Why Vegeta was actually the most radical warrior.
Back in the early seasons of Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta was the villain everyone loved to hate. He was responsible for the murders of four of the most beloved characters in the season after all, but ultimately, his motives were entirely radical.
That isn’t to give Vegeta a pass but the original Dragon Ball Z characters came to symbolise privilege in comparison to the fiery and violent Saiyan Prince. Life on Earth was peaceful, and then Vegeta and his mates rocked up and tried to kill everyone. Only that wasn’t the whole story.
Vegeta was desperate for the dragon balls, not for his own immortality – that was just a side effect of what he truly desired – but to destroy Freiza. Vegeta had been abducted from his father as a small boy, the Saiyans had been almost completely wiped out and Vegeta had been made to carry out the wishes of a murderous tyrant throughout his entire life. All he wanted was the destruction of the one who had caused all of that pain. He didn’t want anyone else to suffer Freiza’s games like he had done.
“He didn’t want anyone else to suffer Freiza’s games like he had done”
He never killed unless people were standing in his way getting the dragon balls (RIP unlucky Namek villagers). He could have killed Gohan and Krillin multiple times. He could have taken over Earth when Goku was in space. He never did. Freiza was the only target he wanted.
Vegeta though was constantly distrusted and vilified. He was treated as heartless, by almost everyone but Bulma. He was one of the first to see and respect Gohan’s hidden powers (“his power is enormous and he doesn’t even know it”). He wasn’t afraid to fight viciously. He pretended to be dead just so he could blast Racoon in the face. He knew honour was a load of bullshit when the lives of everyone were on the line.
Goku was treated as the innocent hero because Goku was allowed innocence. Vegeta’s entire life was controlled by an abuser. Still though, Vegeta gave his life to try to stop Freiza, and in the process saved Gohan’s life several times. If Goku represents annoying liberals who rock up late, save the day claiming hero status after barely suffering, then Vegeta is the epitome of activists who are often pugnacious, defensive but work tirelessly to just get the job done.
“Vegeta is the epitome of activists who are often pugnacious, defensive but work tirelessly to just get the job done”
He was also, arguably, a hero for greyromantics. Of course, greyromanticism has annoyingly never been uttered in the franchise (or any other, let’s be honest) but Vegeta was never concerned about relationships until Bulma. Even after they got together he was still focused on fighting, being as good as he could be, his own pride and his own rivalries. He cares about Bulma deeply, but it’s not the typical romantic relationship everyone expects. The relationship isn’t worth less because of that. Vegeta shows that being aro is something to be proud of, whether that’s in a relationship or out of one. He demands respect. He shows greyros can have relationships and they are valid.
Vegeta was a smug and proud character but he wanted the world to see that he wasn’t afraid, and that he would defeat the most horrific tyrant the universe had seen. He was desperate to prove himself to the Z warriors who fought on the side of good. If he was the villain, he would never seek their respect.
Vegeta was a true radical, who never had the luxury of the idealism Goku embodies. In those early seasons, perhaps the true story wasn’t about Super Saiyans but about one Saiyan in particular.