RWBY’s Protagonist is Definitely on the Spectrum - Here’s Why
RWBY (pronounced “ruby”) is a webshow created by Monty Oum and produced by Rooster Teeth that’s been running for nearly a decade now. It stars a team of upcoming Huntresses– warriors that protect the world of Remnant from monsters known as Grimm that feed on negativity and want nothing but to destroy humanity. These Huntresses, along with pretty much everyone else in the cast, are all based around allusions to different fairy tales and legends, such as Little Red Riding Hood and Mulan, and they fight using transforming weapons to save the world.
The cast of RWBY volume seven in the volume’s opening.
With eight completed seasons (or volumes) and counting, several app games, a hack and slash style video game, comics released by DC, an assortment of manga, several young adult books, and a newly announced anime produced by some of the biggest names in the business, RWBY is one of the most successful web series out there. You’re bound to run into at least one person cosplaying someone from the show at just about any con, and I’m among the people eagerly waiting for the ninth volume’s release.
I’ve been following this show since its first volume in 2013, and I love everything about the world of Remnant. The characters are one of the driving forces of the show, and I think that might be part of what makes Ruby Rose — the show’s protagonist — being almost definitely autistic so cool.
Ruby Rose, pictured in the eighth volume’s opening.
Let me explain.
Throughout the show, but especially in the first three volumes of it, Ruby seems to show a lot of signs of being on the spectrum. Really, there are a lot of characters in this show that I’d argue are heavily coded as being neurodivergent in some way or another, though that’s a subject for another day. For now, though, we’re going to be focusing on Ruby.
From her very first line, Ruby is shown to be someone that’s not very good with social cues. The first episode introduces Ruby as a man is threatening her with a sword and yelling at her, but she still asks for clarification that he’s trying to rob her.
“Are you… robbing me?”
In situations where things are considerably less dangerous, such as when she meets her teammate Weiss’ older sister, she seems to struggle to figure out how she should behave, not knowing how to act in more formal situations. She’ll blurt things out without really thinking about them, and she occasionally accidentally comes off as rude because of this.
Ruby also seems to have trouble with sarcasm. Take one of her first interactions with Weiss, for example. Weiss is clearly being sarcastic when she claims that she and Ruby should paint their nails and talk about boys together, but Ruby takes this as a genuine invitation to hang out until Weiss says she has no interest.
Ruby and her teammates– Yang, Weiss, and Blake.
Ruby’s also not a very social person, preferring to spend time on her own. She doesn’t have much of an interest in making friends, telling her sister, Yang, that she doesn’t see any point in making new friends when she already has her. She’d much rather stick with the person she does know (Yang) and fight monsters than put herself out there to try and meet new people. She does eventually become comfortable around the rest of her teammates, as well as the members of Team JNPR, but it takes time for her to warm up to others.
In larger social situations, such as the school dance in the second volume and political candidate Robyn Hill’s victory party in the seventh volume, Ruby tends to try and stick with the people that she knows, not wanting to venture out too much in social situations.
An argument could also be made for Ruby having some sensory sensitivities based on the school dance story arc, with her complaining that the high heels and dress she’s supposed to wear for the dance are uncomfortable.
Ruby and Jaune at the school dance in volume two.
Ruby also has a special interest in weapons. She designed and built her own weapon, Crescent Rose, a combination scythe and sniper rifle. When she first arrives at Beacon, one of the first things she thinks of is how many other cool weapons her classmates may have, saying, “It’s like meeting new people, but better.”
This is one of the first things she tries to bond over with when talking to Jaune, the leader of Team JNPR and one of her eventual closest friends, being excited to show off her weapon and curious about his. She lights up when talking about her own weapon, showing a passion for it more than just about anything else. And, while she initially comments about his simple sword and shield seeming more like a family heirloom, she still expresses an interest in it for it’s more classic design setting it apart from the complex weapons typically found in Remnant.
Ruby wielding her weapon, Crescent Rose.
Based on all of this, I think that Ruby’s definitely on the spectrum. She definitely shows a lot of the problems in social interactions that autistic people tend to have, and her special interests are a clear and important part of who she is as a character.
Having the protagonist of this series be so heavily autistic-coded is great. Too often, characters that are either explicitly or implied to be on the autism spectrum are used as comic relief, with their traits associated with the spectrum being the butt of the joke.
But for Ruby, the traits that make her seem likely to be on the spectrum are just another part of her character. She doesn’t exist to be a joke, she’s a fully realized and strong character.
Personally, I hope that we keep getting characters like this– characters who are clearly supposed to be autistic, or explicitly stated as such, that get to be just as developed as the neurotypical characters around them. And I especially hope to see more autistic characters leading major franchises in the future.