Friday, June 1, 2018

The Art of Femismancy, Part 2: Queen's Berth and the southern isles

I'm taking time during my second playthrough of Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire to tally up the supporting cast, (m)ale and (f)emale, and see how many are portrayed in a positive or negative light. Whom does Obsidian want us to hate? General rules explained in the first post.

Queen's Berth

The harbormistress (f)  - yes, she gets humiliated by your show of divine power, but her dialogue ("you're not the first foreigners" and so forth) sets her up as a hard-nosed defender of the motherland just doing her job with integrity.

Sanza (m) - the mapmaker. Nice guy, knows his maps, overworked in cramped lodgings but plodding forward dutifully, pays you for killing stuff you'd kill anyway. Positive. Then again, he's one of the few men in this game not obligated to make some woman standing next to him look good by comparison.

Akema (f) - slightly dopey fat-faced bathhouse attendant with an asthmatic but ingratiating voice, unjustly fired for overhearing skulduggery... and yet! in her saintliness she only blames herself and still praises her former employers. Cue world's smallest violin.

Cortina (f) - adra mill director "a woman of honor" (who of course prefers women) who condescends to you when you ask the standard adventurer questions.

Nera Bardatto (f) - the usual female > male superiority is set up before you even click on her: "have you seen my postenago of a brother?" Earns bonus feminist righteousness points for immediately and repeatedly citing her mother's authority and even getting your companion Xoti (f) to chime in against Nera's brother the "layabout." Xoti's never met either of them before. Sisterhood powers: activate!
Larro Bardatto (m) - the layabout himself and Orso Valera (m) neither of which is presented as wholly negative in themselves. Then again, Larro's main purpose seems to be as an irredeemable, acceptable target for his sister's insults. Interestingly enough, their duel is repeatedly condemned by others, including Aloth calling it "barbarism." How exactly is a mutually agreed duel over insults worse than Mokeha back in Port Maje using insults as an excuse to unilaterally beat Rinco until he can't stand for days afterwards?
How is a fairly staged semiofficial match-up more barbarous than an impromptu organ-bursting beating in a bar?
Well, y'see, Mokeha is a female Noble Savage and therefore entitled to beat others, while Larro and Orso are male faux-Italians. As is Rinco.

Ezzali Bardatto (f) - Stately matron of the respectable Bardatto family. You never see her getting her hands dirty but nevertheless the writers take time to establish her as looking like a competent fighter. Unless you let her son die, in which case your character will actually praise her for getting her hands dirty... with you. States that she doesn't live to be proven right, saint that she is. Juxtaposed as more respectable, well-mannered, calm
the more low-brow, bickering bloody-handed pirate-hunting Valeras, both conveniently male:
Atello Valera (m) and Martino Valera (m) - The difference is especially obvious when they're talking about their family feud. Ezzali is the reasonable one, Atello specifically states he wants to "squeeze coin out of these islands" as he gets mocked for his greed by Xoti (f.) Atello gets some leeway as marginally self-possessed. His son "I'm always up to something" Martino gets painted as nothing but a braindead vicious thug, insulted and beaten over the head by his father. "Bazzo!"
Note you're supposed to be settling an ostensibly long-standing family feud, an even back-and-forth. Yet the main episode you're shown is a plot by Martino (m) against Ezzali (f) to justify her retribution with the added bonus that the (m) of course screws it up and gets his (f) field operative Belda caught in the enemy vault.

Zili Valera (m) - lovable loser. Described as such by Ezzali when she sends you to pump him for information regarding his family's doings, which he divulges entirely too easily. Then again, he's concerned about his female cousin's safety, so we're supposed to like him at least a little bit.

Persa Valera (f) - Zili's cousin (technically encountered in The Gullet) attempting to break into the Bardatto vault with the help of the Bardatto traitor
Baer (m) who attacks you as soon as he realizes he's discovered. Of course, Persa's (f) complicity in the scheme is everyone else's fault but hers, she's learned her lesson and you're strongly encouraged to let her go with a warning.

Belda (f) - leader of the Valera robbers
Captain Vilami (m) - leader of the Bardatto guards

Shrimp (m) - leader of sailors you kill / scare  away for the Valeras' first quest. Drunk and easily fooled but also brave and supposedly competent enough to cut into the Valeras' pirate hunting profits. Then again, they're local islanders being juxtaposed with invading faux-Italians, so they must have some good qualities.

Aenia (f) - politically and economically savvy bounty contractor, complains that all the good bounty hunters waste their time in the strip bar next door, complete with "blood travels south of their brains" male bashing. Condescends to throw you a bone but only for lack of competition, you see.
Abocco (m) - Bounty contractor, bottomfeeder, conveniently located in the bar Aenia badmouthed. Repeatedly complains that he's new to the business "stumbled on my career path" and is almost broke and you're saving his ass by condescending to accept contracts from him. Spills ale on his pants. Cries tears of joy when you accept his contract.

Kahn (f) - waiting in the back of the bar to collect personal debt from Oswald. As with Nera above, her righteous indignation against a male starts before you even click on her: "where in the blazes is that old man?" Oh, and she's a Dyrwoodan noble but too noble to want people to know it, doesn't want people calling her Lady, opening doors for her or buying her shit. Sounds less like commoners' behavior toward nobles than her slamming stereotypical chivalrous male courtship behavior. Bonus feminist points in the bag... milady.
vs. her former family friend
Oswald (m) - The only male character in this side-quest, technically found offshore in the Oathbinder's Sanctun. A swindler, deadbeat, and as it turns out when you find him a traitor as well - plus you discover upon saving him, also a drunk! A whiny, pathetic drunk at that! With four-plus reasons to despise him, is it any wonder he's used to glorify three different women by juxtaposition? Four, if you count Xoti's "wring his neck" comment when you find out he's destitute. Five, if you count Woedica. (also see: Inquisitor Lödwyn, below.)
Aenalys (f) - prostitute at the Wild Mare, high-brow, poetry-loving Aedyran (and a rare Aedyran who doesn't get portrayed as a despicable imperialist or a pampered parasite or a loser nerd) protects Oswald from Kahn's retribution but not because she shares in his guilt / debt but because she's just kind enough to care for a pathetic old man. D'awww. Where did I put that smallest violin again?

Rabyuna (f) - dominatrix fire godlike at the Wild Mare. Is there anything more feminist than having men beg and pay you to torture them? Endorsed by His Most Holy Pectoralness Tekehu (m) a.k.a. Ondra's Gift to salty wenches everywhere.

Ymir (m) - toy-boy at the Wild Mare. Yet another opportunity to poke fun at Aloth (embarrassed at meeting an old flame) after Eder already mocks his fastidiousness in the streets along with Iselmyr, Aloth's (female) alter-ego. Iselmyr steps in again to ridicule Aloth after Ymir's intro. Why? Because Aloth is a nerd and can't get laid. Haw-haw! Apparently no sadistic cliche is old or tired enough for Obsidian... as long as it insults men. Bonus SJW points for randomly introducing Aloth's homosexuality into the second game for no particular reason. He and Minsc should, like, totes get together.

Konstantin (m) - Recruitable masseur at the Wild Mare. Sensible but also adventurous, strong but gentle, with a mildly exotic but masculine name, this is a highly positive portrayal. Then again, as a black guy with a rumbly voice and huge hands (anatomic correlation suggestived) who gives professional back rubs and is eager to have his life turned upside down by the Watcher, he's just blatant catnip. Class mix? Barbarian / chanter. Yep, that's right ladies, a warrior poet.
Ugh, just fuckin' kill me.

Captain Radora (f) - miserable drunk... except of course she's only miserable and getting drunk because she was victimized (mugged) by an evil (m) and is in debt to another (m.) Compare her relative quiet dignity to the clownish (at best) male drunks in the game like Eld Engrim or Oswald or Abocco or Rum-Dumb Riggere. Has a "shy smile" and is voiced (quite skillfully I might add) in a compassion-inducing weary, depressed drawl.
Zamar (m) - shipwright. Principled master of his craft being subjugated by pirates. For once, it's a male complaining about a female before you even talk to him. Then again, he doesn't call her "that postenaga of a girl" or "that woman" but her actual name - playing down the gender difference. Also, this is the only case in which the initial bitching's proven wrong, Radora being only an innocent victim of:
Cotta (m) - pirate who talks in the third person and snarls at people. Obvious token evil option.

Degnos (m) - you actually meet him in Periki's Overlook, outside the bathhouse where he asks you to retrieve his satchel, but his denouement takes place at the docks. Innocent young sailor boy. Being male of course the innocence is only a sham, and he turns out to be a traitor against his captain. Amusingly, unlike most Vailians, this traitor is pale, blond and blue-eyed. That's how you know he's pure evil. Lowest hand in victimology poker.
Avetta (f) - Degnos' captain, a no-nonsense, businesslike, sharp-tongued middle-aged woman. If you talk to her, you're baited into feeling sorry for Degnos at her berating him, only to be proven wrong (you should've known better) when she discovers his treason, sending the young man fleeing in ignominious terror from the woman's righteous fury.
Bonus feminist points for Talfor (m) the enemy captain to whom Degnos was selling information, with a villainous description so ludicrously over the top that you expect him to start twirling a thin black whipstache any moment: "he wears a sly smile as one might wear their most comfortable trousers" - trousers, of course, because "shirt" might've failed to suggest masculinity. "His shrug is insouciance personified" and he has a "crooked, almost jesting smile"
Funny: the quest would've worked just fine without Talfor's presence. He doesn't actually do anything. Just had to insert yet another male villain somehow to build up a male conspiracy against a woman.

Tawenu (m) - native whose tribe is being cheated out of its land by evil, scheming, dishonest Vailians (Italian stand-ins) and wants the contract canceled, but just doesn't understand awl them thar beeg-ceety lawyer talk.
Luca (m) - Vailian clerk, guilty of stealing native lands. Greedy, underhanded, and a drunk. Spends his evenings drinking at the Wild Mare with Abocco (the guy who spills beer on his pants) and though not entirely a bad guy still serves as an example of lawful evil loyalty to oppressive Vailians.

Castol (m) - supports animancy and scientific progress. I may be biased but that sounds halfway positive to me. Nevertheless, painted as both greedy and incompetent and of course replaceable by his female counterpart.
Lueva Alvari (f) - careerist, but unlike the careerist males you meet in the Vailian trading company, she's never karmically punished for it. Instead, any losses incurred on Castol's watch get used by her as leverage to oust and replace him. End. Of. Story. Capisce?

First set of islands

Giordu Red-Handed (m) - recruitable shipwrecked cannibal you save from his crewmates' crock pot. His dialogue makes him sound like an enthusiastic participant in the past few months' butchery. He even offers to teach you a few new recipes... All in all, the dark humor and 'squick' value of the whole thing get played up to bury any sympathy you might have for him. He's a loser and he's breaking taboos. For bonus points, compare his name to:

Mother Sharp-Rock (f) - recruitable xaurip from the Cavern of Xaur Tuk-Tuk, and pretty much the first explicitly female xaurip you ever meet. What a coinky-dink. Instead of cracking wise about eating people like Giordu (never mind she's a flesh-eating lizard savage, we're not talking about xaurips in general; this one's female) Mother Sharp-Rock just clings to your leg adorably. You find her caged, deposed from her respectable (presumably rightful) leadership position by "a large, well-adorned xaurip, presumably one of their champions." Not by someone you'd think would be in her direct line of succession like another Mother, mind you, or another priestess. No, her enemy is large and a champion. Burly and competitive. Double male to the human subconscious. Yes, folks, even lizardwomen are under constant patriarchal oppression by their lizard-men! Free our scaly sisters! Can I get an amen? Can I get a Hallelujah!
There's a moral to this story. Unlike the various male leaders replaced by female counterparts in Deadfire, dethroning a female somehow results in their entire tribe getting randomly slaughtered by a passing adventurer.
They deserved it.
They deserved it...

Inquisitor Lödwyn (f) - Yay! Our first villainess! Oswald's captor in the Oathbinder's Sanctum, a.k.a. the Star Chamber rip-off. Except, hilariously, you're pushed toward supporting this star chamber by the constant ridicule and debasement heaped on Oswald (m) plus the fact he's objectively guilty of the crime in question. Aloth even weighs in to have you uphold the cause of law and order... in the form of a kangaroo court and summary execution for arbitrarily selected crimes ("oathbreaking") in an abandoned temple by the fanatics of a megalomaniacal tulpa. Isn't Aloth supposed to have 18 INT?
Unlikeable but dignified, Lödwyn should have counted as a straightforward villain, except that every emotional cue you're given (down to the voice acting) demeans her victim, including your companions supporting her and wanting to "wring his neck." Long before meeting him you're primed to hate him by Kahn (f) and primed to despise him as pathetic by Aenalys (f.) Your evidence of the organization's past miscarriage of justice is brushed aside, for the greater good, and even when Lödwyn's arguments make no sense you get no chat options to say so. Saving lives by exterminating traitors? Who's to say Oswald's treason didn't end the conflict faster, thus saving lives? Whatever happened to painting Aedyr as the evil, oppressive faux-British Empire?
Bonus nonsense points for randomly throwing in "families are torn asunder with a broken vow" which sounds like a standard accusation against a man condemned by several women... until you remember who's talking. Nothing says Family Values like Woedica ripping thousands upon thousands of newborn babies' souls out of them in PoE1 to feed her power grab. How many families did that tear asunder again?

edit 2018/06/10: downgraded Castol from neutral to negative. Turns out he's in with the slavers.

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