Tag Archives: Menagerie

Character Spotlight: Kali Belladonna

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here. Welcome to a segment called Character Spotlight, a series dedicated to why I enjoy particular characters from various series.

In this series, I’ll talk a bit about the fandom surrounding the character, and why I really appreciate their inclusion within their respected series. Today, I’m going to be talking about Kali Belladonna from the RWBY series, also coined as the real “super mom” by many fans of the show.

Really, there’s no question as to why that is. Many of the parents in the RWBY series are lackluster at best, and completely flawed beyond repair at worst. In the show absentee parents, alcoholism, and broken homes define a large section of the narrative backstory. Really, the number of halfway decent mothers in the series can be counted on one hand.

Most of those mothers are dead and gone, so frankly Kali just doesn’t have much in the way of competition. Even if she did though, she would probably stand above the rest, or at least equal to them in her parenting style and overall gentle nature.

Fandom Perspective

Kali is the mother of Blake Belladonna, and the spouse of Ghira Belladonna. This was a plot point that turned a lot of the ideologies of early fandom on its head. Prior to Volume 4, Blake’s parents were assumed to be out of the picture entirely. Either dead and gone, or still among the corrupted White Fang. Fan theories contained both of these ideas in spades, and fan fiction at the time reflected that, including my own written fan fiction.

In general, Kali is depicted among the fandom in two ways.

The first is the loving wife and mother that we all know and love. It’s not very common to see her removed from that mold, simply because it suits her so well.

However, when the mold is broken, Kali tends to turn into a shipper’s paradise. Honestly, when she’s contorted into that, fandom ends up with plenty of questionable adult content, particularly in the fan fiction side of the fandom. This is true for a lot of characters though, so it’s not a situation that’s exclusive to her… Glynda Goodwitch also tends to suffer much of the same fate.

Fandom gets weird sometimes, that’s just the way it is. For better and worse.

Thankfully, due to Kali’s nature, the vast majority of fan related content plays off of her genuine love and care for her family. Her characterization as we know it seems to be very well received among the greater fan base, so that is generally how she is depicted.

The Countless Merits of Kali Belladonna.

Often times it can be said that Kali has a lot of the characterization that Blake should have had. However, saying this disregards one of Kali’s key merits. Her age, and the perspective that comes with it.

Kali has time on her side. A lot of it. She has marched with the White Fang in her youth, fallen in love, and raised a daughter to the best of her abilities. Kali has her failings. That Blake ran away from home is proof of that, but Kali has always loved and supported her child. She has been waiting for Blake to return, and when she does, Kali embraces her without a moment’s hesitation.

This unquestionable devotion to her family is one of the key cornerstones to Blake’s own development, even if it is mostly just subtext. Kali has lived through many struggles that Blake just hasn’t yet, because Blake hasn’t had the time to do so.

Meanwhile, the struggles that Blake has faced are gritty, messy, and oftentimes don’t have a right answer. When at a loss for how to be helpful, Kali and Ghira offer unconditional love, because that meaningful acceptance is one thing the series often lacks when it comes to parenting. Kali takes her support a step further, welcoming Sun Wukong with open arms because that’s just the way she is.

Now, for this I’m just focusing on Kali. Ghira is worth talking about later, and he will get his own spotlight. However, that’s a different topic. His parenting methods are a bit different. He deserves his own analysis all about that directly.

On the topic of Ghira and Blake though, one thing I will say, is that the Belladonna family is fundamental to the series lore. The implications are absolutely staggering, given who the White Fang are, and what they hope to achieve. That being said, Kali is an interesting looking glass into in that history. One that we just don’t have the luxury to have with Blake or Ghira.

In the Belladonna family, Kali is the outlier to many questions that are never answered cleanly. In a show that has many conflicting themes, Kali is a breath of fresh air. She is bogged down by implication and metaphor, just most of the other characters. However, her implications doesn’t leave a foul sense of injustice behind.

Rather, Kali’s character offers themes of hope, acceptance, and unity, because Kali is not one to drown in sorrow. It is rare to find a parent, particularly a mother, like this in the series.

Like Ruby Rose, Kali is an absolute altruist at heart, but unlike Ruby, she understand where the line is. She believes in the concept, but she realizes that you can’t always use it. For Kali there are impossible ambitions that no one could ever achieve, and then there’s reality. The line is a grey area for Kali, but she believes in her personal moral code, and it shapes her in all ways.

For example, the subject of Menagerie becomes much less sinister when viewed through Kali’s lens instead of Blake’s. While her daughter sees Menagerie as a consolation prize for the Faunus plight, claiming it has done nothing to further the cause, Kali gives us a different way to look at the world of Remnant at large.

While Blake claims that Menagerie changes nothing, Kali stands as a reason for why Menagerie has changed everything in small ways. Kali showcases why it should exist, and why more communities like it should be built openly and willingly by the Faunus community, and arguably other communities at large, such as the mistreated workers found in Mantle’s slums.

Why? That’s simple, Kali is happy. She is not suffering. She is not in pain. She is at peace with life on the island, and she understands that one island does not diminish the greater plight than many Faunus rise up against.

In real life, people of like-minded world views gather together, and that’s just the way people are by nature.

Let’s face it, we don’t want to be friends or neighbors with people we don’t like. The Faunus of Menagerie don’t want to argue or deal with humanity anymore. They’ve rejected it, and found a safer harbor to build a life.

Kali doesn’t seem to feel that same distaste for humanity. In fact, she seems to have no issue with humanity at all, but she still lives in Menagerie because she understands that you can’t force your opinion upon others. Aiding and leading the peoples of Menagerie along side Ghira is simply the best way for them to help the movement at that moment. To still lead and guide, just in a different way.

Ghira stepped down from the White Fang, because they refused to follow his guidance anymore. You can’t make demands and expect everyone to comply. If he had done that, he would be no better than Adam, and brute force is not Ghira’s ethos, it’s not Kali’s either. They could have stayed with the White Fang, but at what real cost?

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Kali shows us that sometimes finding your own safe place is the better option for some people, and that’s what some Faunus chose to do. That doesn’t make the Faunus of Menagerie horrible people, and it doesn’t invalidate them. The plight can still make steps forward even with Menagerie’s existence, and arguably because of it.

Through Kali’s lens we see that the Faunus living on the island seem to live a fairly peaceful and happy life. Before the White Fang come to make havoc, the people living on the island are just happy to mind their own business. It isn’t the absolutely awful place that Blake wants to believe it is. Her personal convictions go beyond Menagerie, and well beyond the White Fang.

The same can be said for Kali, it’s just that Kali is older and wiser too. She understands and accepts that not every Faunus will feel the way her family does. Some will be perfectly happy on that island, and Kali’s incredible personality shows us the good side of that choice. It shows us what Faunus communities can truly become, and that there is no shame in the pursuit of personal happiness and fulfillment.

They harm no one by living this way, and Kali has that perspective because she lives among them. It’s only the White Fang that seeks to cause harm, not the rest of the Faunus in general.

Kali is both internally and externally consistent in her conflict of world views. She is very complex as a character, and she will occasionally contradict herself. However, it is never in a way that defies her moral codes and ethics. No matter what contradictions she showcases, she never looses the characterization that makes her uniquely Kali Belladonna as a person.

The Moral Ethos of Kali Belladonna

It is probably her morals and ethos that makes her so deeply loved by the fandom. Kali lives and loves with a free spirit, willing to allow herself to feel the full scope of emotions life has to offer.

She is by and large a pacifist more times than not, but she has a limit to just how much crap she’ll put up with. If she absolutely has to, she won’t hesitate to bring out a can of whoop-ass. It’s just that all other options need to be exhausted before she reaches that point. The fact is, fighting in any way, shape or form just isn’t her preferred method of handling conflict. She would much rather talk things out, but she’s not a pushover.

She’s willing to fight if she has to though, and that’s something we see showcased in Volume 5. Without a weapon and only a tray in her hands, self defense and the defense of others seems almost second nature. Given her obvious history among the White Fang, that makes complete sense.

In Volume 5, the Faunus of Menagerie stand together to face down the White Fang’s attack, we see that there is strength in numbers. This nuanced disposition shows us exactly what the old White Fang under Ghira’s command probably looked like, and how it ran. Appealing to a greater sense of community and unity, rather than forceful persuasion.

If we were to look at this situation completely through Blake’s eyes, we miss out on these tiny details. We lose the greater story. For Kali it is very clear that Menagerie was a victory, not a consolation prize, and not a loss for the Faunus plight. Rather it was a stepping stone, admittedly a small one. However, it was one that could have gone much further if Ghira had not stepped down as the High Leader. If the White Fang had been respected on their personal merits and not feared outright, more close ties between humans and Faunus could have been built.

Therefore, the loss was one not against humanity, but rather the Faunus themselves. Among their own factions, and the ideological divides that have separated them.

This is why I love Kali as a character. Yes, she is a “super mom”. Completely supportive and loving in the face of a world that has so much hate and neglect. She stands tall as a woman, both as a housewife and mother foremost, and secondly a leader upon which many Faunus can look up to in their own way. Seeing her peaceful path, and choosing that for themselves does not diminish their existence or hardships, nor should it.

Sometimes taking a few steps back is paramount to the greater goal. A breath, a break, and peace can offer respite in world that wouldn’t offer such a thing otherwise.

This is a fact Blake cannot accept early on, even when Kali does. Yet those two steps back pays off for all of the Faunus. It is only after those two steps back that the Faunus of Menagerie finally come to understand how monstrous the White Fang has become. Seeing the atrocities of the White Fang first hand, without their perspective on humanity to cloud their judgement, they can think more objectively.

They can come to terms with their own denial, and find the strength to move forward. To fight for a better world anew, and this time for the good of everyone. Human and Faunus alike.

All in all, this is a lens we can see manifest in Kali from the very start of her introduction. The echoes of a painful past linger here, and the healing process takes time. Kali is a validation for a plight that receives so little recognition. That so little is shown, is only further proof of just how much the greater society still needs to grow.

This is why the Belladonna family is important. They are proof that steps forward can and will be made, and that each step towards that goal, is one to hold aloft and in high esteem. While Blake sees fit to “fight the good fight” Ghira and Kali understand the strides in the movement, and just how far it has obviously come.

Adversity is not something you can change overnight. Sometimes, it is best to stop and take a breath. To live and love life for what it is, before gathering the strength to move forward once more. The difficult path itself is worth the journey, but to overcome adversity you must be emotionally prepared to stand against it. That’s not an easy thing to do, not in the real world, and not in the RWBY series.

Kali is the complete and total proof that the world is a better place than it once was. Even if it has a very long way to go, there is nothing wrong with savoring and appreciating that one step for what it is. Knowing it is only a step forward, but one that shouldn’t be disregarded. Progress is made on those small steps, and every movement in history had a least a few small steps like this.

For Kali, those steps are empowering. Sitting with Sun and Blake around the table while listening to stories about Beacon Academy, that is her reward. That is her personal accomplishment. Her joy is in knowing that her daughter could find a place to truly belong.

So long as Blake stands by her team, she will have no need for a place like Menagerie. It is clear that Kali still hopes that one day, no Faunus will. They are liberating because they mean that there were victories. That Blake and Weiss could even exist on the same team, proves what the next generation is capable of.

Through that lens, we see the Faunus plight anew. Through the eyes of a woman that speaks of love and peace, harmony is her core message that she can continue to have faith in, until that day finally comes. There is something deeply profound in that ideology. A comfort, a warmth and a promise that is so difficult to come by.

From a narrative standpoint, Kali is one of the best characters in the RWBY series, and one of my absolute favorites.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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