prozacpark: (Default)
2011-09-08 07:29 pm

Gender, Fantasy, and the Women of Dragon Age.

At some point, I was avoiding LJ/fandom because of the fail, and then I got busy and forgot to post. A lot. But I have been randomly consuming various media, and having thoughts, but mostly too distracted to post. One of the things I kept telling myself I would definitely post about was "Game of Thrones." Which I have been both watching and reading. (And still plan to post thoughts on the difference between the two renditions of Cersei at some point.) Because! Cersei! And Dani! And how epic the first season was, mostly because my brain automatically assumed that CLEARLY, the trajectory of the series is Cersei vs. Dani in an epic all-out war for the throne, YES OR YES?

Well, I read some of the books, and while I can't say that's not where it's headed with certainty, there's enough misogyny and gender fail that I very, very much doubt that it will ever go there. Or go there before Cersei and/or Dani are horribly traumatized in gendered ways. Still, I kept reading because I do so love these women, and I do love the creepy dark world the series has created. And have I mentioned my thing for power struggles?

And then someone recced "Dragon Age: Origins" to me based mostly on my love for Claudia Black's incredible voice, where Claudia Black plays a character written for me. So I start "Dragon Age," entirely for Morrigan, only to discover that it's created a world very close to "Game of Thrones," with a similar power struggle, demons, dragons, witches, and a whole religion built around a female-Christ figure which is headed by female priests.

"Dragon Age" is darker and more brutal than "Game of Thrones" in many ways, but it manages this without the blatant misogyny that plagues the world of "A Song of Ice and Fire." The intro blurb tells me that in Ferelden (the fictional country in which the first game is set) men and women enjoy roughly the same social status, and there are few instances in the game that make me question that. Women serve as head of militia, head of the palace guard, preside over their Chantry, rule as queens, and their background history/mythology is filled with hardcore women who changed their world.

The first game is set in Ferelden, which is being overrun by a demonic blight that occurs every few centuries in response to certain cosmic events. The only people who can end the Blight are the Grey Wardens, which is an Order of warriors with 'demonic taint' that enables them to sense the demons and kill them. Besides the Blight, the struggling country is also dealing with a power struggle brought on by the death of its King, which led to certain factions rebelling against the ruling Queen and the government. Said queen is pretty hardcore is willing to be all Machiavellian in order to keep her crown, and the game wants me to like her! And the open-ended nature of the game actually lets you decide her fate, which never turns out too badly, anyway.

The protagonist, who happens to be one of the only two remaining Grey Wardens, and her (or his) companions have to unite different factions of the country/world in order to defeat the demonic blight. But all of that is kind of irrelevant, because the strength of the games are their characters, and especially their women. The second game’s heroine is a Fereldan refugee who escaped to Kirkwall when the Blight started. It follows her from a refugee to becoming a major power player in the new city and leading to another power struggle that sets the scene for future games.

Furthermore, it's almost as if someone is trying to break types with the heroines. We have a Chantry Sister who happens to be bisexual and a hardcore ass-kicking ninja, but it's revealed in layers so it seems entirely natural and in keeping with her character. We have the powerful Witch of the Wilds, who is at once the most cynical and most naively innocent character. There's Isabela, with her angsty backstory and a million reasons to be bitter and jaded, who refuses to let anything get in the way of enjoying life to its fullest. And various other women, who talk to each other! Even if you choose to have your player character be a man, the women in the party will initiate and carry on conversations with each other. And if your player character is a female (as it should be!), then it's an epic Bechdel passing marvel at every point.

And now that I am done squeeing over the world of Dragon Age, let me talk a bit about the women of Dragon Age...SO I MAY CONVERT THE MASSES.

Spoiler-free squee over various women of Dragon Age with video clips.  )

At some point, there was a controversy in fandom where male fans of the game were complaining that games (and the women in it) weren't written to appeal to men, and how the game didn't care about the straight male audience. To which, the creator said:

The romances in the game are not for "the straight male gamer". They're for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. ...And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as "political correctness" if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They're so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance.


Which...just compare this to Joe Quesada pretty much saying that women and people of color might as well drop comics because he'll never cater to them.
prozacpark: (Default)
2011-01-13 07:00 pm

The Rape of Inara: On heroines, consent, and women’s sexuality.

I've always off-handedly known that Joss had planned a gang rape for Inara by reavers at some point, but never really pursued the details past what I had briefly come across? But it's something that comes up for me often in "Firefly" discussions in the context of So Glad It Died Before That. [livejournal.com profile] ide_cyan provided some links in my last post with more details, and it was too tempting. I now have details. And thoughts. And rage, OH SO MUCH RAGE. Because the interview linked was done by Tim Minear, aka my TV God.

Hi, fuck you, Tim Minear. I have liked you in the past because while you’ve failed before, you have also been good about admitting the fail and then correcting it where possible, which is incredibly rare with writers. So I had assumed that you had gotten past the issues you had displayed randomly on Angel? Because you gave us “The Inside,” which is a wonderful deconstruction of some very problematic tropes and will never not be epic. And “Drive.” And “Wonderfalls.” All with awesome women and no rape! But apparently, it never goes away.

He goes on for almost three minutes about the Rape of Inara plot here (around the 35 minute mark). Which apparently is what Joss Whedon used to pitch the show to him. You know, Joss the Feminist. (Honestly, at this point, I'm surprised that Buffy had five seasons before rape entered the narrative arcs.) The word “beautiful” might have been used in the context of a RAPE PLOT. Women’s suffering/death as beautiful? My thoughts on it haven't changed. Just…I kind of want to crawl under a rock and avoid fandom forever. Tim Minear was the ONLY writer I had any respect left for.

Like, I do think that Minear tends to be at his worst when working under Joss. But his failure to recognize the fail of a rape plot in the context of Man Pain? At worst, he’s a horrible misogynist, and even at best, he’s one of the Joss-is-God people who can’t see anything wrong with what Joss does. Either way, NO WORDS.

Also, I am now gleefully happy that “Firefly” got canceled. Not that I wasn’t before, but now? I can almost forgive FOX for canceling all those TV shows if it means that Inara was never raped. Also, TV, can you stop having the women with sexuality be raped or otherwise punished for having it while pretending to be edgy for having women with ‘unconventional’ sexualities?

Quotes from the planned rape plot and some thoughts on heroines, consent, and sexuality.  )