[GW2] Trangressive Characterization

I am obviously not reading the right sites because I have yet to find anyone really offended by Guild Wars 2. ArenaNet is not flaunting iconoclasm, and my expectations about levels of outrage are distorted by the current American election year, but GW2 is quietly doing some things about which folks have flipped out in other contexts.

Caithe would be the most prominent, as she is central to the Destiny’s Edge story. While everyone else hates each other, she is the one trying to get them back together. She leads you through dungeons. If you are sylvari, she is your mentor. Her former lover is a major villain. Caithe is also a lesbian. Maybe the usual suspects have not noticed, or she does not count because she’s a plant, or only man-on-man really raises that ire.

If heroic lesbians pass, how about heroic atheists? Charr NPCs will frequently remind you to “trust in iron, not false gods.” Maybe it helps not to remind you that charr consider all gods false and that they brag about killing their gods. The asura believe in a non-theistic abstract principle, the humans are polytheistic, the norn are animists, and the hints of sylvari spiritualism seem more Confucianist than anything else. This is a setting where monotheists are all (knowingly or not) serving deceivers and demons, and Guild Wars 1 players will have killed and replaced a god. In the US, atheists poll about as well as rapists, and there are cultural wars over the words “happy holidays,” but maybe the charr get a pass because they are so cute when they run on all fours. Lolcat scorns your puny human gods!

Oddly, I expect almost no complaints about killing people with swords, guns, and fire.

: Zubon

35 thoughts on “[GW2] Trangressive Characterization”

  1. One does not just idly link to tvtropes.org

    I was going to go to bed and be responsible. Now i’m posting on a blog and opening 15 tabs in chrome……

    1. Speak for yourself. I consistently laugh out loud and even tear up on occasion. That said, some stories are better than others, although that’s more of subjective matter. While I personally find the sylvari too dry, for example, others adore them. Of course it does help to actually watch rather than hit next repeatedly.

    2. It’s an MMO; it’s not going to be Tolkein-level writing. For what it is, the story is pretty good even though the acting is patchy.

  2. I hadn’t thought about it this way. There was a bit of fuss pre-release about humans having to pick a deity (though it doesn’t actually say you follow that god), when some religious players didn’t like the idea of their character being an idolater. Still, I guess since the GW2 human gods are less than all-powerful these days (they’re younger than the Elder Dragons and evidently didn’t actually make Tyria), the idea of gods isn’t as charged?

    As for Caithe’s romantic history, I personally LOVE how gender means very little to the sylvari (because their gender differences are really no more than cosmetic, so why should they care?). I haven’t seen much of how the game handles it, but I always thought they kept her kind-of-gay-ness subtle and ambiguous enough that they could avoid scrutiny.

    1. The green knight story makes it pretty explicit who Caithe is in love with, and also starts with a gay couple. I think it’s interesting that the sylvari seem to pair for life, and may be “born” in said pairings. That implies that you either have a love you haven’t met, or that you will never get one.

    2. I also found a lesbian Asura NPC who talks about her partner wanting her to come home for dinner every night, so it’s not just Sylvari.

      1. That’s pretty interesting, I’d really like to meet her :D

        Could you elaborate on that? Personally, I found the way it get’s introduced in the green knight arc very nicely done, not raising any questions about the fact that they are gay. The optional dialogue for your character lets you question them what they mean to each other, but not because they are gay, but because you have no concept of love as a freshly awakened sylvari.

  3. All the above were too unnoticeable to bother with, (lore, who reads lore?), when there was a much easier target. Females in light armor (very light, since not much fabric was used at all.)

    If you ask me, most of this is solved by GW2’s many alternative choices and options. Don’t like humans worshipping gods? Play a Charr then. Don’t like that piece of revealing armor? Then reskin it with something that looks more to your taste.

    1. While there are certainly plenty of people who quietly disapprove of things and who choose to simply abstain from those things without judgement of those who choose differently…
      Myriad “alternative choices and options” have always been available to bigots in real life, and there have always been some number of people who choose to not avail themselves of those options when they can get a law passed or feed deviants to the lions etc etc.

  4. A note about the Sylvari…

    Since Sylvari have a loose grasp of gender as it is, and so far there has been absolutely no procreation AT ALL among Sylvari, the main idea that Catihe is a lesbian and that Traherne is apparently gay doesn’t really hold all that much vehemence (and I am a conservative Christian type fellow. It just doesn’t really raise my ire because it feels… flimsy. Blame it on the strangely poor voice acting). Love and Death are fairly abstract for Sylvari, since even the Firstborn are only at most twenty-five years old.

    It gets mentioned in the Lore post for the Sylvari that they tend to imprint on a particular person, be they male or female, and that’s it. It’s basically an extreme form of hero worship.

    Guild Wars as a whole is a Fantasy (well, GW2 has strong veins of Steampunk now, I guess), and the thing with Gods doesn’t really cause nearly as much outrage as in, say, a best selling book/movie/whatever. And if you have played any JRPG in the last 35 years, you’ll note that the player is FREQUENTLY tasked with killing a God/Gods.

    And the Charr have never really had a stated religion. The Flame Legion showed with Titan artifacts and was like, “YO. WE GOT GODS. LET’S KILL DEM HUMANS. The Titans where not Gods, but rather extremely powerful beings. It would make sense that the Charr would have a pretty extreme reaction to this. They nuked Ascalon rather than let humans keep it, man.

    I could keep going on this train of thought, but I have to go to work now. I’m sure that I’ve messed some things up or mus-remembered some facts, so I won’t be offended to have them pointed out to me.

  5. Yea man, I can’t stand gay NPCs in my mass-murder simulator. Just totally crosses the line, right Cletus? Yeehaw! :reloads shotgun and puts it on pickup truck gunrack:

    1. Parody is difficult in this world. See, for example, “One Million Moms” protesting gay marriage in comic books but not, say, the previous issue in which Wonder Woman takes a sword through the chest. Shooting people in the face was not deemed worthy of protest; “dudes kissing” was.

      1. Using these comments as a yardstick, maybe nobody was upset because Wondy is made out of clay?

        And honestly, who could go against a little wholesome violence and bloodshed anyways? Hell, killing someone is part of the American Dream at this point.

        …Nah, doing parody is easy. Not getting your parody confused with some real nutter is the hard bit, especially on a place as free from tone and subtlety as the internet.

        Thankfully, mocking people and laughing derisively at them is much easier.

  6. Yeah, I’m not sure I’m seeing any triggers for outrage, warranted or not.

    Like James said above, I’m kinda in the same boat. Homosexuality is hardly a transgression when you put it in the content of both the Sylvari and those who deal with them. Internally, it’s a complete non-issue for them. Caithe is Caithe and that’s how she is and that’s it. EOF.

    And externally… they are the kookiest, most different race as it is. So what if anywhere between 1% and 99% of them are homosexual? That’s just one more spot on the leopard, why bother to be outraged?

    If they were going for transgression via sexuality or religion there were much better targets.

    I can say I’m not entirely happy with the writing and the voice acting so far. There are good moments, but overall (at least judging by what I’ve seen so far) those good moments are eclipsed by a general blandness. It’s easily to me the lowest point of the game. I don’t know if it gets any better, I hope it does, but the whole treatment of the Sylvari screams missed opportunities at every turn to me. Here we have a completely new race, with completely new values, a completely different way of coming into being and living, they interact directly with their creator, they are organically and biologically different…

    … but no, let’s spend all our time pissing around the Nightmare Court issue, without going into any detail of note.

    It’s Diet Elves, and they could’ve been so much more.

    1. Yeah the voice acting leaves something to be desired that’s for sure. I think it’s especially strange that all the charr men have odd sounding voices and the women all sound exactly like humans. Meanwhile, all asura either have a squeaky or croaky voice.

      And I’m still a tad incredulous that the Iron Legion story revolves around making a gun that shoots ghosts when you spend anywhere between 1/5th and 1/3rd of the time in the charr lands killing ghosts with all manner of weapons.

      As for the Cabbage Elves…yeah. The whole ‘pure, innocent, and childishly naive species of sparkly goodness except for the wee little bit that takes the whole goth thing really damn seriously’ thing really chafes at times. Doubly so when no other player faction is anywhere close to providing any effective contrast to them.

      When everybody is one a several predetermined shades of white adding a load of glitter to one of them doesn’t really do much of anything except make that one swatch look ridiculous.

      Thankfully, the Molerat Gnomes and Cat Orcs are both pretty cool. Even if the former spouts off the worst kind of Star Trek dialogue every few minutes.

      1. The Iron Legion story revolves making a gun that kills ghosts PERMANENTLY. That is the key bit. Shooting ghosts til they disappear for a few weeks before coming back and attacking you again is the problem the Charr are trying to resolve in Ascalon.

        1. I’m almost positive that they say that the ghosts still reform. It just takes slightly longer. Yet throughout the whole thing everyone is jumping on your nob about how awesome it is.

          It’s very silly all told.

          1. The Lion has it. It takes longer, not sure how “slight.” If it extended their respawn timer to a week, that would be kind of huge; you can imagine what a difference it would make in-game if enemies took a week to respawn.

  7. Its my understanding that the sylvari are sprung fully formed from the great tree or whatever and that they are simply one form of a larger organism – the “motile” form apes human appearances but are physically neuter and its the tree itself that is the sexual, reproductive form.

    But going with the homosexual theme, Caithe isn’t the only one of the sylvari to do this – in the “green man” part of the personal story you save the “lover” of another sylvari, both of who appear male.

    And I think that lends creedence to my theory – the appearance of male/femaleness is just a convention the sylvari have chosen but has no real meaning in the game universe.

    1. Sylvari are not physically neuter, although they are sterile, according to the wiki. The Tree, as you say, is the source of sylvari reproduction.

  8. I think a lot of the “atheism” in fantasy settings gets a little mixed up. It is one thing to believe in a god; it’s entirely another to get to physically encounter them. The Charr could at one point see, fight and speak to their “gods”. The same is true of the humans…many powers (Dervish, Monk) only functioned because of those gods. When you are in a setting where praying to Dwayna actually can get you healed, it’s not really even “belief” anymore, it’s practically fact. That said, the gods in this setting seem more like those of early polytheistic religions than the monotheistic ones….they are not so much “omnipotent” as they are extraordinarily powerful, but still somewhat “mortal” creatures.

    1. Charr aren’t even just atheists, in their culture it’s illegal to even express the idea that faith is anything other than vile, dangerous, and wrong. There is a Charr public defender NPC in Black Citadel who, when you talk to him, is wondering how he can defend his prisoner who’s been jailed for publically saying that worshipping gods is not necessarily bad — he got labeled a ‘Flame Legion Sympathizer’ and arrested just for having that view. The NPC goes on to wonder if it’s not -faith itself- that is bad, but faith that manipulated to oppress others.

      1. The charr were originally godless – as I recall the only reason they were enticed to worship the Titans under the Flame Legion Shamans was because the humans drove them from their lands and charr wondered if it was because they worshipped gods. If the enemy has gods, we should get some!

  9. Hell, if you wanna push buttons make a storyline about a cadre of Norn lesbians making their own homestead somewhere and trying to make their way into a decidedly patriarchal society that equally reviles them and wants/needs them back.

    Or reveal that Queen Jennah is really an atheist, does not worship any of the gods and is setting things up to create the first Krytan secular dynasty. Make the player choose sides.

    There’s always been options.

    1. Though the sexism of the Sons of Svanir is explicitly held up as one of the Reasons They Are Bad Guys And, Also, Jerkbags.

  10. Wouldn’t all gods portrayed in a computer game be false gods to actual religious people? I can’t see them complaining about a character thus saying not to believe in pixellated icons.

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