Requiem of the Rose King Breaks Gender Norms – But at What Cost?

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Requiem of the Rose King Episode 9, “I remember when Christmas was approaching. The time when I lost Father.,” now streaming on Funimation.

Requiem of the Rose King caught a lot of attention with its unique artistic direction and its focus on Richard, who is intersex. Richard's internal torment about his identity has been the story's sole source of tension but other characters have been intriguing in their own way. It is set in the 15th century when the War of the Roses was taking place, where women had little to no power while men were portrayed as heroes.

In a way, Requiem of the Rose King breaks those gender stereotypes as Margaret and Elizabeth do not act the way 'normal' women would have during this time period. In fact, in comparison to the men in their lives, they hold a considerable amount of power here. In the process, however, Margaret and Elizabeth have been villainized. This makes it difficult to really celebrate how the series breaks gender norms when it doesn't portray these characters in a favorable light yet also reinforces them.

requiem of the rose king henry nightmares

Margaret absolutely detests Henry, seeing his desire to abstain from violence and fighting as a weakness and keeping them far from the image of a loving couple. Because of his unwillingness to engage in war, she becomes the commander of the army, effectively taking on the role that would traditionally be for the man.

When Margaret captures Richard's father, she torments the Duke of York by taunting him about capturing his son. However, that's as far as Margaret's power reaches. With Henry absent as the king, Warwick has, in essence, become the regent. The only way Margaret has any influence is through her son Edward.

In a backward, horrifying and truly reprehensible way, Margaret subverts the gaze that men used for women in her relationship with Henry, when she forcefully consummates their marriage. She uses it to assert her dominance and power over him, and does the same with Edward as well. Edward's marriage to Anne was for appearances only and he had no intention of ever becoming a real married couple -- in the eyes of the state at least. But Margaret intentionally provokes her son, telling him that refusing to consummate their marriage makes Edward "less of a man than Henry is."

Requiem of the Rose King Richard Clouds

After her husband was killed, Elizabeth took it upon herself to avenge his death by taking down the House of York. She seduced Edward of York, taking advantage of his playboy attitude and compelling him to marry her. Similarly to Margaret, Elizabeth knows that's as far as her influence can reach. Even though she is married to the king, she'll have very little say and the only way she can take Edward and the House of York down is through the limited means she has as a woman: by siring a son. It's clear that Elizabeth will have very little love for her future child as she sees them as a pawn to to her final goal: to topple the king.

This idea of masculinity being tied together with sexual violence is, without a doubt, toxic and problematic. In the same vein, the idea that kindness equates weakness is equally problematic. Dominance and violence do not make anyone more of a man than purity makes anyone more of a woman. While Margaret and Elizabeth's actions make them look heinous, it must be noted that this was most the only way they could survive and climb to the top in Requiem of the Rose King. In order to be seen, they had to act like a man. This applies to Richard as well.

Richard's appearance and body are symbols of existing at the divide between the binary genders and, in a way, his existence breaks the traditional binary gender norms. Throughout Requiem of the Rose King, Richard has been struggling with his gender identity. This is symbolized through his Joan of Arc visions and dreams of being trapped in the forest with monsters. His appearance is much more androgynous, which causes him grief as many people mistake him for a woman.

All his life, he had been told that he was a monster because of his body. Richard believes his place in the world belongs on the battlefield. Part of that is because he believes there is no place in society for someone like him, but another part may be because the male identity is so closely linked to fighting that it is the only place he feels like he can ever be seen as a man -- and as a human.

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