Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Art of Femismancy, Part 1: Maje Island

In a couple of previous posts here, I have accused Obsidian Entertainment of (in addition to other political correctness) rampant feminism (a.k.a. misandry) in Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire. Some might consider this an exaggeration. So, just to shut you gaggles, I'm taking time during my second playthrough over the next couple of weeks to tally up all the supporting cast, male and female, and see how many are portrayed in a positive or negative light.

I'm writing these up as I encounter them, so based on my game route I may miss some. Deal with it. Some degree of subjectivity is inevitable, though I'll do my best to reference Deadfire's own dialogues and descriptions.

Some basic rules:

Any minor character counts, which is to say any character with a name and/or some kind of personality or onscreen interaction, even if short and shallow.
Nameless redshirts you mow down on the field don't count here, though some random encounters and bosses with observable characteristics might.
Vendors and tavern keepers generally don't (taking your money doesn't tell you much about them) unless they, again, play some bit part in a quest.
Party members are also addressed only in isolated interactions for each location i.e. their recruitment event or behavior during a quest.
Skipping interludes with gods and goddesses.

"Positive" blue characters are either good (justified in their actions (even wrong actions) in some implicit or explicit way or allowed to morally slam others) and/or dignified which is to say good at their job, display courage under fire, respected in their community, able to stand their ground in an argument, etc.

"Negative" red characters may be evil (villains, lowlifes, scoundrels by the general definition of society at large) without being allotted moral justifications for their evil actions, and/or losers: weak, incompetent, sniveling, drunks, deadbeats, cowards, despised and denigrated by others with impunity, etc.

"Neutral" black text names generally break even, blend the two. A character may be portrayed as competent but selfish, pathetic but helpful, condemned by others but actually in the right, and so on. Alternately, being minor episodic roles, some are just too bland to characterize or don't really interact with others during their appearance.

Note: the explicit on-screen interactions weigh much more heavily than any implied characteristics. The whole point is to assess how Obsidian wants us to view characters of both sexes, how the writing team painted them, not just how we view dwarf / elf culture or whatever. Whom are we being programmed to hate?

Obsidian's main trick throughout the game is to juxtapose a positive female with a negative male, thereby emphasizing the female's superiority, so wherever this fits I'll try to list them as pairs.

So it begins:

Maje Island

Benweth (m) - obviously intended as a completely unambiguous villain. Not only did he directly attack you and insult your ship to boot, but he's a sadistic, reckless, greedy, stupid, lazy, power-hungry, power-mad, every-deadly-sinning pirate according to everyone you meet. A "limp-cocked nut-twist" according to Serafen. Naturally a white male, presumably straight.

Eld Engrim (m) - pathetic old drunk in your crew paired up with the adorable plucky young orlan orphan Vela (f) - amusingly, despite being an obvious clown, Eld Engrim's allowed a halfway positive characterization as a lovable old curmudgeon in his role as babysitter, rendering service to a female. Everybody loves Vela.

Beodul (m) - helpless, trapped in cave afraid to move past traps
Irrena (f) - sassy, bravely gritting her teeth through her broken leg, openly ridicules Beodul after they're both saved - "was he crying"

Galian (m) - drunk deadbeat guest at inn
Thorel (m) - innkeeper, a whiny fatass with a dopey voice, but at least he's a nice whiny fatass with a dopey voice.

Rinco (m) - a lying, sniveling card player presumably dependent on his serious, professional wife
Mokeha (f) - native, beats Rinco to a pulp because he's a sore loser who insults her noble savagery
Let's review: Mokeha responds to insults with grievous bodily harm and robbery, something which (legality aside) would immediately get branded as "toxic masculinity" by a modern audience if she'd been male and would be unthinkably villainous if she'd been male and Rinco female, no matter what insults the female throws at the male.
As a feminist ideal of a strong woman, she's of course immune to judgment. Forget beating her in retribution - if you even try to intimidate her into coming back to own her crime, her entire village including Ikawha the overpowered spellcaster turn hostile and, given you're level 3-ish with an incomplete party by that point, instantly curb-stomp you in the first round of combat. Learned your lesson? Never try to make a woman take responsibility for her own actions.
So, in truth, your only options are to either side with the brutish thug Mokeha or whine to her and insult Rinco, her victim, to butter her up to at least get Rinco's money back.
Wow. Nice roleplaying "choices" there.
Bonus feminist points as Rinco's only acceptable worth during this whole argument is instrumental, as provider for his family, not as an individual with an intrinsic right not to be so savagely beaten that he becomes bedridden for spouting a few angry words over a card game.

Savia (f) - sympathetically overworked local sheriff
Rum-Dumb Riggere (m) her drunken prisoner. Do I need to explain this one? Even ignoring the word "dumb" right in the male character's name, their dialogue is laid on very thick
also Savia vs. Ilari (m) whom she sends you to subdue, a thug and looter and even literally a whiner when you attack him.

Waenglith (f) - Eothasian priestess. Meh, call her neutral, her main interaction is with another female, Xoti, whose heroic calling she fails to acknowledge, though she is also given a male redshirt to smear with hot wax while he whines pitifully. Kinky.

Governor Clario (m) & Captain Darmo (m) - largely neutral disinterested professionals, though Clario being more interested in the animancers' results than their lives is obviously intended to make us dislike him. You're even allowed to rat his motivations out to Benessa (f) so she and the other old female animancer at the digsite can loudly voice their disdain for him... regardless of the fact that whatever his motivations, he did wind up sending them a rescue party.
vs.: Ikawha and Benessa below

Storm Speaker Ikawha (f) - noble, dignified leader of the local tribe, a force of nature, savior of the island, savior of your ship, very put-upon by the demands of Clario, the (male) foreign colony leader... three sentences into her dialogue and you're practically blinded by her halo; she's almost as bad as the queen.

Benessa (f) - leader of the surviving animancers at the dig site after her (male) boss conveniently got himself killed "she looks to be only midway into her thirties, though the serious set of her mouth makes her seem older"
"Engferth" or rather your old buddy Aloth (m) who screwed up a first-level spell and set fire to some tents instead of chasing away the encroaching wildlife. Apparently despite his spellcasting having been a match for several dragons and not one but two archmagi in the original campaign, he still has to play his nebbish role as the butt of jokes in this one.
If you reveal his identity, Aloth gets browbeaten for working under an assumed name and is banished from their company, barely able to meet Benessa's eyes for his shame. You get no option to stick up for him or tell the retarded bitch off for getting pissy about her lab assistant's secret identity as a famous hero who's unravelled more mysterious ancient magitek than she's washed beakers. He hurt her fee-fees by not telling her his life story. Never mind his actions alongside you in Defiance Bay likely saved her entire profession from defamation and outlaw status, against his better judgment.

Old Druid (m) - a.k.a. map encounter guy with boar herd - somewhat hostile, but also relatively dignified, competent in his chosen profession, a Noble Savage presumably defending his homeland from yadda-yadda. Helped my fellow druid out in my first playthrough. So yeah, finally, there's a positive male character. All you have to be is a primitive backwoods ignoramus smeared in pig shit and you're golden.

Captain Furrante (m) vs. Serafen (m) - interestingly, their first showing is fairly neutral. Later on, Serafen the tribal native becomes a principled, heroic survivor with a tragic past while Furrante's refined Old World mannerisms doom him as a villain to be deposed, but for now Serafen's just a trash-talking underling and Furrante offers you a chance at revenge against the pirate who stranded you on Maje Island. The difference only becomes apparent once Aeldys (f) comes into play. Furrante is against her, therefore bad.

Next stop: Neketaka!

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