A few months ago, Omar Holmon of Black Nerd Problems wrote an excellent article about Gohan’s choices in life. Entitled, “An Open Letter to Gohan: You Gonna Stop Being Trash Anytime Soon or Nah?”, Holmon let us know exactly how he feels about the son of Earth’s greatest hero. He writes,
Gohan was voted most likely to succeed in DBZ and been chilling, making beats for five summers in his mom’s basement. I’m talking “Damn homie, (LITERALLY) in high school/Dragon Ball Z you was the man, homie… the fuck happened to you?” Now if you gonna try and say “oh he got a wife and kid now. He’s a family man.” That ain’t no excuse. He couldn’t dust off the NordicTrack? My man couldn’t hop on Groupon to get a discount at a Bikram yoga class? You mean to tell me couldn’t hope on the anti-gravity Bowflex at all (is anyone even getting these references)?
Full disclosure: Gohan is my favorite character in Dragonball. When Holmon came for my boy, it hurt a little. Still, I have to admit that there’s truth to his words. Gohan was the strongest warrior in the universe at the end of the Cell Games, and he hadn’t even hit puberty yet. And then he let it all slip away from him. That track suit is indefensible.
With that said, I ask that we all take a step back for a moment. Yes, Gohan’s full potential as a warrior was never realized, and in a universe where absurdly powerful supervillains pop up with depressing regularity, that is a huge letdown, and perhaps even borderline negligent on his part. But there’s more to being a hero than reaching new heights of power and fighting off lunatics.
Gohan chose a different heroic path, that of a responsible citizen. Consider:
1) Goku was a terrible dad, and Gohan’s success is nothing short of miraculous. How many young people come from single parent households and don’t amount to half as much as Gohan? He graduated from school and had a wonderful family despite the poor example from his father. Gohan had to figure out marriage on his own- remember, his dad proposed to a woman and had no intentions of keeping his word until she literally hunted him down. After he was born, Goku poppped in and out of Gohan’s life- training, dying, and disappearing without a trace for years at a time. We should be impressed that Gohan was able to move beyond the limitations of his rolling stone of a father.
2) Gohan works a regular job and pays taxes to make up for the damage his father has caused. Can you imagine what the property taxes must be in the world of Dragonball? Between Nappa obliterating several city blocks, Cell wiping out the world’s military and Buu destroying the planet, the tax assessment on even a new gazebo must be insane. Gohan shoulders this burden every time he looks at the deductions on his check.
Mr. Holmon makes a good point when he says that Gohan looks like a State Farm Insurance employee, which may be the most heroic thing any adult can do in the Dragonball universe: help regular people protect their belongings against space tyrants and killer robots. Gohan must have a special policy for ki blast destruction, and has worked out the unique challenges of offering term life insurance in a world where people come back to life. While Goku is off training with a child who isn’t either of his sons, Gohan is offering peace of mind in the form of financial security.
3) Who’s going to pay for Piccolo’s retirement? Piccolo doesn’t have a 401K or a Roth IRA because he can’t get a job. He’s a green alien who is the son of another green alien who released every murderer from prison and overthrew the world government only thirty years earlier. Not only does he have that discriminatory baggage to overcome, he may or may not actually be the god of Earth since his fusion with Kami. What’s the pay scale for a god? Most employers would tell him he’s overqualified to avoid paying him an amount in line with his responsibilities of guarding the entire planet. No one is going to hire Piccolo, and he’s never going to win a World’s Martial Arts tournament as long as Gohan’s no-good dad is hanging around and claiming all the prizes.
It falls on Gohan to care of his adopted father someday, and you know what? That costs money. If Guru is any indication, Namekians do not age well. Nail was a great warrior, but he was also essentially a live-in nurse. As anyone with elderly parents can tell you, those are not cheap. Gohan is making sure that the man who raised him will be taken care of. Who can fault him for that?
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Krillin never won any major battles, but he showed up to every one and never let his friends down. Goku, for all his failings as a father, gave his life to protect the earth on more than one occasion. Now, Gohan has taken off his warrior’s gi and put on the leisure suit of every-day responsibility. Gohan is truly the hero we deserve, even if he’s not the one we need when Goku Black shows up.