This post contains spoilers through the end of William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
Ah, the peril of Kindle indexes without page numbers. I didn’t realize how close we were to the end of the novel when I picked our section break last time. But Molly’s “Ruby Tuesday”-like departure does get me thinking about the character. Are the residents of Babylon correct? Is Molly something more than human, Steppin’ Razor, who brings “a scourge on Babylon, sister, on its darkest heart”? And if so, can a deity be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl?
Molly is deliberately opaque about her past, and while the story about how she got her enhancements is undeniably traumatic, it reveals much more about the society she lives in than about Molly herself. As she tells Case:
“Surgeons went way in, that trip. Tricky. They must have disturbed the cut-out chip. I came up. I was into this routine with a customer. . . .” She dug her fingers deep in the foam. “Senator, he was. Knew his fat face right away. We were both covered with blood. We weren’t alone. She was all . . .” She tugged at the temperfoam. “Dead. And that fat prick, he was saying, ‘What’s wrong. What’s wrong?’ ’Cause we weren’t finished yet. . . .” She began to shake. “So I guess I gave the Senator what he really wanted, you know?” The shaking stopped. She released the foam and ran her fingers back through her dark hair. “The house put a contract out on me. I had to hide for a while.”
We don’t really know much about Molly at all. We know she’s insanely competent and resilient — whether she’s having her lens bashed in or completing a mission on an injured leg. We know she was willing to make great sacrifices to become lethal, and to remove signifiers of emotion — she spits rather than cries. We know, as she tells Rivera, that she enjoys the ability to use her new skills to the full extent of their capacity: “You play that subliminal shit around me, I’ll hurt you real bad. I can do it without damaging you at all. I like that.” Molly’s well-traveled and has had a wide array of experiences — she knows how to deal with space travel and the value of a real steak. She can be curious, wandering into Ashpool’s suicide den even though she’s told to go in a different direction. And she’s reasonably attentive to the needs and wants of other people, buying Case his shuriken because she notices him eying them. But we don’t have a sense of her origins or her motivations — when she goes after Rivera, it’s pretty clear that he’s harassing or even assaulting her via his performances. But I have no real sense of what motivates her or what she wants for herself, other than that she once wanted her implants very badly.
And the shuriken is an interesting case in the argument for Molly as very deadly variant of Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Molly comes into Case’s life at a time when he needs not just to be happier and to have more excitement, but to survive. She provides him with a transitional relationship away from Linda, a guide through his surgery and recovery, a nudge towards gainful employment, she is literally his eyes on his mission. But she’s ultimately transitional. And it may be the case that he’s transitional for Molly, too. But she doesn’t say where she came from, and we have no idea where she’s off to. It’s fascinating to me that she’s been played by actresses as diverse as the awesome Nicola Walker (admittedly on the radio) and Sasha Grey in live performance. But I don’t know if that suggests that the character is protean enough for people to find a lot of ways to relate to her, or just not particularly fleshed-out.