Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Art of Femismancy, Part 7: Periki's Overlook, Serpent's Crown and the Wahaki

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. Whether it's a heroic, benevolent woman surrounded by stupid, malicious males or a single mean, dumb man getting in the way of angelic women, how many times did Obsidian Entertainment need to re-iterate their chauvinistic tropes in a single game?


Periki's Overlook

Worthless Idiot (m) - recruitable imp. As with the guy with "dumb" in his very name, I really shouldn't have to explain why this one counts as negative. Imps are new in PoE2, and they're all male, and they're all loud, smelly, obnoxious, disgusting little vermin. And if you haven't played the game, that name's just the tip of the iceberg. As with Vektor (m) and Pietro (m) fecal matter is involved. Compare to the newly gendered portrayal of representatives from other monster races.

Hurwyna (f) & Seinu (f) -  expectant mother relying on Ancient ChineseHuana Secrets taught by her midwife.

Marihi (f) - highly skilled blacksmith who can repair your PoE1 weapons. No-nonsense "traditional" smith (whatever the hell that means in an island culture with no mining industry) only prettifying her utilitarian work for the tastes of the nobles. Insults Tekehu (m) and is praised by him.

Amreo (m) - old man who uncrosses his legs at the bath-house so you can have him punished by the authorities, because when men act like liberated women you have to beat them down.
vs.
Udyne (f) - centuries old war veteran soaking her battle scars at the bath-house. Helpful to Serafen and Remaro. Lays on the pre-Norman dialect even more thickly than Iselmyr or Yseyr... and yet manages to pull it off much better than them. Some of it is due to her dialogue's better flowing narration, more than just isolated caveman speak. Most of the credit must however go to the voice actress who just outright sold it, start to finish. Excellent work.

Quarno (m) - Rauataian at the bath house, trading illicitly with the Principi. Plus he's a total meaniehead who tells you to go away. Easily flattered into divulging his crime.
vs.
Tola (f) - Quarno's Principi contact. Startlingly, she's at least as susceptible as Quarno in your quest to get information for the Vailians (babbles when she's drunk) and a rare female character not portrayed in terms of her superiority (moral and/or practical) to her male counterpart. Someone dropped the ball on this one.

Shop Imp (m) - truth in advertisement and Ifren (m) - failed (and rude) thief trapped in a wooden puppet by Arkemyr. Both of them basically exist due to Arkemyr (making him look worse for creating and employing such abominations) and to provide counterpoints to Fassina's positive qualities.
Fassina (f) - recruitable clerk at The Dark Cupboard. Clever, sexually liberated, directly contrasted to her boyfriend in being gainfully employed. Like every other woman in this game, she's surrounded by stupid, evil, oppressive men, from a stinky imp to a shoplifting boyfriend, a whip-cracking, stingy boss and an obnoxious wooden (male) puppet. Oh that poor angelic woman having to deal with all those worthless bestial males! Though by this point in the game it's very much a case of "just a rerun heroine, just a retread heroine, just the same old heroine"
vs.
Bertenno (m) - "that flaccid bazzo!" in Fassina's words. Her boyfriend. Cowardly, dishonest, incompetent, deadbeat, whatever it takes to make his girlfriend look good by comparison.
vs.
Hamuto Stoneheel (m) - lawful neutral captain collecting Bertenno's debt at the Brass Citadel.

Tumara (f) - Rauataian who wants to get her hands on Arkemyr's epic stones. Greedy, insults illiterate islanders. However, unlike most Rauataians or especially Vailians' comments about the Archipelago (amounting to "squeeze, Rabban, squeeze") she actually makes a valid point about natives' willingness to sell off their own lands for quick profit.
vs.
Netehe (f) - Huana who wants to get her hands on Arkemyr's epic stones. For her people! Plays the cultural heritage card to its fullest. Obviously the politically correct choice here.
vs.
Arkemyr (m) - "the bringer of Foul Wind" according to Fassina. Complete stock character: the mean, stiff-necked, pompous old English boarding school master from any number of children's movies. Despite being the victim of your burglary (and really being one of the good guys, apocalypse-wise) his every description and verbal inflection is designed to make you hate him. Oh, and of course he failed to acknowledge the greatness of a woman.
vs.
Bekarna (f) - whose greatness a man failed to acknowledge. Despite being "dame not appearing in this entertainment product" her notes and others' commentary on her eat up more screen time than most faction leaders. Oh, look, it's yet another retread heroine positioned between two meanie men.
vs.
Concelhaut (m) - who's out to pilfer a woman's hard work for his own ignominious male ends. Downgraded from his somewhat dignified antagonist role in PoE1 to a cartoonish recurring bumbling weekly villain role.

Ekenu (m) - watershaper mook holding the door during the naga attack.

Guildmaster Mairu (f) - righteously indignant watershaper superior (in every way, and don't you forget it) to Tekehu, the first of many women to scold him for all the wrong reasons. Later, heroically holds off a horde of naga, unto death: "Too many, even for me." Y'know, at least Boromir had the decency not to be so smug about it. Not a word is said against her apropos her keeping a gigantic scaly slave in her basement.
vs.
Tekehu (m) - Mama's boy. Mr. 'don't hate me 'cause I'm beautiful.' Obviously intended as service to female fans, but that'll come up whenever I get around to complaining about romance minigames in RPGs. He's a tomcat waiting to be tamed, the chosen one of his people, a rising star, desired by other females and therefore desirable, in short the cheapest sort of romance novel detritus.
Amusingly, his main interactions seem to be getting badmouthed by every single person you meet. I'm sure this was intended to make him even more sympathetic in a "shut up Wesley" sort of way but it vastly overshoots its mark via repetition. Ondra: "he thinks himself frail but MY heart beats in his chest. He is stronger than either of you could know." Ok, so he's a whiny, unreliable prettyboy but I'm supposed to coddle and praise him because he embodies a female's purpose? Wooptie-freakin'-doo.
Notably, he gets shoved in your face as a romance option from the very first dialogue. You meet a tall handsome prince and immediately find yourself getting lost in his dark eyes.
Who the hell gave these idiots Lit. degrees?

Periki (f) - appears only in statue and soul form. Filthy liar. Caught a dragon by the tail, thus kicking off a generations-long and civilization-spanning government cover-up as to the source of Huana magicians' powers. Yet others' comments about her are nothing but admiration while her direct descriptions are shamelessly sympathetic. No, really. You hold her statue's hand, at which it literally cries a single tear which you have the honor of wiping off its cheek.
Quite the Dickensian treatment for a slave mistress. How come Master Kua (m) back in Crookspur doesn't get this kind of sympathy?
Bonus feminist points: her soul's memories begin with her brushing off a man's touch.
"One of [your shipmates] claps your back with approval.
You step back and aim a reproachful look at your mate, however friendly his intent."
Bad touch! Bad touch!
vs.
Scyorielaphas (m) - (and damn you for making me spellcheck that) Ok, pause for the inspired? accidental? humor of opening your dialogue with a gigantic, blatantly obvious dragon by shouting "Dragon!" But anyway, to further shift guilt away from the women who enslaved him, his first line is:
"Have you come to deliver me from this prison of my own making?"
When dumb, stinky boys get enslaved by the very people they tried to help, it's their own damn fault. So there.
Tekehu further brushes off any question of Mairu's treachery by instead focusing on "the gifts and encouragement" her guild lavished upon him, in true spineless millennial snowflake praise-junkie fashion.
Onekaza, when informed of the slave she's been keeping through her willful ignorance, pulls the usual "for my people" routine.
Skeereeoh-whatver's deliberately made less likeable by constantly insulting Obsidian's cheap gift to their female fanbase, Tekehu, by calling him "half-breed" - *gasp* racist dragon!
His parting shot, should you choose to continue enslaving him?
"Make no mistake. You are the only monster here."
Holy mother of hacks! That's your big dramatic finish? That line was already so overdone and antiquated that it got ridiculed on The Simpsons' Hungry Are the Damned Halloween special back in 1990 for being 1960s Twilight Zone cheese. "There were monsters on that ship and truly we were them."



Serpent's Crown


Takano (m) - useless old blowhard dick-measuring his estate's size, easily swindled out of his priceless macguffin because he's desperate because he's broke, which being he's also male gets played off as well-deserved and funny.

Nungata (f) - bounty contractor, stately old matron, eloquent, long heroic history of victories. The second woman to look down on you for working with Abocco (m) the bottomfeeder from Queen's Berth, and she only deals in high-end contracts. "A lady needs standards, after all."

Maia (f) - aside from her tough chick demeanor, her very introduction has her ridiculing both Eder (m) and Kana (m) and quizzing you on how to stop a mutiny, thus establishing her as a moral paragon

Barati (m) - bounty contractor, a.k.a. Big Chief Killumall. Seemingly exists to drop Tangaloa's name into every sentence and otherwise lay the Nativese dialect on as thick as possible. Not much of a personality otherwise.

Prince Aruihi (m) - Onekaza's foil. His first line "I say our guest forgets himself" a relatively soft rebuke of an unjust accusation of mass murder, immediately earns him a slam by his sister the queen "You are the one who mistakes this for a sparring arena." Yes, because implications of violence are beneath royalty and only a dumb male would ever resort to them. That's why Onekaza keeps TWO HUGE TIGERS by her side.
Same dull repetitive setup as the other factions. The Huana are ruled by a leader and second, one male one female, with any negative connotations embodied by the male. To motivate Aruihi to feed his city's starving underclass, playing on his sense of compassion or justice doesn't work. Only his competitiveness.
vs.
Onekaza (f) -intended as a supremely impressive and glamorous native queen... except she never actually does anything. The writers characterized themselves into a corner. They wanted Onekaza as grandiose and angelic as possible. Problem: grandeur's rarely angelic. So aside from her inexplicable telepathy and bragging about her pet tigers, she just sits back and delegates to her brother, to the guildmaster, to the Wahaki, never getting her hands dirty. Even the captive dragon under the city makes sure to note the Queen didn't know about him, just in case you were wondering whether a female faction leader might have some negative traits.
They don't.
All female leaders are always perfect.
'cuz.
So there.
Shut up.


Motare o Kozi

Baltia (f) - Vailian expedition's sole survivor, trapped in vines. Sent to their deaths by Director Castol (m) and specifically Castol, not his (f) assistant. They were tracking another (Huana) expedition sent to their deaths by Aruihi (m) and specifically Aruihi, not Onekaza (f)
vs.
The Green Lady (f) - menpwgra in the swamp, introduced as "The Rotted Lady" and she's "a very powerful woman" in the words of your quest journal. Sure she's a murderously parasitic blight upon all that breathes, but being female that's of course everyone else's fault but hers, and she can effortlessly be redeemed through dialogue back to her status as an ancient, wise guardian of the land.


Ori o Koiki

Kipeha (f) - plucky archer guarding the main entrance

Auata (f) - xenophobic islander. Likes Tekehu.
vs.
Aparo (m) - xenophilic islander. Likes Ruasare.

Tangara (m) - tribe's enforcer, repairing a purchased construct. Whatever happened to the Wahaki being isolationists?
and
Burapo (m) - tribe's mystic, stinking up the place with his burnt offerings.
vs.
Ruasare (f) - yet another idealized female native leader, because you can never paint with too many colors of the wind. By dint of savage nobility, the Wahaki tribe are all pretty glamorized. Sure they murder and pillage random passing ships, but they're totes not pirates, bro. Everything they do is entirely For My People and therefore justifiable, ekera.
Their leadership follows the usual structure from other factions. Burapo and Tangara are slightly ridiculous, inept, unimpressive old farts while Ruasare herself is described as mighty in battle and mighty in bed, blue-blooded going back millennia, last bulwark against foreign aggression, honorable, reliable, etc., etc. The most severe character flaw they could come up with for her? She likes fruit.

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