What Celty Really Says
Celty Sturluson is one of my top favourite female characters. She is well rounded and developed through her relationships and her personality. She makes mistakes and has doubts; but at the same time she stands by what she believes in without fault.
Despite being a mythical creature, she is by far one of the most human characters in Durarara!!
However, the fact that I love this character so much means that I should examine her facets a bit more closely. What does Celty demonstrate that makes her a full functional human character, that draws me to her, and intrigues the audience. Aside from the fact that she has no head. Although that is a big factor so let’s start with that.
How Does One Dullahan?
As a mythical creature Celty has a lot of connotations associated to her before the viewer even gets to know her. There is a whole backstory behind her backstory about the Irish mythical creature known as the dullahan. Dullahan’s are scary creatures. Headless fairies who ride on black steads who predict death when they stop in front of a person. Nothing can bar the path of a dullahan. If they are coming for you, that’s it.
Celty has two main forms; that of a dullahan in the Irish moors (wearing armour and riding a great black horse) and that of a sultry young woman in a cat suit and yellow helmet riding a motorcycle. I’m not inclined to say either one of these is more powerful or scarier than the other, because it’s a matter of context. She can’t very well ride her horse around the city streets and it’s far easier for her to use her shadowy powers to cover herself up when she needs to.
However there’s something to be said about the sexualization of a dullahan. Removing a woman’s head, making her nothing but a body to fetishize, is a common technique among advertisers. Beer bottles become associated with feminine figures, women’s heads are constantly turned away from the camera, faces aren’t important when they are on objects. So it’s fair to say that Celty is an objectification of the human body. She has no face to make her human, she has no external voice for people to hear her.
And yet one of the most interesting things about Celty is that she doesn’t ever stop talking. She has a constant running internal monologue and uses a phone to type up whatever she needs to say to someone.
Celty is not truly without power even though she has no voice or face. So what does this say about women living in a culture where their bodies are the greatest commodity they have? Don’t be silent, even if your voice is quiet. Aside from being a mythical creature, Celty has to function in a modern setting where she is treated like a normal woman by people who don’t know she has no head (assuming there is one under the helmet).
There is a powerful moment in the series when Celty reaches the peak of her personal arc, by accepting herself as a headless and frightening figure. She has been hiding herself for so long that she’s had enough and decides that rather than being known as the Headless Rider she’s going to embrace her own identity, one she crafts for herself. The most amazing part of this sequence is that while she is screaming to be heard, something in her power makes it so that everyone can hear her. They can all hear her claiming to be herself from now on, no matter what.
She is fed up of just taking on the image that everyone else keeps giving her so she becomes more than just the body (the Headless Rider) and becomes Celty Sturluson.
Knight in a Black Cat Suit
It’s set up from the beginning that Celty’s job is to help others; she’s a courier. Later on this takes on the form of her bursting onto the scene, engine revving, to save people from actual danger. This comes after the point where she has given up on her own endeavour of finding and reclaiming her head.
This can be seen as a metaphor for that great female transition that comes with parenthood; giving up on one’s “selfish and internal” goals to raise and nurture others. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Celty ever becomes a motherly type of character, but she does domesticate.
It’s only after she’s given up her quest for her head and come to terms with her life as it is that she finds love in the form of her longtime friend and housemate, Shinra. He has had feelings for her since day one, but I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of their bizarre relationship fully. Suffice to say there was a lot of unrequited love on his part. So it seems that Celty was too fixated on something all her own that she never saw what was in front of her, or just denied it.
The most interesting thing about Celty and Shinra’s relationship is that he can actually read her emotions without a face and can seem to hear her even though she doesn’t speak. It’s a bit of cutesy idealization, but at the same time it does fit with the reality of the closeness of their relationship, so I have to say I’m a fan.
It remains however, that Celty never has to save Shinra and often times he sets her up to fail (though never, seemingly, consciously). She turns to him for a lot of advice on what to do and for the most part he just tells her to do what she feels is right. His greatest betrayal to her would be the fact that he went out of his way to keep her from recovering her head. He did this in order to keep her with him for selfish reasons. I don’t condone it, even though Celty comes to terms with her headlessness herself. Manipulation for the sake of love is still manipulation.
Celty has supernatural powers and never has to be saved herself, meaning that she is defaulted to being the one to protect others. Her weaknesses are greatly internal; her self-doubts and fears are what slow her down. She is quite literally the one everyone turns to when they need something.
This makes for an interesting twist if we keep in mind the fact that Dullahan’s are the harbingers of death. So why depend on her? Well, because she’s dependable. She’s always there when she’s needed.
The World isn’t as Terrible as You Think
One of Celty’s greatest messages is of hope and that is in and out of character. She doesn’t just promote it in the anime(manga) but also as the type of character she is. While she demonstrates the objectification of women as merely bodies without faces, minds, or opinions, she also has a voice that is screaming to be heard. And it is heard. She defies the conventions of who she is set up to be. It is her quest to understand the world, and even though it doesn’t always work out the way she wants, she accepts it and she adapts.
Not bad for a headless woman.
One of the greatest strengths of her character is that she is so human for a mythical creature. She is at the point where a lot of women get stuck, as a voiceless body, but she strives past that and that is a strong point to make. It’s not about gaining confidence in your body or your appearance. If all you have is your body then what are you going to say? There is no shame in being proud of who you are, no matter who you are, but there is a pit that so many people trip and fall into and that’s where Celty overcomes.
As a metaphor for surpassing objectification, Celty Sturluson is one of the most powerful. She doesn’t use her body against men like so many “strong female characters do”. It’s not about that. It’s about her finding her head (what she thinks she needs to fit in and be whole again) but when she doesn’t attain that she discovers her real self and it’s not a self that society can place upon her. She is not her body or her head; she is something greater and that is the most realistic interpretation I’ve ever come across.
It’s not about fighting back or overcoming, it’s about self discovery, which is not something a lot of young women are encouraged to do these days. It’s about shutting out the world and creating your own. Not that you are escaping or shunning, you’re just creating a place that works for you. If life is what we make of it then it has to bend to our whims. That is what Celty really says.