Monday, January 17, 2011

Now that’s what I’m talking about: the women of Cataclysm (Alliance edition)

Back before the big expansion hit, a lot of us in the blogosphere bemoaned the lack of good examples of womanly virtue portrayed in this, our favorite game.  Men were portrayed as beefy he-men, the women were portrayed as barbie dolls. To this day, that hasn’t changed much.

We also were annoyed that women were typically portrayed as victims at worse, or at best, peripheral to the manly men that apparently rule the roost (I won’t judge). It’s telling that most powerful women in the game thus far were either villains, or emotional land mines waiting to explode. I mean, look at the two strongest woman characters in the last expansion – Jaina Proudmoore, who was a weepy mess throughout most of the expansion, and Sylvanas, who was driven at best by hatred, and actually said she didn’t know what was to become of her without Arthas to hate!  Talk about codependent. L-a-a-a-a-ame!

There was a lot of furor over this in Blogland. Even Blizzard engaged in the debate, although with what was apparently a round of ridicule on the subject – nice job, guys – or, at least, in public.  But let’s say it was on a lot of peoples’ minds. Because, you know, it matters how you portray gender roles in some peoples’ minds (and I would not be one to disagree with that).

In this expansion, Blizzard may be starting to turn things around. Here are three Very Good Things on that front. I warn you, however – here there be spoilers! I will try to be vague, but I cannot entirely do so without obscuring what makes these gals so awesome. Fairly warned be ye, say I.

Stormcaller Mylra Stormcaller Mylra

In Deepholm, we get a taste of the spirited womenfolk of the Highlands, the Wildhammer Women. And boy, is it an eye-opener. Mylra doesn’t just hand out quests, she also rolls up her sleeves and gets down among ‘em, Charlie. Most emblematic is the quest Some Spraining to do, in which she uses some … extreme … methodology to extract information from an ogre.  Namely, using her gryphon to dangle her subject up high. Well, here, have a look.

:: Stormcaller Mylra hauls Mor'norokk over one of the propellers with the gryphon, Stormbeak. ::

Stormcaller Mylra: All right, sunshine. Time to spill your guts before I spill 'em for ya!

Mor'norokk: Wait! You can't do this! You people must have a code of honor or something!

Stormcaller Mylra: I'm a daughter of the Wildhammer Clan and a shaman of the Earthen Ring. My code compels me to honor my ancestors and the elements. Doesn't say a damn thing about dog-ugly ogres.

Mor'norokk: Stop it, you tiny, angry woman! I'll tell you everything! What do you want to know?

Stormcaller Mylra: You can start by telling us where the World Pillar fragment is. My gryphon's starting to look a bit tired hauling you around.

Mor'norokk: It was delivered to the forgemaster at Deathwing's Fall. I swear... that's all I know! Happy now? Pull me up, you vicious little dwarf!

Stormcaller Mylra: You were never in any danger, sweetheart. My friends down below would've caught you. You're worth too much to us alive!

:: Several elementals appears around the propeller. ::

Mor'norokk: What? What have you done? No! Do you have idea what the Twilight Council will do to me when they find out I've talked! I would sooner die!

:: Mor'norokk kills the elementals and suicides into the propeller. ::

Stormcaller Mylra: Interesting. I'd never heard of the Twilight Council until now.

Incidentally, “angry little woman” has entered my list of best lines in a video game EVAR.

She has several uncredited appearances throughout the zone, as well, on the front lines of battles against angry earth mothers as well as Twilight cultists. A high-spirited entry into the game, for certain!

As said, she doesn’t just hand out quests, ala Leesa’oh. She’s in there, she’s swinging that hammer, and bringing down the thunder and lightning. She isn’t trying to impress some guy, or playing second fiddle to anyone. She’s her own woman, a highly accomplished member of the Earthen Ring, and comfortable making her own decisions on the spot. You could do a lot worse than this.

fanny_thundermar Fanny Thundermar

(Yes, she’s toting an iron skillet. Do not mock the skillet. You will regret that decision almost immediately. Remember the lession of Samwise Gamgee.)

I really hesitate to go too far into this, but, really, Fanny is a great example of turning something on its ear. In this case, the Princess, to be married, is kidnapped, and must be rescued by all the manly men! Surely, this will end in tears.

Except, not so much.

Fanny, you see, is not one to take being kidnapped lightly, and the ONLY thing that kept her from pounding every ogre head in sight into the ground was the rescuer. In essence, we get to rescue the ogres from HER.

Had she not agreed to a marriage to unite the clans of the Highlands, I think I would have bent my knee right there. That was a supremely marvelous moment in questing history, let me tell you.

She also appears earlier on in the Twilight Highlands progression, as well, handing out quests and generally organizing the relief efforts of the entire Thundermar clan after the cataclysm hit. No pop-up heroine of convenience, she has a history here (Well done on that, zone designers).

Most memorable line, however, has to be regarding her groom-to-be:

Fine, fine, I'll marry Keegan Firebeard. But only 'cuz he's strong and handsome, with a jaw that can cut gravel and an arse like an anvil. Not for any political reasons.

So I guess she had her eye on him anyway. Oi, me ‘eart’s a-breakin’!

P.S.: And where might we go to get those wonderful tattoos?

lorna_crowley Lorna Crowley

I’ve been saving the best for last. To get familiar with the guild <Eff the Ineffable>, I rolled up a worgen named Effington – adventures thereof, will have to wait for another post – so I could hang out with them.

At any rate, he immediately gained respect for her when she introduced herself to him by blowing the bejeebus out of a werewolf about to nom his head (He did get nicked, but I’m sure it’ll get better. Wat.)

Lorna has a long and illustrious career from then on out, blowing the hell out of everything while wearing a corset and a rose in her hair. I’m pretty sure there’s a Guns ‘n’ Roses reference there, somewhere, incidentally.

The kicker is that she was also a pain in the Forsaken’s side prior to the events of either invasion, as part of the Gilneas Liberation Front, a rogue force that aided the Alliance during the Third War. I haven’t experienced those quest lines, so I can’t judge, but from where I’m sitting, she just plain kicks ass. Whether (mostly) rescuing wayward rogues from angry werewolves, leading a rogue resistance movement against the Forsaken, organizing the front lines against the Forsaken invasion, or leading an airborne assault against a Horde battle-blimp, this woman is at large and in charge.

And damned fashionable while doing it.

(By the way, does anyone know who did the above illustration of her?  I searched the signature but came up blank. Whoever you are: YOU ROCK.  This picture is flat-out gorgeous. It really captures the essence of Lorna the civilian. Please send link and I’ll update the image to link to your site.)

And Many More

There are many others, as well. Therazane has been touted by others. I personally am a fan of Rheastraza, who epitomizes the ideals of the Red Dragonflight. I’m sure there are more that I have forgotten, as well as more that I have yet to meet, in the revised world. I’m looking forward to meeting them all, to seeing if Blizzard has taken this issue seriously enough to infuse the whole game with a more idealistic worldview.

Hey, it’s possible that Jaina will get a chance to restore her own reputation before the expansion is done. That would be a good thing. She’s too important a figure in the game to be retired in disgrace.