Monday, July 2, 2018

The Art of Femismancy, Part 6: The Brass Citadel, Hasongo and Sayuka

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. How does Obsidian Entertainment glorify women at the expense of men?

Interestingly, both the Brass Citadel and Hasongo are overall much less fanatical in pushing political correctness or trite good woman / bad man dichotomies. It's subtle while running quests back and forth but blatant enough when separated from the rest of the game that I'd wager on the Rautaians having been created by someone outside the central coven of Deadfire's "writers."


The Brass Citadel

Rauataian Guard (f) - standing by the entrance, accuses:
Vailian Merchant (f) - of espionage. Not much difference between them. Both insult and distrust each other.

Rauataian Guard (m) - technocrat
vs.
Kuaru Artisan (f) - luddite
A spirited debate among equals! Male and female, technology and primitivism, conversing for mutual enlightenment! How fair-minded!
Now let's get back to the other 95% of the game with its blameless noble savages standing up to greedy, scheming ersatz Europeans and all those saintly women so oppressed by stupid, drunk, backward, evil, incompetent, mean, useless, disgusting MEN.
Hilarity.

Orlan Peddler (f) - gives an unexpectedly sedate and unromanticized outlook on Rauataian imperialism

Emeini (f) - cannonball girl, undergoing cruel and unusual punishment by The Man for punching her captain, Wakoyo (m) after he insulted her cannoneering expertise.
vs.
Fleet-Master Wakoyo (m) - bounty contractor, for some inexplicable reason given a pompous s'thern g'n'lman speech pattern but there's not much else to him. At least he's not spouting quaint ethnicisms every other word, ekera.

Sabormi (f) - aggravatingly chipper clerk at Imperial Command.

Maia (f) - your sniper companion. Turns out she's been assassinating people, but she's allowed to retain the moral high ground through remorse so she somehow comes out sounding like a victim.
vs.
Atsura (m) - spymaster for the Rauataians, taking the blame for Maia's assassinations. Puts a male face on all the negative aspects of Rauataian militarism, and acts creepy to boot. Every dialogue with him is padded with lines like "greets you with a hard-edged laugh that barely sounds like his own." oooh, eeeee-vil. Note the Rauataians and Vailians have inverted gender structures in their leadership. As you progress through both, you learn more about their bad side.
For the Vailians, this means you cease to work through the (f) second in command, so the more negative aspects are embodied by the (m) leader.
For the Rauataians, it means you... continue to work with the (m) second in command up to the end, to continue embodying the negative aspects as male.
Even when the poor guy is openly opposing slavery, your dialogue options lead you to question his motives as though he's doing something wrong.
vs.
Hazanui Karu (f) - adventurous, heroic one-armed not-a-bandit leading the Rautaian forces in the Deadfire. "Don't tell me you've never gazed at a horizon and wondered at what lies beyond. Or seen a 'no trespassing' sign as a challenge." Daring, strategic action girl whose hand has been pre-washed of any skullduggery. This should be a highly familiar setup by this point in Obsidian's little epic fempic: two or more women performing heroic deeds while a man they both interact with is somehow guilty of all incumbent wrongdoing.



Hasongo

Zuhira (f) - shellshocked leader of the Rauataian survivors. Both sympathetic and admirable in desperately trying to hold it together.

Aimuro (m) - fatalistic, calm and collected engineer who cares more about his work than his life.

Yanass (f) - dead naga, of those attacking the Rautaians for despoiling the land with their technology. For a snake creature, surprisingly sympathetic: "Now there is no way and no light. I am afraid."

Sugaan (m) - naga leader. Asks for reasonable proof of your magical powers before letting you approach your goal, and accepts said proof in a reasonable manner. Amazing!

Bearn (m) - son of Eder's old flame. Brainwashed by cultists after leading a hard life. His dialogue actually comes across as much more nuanced than most, reminiscent of PoE1's better points.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled male-bashing:


Sayuka

Tebe (f) - glib Huana greeter on the docks. Prescient too! She just *knows* (or dare I say intuits) that Galawain (m) is behind the giant creatures plaguing their town. Oh, and she "certainly will not" call her male boss "sir"
vs. her supervisor, the nameless
Undersecretary (m) - mean, stuffy Rautaian man crushing Tebe's free native womanly spirit: "and no smiling!" - no, seriously, that's his second spoken sentence, no smiling.
One of your own character's dialogue options is a conspiratorial aside to Tebe: "[Whisper]: 'Is it just me or is this guy terrible?'" Why, yes, when the writing team chooses to write him as terrible, the guy is indeed terrible.
For bonus "intersectional" feminist points, count the number of times this game's writers equate their glorified angelic natives (Huana) with their glorified angelic women.

Iverra (f) - inventive, scientifically-inclined Vailian willing to get herself smuggled in a crate for a chance to continue her research.

Okaya (f) - serious, mathematically-inclined Rauataian Fleet Master of Sayuka. Has a crush on Karu (f) and warns you against Atsura (m) Though juxtaposed against the idealized Huana as their invader, she never does anything even remotely antagonistic beyond merely defending her town. Disposable males are instead conveniently interposed between herself and the Huana women bucking Rauataian oppression (the undersecretary above and Weto below.) Even the Huana druids she sends you to kill are minimally developed and rather unlikeable. Wants you to stop the constant stream of super-sized creatures attacking Sayuka.
vs.
Galawain (m) - the source of the monsters attacking Sayuka, via ancient sunken magitek. Wants you to preserve the machinery making all the kaiju. He gets the same treatment as Rymrgand in his Sacred Stair appearance, stripped of all positive or balancing attributes and relegated to the status of boogeyman, and unsurprisingly he's again positioned as directly antagonistic to a female questgiver. In PoE1, Galawain was the god of beasts, the hunt, survivalism, etc. but that also meant vitality, savvy, courage, caution, occasional cooperation and anything else that plays into the evolutionary struggle. His god quest fully acknowledged the validity of strategic thinking and combative caution. Now in his PoE2 feminist reinterpretation, Galawain's degraded to a simpleminded force of destruction who just likes things big. End of story. Even the Kraken formerly (indirectly) associated with the sea goddess Ondra (f) in The White March is now Galawain's pet. Well, naturally. It's ugly and evil, so it belongs to a man.

Tipa (f) - recalcitrant native railing against Rauataian expansion. Rattles off social justice warrior catchphrases against imperialism like a humanities graduate: "protect our culture" because they're only trying to seduce us with their technologically advanced trade goods, we don't need their superior technology because we're in tune with the land, and anyway, their helping us was "only a ploy to make us dependent on them" and best of all "our differences make us strong" even when those differences come in the form of an oppressive caste system
vs.
Weto (m) - Tipa's brother, pro-Rauataian. The dialogue is presented as a standard RPG prompt to choose between two equal sides. In practice, Weto accrues not one third of Tipa's lines and nowhere near her barrage of righteous indignation.
If you side with Weto, the dialogue ends with him telling you: "don't mind my sister - her heart is in the right place."
If you side with Tipa, it's "Weto shakes his head sadly. He tries to put his hand on his sister's shoulder, but she shrugs him off, a look of disgust curling her lips."
Ouch.
Can you spot the rampant moral entitlement written into that supposedly two-sided roleplaying choice?
Can you spot the gratuitous interposition of a strawman? Both Tebe and Tipa's rants could just as easily have been directed at Okaya herself, yet they were provided with male targets for their abuse. When Rauatai is represented by hyper-competent, overworked, pedantic fleet masters, they're all heroic warrior women. When Rauatai needs to lose an argument as stiff-necked imperialist scum, <insert male here>

Waturi (m) - pompous, selfish high-caste native: "I am Mataru, a warrior. The best quarters are mine by right." Oh, and he snores. Are we sure he doesn't also spill ale on his pants and shit them while sweating profusely, like so many other men in this game?
vs.
Osauro (f) - middle-caste, middle-aged woman magnanimously teaching a lower-caste man how to tie rugs. "Putting up" with the presence of Waturi in the longhouse.
vs.
Nedunga (m) - kindly lower-caste man bettering himself by learning a trade. Conveniently old and directly suppliant before a socially superior woman, so he's permitted a favorable characterization.

Remaro (m) - Serafen's friend and former mentor. Morally upright. Branded an outlaw by his own pirate faction for fear he might out them as slavers.
vs
Malnaj (f) - Serafen's abuser from back in his tragic youth, hunting Remaro's bounty. Here we have, at last, a true villainess both disliked by others and objectively on the wrong side of an ethical question. Take any negative character trait and Malnaj probably has it. She's cruel, ugly (by standard human standards) boastful, heartless, underhanded, etc. all in a very short appearance. In fact Malnaj has such a suspiciously high concentration of negative traits, in such direct contrast to every other woman in the game, as to be an obvious decoy the writers could point to in response to criticism like my own.
Yet they still could not bring themselves to completely trash her like they do the men. For all her negative traits she at least displays competence in her attempted task, unlike other villains like Benweth (m) or Anaharu (m) or Degnos (m) or the Valeras (m)(m) or Bertenno (m) etc. all of whom moronically stumble over themselves in their thievery / treason / general destructiveness.But hey! I can honestly say Deadfire features one (1) truly, decisively negative female character. And she appears for about half a page, in an easily skippable companion quest no less.
Ever heard of the exception that proves the rule?

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