Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Art of Femismancy, Part 4: the pirate islands

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. What rhetorical methods does Obsidian employ in its very divergent moralistic portrayal of men and women?


Fort Deadfire

Sceydwin (f) - victim of Benweth's brutality

Lamond (m) - wants you to rescue his crew from the dungeons in exchange for helping you kill:
Benweth (m) the irredeemable villain of the story. Though I believe it's technically possible to spare his life, your entire introduction to the pirate side of the map revolves around killing him.
vs.
Syri the Siren (f) - Serafen's contact for another route to killing Benweth. Yet another victimized woman trapped between despicable men. How many is that now?
vs.
Serafen (m) - whatever his portrayal during the rest of the story, his only purpose here is to absorb a woman's insults for make-work crimes. Syri's so furious she's literally ready to shoot him because after they slept together he... neglected to spend every day slavishly writing her love letters while he was at sea. Her insane control-freak possessiveness is promoted as the most angelic high ground. The only way to make peace between them seems to force Serafen to debase himself begging her forgiveness: "what be broke in me there ain't fixin' for. I be a right sad fuck, and there ain't nothing to account for it but me."
...
Wow.
...
What, no option to hand Serafen a can of gas and make him self-immolate in contrition for slipping his leash?

(missing two minor characters here but given I can't visit the west side of the fort without my computer blue-screening, deal with it)

Aeldys (f) - leader of the good pirate faction. Opens her introduction to you by trash-talking her "unfortunately blockheaded second-in-command" Benweth (m) whom you killed, because she's loyal to her crew... (?) Saucy with you at every opportunity (because when women do it it's not #MeToo, but "empowerment") etc. Contrast with your character's reaction to Amreo (m) who hits on you at the bath-house.
Aeldys is pro-freedom and anti-slavery. Her abolitionists' club includes:
Mad Morena (f) feeding the poor
Selinia (f) standing up to (male) authority
Seafol (f) running slaves to freedom
Benweth (m) - ooops, he's dead before you ever meet her and she explicitly distances herself from his actions.
And if you think that's (f)-ed up, wait 'til you meet Furrante's sausage fest.


Dunnage

Udita (f) - bounty contractor, highly personable, politically astute and discreet, volunteers a reference to a drunken ex-husband for mandatory feminist street cred

Dessiral (f) - wants revenge for her sister who was "seduced to a dishonest life" by a pirate crew and sends you off after four bounty targets. Interestingly, two of them are male, two female... yet the writer still managed to put a subliminal feminist spin on the backstory of a ship led by a male pirate captain "seducing" a young girl with the promise of adventure. Not sure the term "seduce" was ever again inserted into this game's scripts.

Pietro (m) - pirate at the inn, swallowed a precious gem and needs to be utterly humiliated with a disgusting purgative in order to retrieve it. If Abocco (m) spilled ale on his pants, this guy shits 'em! After vomiting! And begging for your help pathetically! And groaning in agony! Hah! Haaahahahaha!
vs.
Rosanella (f) - wise, kindly merchant helping Pietro by telling you the purgative recipe.

Barquami (m) - blinded beggar you can turn into a bad actor under the leadership of:
Calandra (f) - puts on terrible plays, requires you to supply her with a big dumb male (Barquami) to stand around looking impressive and a clever special effects wizard (Taerna (f)) to make her stage show into the talk of the town.

Taerna (f) - innocent wizard and gambler caught in a debt trap, and you're required to pay off her debt to complete Calandra's quest. Compare to Xoti's "wring his neck" reaction to finding out Oswald (m) can't pay his debts. Be a deadbeat, my son, but be an ovaried one. It makes me laugh, makes me laugh, makes me laAaauu - ugh!
vs.
Jacob Harker (m) - famous pirate who's abandoned piracy after avenging the death of his father. You're warned not to ask him about it - but instead of him attacking as you as he threatens, you're attacked in the streets by thugs out to get him. Willing to sell you Taerna's debt. Wondering why this particular man engaging in vile exploitation of a woman is allowed to be more dignified and cooperative (and even a victim) than other males in the game? His portrait supposedly bears some resemblance to Tim Cain, one of the bigwigs at Obsidian. Still, he's positioned as an evil male obstacle between two good women who want to cooperate as per Deadfire boilerplate. You'd think he'd at least get to be the "one good man" of Deadfire's male-bashing feminist wonderland.

Two-Eyed Pim (m) - badly voiced third chair and second banana to Furrante.

Selinia (f) - survivor of an attack by the Flying Dutchman Floating Hangman, a one-shot character whose only real function is to further demonize Furrante.
Despite her recent physical and psychological trauma, subjected to merciless interrogation by both him and yourself. Before she even starts telling the story, you have the option to open the conversation with this gem: "You will think hard and recount every detail you can. Understand? Do it even if it hurts, even if it kills you." Well, I don't know if it hurt her head, but the stupidity of that opening's certainly hurting mine. And yet she pluckily, fatalistically brushes it aside. Isn't she great folks? Let's give her a hand! Later, this gratuitous description: "When [Furrante] dismissively waves her away, her black eyes narrow and she raises her chin, defiant. But then he turns his full gaze to her, suddenly seething, and she shrinks in on herself."
For bonus points "she belongs to Aeldys"(f) the good pirate queen opposing Furrante.
vs.
Furrante (m) - educated, refined Old World male. Place your bets as to how evil he'll turn out to be. He's working with slavers against his own faction's rules, has a quick temper and worst of all he's proud of his heritage!
...
Yes, that last one's bad, very bad. Only quaint loincloth-clad Pacific Islanders blurting Tribalese get to brag about their noble heritage and traditions. Quaint, doublet-clad Mediterraneans spouting Italianese have to disown theirs.
Purely by coincidence, Furrante's pro-slavery faction also includes:
Master Kua (m) - the slaver
Dereo (m) - mob boss (officially non-partisan, but badmouths Aeldys and initially blocks your access to Aeldys' ally Morena)
Castol (m) - the Vailian Trading Company leader whose quest chain segues into Furrante / Kua's
Two-Eyed Pim (m) - ... what exactly is this schmoe's purpose besides putting another male face on the bad pirates?

Subtle, huh?


Crookspur

Seafol (f) - Aeldys' underground railroader

Auctioneer Marcca (f) - as advertised. Sells slaves, but she's all business. Openly voices fear of her Master, just so we don't think a woman could do wrong by her own free will. I will give Obsidian this much: they at least included female bidders in the slave auction. It's something. Baby steps, y'know?

Master Kua (m) - satisfyingly despicable big little man. Master slaver. Sends you to assassinate tribal leaders fighting for Frreeeedooommm!

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