Female Agency and Sexuality in RWBY: An Analysis of Metaphor and Symbolism in Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long’s Fight Against Adam Taurus

Disclaimer #1: This post is going to discuss an emotionally and physically abusive relationship, as well as the topics of rape and sexual assault. It won’t go into great detail, but if those are subjects you wish to avoid entirely then this might not be something you want to read.

Disclaimer #2: I am approaching this article with the perspective of a rational person, i.e. I am of the opinion that Adam Taurus is an abusive murderous pedophile and that Blake and Yang’s relationship is romantically coded and thus should be examined through a romantic lens. If you firmly disagree with either of those statements then please do me a favour and leave now.

Now, with those disclaimers out of the way, let’s get started.

On first viewing the final confrontation in which Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long face and defeat Adam Taurus, their shared demon and the primary source of conflict in their relationship throughout three seasons of the show, is an impressive visual spectacle and a hugely significant event in the narrative of RWBY. That is to be expected from the climax of a plot arc that has spanned half of the show’s run so far and was the catalyst for substantial development of two of the series’ main characters on both an individual level and in terms of their bond with each other. However, a deeper examination shows themes that are far more interesting and thought-provoking than the surface reading of a pair of heroes triumphing over a villain.

I was inspired to write this piece by a couple of posts (that I will link at the end) which touched on some of the ideas I am about to cover, and I wanted to consolidate the excellent points they made and add some further interpretations of my own.

In order to understand the full meaning of how the storyline involving Blake, Yang and Adam ended we first have to look at how it got there. Therefore, I’m going to talk briefly about some earlier scenes in this arc before I move on to the last few Chapters of Volume 6.

Adam’s sword has been a prominent part of almost all of his on-screen appearances, to the point where it’s integral to his image.

He uses it far more frequently than the other half of his weapon, and the only time we see him genuinely panic is when he loses it.

When Yang throws it over the edge of the cliff, she doesn’t just disarm him – she disempowers him.

It’s also worth noting that his sword, along with his mask, is the primary focus of Yang’s nightmares and flashbacks where she remembers the loss of her arm.

Lastly, when Adam murders Sienna Khan it is by brutally impaling her with it.

The reason for the emphasis placed on it becomes apparent in “The Lady in the Shoe” when Blake reveals that it is literally the source of his power as she explains his Semblance to Yang.

Adam is an aggressive, violent, manipulative, egotistical murderer. He is a spiteful, self-centred psychopath who cares for no one but himself and will do absolutely anything to get what he believes he deserves. He is immature, incapable of empathy, and is so poor at processing his emotions that he cannot let go of anything. Most of all, though, he is an abuser – he took advantage of Blake’s admiration for him, separated her from her parents, coerced her into a romantic relationship when she was still practically a child, and repeatedly used gaslighting and intimidation to make sure she did what he wanted.

In short, Adam is an embodiment of toxic masculinity, and his sword is the tool through which he imposes that masculinity on others. This makes perfect sense considering it is established extremely early in the show that in Remnant weapons are thought of as an extension of a person’s soul.

As one of the posts I mentioned earlier comments, when Adam stabs Blake in the exact same place in her side in each of these two fights the framing of it is… not subtle.

In both cases he steps between her legs and impales her with his sword (I repeat, in the exact same place). I don’t think I need to say anymore about what this is meant to suggest, and frankly I don’t want to because the implications are incredibly unsettling. It is a very well executed analogy, however, that prevents them from blatantly showing or stating something that horrific on-screen and risking accidentally glorifying those experiences by dwelling on them too much.

All of this goes to prove that Adam’s sword is intended to be a physical manifestation of his toxic behaviour. And if Adam’s weapon is a representation of his sexuality, then it follows that Blake’s is as well.

This makes the moment where he breaks her weapon that much more impactful, since he is not only removing her only way to fight back against him, but is also destroying her soul – the very essence of who she is.

As a side note, this also adds much greater significance to the fact that not only was Blake willing to let Yang touch her weapon within a day of their first meeting, but one of the core combat moves within Team RWBY consists of Blake letting Yang handle her weapon, so it happens not just once but on multiple occasions.

Anyway, with that general thematic context established, I’m now going to go through the actual fight scenes between Blake, Yang and Adam in Volume 6 and highlight a few particular details.

During Blake and Adam’s initial one-on-one battle his sword continues to be prominent – he knocks her over the head with it not just once but twice, he beats her into the ground with it. He’s using it much more viciously than necessary; this is not a fair fight, it’s one person taking out their anger at the world on someone else and feeling justified in doing so because they see that person as their property (hence Adam’s use of “my darling”, “my love”).

If any of this makes you think of domestic violence, then you’re getting the right idea.

I would also like to draw attention to this particular moment (that is discussed in slightly more detail in one of the two posts I’ve linked at the end) where Blake briefly catches Adam’s sword in the sheath of her own weapon.

In other words, she has to let her soul take the damage to escape the physical pain. Just as she’s been doing throughout the entirety of her relationship with Adam.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

Worthy of note as well is the part of the fight where Blake and Yang fight Adam together – specifically, the part where Blake throws her broken sword at Adam, he sends it flying back towards Blake, and Yang jumps in to catch it and launch Blake towards Adam in a reversal of their long-standing team attack where Blake sends Yang flying towards the enemy.

This shows us several things. One, we get another example of Adam overpowering Blake’s identity with his own when he uses his sword to turn her own weapon back on her. Second, Yang preventing Adam’s weapon from hurting Blake is a fairly obvious representation of how over the course of their partnership Yang is slowly helping Blake to heal from Adam’s abuse. Third and last, Blake and Yang switching roles in their combined attack move demonstrates not just that they have become complete equals in their partnership (“She’s not protecting me, Adam. And I’m not protecting her. We’re protecting each other.”), but also that while Adam has always attempted to suppress Blake’s identity Yang seeks only to support Blake rather than control her.

My final point regarding the fight is about how it ends. Adam tries to use the shattered pieces of Blake’s soul to kill her, but she turns them back on him and reclaims her identity. Yang takes the other piece of Blake’s weapon—the other half of Blake’s soul—helping to liberate Blake from her abuser but not overshadowing Blake’s victory over him.

In summary, the way in which Adam uses his sword to absorb damage from others without feeling it himself and then send it back at them is a metaphor for how he forces his masculinity/sexuality on Blake (and other characters to a lesser extent) and removes her agency. On the other hand, Blake actively selects Yang as her partner during Beacon initiation, marking the start of her reestablishing her agency by making her decisions uninfluenced by anyone else. Moreover, when you consider the rest of the symbolism involving the character’s weapons, this leads to a very clear potential conclusion: where Blake’s sexual identity—and even her soul (supported by the line “you lost your mind, I lost my soul” from Blake to Adam in Nevermore)—was forcibly taken away from her by Adam, Blake chooses to trust Yang with both willingly.



These are the two posts I referred to in this article:



1 comment

  1. You are obviously not the only viewer who sees the analogies in the writing (The Symbolism Is Not Subtle god 😄). Maybe some of it is unintentional but it seems the writers know exactly what they are doing.
    Although I had to snigger at “letting Blake handle her weapon”, sorry 😄

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