Dark Messiah - Scathing Review @ The Game Chair
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chain of reasoning
December 19th, 2006, 00:13
My tortured chain of reasoning on Xana goes something like this. She is portrayed as evil incarnate alongside of her aggressive sexuality. Reverse this and you have goodness equated to submissive or nonexistent sexuality (depending on your take on the opposite of aggressive). This has been a central stereotype in western literature for centuries, the conflict between the “fallen” woman and the virgin. I once took an excruciating class in the long emergence from this type of writing called Jane Eyre’s Literary Daughters to the tune of 15 or so novels. Fun stuff. Some similar ideas can be found in China’s “Traditions of Exemplary Women,” dating back 2000 years or so.
(Reference for Exemplary Women)
Yes, it would be easy to chalk this up under the mediocre writing column and continue merrily on our way. However, this is more than simply an embarrassment to my hobby. Cultures aren’t made by religious texts or moral treatise. Cultures are the accumulations of thousands on tiny bits: songs, music videos, novels, conversation, advertising, pornography, film, prose, poetry, and yes, even games. Each one of these bits contributes a small amount to the end result; in our case, a society skewed ever so slightly toward the subjugation of women (see any magazine cover, teenage ditz act, or woman’s salary for proof of this).
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we need to err on the side of overreaction here. This kind of writing should get exactly what it deserves, an offhand remark in a review, which is otherwise critical for other reasons. Not to mention a great chance to dust off the ever popular Custer’s Revenge joke. That thing never gets old
Would I have felt the same about a male Succubus? Absolutely not! That would have been great. Why? Because it is a reversal of traditional stereotypes, and therefore interesting. Art is all about layering on as much novelty as you can get away with.
I have no problem with a character, which has sexuality as a part of its dimensions. A great example is Patricia Helfer’s Number Six character in Battlestar Galactica. This character is also succubus, but expanded on in a multitude of ways. Not the least being she has motivations other than sexual conquest and a wonderful layer of ambiguity as we are never quite sure if she’s imaginary or real.
What I meant by “sexuality and personality are indistinguishable” is this. I just don’t see any other dimensions to the character of Xana. There is no back-story, no (nonsexual) motivations, no real emotions, no exposition, no monologue, in fact, I found no “writing” that you couldn’t have grabbed by placing microphones into High School locker rooms. I highly agree that real subjugation is a cultural imprint and this game is a piece, however small, of our culture.
Thanks to everyone for your great comments!