Friday, February 04, 2011

Feminism in Dark•Heritage

Now, I said in my last post that I wanted specifically to include slavery, because it drove home the dark, gritty, "life is cheap" aspect of Dark•Heritage, and as a tool to do so, is much more useful than the fact that "dark" is in the setting's title. I also said that given the incredibly widespread ubiquitousness of the practice of slavery in most cultures that we know of throughout earth's history, that I felt that a strong aversion to slavery on principle felt like a historical anachronism; it was the projection of modern day culture, society and values onto a fantasy setting. So, given that, you'd think I'd have a similar approach to gender roles in the setting. But... I don't. Not at all. And here's why.

First, the historical anachronism part. That's a misnomer. This isn't historical fiction. My setting is a fantasy setting, and only very loosely resembles any particular time, culture or society in our world. In fact, probably more loosely than most fantasies, honestly, since I've deliberately made Dark•Heritage as a goulash of all kinds of disparate things that have in common only the fact that they're "things that I like." Is it the Golden Age of the Spanish Main piracy? The Old West? The heyday of the Crown of Aragon? The Silk Road? Lovecraft's Dreamlands? The waning period of the Roman Empire? Arabian Nights? The Hyborian Age? Lankhmar? The X-files? Scarface? Robert Ludlum? Yes, it's all of those things, but it's also none of those things. Those all have elements that I like, and either consciously or subconsciously I've borrowed something from each of them and thrown it in the pot.

Secondly, the way I've integrated slavery into the setting is similar to how it was done in some historical periods, but notably it is not similar enough to any real world issues or current events that I'm likely to cross with my players that it will hit any nerves. Having women restricted to certain gender roles, on the other hand, is a bit of a hot button for a lot of people even today, and you can't really do anything with that without calling to mind echoes of social and political discussions ongoing in our society today. In many ways, I think fantasy is a great venue for highlighting social issues in a "safe", i.e. allegorical or disguised format, but quite frankly, I'm not interested in doing that. I'm interested in having fun with my friends, not bogging the game down in social issues. Is it a bit handwavey to assume that my supposedly dark, gritty setting has equal rights for women as a basic assumption? Yeah, maybe. Then again, in a setting where nobody's rights are guaranteed, then you have, to some extent, whatever rights you can make for yourself, and that seems to be a concept that's not exactly a respecter of persons--in other words, a woman could be just as capable as a man of sitting up and saying, "you'll give me respect, or I'll carve respect out of your hide."

And thirdly--I'm not really a Joss Whedon fan. I never understood exactly why Firefly was so popular; I couldn't get into it. I liked Buffy well enough, but I didn't really watch much of it either. I haven't seen anything of his other shows. The dude wrote the script for Alien: Ressurection fer cryin' out loud (he claims that his script was bowdlerized and bastardized beyond recognition, but I'm not buying it. His fingerprints are all over it.) However, one thing that I do get about Joss Whedon--one point in common between us, at least--I like the idea of cute girls who are supremely capable at kicking butt and taking names. Many of my most memorable villains have been both scary beyond belief, but also hawt beyond belief. Given this affectation, an environment that allows these kinds of gals to flourish is essential.

And just for that, I've attached an image of Psylocke (from the X-men) since she's a great example of one such hot ninja babe. Random, I know.

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