Why do people like Rem?
If you ask around the retardosphere, people explain that Rem is adored by the fandom because she’s a cute maid with lots of screen time, a stereotype of a demure waifu, a trophy wife for a protagonist imprisoned by heteronormative masculinity, and a power fantasy for incel misogynerds escaping the friend zone. This is, as they say, not even wrong, to the point where I doubt I watched the same series as those “critics” and “analysts”. If you buy into that logic, you should kill yourself, and here’s why.
Rem is introduced in Re:Zero’s second arc, the Butler Arc, where the protagonist, Subaru, becomes a butler. Rem and Ram are twin sisters, and are initially very cold towards Subaru, falling vaguely in the tsundere character archetype. Tsundere is both ancient and universally popular for all humans and cultures, because embedded in it is the concept of character development, internal conflict, and the winning over of a friendship/relationship after some sort of hardship. Narratively, it’s prepackaged to be interesting to experience.
To his surprise, Subaru dies, but unlike the opening arc, he cannot identify the cause. In one of his lives, he discovers that Rem is hunting him down, because she distrusts him and fears he’ll harm her master, Emilia. This is so extreme a variant of tsundere, her tsuntsun is literally homicidal. In order to avoid his fate, Subaru resigns to asking for Beatrice’s help, but what ends up happening is that Rem dies of a mysterious cause, suggesting there is a second factor at play.
Due to his reaction, Emilia’s faction, especially Rem’s sister, Ram, puts the blame on him. Rem’s sudden and unwarranted death, Ram’s grieving for her dear sister, and Subaru’s recognition of his attachment to the oni sisters and the cowardice inherent in merely asking for protection and sitting idly on his arse doing nothing merely to survive leads Subaru to a change of heart. This is a moment of character development for him; as a shut-in, Subaru did nothing but sit idly by doing nothing merely to survive for years. In order to save Rem, Subaru uses his divine protection, Return by Death, as makeshift time travel by literally killing himself, implicitly declaring his connection to other people more important than his own life.
Over the remaining arc, Subaru’s investigation leads to witchfiends, which have abducted some children. Enlisting the help of Rem, he saves the children, and during a spotty encounter, he pushes Rem aside and saves her from mortal danger, endangering himself in the process. He survives, but he is cursed by the fiends, and the only solution is to kill all of them. Rem, feeling gratitude for his selfless sacrifice, goes out on her own to dispatch them and Subaru, recognising how dangerous it is, dives right back into the fray in order to calm her down and create the opportunity for her safe escape, once again endangering himself several times.
Rem is extremely perplexed by his actions, because as it turns out, due to her history, she has an extreme inferiority complex, and she sees herself only as a discount version of her sister, existing only to make up for her clipped wings; perhaps this is extended to her service under Emilia, who knows. Though the writing of the episode is sloppy garbage, what Subaru effectively does in episode 11 is rebuild at least some of Rem’s confidence in herself, allowing her to see herself as an individual who deserves happiness and has emotions of her own. This is the final turning point from tsuntsun to deredere, and, as in all symmetries, the greater the tsun, the greater the dere.
During the Despair Arc (ep. 14-18), the situation is reversed. As Subaru collapses into ever deepening despair, facing increasingly impossible odds, Rem sits by his side and repays Subaru’s suicidal loyalty by being suicidally loyal in return, over and over again, up to and including literally erasing herself from existence in order to give Subaru a better chance. Finally, in episode 18, bringing the symmetricity meme to a close, Rem faces Subaru’s inner conflict, and after he exposes his insecurities himself, Rem responds with exactly the right words a person in his position needs to hear.
Subaru’s condition is prototypical male depression. Rem sees herself as less than others, whereas he sees himself as nothing, or perhaps as less than nothing, an empty vessel walking the earth merely by obligation, unfeeling and uncaring, unable to even die, effectively a zombie. His self-esteem is so low it’s scraping the lower mantle, and it’s perhaps this characteristic, one self-hating person to another, that allowed those two to relate. Episode 18 exhibits hands down the best writing of the series; Subaru’s issues aren’t just relatable, the hit the nail on the head and precisely represent the psyche of the Internet’s most hated minority in the current year: incels.
Rem isn’t a cute maid; her self-hating and violent tendencies are decisively uncute. She isn’t a shy weakling only there to be saved; she spends more time saving the protagonist than the other way around, and arguably her sacrifices hold more weight because her deaths are always (subjectively) final. She isn’t a power fantasy for misogynic incels, but a representation of fairness in this fictional world, a cure for depression feeding into every male’s mother need, but in distinct masculine character, it is earned instead of given.
In the real world, what would and does happen is that, with her self-esteem issues laid aside, Rem’s hypergamy would kick into overdrive, and she would seek a man deserving of her good looks and extreme competence, relegating Subaru to a step in the unending staircase to Chad Heaven; arguably this is what has sister has done. Instead, Rem falls for Subaru’s words and actions, and returns the good deeds and then some, almost as if she’s a morally upstanding character capable of feeling gratitude for a man who’s literally killed himself for her sake.
She sacrifices herself for Subaru out of her own volition and in complete selflessness, proving with words and actions alike that Subaru, and by extension the male audience, is a person with intrinsic value that deserves to be saved, not because he provides utility, tingles, or social currency, but because he is him, and he has unique value, even though it is implied he isn’t all that impressive. She doesn’t seek perfection, but is content with putting the pieces of the broken Subaru back together, helping him self-actualise even after she’d extracted all she’d wanted from him. She isn’t put off when she sees Subaru acting weak and unmasculine; his failings only reinforce her affection.
Ultimately Rem isn’t loved because she’s yet another mindless moeblob in the service of heteronormativity and traditional masculinity; she’s loved because she’s the utter deconstruction and subversion of traditional gender roles. She is powerful, capable, and actively hypogamous. Her presence is a nod to the audience that she isn’t there just to be saved, to be provided with meaning, entertainment, tingles, resources, and a shoulder to cry on. She can very much fend for herself, and in her eventual self-sufficiency, she is able to give back, so that the protagonist can hope to find a voice for himself in his unmasculinity and incompetence. For that is ultimately the incel “power” fantasy: simple companionship and affection, given unconditionally.
She’s the most meta character I’ve seen in a while and far too good for the shitty writing that surrounds her. She’s an anthropomorphised white pill who can only possibly exist because someone up there in the writing department has personally had a fistful of black pills shoved right up their colon, someone who gets it. To misread her as just another maid, or just another incompetent trophy wife, not only have you completely misunderstood Re:ZERO, but the human condition itself; indeed, you must have your head so far up your own misandric gender politics that you are utterly deaf to the explicit cries of the depressed men that surround you. To lack empathy so thoroughly is truly an accomplishment, for even most psychopaths can relate to others in practical terms. A life so crippled, why, you must be nothing short of a zombie.
Fucking kill yourself holy shit wow.