DBZ Ideas is a meta blog, ranging from headcanons to FF plots. Straying from the canon is appreciated.
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Some thoughts about Goku as well… one thing that intrigues me is this ‘programming’ the saiyans implanted into the children they sent away on missions. There had to be…
I’d like to use the ‘Nature VS Nurture’ argument for my possible theories about Saiyans.
If we take DB Minus as canon, Goku was not taken out of his incubating pod until he was a little over two years old (assuming that he also grew in the pod during the fetus stage, nine months or so for birth). Now if we assume that all Saiyans were birthed like this at some point (perhaps as soon as they met the Tuffles or after they won the war against the Tuffles, or rather when technological advancements reached the point in space where babies no longer had to be carried and either Saiyans discovered this technology or it was brought to them) then perhaps that could explain the beginnings of their aggressive nature.
In real-life studies among babies, those who do not receive physical attention or affection can actually die from it or will “literally stop growing” (Source: http://www.psychologytoday.com/ ). Now let’s say that Saiyans still develop normally in an incubating pod but due to lack of physical contact and a rather cold environment submerged in liquid (as opposed to the warmth of their mother’s womb) they develop even more aggression than their instinctual nature calls for.
Since Goku was sent off the planet after barely having time out of the incubator pod, one theory could be that there is some type of programming given to Saiyans while they are developing in the incubator OR inside their space pods. Perhaps some type of aggressive tapes (audio or visual) that play for them that teach them their language and tell them battle stories? Or perhaps the developing child can hear what goes on outside of their incubators and the parents or caretakers of the children teach them the language and tell them stories. (The latter theory may be more plausible because Raditz says to Goku: ‘Quit joking around! You couldn’t have forgotten about me or our mission!’ So that could imply that babies are aware of what goes on outside their incubators.)
The opposite idea in which Saiyans are naturally aggressive from birth and nurture has little to do with it is plausible/possible, but I’d like to think that their society plays a larger role in their aggressive behavior and attitudes. (Even when their ancestors did not have incubator technology).
This implies that Saiyans don’t normally care much for their children, or have a deep connection with them. They may be sad if they lose their child but they would probably accept it as being a normal and highly likely circumstance. The population of the Saiyan race was said to only be a ‘few thousand’, if we attribute this to their war-mongering ways then it was certainly not unexpected to lose anyone.
And Akira Toriyama said:
"Saiyans don’t have much of a concept of ‘family’." (Source)
Therefore we can surmise that Saiyans value strength or power above everything else. They have a severe lack of connecting or caring for their relatives. The closest relationships that they have is with their battle comrades.
"Thing is, there is no reason why the head trauma Goku suffered as an infant shouldn´t go away by time. Meaning that all of the programming could come back and even if Goku showed tremendous mental strength it doesn´t mean that he could withstand it easily."
I disagree. I think it is entirely possible, especially because he was so young, for him to have forgotten everything and never regain those memories. With that being the case, he started off on a completely clean slate mentally and when freely given physical/emotional affection by his foster grandfather he accepted it and learned to care for him.
I think Saiyans would have been capable of caring for their family and others more if they were raised in a similar environment like many Earthlings are, in which families and friends care for one another very much. But instead of caring for family, Saiyans were raised to value strength.
Vegeta was probably the most vulnerable to this type of upbringing. Most likely he was raised to value his own strength even more than other Saiyans since he was born with a power level that exceeded his own father, the King. It was probably expected of him to be the strongest warrior of all by almost every Saiyan. Even Bardock is aware of Vegeta’s attitude, so it’s likely that everyone knew of his strength.
[Theory on Vegeta’s mother: Since we don’t know anything about Vegeta’s mother this is all hypothetical. Maybe his mother had little involvement in his life, treated him the same as his father, or died when he was young (soon after giving birth to Tarble?). Perhaps his father/mother did not show him much affection and constantly talked about how he should train hard to become stronger. This would have contributed to Vegeta’s uncaring attitude a lot. If we think of Tarble as a canon character then we can see how Vegeta may have learned to value strength even more with the idea that if he wasn’t strong than he would be sent away like his brother. Perhaps he suspected that his father only cared for him if he was strong and therefore everyone else only cared about his strength too. In response, Vegeta developed a selfish attitude and lack of compassion for others.]
"I could imagine some of it creeping back slowly, maybe he remembers things that are lacking any context, maybe he understood Vegeta swearing in Saiya-go, involuntarily answering. I would even go so far to say that Gokus change in behaviour later in the series, getting more serious, less childish, even the sacrifice with Cell could be influenced by a certain fear of loosing himself if it should ever come back."
I do not think Goku had a fear of becoming different or reverting to the normal way a Saiyan was expected to act. He became more serious and less childish because of the events that happened to him after his fight with Raditz. He learns that he cannot defeat his enemies or overcome hardships the same way he has in the past. (He dies from a fight with his estranged brother and helps Piccolo kill him; He fights and loses his battle with Vegeta but is saved by his comrades; He gives Freeza a second chance and it backfires on him; He learns that he could die from a heart disease; He is targeted by androids; He expects his son to defeat Cell but doesn’t realize how scared Gohan is)
He probably did not fear sacrificing himself to Cell because he had died before and knew what to expect. He also lacks empathy in regards to his family and friends when he leaves them and refuses to accept a wish for revival. (He is also more than happy to stay and fight in the Other World.) We also see this later on when he goes off to train Uub, he doesn’t explain himself or stop to listen to anyone else’s thoughts on him leaving (except for Pan in the anime).
Speaking of Vegeta, it would be a completely different case than he had. Vegeta was always in control of his own mind, no matter the circumstances. It was his decision to stay on Earth and to change his behaviour, his attitude and even his morals.
I think this is further proof that Saiyans can be more human-like with their emotions/feelings and less aggressive if they are put in an environment that encourages it. Although it took a long time for Vegeta to learn to accept his family, especially if we include the time he spent in ‘The Room of Spirit and Time (aka the Hyberbolic Time Chamber)’, but eventually he grows fond of his family and even life on Earth.
This is wonderfully thought-out meta, just one short note from my side: This was not meant as an interpretation of the canon from my side, it was more of a ‘what if’ and I think I thought of it as a little FF idea.
Either way, for my general view of canon, I am absolutely behind your arguments for Goku´s behaviour etc. It´s also funny, again, to see how the Saiyans get depicted one dimensionally so easily. Where does it come from that they are too aggressive for any other sorts of behaviours? Just looking at the series at itself, all characters are rather bland. So I wouldn´t even be so careful as you are to say that yes, there sure was indoctrination, nature of the race and a million other possible nuanced reasons for them to be brute, aggressive and uncaring, but there is no reason to assume that besides the few SOLDIERS we got introduced to in the series that all acted like that there was no other spectrum of behaviour or feelings or mindset in the whole race. That again shows how unimaginative most FF writers etc are when it comes to that, haha.
Anyway, I especially enjoyed your interesting meta about DB One, something I don´t actually take into account much. I made some posts about Vegeta´s mother and some background of the Saiyan society, broadest speculation of course, since barely anything is known and I didn´t know of DB One then and never bothered to include it into my plots etc, so this is really well thought-out and in-depth and a completely different perspective.