Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Art of Femismancy, Part 3: The Gullet and Old City

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. Which gender does Obsidian choose to sanctify or demonize? General rules explained in the first post.


The Gullet

Dereo the Lean (m) - local mob boss. Oddly, his actual quests only amount to some shady bartering tactics for one artifact and scavenging some abandoned ruins for the other. Oh, sorry "defiling native lands." Self-interested but hardly beyond the pale in context. And yet every single person you meet in The Gullet will tell you with no hedging that Dereo is the Big Bad of the district. Notably, he badmouths the Principi "new blood" a.k.a. her glorious piratness Aeldys (f) and stands as your obstacle to Morena (f) in her saintly quest to feed the poor. By extension through his merchant Ernezzo (m), he also stands in Pitli's (f) way in curing her incipient epidemic.
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Mad Morena (f) - that's Captain Mad Morena Sue to you. Ugly and with an appropriately ugly voice. Referenced by others as angry, dangerous, unpredictable run-for-your life scourge of the seas... yet with hints of admiration instead of the loathing everyone holds for Dereo. Somehow every interaction you have with this badass femaile clerk is positive. She's in with the good non-slaver pirate faction, forming a girls' club with Aeldys, takes a punch from you with friendly aplomb, steals from the rich (Vailians a.k.a. Italians) to give to the poor natives, even works with Ulög (m) (conveniently dead before you ever meet him like any good man) and Eniu (m) to feed the Roparu. Talks about getting them to stand on their own feet. How noble. Plus she just gave half her paycheck to orphans. Orphans with diseases.

Ateira (f) - orlan thief originally hired by Dereo. Corners you and demands macguffin. Can be scared away by telling her The Man (Dereo) has it in for her. 

Eniu (m) - local roparu elder looking for a way to keep his people from starving. Major exception to Deadfire's anti-male agenda: a wise representative of a downtrodden people, and blind for extra pathos! Of course, it helps that like Eld Engrim and the Berathite priest, Eniu's a toothless, blatantly post-sexual old fossil defined by his caretaker role. A daddy figure. Also helps that two of his quest's solutions prop up female characters (Pitli, Mad Morena) while the third shows the prince (m) as both heartless and easily manipulated by competitiveness.

Thug (m) - nameless leader of a nameless group of Vailians ambushes you the first time you exit The Hole. Despite being a very mundane random encounter, he's provided with voice acting and at least three different dialogue options by which to make him run in fear from you. Evil? Check. Loser? Check. Male? Check. Store brand European? Check. Heterosexual? Place your bets.

Overseer Hitenga (m) - a heartless authoritarian perfectly willing to accept a bribe from you.
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Botaro (m) - Roparu (low-caste native) who gets thrown down a hole by Hitenga for associating with foreign pirates. Sympathetic in his role as victim of a caste system (and victim of foreigners, of course) nonetheless Botaro's main role is to die in disgrace, failing his wife and children by associating with and stealing from the mob boss Dereo (m) and getting caught by the fuzz. Like Ulög, a good man is a dead man.
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Biha (f) - Botaro's widow. An impoverished widow caring for a herd of orphans. An impoverished salt-of-the-earth widow from an idyllic tribal gemeinschaft bemoaning the heartlessness of the big city while caring for a herd of orphans... and she displays strength and anger channeled into a constructive activity like beating laundry! Wow. Does her touch also cure leprosy?
Also noteworthy for giving you basically the same quest as Governor Clario (m) from Port Maje (bring back Mr. x or if he's dead bring back his results) except now it's placed in a much, much more sympathetic context.
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Seduzo (f) - cool-headed Rauataian smuggler who wants to give Biha (f) and her Tiny Tim brigade passage out of town - but wait! There's yet another (m) barring their righteous way.
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Orron (m) - dwarf paladin with OCD. Needs to be convinced to give up his space on Seduzo's ship.
The individual roles may not seem as clear-cut good and evil here, but pay attention to the juxtaposition: two women want to cooperate for a noble purpose but they're constantly undermined by the incompetence / unlawfulness / tyranny / pigheadedness of one man after another.

Rust (m) - assassin in Delver's Row. Evil but explicitly badass and directly helpful to you in your quest.

Pitli (f) - Oh gods, the heartstrings! The tugging! Local Mother Teresa. Coughing her lungs out yet still dutifully feeding the poor and treating the poor victims of an epidemic of "drowner's lung" which is "a gift from the Vailians" because of course only Europeans would be so vile as to carry infectious diseases to the victims of their invasions.
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Ernezzo (m) - Dereo's merchant holding out on drowner's lung cure, heartlessly price-gouging you ("put a price on health") and also sends you on an assassination mission against someone who might divulge his criminal secrets.
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The Spindle Man (m?) - the Vithrack in Delver's Row. Slenderman reference? Like Xaurips, Vithrack were indistinctly androgynous in the original PoE. Unlike the hyperaggressive Xaurips, Vithrack were neutral on the good-evil axis, mostly isolationists out on foraging expeditions for their underground cities. But this is PoE2. Under new management. Like Mother Sharp-Rock (f) in the previous post, The Spindle Man is deliberately given a gender. Unlike the adorable martyr Mother Sharp-Rock, The Spindle Man is a sinister, shadowy figure heading a cabal of red-eyed sinister humanoids, forcing his way into your mind with his telepathy and demanding the murder of Ernezzo... whom he repeatedly mistakes for a woman.


The Old City

Gwenfin (f) - Dereo's mook in the ruins. Not much to her, just doing her job.

Lone Survivor (m) - adventurer trapped in ruins. Incompetent but personable.

Modwyr (f) - the talking sword with abandonment issues, female spirit trapped in inanimate object by "a man" - but she instead fell in love with her (female) owner.
Noteworthy not only for her quest's abusive homoerotic feminism but for the melodramatic soap opera quality writing and for being annoyingly voiced, loud, moronic... Yet you're constantly pushed to feel sorry for her for being thrown away and missing her sweet honey boo-boo, to somehow bond with her (soulbound item) and absorb all her insults, you "ham-handed half-wit" while declaring your growing affection for her.
She snaps "keep your ears to yourself, creep" when Eder (m) notes her orgasmic vocalizing during slaughter. Yes. Yes, obviously he's the creep there. Naturally she's nonetheless a fan of noted mama's boy and pro-hip-thrust activist Tekehu: "Hey, maybe you could, uhh, loan me to Tekehu? Just for a bit?"
Of course she's a strong woman who resents having to ask you for help: "do you feel better now that I've humiliated myself for you? Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"I don't want your fucking pity" this gal's a stock phrase bonanza!
I would guess that Modwyr's basic concept was supposed to mock the supposed male phallic fixation with elongated weapons. Hilariously, the incompetent over-the-top writing in this quest instead fabricates a more illustrative example of lesbian penis envy than Freud could ever have found in real life.

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Yngfrith (f) - found in Dunnage. Modwyr's sweet honey boo-boo. Oohh, the paaathos! An innocent young girl with natural mental powers (cipher) sold by her parents into an apprenticeship to the unscrupulous "a man" animancer who abused Yngfrith's talents to trap Modwyr's spirit in a sword. After escaping her evil "a man" boss, uses Modwyr to kill others like him. Gives it up (along with Modwyr) but not because she realizes she was probably slaying innocents and even valuable scientific minds. Nonono, she's just such a gentle spirit that she wants to leave behind her guilt at having ever associated with her evil "a man" scientist boss.
The slew of dialogue options you get upon reuniting them range everywhere on the scale of melodrama, either voicing your own emotional attachment to Modwyr (huh?!?) or painting the two as lovers (with Modwyr reassuring you "I do care about you too" while still calling you "a ham-handed half-wit" - nope, still not endearing) or even "Modwyr's welfare is your responsibility [Yngfrith]" which sounds weirdly parental when paired with the outright eroticism of the other choices.
... all except for one token evil option to kill Yngfrith... not for going on a scientist-murdering rampage, but for being party to Modwyr's creation (the crime of "a man") accompanied by the delightfully hammy vociferation "You have to pay for this abominable act."
What abominable act? Giving Modwyr immortality? PoE includes other examples of spirits who happily consigned themselves to statues or other inanimate objects and Modwyr herself is orgasmically ecstatic in her role as killing implement.
At no point are you allowed to call them both idiots or call Yngfrith out on her true crimes.
Bonus feminist points: your priestess companion Xoti (f) can release Modwyr's spirit from the sword for a happy ending for all (women) involved. The serial killer Yngfrith, relieved, walks heroically off into the sunset.

Was this quest supposed to be "so bad, it's good" and if not, what lobotomized teenage fanfic writer dreamed up this Freudian soap opera?

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