Sunday, July 17, 2016

TSW's Lilith, Incompetent to Stand Trial?

"Hare, Hare Krishna, was that your sister, a cover girl?
A wasted primadonna, she lost her way here, she disappeared"

Garbage - Subhuman

As this post concerns developments during later stages of The Secret World's main storyline, I suppose a good old-fashioned spoilert's in order, just in case anyone glancing at this might want to waste some money on TSW before it goes belly-up. So yeah, don't blame me if the revelations prove unbearable.

A long time ago I delved into a few verses of the Gest of Robyn Hode regarding class-consciousness and preconceptions of men's role vis-a-vis the unfairer sex. At the time, I glossed over a rather glaring recurring theme in the expectation of the female role: the lack of accountability. See, despite his various feats, skill and achievement unlocks, Robin Hood ultimately gets assassinated
"Through a wycked woman,
  The pryoresse of Kyrk sly,
  That nye was of hys kynne"

Yet it's also accepted as central to the event that she did so

"For the loue of a knyght,
  Syr Roger of Donkesly"

Though this particular version's rather brief on the topic, other versions make sure to mention that the prioress, while treating the aging Robin by bloodletting for whatever disease, merely let out a lot more blood than necessary, in order to weaken him. She did not actually kill him. It falls to this Roger of Doncaster to strike the death-blow, to assume ultimate guilt for such a heinous act.
See, she can't actually be guilty. She's female. She was at most an accomplice, and more importantly did it all for the love of a man, you see. "Wycked" woman she may be, but as woman her wickedness is couched in the actions of a male. Note Syr Roger benefits from no such moral umbrella.

Oh, and no I'm not going to worry about spoiling the legend of Robyn Hode. Whatever the statute of limitations of spoilers might be, a millennium or more should cover it.

We've all gotten used to hearing feminists bemoan the negative depictions of women in literature, yet in most examples we find these negative female characters hiding behind the greater villainy of some man. Picture every cartoon / action flick second-in-command villainess who's only doing wrong because she's fallen in with the evil, evil (male) mad scientist. On closer inspection we find that Lady Macbeth repents and is driven mad by her conscience while Macbeth himself has lost all humanity, that though Eve tempts Adam, the primordial tempter Satan looms unimpeachably male in our subconscious, that Miss Havisham's actions in Great Expectations stem from a male crime against herself, that the only reason the few negative female characters stand out is not their exceedingly negative depiction but their very scarcity! Lady Macbeth may seem bad but compare her to the grandiloquently sadistic Aaron the Moor or other (male) Shakespearean villains like Dickie Tres, utterly unrepentant and beholden only to themselves.

Confession: I freakin' loved that speech by Aaron the Moor. I loved it in the play and in that movie adaptation and can only wish our imaginary landscapes acknowledged more such consummate, transhuman villains, just as I wish they contained more posthuman heroes motivated by more than reproductive instinct or tribal loyalties.

So I loved Lilith's first appearance in TSW. Foreshadowed for a third of the game's original length before she tricks, captures and tortures you in a red-lit Soviet bunker in the best damn mission in the entire game, Lilith struts onto the scene with all the spitting, hissing, ringing, island-unto-herself, unabashed hubris befitting a true law-breaker. Here was, at last, a personality to sweep aside all pretense and weakness, an individual for better or worse.

That she was female made very little difference. She incorporates her sexuality, an Echidna to match any Typhon, sure, but the mother of monsters of Funcom's first showing was above all a Villain writ large, shameless because no others' rules may rule her, vicious and unrelenting, entitled to the gills and full of herself to near bursting. It's the sort of character we get all too little of even as regards males, thanks to our modern obsession with justifying every villain through the cheap pathos of childhood trauma, and practically never see portrayed as female. Lilith was rather unique.

For a couple of patches.

Because of course our safe, polite, technophilic, neurophobic modern society must pay constant tribute to the moral absolutism of feminism, so at the same time we repeat the mantra of female ability (always greater than that of men) we can never be caught to find within such ability the ability for evil as great as that of men. To uphold the taboo propping up female moral superiority, the negative actions of any woman must somehow be portrayed as the fault of a man. The Patriarchy made her do it.

Cue Lilith 2.0
A couple of chapters of the main storyline later, you run into good ole Lil again in Tokyo only to have her declare she was just having a bad day last time, that she's a multifaceted person with a diverse range of interests and shouldn't be judged by her actions at any one time and above all you see, there was this angel. She did it all for love. The whole destroying the world thing, that was his plan all along not hers. Then of course by the end of the whole tirade, poor innocent beguiled Lilly falls prey to conveniently gravelly-voiced male fallen angels.

Some hint of this was given through the line "Samael chose [Gaia]" at the end of the brilliant "I Walk Into Empty" mission yet that as well could have been handled as Lilith's indignation at being slighted, at having her primacy challenged in any way. She could easily have remained a grandiose villainess unto herself, an individual.

You see this bullshit played out with endless female characters, for fear of a career-ending feminist backlash or just the vague notion of male original sin and constant displays of male penitence we've all been indoctrinated into. Ironically though, this drive to make any negative female character's plot dependent on a male influence? That's what's ruining these chicks' independence and personal agency. This regressive backsliding into the medieval chivalry which feminism exploits diminishes such a character more than anything else that happens to them.

I've been waiting to write this post ever since I played through the Tokyo chapters of TSW because I've been curious how they retcon Lil's character further. However, three motivations pushed me to just go ahead and do it now:
1) TSW's circling the drain and there's no telling if there even will be further chapters.
2) The game's writing has begun to decline after Ragnar Tornquist's departure so further installments will likely be less specifically bad in their political correctness as simply... bad, overall.
3) It doesn't matter anyway.

Whatever Lilith does next, she's been written into partial irrelevance. Her story largely becomes the story of Samael taking the blame for her actions. R.I.P. oh proud mother of monsters.

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