I am laughing as I write this. One of those, “Oh, ho-ho-ho!” laughs, because there is absolutely no competition for which character most gets on my nerves.
True, there are several kinds of characters who annoy me to no end, but I ignore obnoxious idiots, I dismiss arrogant intellectuals, and I am more than merely “annoyed” by shallow, petty villains, so they don’t really count.
No, the “simple” annoyances just don’t compare to this guy.
I present, from One Piece, Sanji!
This dashing, debonaire fellow serves as the cook for the Straw Hat Pirates. He’s quite good, really. He understands how food works, and how it all relates to the experience of eating said food. He doesn’t just slap things together, he crafts each excellent meal to nourish strength and restore flagging spirits. Good food, the taste and quality of it, he knows, makes the difference between surviving and thriving.
Having once nearly starved to death as a youth, he will never leave another human to that particular fate, and he knows very well how utterly worthless gold and diamonds are when compared to food. As such, he takes his responsibilities as a cook very seriously. Not only is it his job to prepare delicious meals, but also to make sure their supplies last as long as possible. In fact, wasting food is taboo to him, and any food you think to throw away, he will shove it directly down your ungrateful throat.
With all of that, he is a good guy. He’s compassionate to starving people, he’s loyal to his friends, and he’s a capable cook. Heck, feeding his captain, Luffy, is challenge enough – though that can mostly be accomplished through sheer volume – but feeding his entire crew as well is also a challenge.
Oh, and he’s good to have on your side in a fight. To protect the hands he uses to cook, his fighting style is all jumps, spins, and powerful kicks, but that just means he doesn’t need to use his hands or a sword. He’s just that good. Because of his usual black suit, he becomes known as “Black Leg” Sanji.
I mention all of this because it’s not like Sanji doesn’t have his good points. Several times throughout the series, the Straw Hats are saved from certain doom by Sanji’s wits. He’s quite clever, really, when it suits him. And that scene where he and Zoro, whom he’s always arguing with, both offer to lay down their life for Luffy, and for one another, is freaking epic.
So why is he the one who gets on my nerves, more than anyone else?
Well, there’s nothing more annoying than a guy who you know has a decent brain, and whom you need for various reasons, and who you’ve seen ready to make the ultimate sacrifice… but with whom you have a severe disagreement over one of the most important of all mankind’s priorities: women.
I personally believe women are absolutely wonderful, indispensable, capable, and far easier on the eyes than men. But more than that, I believe every woman is my equal. Should I be a gentleman? Yes. Because that means I am trying to be a good man, by being good towards my fellow humans. My equals.
Words cannot express my seething hatred of all men who abuse women. Sanji and I have some common ground there, as he is the first to defend any woman who crosses his path. But there’s a flip side to it: as I believe women are only my equals, not my superiors, I am just as angry towards women who abuse men. If any human intends to harm another human, or mistreat them, or just deride them, then their gender does not come into play. They are doing something which must be stopped. And if anyone threatens me or my loved ones, I really won’t care whether their reproductive organs are outside or inside their body. (to paraphrase Samantha Carter from Stargate SG-1)
This is where Sanji and I are different. He takes chivalry way too far.
In one instance, he refuses to defend himself from an enemy just because she’s a woman. Or, rather, because she’s an attractive woman. (more on that in a moment) He puts everyone else at risk because his opponent is a woman. That sort of endangerment of everyone, including the women who are under his protection, is just not cool.
More commonly, in everyday life, Sanji isn’t just interested, but practically obsessed with beautiful women. He’s always trying to grab the attentions of Nami and Robin, and whatever other woman is around, as well as get physically close to them. He makes his best food for the girls and calls what he gives the guys “slop.” (a very tasty slop, but still, favoritism, anyone?) He’s always thinking, in the middle of a crisis, about how great he is and how he will make these women see it and fall into his arms. He gets very jealous when “his” women are caught from a fall by any other guy, like either party has any control over that, of all things. Any beautiful woman who lets him get his arms around them, they ain’t leavin’ anytime soon! I hate that, because it seems highly disrespectful to me.
Now, I can fully support and appreciate the appreciation of women, and beauty…
…but Sanji falls in love with any woman, and every woman, at first sight and based entirely on their appearance. Long legs, wide posterior, slender waist, ample bosom, fine skin, and a pretty face. Heck, when he meets the mermaids, the long legs are definitely not important, so long as everything else is in place. Call me crazy, but I find that sort of objectification of women to be more than annoying. I hate it.
Sanji’s efforts to win these women he objectifies also strikes me as very insincere. After all, when you whisper flattery to every girl, then how much does it really matter? And that really irritates me.
Now, there are times when Sanji’s obsession with women comes in handy, through sheer serendipity. When he hears a single tear from Tashigi hit the ground, as her men are being betrayed and killed right in front of her, Sanji appears instantaneously from a good distance away, to defend them all. When the Straw Hats, including the girls, are about to be overcome by the Navy Marines and their warships, Sanji thinks his way out of the situation, saving everyone in order to save the girls. When a mind-reading woman tries to read his mind, to learn the Straw Hats’ plans, all she sees is his lust, so strong that it practically blinds her mind’s eye.
Which is all the more annoying, when this useful friend of yours, whom you need, but whom you can’t stand because he takes something dear to you and turns it on its head, but whom you can’t get rid of, actually manages to save the day because of that thing you hate about him.
So, when the Straw Hats were scattered around the world, given the chance to grow stronger before going into greater danger, it was nothing short of hilarious to me when Sanji landed on an island peopled entirely by transvestites. Not one beautiful woman to be found. For two years. Only this:
I try not to take sadistic glee out of other people’s suffering, but this was just too good! Sanji the Lech was in his own personal Hell! Not a woman in sight, only men in dresses pursuing him! And for a guy who objectifies women so easily, that was perfect, poetic justice! While Luffy, who did not share any of Sanji’s zeal, was sent to an island of fierce, beautiful amazon warriors! Oh, Sanji was so jealous afterwards!
Also afterwards, he actually went out of his way to protect men instead of just women, so perhaps he learned something after all!
Not much, mind you, but still… a step in the right direction!
…albeit, considering how he still does all of that annoying stuff, treating women so fine, but so insincerely, and objectifying them, a very small step.
He’s never gonna change, is he?