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A Conspicuous Trend Among GW2's Cast of Characters *Spoilers*


LuckyThirteen.4576

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I hesitate to even make this post for reasons that can be briefly summarized as: "It's the internet."; but I feel like it warrants discussion, and I can't think of a better place to put it. So here it is.

 

Now that EoD has wrapped up the game's primary story arc, I've been knocking it back and forth in my head and ran across a trend. Have you noticed how the overwhelming majority of characters who are in-power/organizational leaders in the story are female, and the difference in their portrayal compared to similar male characters? 

 

This stood out to me most in the conflict between Joon and Minister Li: who are portrayed early on as the two biggest players in the Canthan government apart from the empress herself. Both are fierce advocates for their position on opening Cantha's borders, though from the very start the story implies that Li is in the wrong. This makes some sense, as Cantha's borders need to be open for the expansion to happen, but it bothers me somewhat that the story never even questioned whether or not Li had a point. Why does Li think the border should stay closed? Because he's actually just a big racist purist Disney villain in addition to being obviously wrong! It can't be because the commander's/Aurene's actions indirectly brought violence, instability, terrorism, and the literal apocalypse to Cantha's borders, he's just racist purist!

 

What about Joon? I like Joon. I think Joon is interesting. It just bothers me that Joon becomes antagonistic to the commander for similarly misunderstood (Yong Reactor) or arrogant (wants to catch Soo-Won) reasons, and instead gets to join the main cast of heroes in the end for the big finale! Everything is forgiven, despite the fact that she sent thugs to apprehend us extra-legally, or that she tried to straight-up murder the commander in her own home. 

 

What about Rama? I also like Rama. Rama is funny and relatable. Rama helps us throughout the story, and proves himself to be more than capable in his own right. Rama also happens to be subordinate to Captain Min, who outranks him despite being the same age, and shows up right at the end of the Minister Li arc to (kinda?) help us fight him and, more importantly, take all the credit for both outing Li as a purist, something the usually pretty smart Rama was apparently too naïve to do, and taking him into custody afterwards. It's very heavily implied that she will succeed Li, thus replacing the only (evil) man in power with a (good) woman. Let me clarify, I don't dislike Min or think she doesn't work as a character. I don't hate this part of the story, or think it doesn't make sense. It does, but just strikes as ticking more boxes on a surprisingly consistent trend throughout the story.

 

Other examples of men in the main cast:

  • Logan Thackery: An otherwise hyper-capable warrior whose biggest character flaw is that he's a massive simp for an implied to be more capable woman in charge (Jenna).
  • Rytlock: A once(?) hyper-capable warrior who, in the most recent storyline, has become the forever-subordinate to an implied to be more capable woman in charge (Crecia).
  • Canach: An intelligent and confident man who has, none-the-less, become subordinate to an implied to be more capable woman in charge... twice. (Anise and Sayida, who never once gets called out for being a literal pirate by the way! At least he dumps her kitten in the end). 
  • Braham: A childish mommy's boy who only manages to be occasionally competent, and spends the rest of his time creating problems for everyone in his life. 
  • Gorrik: An effeminate nerd who spends half of his time having petty emotional outbursts, and the other half serving his implied to be more capable woman in charge (Taimi). 
  • Blish: Blish was cool. I miss Blish.  
  • Smodur the Unflinching: Just wanted to point out that he follows almost the exact same story beats as minister Li. Traditional strong male leader with older and sometimes outdated notions of leadership? Obviously incorrect Disney villain. 

 

Other examples of women in the cast:

  • Caithe: Independent sometimes villain with a heart of gold. Get's forgiven very easily despite actively working against the commander for an extended period of time. 
  • Zojja: Who?
  • Eir: I actually don't have a huge problem with Eir, though find it weird that everyone is just ok with her admitting how terrible a mother she was. 
  • Kas and Jory: They're ok if a little boring. Kas just suddenly being the ambassador feels a little unearned. I also don't fully understand why their little affair had to be the literal last chapter of the epic, 9-years long elder dragon story. 
  • Taimi: The tragic victim of academic unfairness, and terminal illness while also apparently being the literal most capable person on the planet. I feel like you can't really play it both ways? At least she doesn't whine about it too much.
  • Rox: Who?
  • Sayida: Independent sometimes villain with a heart of gold. Get's forgiven very easily despite actively working against the commander for a period of time, and also for being a literal pirate?
  • Zafirah: Independent sometimes villain with a heart of gold. Get's forgiven very easily despite actively trying to murder the commander, and having actually murdered at least some pact members.
  • Mai-Trin: Independent sometimes villain with a heart of gold. Get's forgiven very easily despite actively working against the commander for an extended period of time, murdering people, and being a literal pirate. (seriously?)

 

Now please, let me be clear. I'm not necessarily saying that any of these characters are bad characters, or that the story is poorly written. I mean, it definitely is in places, but not because of this. I like Queen Jenna, I think she's cool. I like Taimi, her character is fun and animated. I like Rytlock, and his interactions with Crecia are well done and believable. For the most part, I don't question why these women are in power, nor think that it doesn't make sense in the story. I just think it's increasingly weird that the world-building has become unbalanced in this way. Maybe it's just me, but I hope to see some more *ahem* diverse, story-telling in the future.

 

TL;DR:

Why are all the most prominent and capable characters in the story women compared to usually subordinate/less capable/cartoonishly evil male counterparts? Who was the last truly in-charge, capable, and respected male character that we've had?

Edited by LuckyThirteen.4576
Grammar
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The player character can be a male and he is essentially a god.

Anyway, modern... society... has a tendancy to hamfist THE MESSAGE into our entertainment but it's not that bad in GW2. The characters are unique and themselves. Unlike certain... shows... that take a token character and make another token character out of that token character and then make them the most unlikable and selfish shell of person written by people that dont know what human emotions are.

Look at the bright side. At least no redheads has been sacrificed on the Altar Of Diversity. 

And Logan and Rytlock isnt a couple.... Yet.

Edited by Dawdler.8521
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14 minutes ago, yoni.7015 said:

Why does it matter so much what gender a character has? I actually don’t really care if a character is female or male. 

I'm not necessarily saying it does matter, really. As I said, it's not that the story bothers me so much as that I feel like it warranted pointing out. I like good characters and good storytelling; so it sticks out to me when certain aspects of the story are becoming stale/repetitive/very confusing. 

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You're really reaching to make the narrative work for some of those characters. Like you're really going to act like Gorrik is subservient to Taimi or that he is effeminate (because he shows emotions sometimes???). He is incredibly valued and important character in the story, despite joining forces with you much later than Taimi did and mostly offering knowledge, while Taimi has proven herself both in intense danger situations and out, with the help of her golem.

Or Canach's arc, which has nothing to do with the woman being a superior person and everything to do with the material position he was in that forced his hand. He then proved himself and got free of it eventually, as well as proving himself in a big way in HoT.

And Braham is a mommy's boy??? His mother DIED and always had a detached, distant relationship with him. Despite that, he manages to overcome severe trauma and become someone who can cast himself into fire, not just impulsively to try to help others (which he was already doing) but thoughtfully and with a sense of the gravity of what he's doing.

If anything, the key male characters more often get some of the deeper character arcs in this game, while the key females are more written as people who go through a period of being overly emotional and irrational, and then eventually see reason (something that happens with both Taimi and Joon, and arguably Caithe to an extent, too... heck, even Aurene is arguably portrayed that way at times).

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Personally I just feel character introduced in the latter timelines of the story lack characterization. We dont know enough about them to feel invested in them. I think the one character with whom I didn't feel that way was Crecia, because she seemed like a believable character, with flaws, and a proper evolution.

Characters in EoD do not get the same treatment. A couple audio logs give us a very rough understand of Ankha. We have very little to fill in the gap between the times where we met Mai Trin in season 1 and currently so we dont feel invested in her outcome. We also see very little background on Minister Li and the purists as well as the Minister of Purity as a whole. Anyone who hasn't played gw1 (and there are more than a few) probably see them as a footnote in Canthan history despite the fact it is a key part of the setting and how closed the continent was. Tengus similarly see very little attention, beside being told that there are basically two types of Tengus, those that stayed in the forest and mostly look to the Kestrels for organisation, and those that lives in the city, looked down upon by the former, and subject of the Canthan throne.
Speaking of the Canthan throne, we see barely anything from it. So little in fact that I cannot remember the name of the -Empress- without looking it up. When I think of Canthan leadership I think of Joon, and I understand that this is by design, as Rama puts it, she has essentially seized control with her rent-a-cops and her strong monopoly on Jade Tech. Now see, that is an Interesting plot point to take time on, and : We.Dont.Spend.A.Minute.On.It. Take a moment to think about it : We met the empress in the starting area of Cantha, in a throne room smaller than the Guild hall in Lion's arch. Where is her estate in Kaineng City ? Why do we not visit her there in the largest city ? If not her, where are her representatives there ?
 

The setting has such a strong unexploited potential. I'm crossing my fingers for it to be explored during future living world seasons.

Edited by Naxos.2503
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3 hours ago, LuckyThirteen.4576 said:

TLDR:

Why are all the most prominent and capable characters in the story women compared to usually subordinate/less capable/cartoonishly evil male counterparts? Who was the last truly in-charge, capable, and respected male character that we've had?

Well, They kinda come in pairs. and I wouldn't say the male "good characters" are subordinate to their female counterparts. Most work collaboratively together, as can be seen in their dialogues. Even Taimi has had to call on Moto (renown MALE Asuran) in LWS3 to get the Rata Novus simulation room operational.

2 hours ago, LuckyThirteen.4576 said:

I'm not necessarily saying it does matter, really. As I said, it's not that the story bothers me so much as that I feel like it warranted pointing out. I like good characters and good storytelling; so it sticks out to me when certain aspects of the story are becoming stale/repetitive/very confusing. 

This contradicts your post. If it doesn't matter, why the post? Your post could have revolved around the characters being thinly developed, and poorly executed in their design. But you boiled it down to... Gender.

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2 hours ago, Haleydawn.3764 said:

This contradicts your post. If it doesn't matter, why the post? Your post could have revolved around the characters being thinly developed, and poorly executed in their design. But you boiled it down to... Gender.

 

The point of the post was to start a discussion, not necessarily to win one. My intention isn't to boil things down; there are far bigger issues with the plot than the apparent gender imbalance of course. It simply caught me that, on the broad spectrum of the story, the balance of confident, competent, respected, and powerful characters seems skewed in one direction, and it feels  noticeable and perhaps even biased. 

I'm not suggesting the male characters don't get their moments, or that female characters are always in the spotlight. Merely that things could, maybe, be a little more balanced. 

 

3 hours ago, Labjax.2465 said:

You're really reaching to make the narrative work for some of those characters. Like you're really going to act like Gorrik is subservient to Taimi or that he is effeminate (because he shows emotions sometimes???). He is incredibly valued and important character in the story, despite joining forces with you much later than Taimi did and mostly offering knowledge, while Taimi has proven herself both in intense danger situations and out, with the help of her golem.

Or Canach's arc, which has nothing to do with the woman being a superior person and everything to do with the material position he was in that forced his hand. He then proved himself and got free of it eventually, as well as proving himself in a big way in HoT.

And Braham is a mommy's boy??? His mother DIED and always had a detached, distant relationship with him. Despite that, he manages to overcome severe trauma and become someone who can cast himself into fire, not just impulsively to try to help others (which he was already doing) but thoughtfully and with a sense of the gravity of what he's doing.

If anything, the key male characters more often get some of the deeper character arcs in this game, while the key females are more written as people who go through a period of being overly emotional and irrational, and then eventually see reason (something that happens with both Taimi and Joon, and arguably Caithe to an extent, too... heck, even Aurene is arguably portrayed that way at times).

You make some good points, and I admit that my summary was crass (intentionally, but sill.) I would say that my issues with these characters specifically isn't that they show emotions or vulnerabilities, but that they are usually portrayed as being specifically, less competent.

Braham does mean well, but his story usually focuses more on how he fails (repeatedly) rather than how he succeeds. Hell, even his big moment in becoming Primordus' champion feels almost as much like a failure as it does a success, as he becomes a mindless golem for the rest of the icebrood saga.

I like Gorrik, I didn't mention that but I do. He's fun, plucky, and biased towards action. However, in EoD when Gorrik decides that he's tired of being pushed around and manipulated, his change in attitude and desire to play a more proactive role in his life is played for laughs, relegating him once again to mostly being comic relief. 

 

Meanwhile, who actually saves the world in this story and commands the big events? Joon, Taimi, Kas, Jory, Kunavang, Mai Trin. I guess Rama helped, though...

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So, sort of a reverse Bechdel Test?  jk

Having played games for literally DECADES where all the strong, intelligent characters were male and the women were decorative at best and exploited at worst, I welcome all the strong female characters in GW2.  I don't think it's overbalanced, though; I think it's balanced, which I take is the OP's main talking point.  There are both male and female characters that are strong and ones that aren't.  Ditto for stupid, smart, whiny, brave, and all the other personal characteristics one could throw out there.

And I do think this is a good topic of discussion.  Maybe we're so accustomed to seeing certain gaming tropes that we're surprised when things are different.  (Who else remembers the Metroid/Samus Aran brouhaha of over 30 years ago?  That was amazing!)

Edited by Witch of Doom.5739
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7 hours ago, Dawdler.8521 said:

Look at the bright side. At least no redheads has been sacrificed on the Altar Of Diversity. 

And Logan and Rytlock isnt a couple.... Yet.

LOL!

2 hours ago, LuckyThirteen.4576 said:

The point of the post was to start a discussion, not necessarily to win one. My intention isn't to boil things down; there are far bigger issues with the plot than the apparent gender imbalance of course. It simply caught me that, on the broad spectrum of the story, the balance of confident, competent, respected, and powerful characters seems skewed in one direction, and it feels  noticeable and perhaps even biased. 

I'm not suggesting the male characters don't get their moments, or that female characters are always in the spotlight. Merely that things could, maybe, be a little more balanced. 

On one hand, it is obvious what views Arenanet have and how it affects the game and story.

On the other hand, personally, it doesn't matter to me, whether there are gender imbalance in the story. I hate for the story to be injected with political views, but whether it is male or female dominated or balanced has no impact overall. Well, as long as the story is well written.

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OP, you're far from alone in feeling the way you do. Check out Don’t turn Rama into another Rytlock - Page 4 - Lore - Guild Wars 2 Forums; in particular I threw up a wall of text in there that echoes a lot of what you said.

I think the most important thing is to reiterate that many of us are FINE with female characters in leadership positions. Our only problem is when it looks like ideology trumps narrative freedom.

I actually think that how ANet handled Mai Trin is very instructive, in terms of what I personally believe is the superior narrative approach.

Aside from being extremely rushed, I like how the story treated Mai. There was no general attempt to excuse what she's done in the past. Sure, she says sorry about Ashford, but she's not made out to be an angel either. During that "apology" she's hung over, gets his name wrong, and isn't that specifically torn up about it. Jory remains very salty and unforgiving pretty much the whole way through, which I appreciated. But Jory also strives to be a practical person, and she states very clearly that we do have a reason to trust that our working relationship with Mai will hold up at least temporarily.

Nobody was making excuses for Mai, not even herself. That's really the magic of her arc. The only redeeming done for Mai, was done by Mai herself. She told us she wanted to be different than the pirate captain we once knew, understood that us Tyrians weren't really going to buy it, and just soldiered along trying to do the right thing right up until the end. That's it. No posturing on the part of other characters, no illogical impulse to salvage her standing. She was just a character who did villainous things in the past, had a pretty life-changing phase, and came out on the other side willing to pursue a completely different (and better) way of life. We happen to be characters that witnessed and were hurt by her villainous past, and the story doesn't tell us we're wrong to look askance at her change of heart.

I really don't feel like putting up yet another wall of text about Joon, so I'll just say that I think she deserved at least as much narrative strength as Mai Trin, but what we got fell short of that. Joon never had to account for her incredibly vast failures of character in any form.

 

 

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Sounds like reaching to me. Or at the very least a top-dog insecurity, since a lot of the male characters are still great, and arguably characters like Rytlock, Canach, and now Rama are consistently some of the most popular characters with players. They don't have to be in charge to be important,  interesting, or well-written. Logan may be subordinate to Jenna, but he's still a more interesting character who sees more screen time and goes through more character development than she does. She may be higher rank, but he's more relevant. Same with Rama and Min, same with Rytlock and Crecia. Heck even with taimi being the big-brain through so much of EoD's storyline, Gorrik's character development is miles more interesting. 

Edited by Lanz.7312
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How is Canach subordinate to Sayida? It seemed obvious to me that they were friends and partners by the time we see them in EoD. She complained about him taking over the ship for his club, but she was the captain, she could have just said no or kicked him off if she really cared and was the one with more power. Instead she let him do it, either because she just really enjoys his company or because he's actually the one with more power in that relationship. He is extremely charismatic and good at getting his way.

Anise not being more capable than Canach would have been extremely strange, given their respective ages and positions. Also, he was serving time for terrorism and was given to Anise as a way to work off his punishment. There would have been a power imbalance no matter who he was working for at that point.

I also very much disagree with your characterization of Gorrik. He and Taimi are partners when it comes to the high level magic/science, right from the get go. We never would have defeated the scarab plague without his expertise, and he and Blish were instrumental in trapping Kralkatorrik. In EoD he really came into his own as a member of Dragon's Watch. He decided to take a more proactive role in the group and actually accomplishes that, while still performing on the spot tech support. And while it was played for laughs occasionally, only the player was laughing at him. The other characters, his colleagues, respect and appreciate him. He's not just Taimi's friend anymore, he's a member of the guild. He even gets invited to the engagement party and he's joining the detective agency!

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I think ins't intentional, the problem is once they invest in "drama", the plot tend to become a female centered world.

Because this is whats happen into Mexican Soap TV drama. The females is ones cares about everyone, and competent males are ambitious or psychopats. The "good males", are too naive/imbecile and/or infantile.

The hilarious is if the intention with all that female leadership is to create something "out of box", is end up becoming more of the same.

With lots of drama to add "deep" to characters, the plots gravitate around some broken family narrative.

And I'm sorry my North American friends, but outside of America the enternaiment produced today is already seen as a snow-flake world, with the notable exception of kobra kai.

 

 

Edited by ugrakarma.9416
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Just to add my 2 cents. 

Pretty sure what we have here can be considered "culture schock". 

Especially with players coming from other mmos like wow. 

In WoW, powerfull woman are known for 2 things: Being overly sexualized and crazy. 

Here in GW2, woman can be powerful without the need to give them "big booba", bikini armor and the personality of a drug addict. 

 

I mean, we had complains about Anet being a bit more left leaning then the average game company. (And that's debatable) 

But after the "death of wow", it increased drastically. I wonder why. 

 

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21 hours ago, Aodlop.1907 said:

The part of EOD where we had to chase after a literal "bigot" was oh, so subtle. Not to mention the dialogue between Rama & the commander on that skiff...

Thank God it didn't last too long. It was really immersion breaking.

What exactly is " immersion breaking." on the skiff? Was it because he make 1 joke about going into tunnel of love?

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In a world where women are at an obvious disadvantage compared to men, it's normal that games who want to position themselves as progressive will try to counterbalance and include strong female characters where they can; I wouldn't say there are more female than male characters in a strong leadership or influential position in GW2 though, but even if there were, it's just a game. Women have to face this in real life. 

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55 minutes ago, TheLadyOfTheRings.9148 said:

In a world where women are at an obvious disadvantage compared to men, it's normal that games who want to position themselves as progressive will try to counterbalance and include strong female characters where they can; I wouldn't say there are more female than male characters in a strong leadership or influential position in GW2 though, but even if there were, it's just a game. Women have to face this in real life. 

Which is a very simplistic way to look at it because there are "obvious disadvantages" the other way around too (like say 4 times higher suicide rates among men than women) and said progressives rarely make "strong women" stand on their own like was done in the past in movies/comics/etc they just make women with male attributes that has to be validated by intentionally feminized men as being awesome.

Again I dont really see anything bad with GW2 but sometimes theres just a few... awkward... things. Even the very first mission in cantha has a "sorry did you just assume my..." moment where as a Norn you are written to appear offended by the fisherman asking if all Norns are as tall and big as you. Well duh. The characters response doesnt make sense. Its like... Yes? Taller than humans, yes the entire race. We're not the *exact* same height, but why the kitten would I even answer that when the dude never met a Norn before. It literally felt like I was being rude for no reason.

Anyway this thread isnt going to end well (like all the others on the subject, its not really for GW2 forums) so I'll just step outside, lol.

Edited by Dawdler.8521
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1 hour ago, The Greyhawk.9107 said:

Will be interesting to see if this thread is allowed to stay up, even in its current state of more amiable discussion.  I'm hoping it will, I'd like to throw in my two cents but I just don't have the time at the moment.

I think this one stays up because Op atleast put some effort into the discussion. 

Not like all the others 100 posts that's basically were:

Woman = bad

LGBT =bad

Fighting literal nazies= Against free speech. 

Game not a Male power fantasy = why is the game so political?!? 

Etc. 

 

I don't agree with Op but a good structured post should be OK to stay. 

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