectedness, that visible, audible expression of pain that is nonetheless impossible to access, the out-of-body-ness, out-over-there-ness that is all too familiar to me, the desire to create anew, adjusting sliders until something more-than-me emerges from pixel, from screen, some other-body I can project onto. In which again, there is always a loss, a failure to become, the limitations of a world that still mirrors my own.
“Queerness is the future. Queerness is not yet here,” says Munoz, and so this, too, is a loss, when I confront my inability to imagine a world beyond this one. I know it starts with me, but this assertion of me-ness is troublesome, even as I constantly participate in the claiming of identity; how identity, too, is a phantom I project myself into—Mecha—climb-in-and-out-able, passing, transient, disconnected, yet always visibly marked, always knowable. And this fact, too, a loss.
In tracking this loss, I leave my body, return with wanderlust. I mourn the queer child taken from me, the versions of myself lost through thousands of repetitions of implications and micro-aggressions, the history of an education that left room for nothing in between, nothing outside, nothing else that one could be. There is no Mecha, no cyborg, no alien, no transplant, no android, no in-between, just a teenager learning to perform masculinity, this awkward metallic suit he grows around him. Pilot inside unwieldy suit of masculinity, invisible psychic body inside phantom body, painless body, non-body, imagined body, amended body, displaced body.
My queer child deserves a world, I believe, my queer child builds a world, I believe, I build a world for him. What else is worth writing? I sew bodies from words, lift skies above his head, let him wander the pages of the possibilities stolen from him.
“I write to the most terrified version of myself,” Ocean Vuong says, and what terror opened inside me, too, when I read this. I write not to this place, no, but a place beside it, alongside it, the imagined version of myself that never was allowed to exist. The imagined version of myself that I still want to find, that I still want to inhabit, or to inhabit me, or for us to live inside each other, this the self that still cannot find its way back from the exile of my youth, chased away from me by no one other than myself.
And who would be Mecha then? And what would Mecha mean? And who is inside of what, and what would that body mean?
I used to know how to be beautiful without anyone telling me. I used to be a flag at the feet of an army of me, and when it was time for battle, I raised myself to the thunder of my feet. Before I was a body, I was nothing, and in between that, I was something like a fish, swimming in the algae of a lake too deep to peer inside, knowable only to me. But at what point did I know who I was? And when will I return to that knowing?
This is what I mean when I say Mecha. The dread of never knowing how to collapse that distance, to remain separate from the robot, to remain inside, the distance between the screen and the body and the body in the screen.
I want this to work. I want what collapses this to be Amidala. Because the inability to imagine is not my own. The inability to imagine is someone else’s. The inability to imagine is learned. Or, not inability, but my ability to imagine only what already exists: this is why I need Mecha Amidala.
Mecha Amidala allows me to account for the failure of masculinity, to account for the failure of cis normativity, and, ultimately, to account for a racist failure of the white imagination to be resuscitated by passing through my body, to be released back into the world, yellowed and organically metallic, somewhere in between dark and light, outside of gender, loving in defiance, defiantly giving, standing up to the terror of masculinity, open to the possibility of so many seeking shelter together in the one body, each fragment of self, not unified, but migrating beneath time and space, migrating beneath the changing body.
This is part two of my Mecha Amidala meanderings. Earlier, I set up the Star Wars universe as a backdrop for my Mecha Amidala character. Next, I will go into what it means to be AMIDALA!