Part of the charm of Miraculous Ladybug is that although there are only two main characters, their personalities while in costume are so different from their alter egos that there might as well be four. Ladybug is far more confident and decisive than Marinette ever is, and Chat Noir is a boundless punster and incorrigible flirt, traits never seen in the sweet but reserved Adrien. The very term for a hero’s civilian identity is their “alter ego”, suggesting a separate personality from the one they bear while wearing the costume. It is quite common for superheros to have alter egos, such as Batman’s Bruce Wayne and Superman’s Clark Kent. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen another show where two superheroes are in love, one with their partner’s superhero identity, while the other is in love with their partner’s alter ego. This raises the question: If Marinette/Ladybug loves Adrien while Adrien/Chat Noir loves Ladybug, do the two main characters truly love each other? This sort of question falls within the realm of enclothed cognition.
Enclothed cognition is a subset of embodied cognition, the idea that we think not just with our minds, but with our bodies as well. This challenges the theory of Cartesian dualism which sees the mind and body as being completely separate. Have you ever dressed up for a party and found yourself acting more confident and sociable than you normally are, or do you have a lucky piece of clothing or item that always helps you with tests and competitions? Some may say that nothing is really happening when you put on that special outfit or clutch your lucky rabbit’s foot, that the difference is all in your head. However, if the way we see ourselves changes with the objects we hold or clothes we wear, then won’t our behavior change as well, producing tangibly different results?
There have been some interesting studies when it comes to enclothed cognition. NerdSync cited a social psychology study from 2012 in which two groups of people were given identical white coats to wear while taking a test. One group was told the coats were lab coats, while the other group was told they were painter’s smocks. The group wearing the “lab coats” made significantly fewer mistakes than the group in “painter’s smocks”. Did the focus and professionalism associated with doctors and scientists who wear such coats work its way into the first group’s mind and affect their performance? Further research is needed for anything conclusive to be said, but the results are intriguing.
Alright, back to Miraculous Ladybug. What does this tell us about our young lovers? For starters, enclothed cognition helps explain one of the most glaring “problems” in the show: how no one seems able to recognize Adrien and Marinette when they are Chat Noir and Ladybug. This seems especially confusing whenever the lovers don’t recognize each other. Marinette is desperately in love with Adrien, so why are Chat Noir’s romantic advances met with no interest? In the same way, how can Adrien fail to notice Marinette when he is totally devoted to her when she is Ladybug? The costumes work so well not because they radically alter the pair’s appearances, but because in them Marinette and Adrien behave differently than anyone who knows them imagines they would. Does this then support the idea that in loving a superhero, one is in love with a completely different person from their alter ego?
Perhaps the answer is that neither Chat Noir nor Adrien, Ladybug nor Marinette, is complete on their own. It is both sides together that make up the person. Ladybug and Chat Noir may seem to be completely different people from Marinette and Adrien, but all the outfits are really doing is helping them be the best they can be, expressing parts of themselves that are hidden or repressed in their regular lives. Ladybug is just as creative and caring as Marinette, but possesses confidence and agility that Marinette usually lacks, while Chat Noir gives Adrien an outlet for all the passion and humor which stays locked inside him when he is Adrien.
There are endless fan theories about how Adrien and Marinette will at last learn of each other’s identities and what their reactions will be once they know. The most grim predictions show the two finding they are unable to be together because each does not love the other person, only their own idea of them. None of the four main ships in Miraculous Ladybug are strong enough on their own. No matter how much Marinette loves Adrien (Adrinette) or Adrien adores Ladybug (Ladrien), neither of these relationships is strong enough to form a lasting bond as both are cases of loving from afar, the object of their affection being more a dream than a reality. While Chat Noir makes his love for Ladybug clear (LadyNoir), Ladybug frequently and bluntly turns him down, and Marinette and Chat Noir (Marichat), while they get along, are simply friends.
This is why it is so brilliant for Miraculous Ladybug to draw out the big reveal. It is only when both Adrien and Marinette love both sides of each other that their love will have fully matured. Thus their alternate personalities as Ladybug and Chat Noir will not keep them apart, but will draw them together in a more intimate sense than would be possible without them. When Marinette reaches the point where she loves Chat’s goofy side as much as Adrien’s sweet one, and when Adrien admires stuttering Marinette as much as the bold Ladybug, they will fully and truly love each other. I hope that is when these fated lovers find that their seemingly dual loves are one and the same, and they are brought together at long last.
Miraculous Ladybug is now available to stream on Netflix in the U.S.! So if you’re looking for something to do this Valentine’s, grab some popcorn, take a seat in front of the T.V. and enjoy this marvelous show.