Month: July 2014

Dragon Age: Meet the Advisors – Josephine

10339347_10152526638184367_305521784672224984_o_thumb

The eldest daughter of a noble Antivan family, Josephine is a rising star among diplomats, skilled at forging alliances with tact, grace, and carefully cultivated favors.

Of all the advisers in Dragon Age: Inquisition, Jospehine (AKA Scribbles) is the only without a solid history in the lore. Having spent some time as an ambassador in the courts of Thedas, she is very familiar with politics in and out of Orlais. She is the Inquisitions administrator and ambassador, working through papers and politics to get (and keep) the backing of influential figures required to secure the power of the Inquisition. She is an optimistic sort, and fully believes that the Inquisitor is the best hope to end the chaos across Thedas.

She brings about a new sort of character to the DA universe. She is not a fighter. As an Antivan noblewoman, likely nearly as familiar with the Crows as she is with the courts, she’s probably not helpless. But she is most useful staying at the keep and doing paperwork and meeting with nobles and all that stuff most people would consider boring. She is a true diplomat. Most of the prominent characters in the DA universe are fighters, and many of the diplomat types seem untrustworthy (i.e. Anora). With the Inquisition, however, Josephine isn’t trying to gain any sort of power for herself. She legitimately believes in what the Inquisition is trying to do. That will make for a nice dynamic.

Josephine is an old acquaintance of Leliana’s, and they work very well together. And, while she and Cullen respect each other, their philosophies often clash. As for the Inquisitor, Josephine is available as a romance for an Inquisitor of any race or gender.

Overall, I’m excited to see what comes out of this kind of character. While she’s not my first choice for a romance, she does sound like a great friend to have.

Dragon Age: Inquisition will be released on October 7, 2014 for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

Dragon Age: Meet the Advisers – Leliana

leliana610

As always, Leliana will be voice by the lovely Corinne Kempa.

She is the shadow behind the Sunburst Throne—the one who watches and waits, who strikes when her mark is most vulnerable and least suspecting.

We first met Leliana in Lothering in Dragon Age: Origins. Orlesian Bard and former Lay Sister of the Chantry, she was on a mission to help The Warden complete his or her mission to end the blight. She can be romanced by either a male or female Warden, but only actively pursued a female Warden. Because of her possible involvement with the Warden, and because of slight changes in her disposition since the fifth blight, Leliana will not be romanceable for any Inquisitor.

As a major charatcer in the Dragon Age franchise, Leliana has had a lot to do with most of the major installments of the series. She notably appeared in Dragon Age II, Asunder, and The Masked Empire. For her involvement in each installment, read on.

Dragon Age 2

download (12)In DA2, Leliana is met by Hawke and Sebastian Vael in the Kirkwall Chantry. As the left hand of the Divine, she tells us that the woman is contemplating a new Exalted March. Regardless of the move the Divine makes, Grand Cleric Elthina is not safe in Kirkwall, and has been invited to seek refuge in The Grade Cathedral in Val Royeaux. She is seen again in Orlais during the Mark of the Assassin DLC.

In the Epilogue, as Cassandra leaves the Hawke estate, Leliana tells her that she has failed to locate the Warden-Commander of Amaranthine. As Cassandra has also not located Hawke, and thus they don’t have the support they were hoping for in this fledgling Inquisition, they consider whether to continue with their plans.

The Epilogue of DA2 takes place in 9.40 Dragon, and occurs prior to the events of Asunder and The Masked Empire (which happen within the same time frame).

The Masked Empire

Leliana meets with Empress Celene I at the University of Orlais to discuss the tensions between mages and templars. The Empress tells the Divine to make a statement at a ball thrown in her honor so that she can keep the nobles of the court from interfering. In return, the Divine asked that Celene end the elven revolt in Halamshiral. Leliana disagrees with the repressive tactics continually used against the elves, but knows that those in power must show strength to avoid chaos in this delicate time.

Asunder

At the ball thrown in the Divine’s honor, Leliana meets with Knight-Captain Evangeline and discusses the current unrest within the White Spire. She is called out to meet a friend from Ferelden (presumably Wynne) and ends up missing the attempt on the Divine’s life from an extremest in the Libertarian faction. She is seen again at the Divine’s side when Rhys, Adrian, Wynne, and Pharamond are granted an audience with the Divine to discuss what happened at Adamant Fortress. She keeps Lord Seeker Lambert from attacking Rhys.

When Lord Seeker Lambert prevents the vote calling for the independence of mages from the templars, all present (save for Evangeline and Wynne) are captured and taken into the dungeons. Leliana appears to help them escape, by order of the Divine. She meets Wynne, Shale, Evangeline, and Cole under the tower and takes Cole to free the mages. Like Rhys and Wynne, Leliana appears to have no trouble seeing Cole. Whether this was Cole gaining more control often his particular condition or something to do with Leliana remains unclear. She sends Cole to kill the three templars guarding the cells. After this, the two part ways as Cole half carries and injured Rhys and Leliana leads the able-bodied mages out of the tower.

Upon seeing Leliana, Lord Seeker Lambert realizes the Divine’s involvement in this ‘treason’ against the templars and decides to nullify the Nevarran Accord, thus making the Templar and Seeker order independent from Chantry law.

Leliana sings at Wynne’s funeral, and is last seen with Shale, Evangeline, and many former circle mages (now apostates) at the Adamant Fortress.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

In Inquisition, we see a Leliana who is hardened from the chaos of the world and the weight of her responsibility as a high ranking member (and one of the original founders) of the Inquisition. She is in charge of espionage and assassination for the Inquisition, and her many old friends may prove to be a big help to the organization. She is not quite the cheerful, optimistic young woman we remember. However, if you get to know her there is a chance she may let her guard down just a bit. But she is fully willing to put aside her own values for the sake of the Inquisition. She also understands that the organization cannot be divided, and this is how she tends to express her relationships with other members. She respect both Cullen and Cassandra:

It’s a little like Mom and Dad quarrelling behind closed doors, but presenting a united front to the kids.

And was responsible for bring Josephine onto the team. Her exact relationship with other members is yet to be seen, though assuming she remembers Cole she may be one of the seemingly few who accepts him without much question. Based on her history, it is also reasonable to assume she’s appreciate Vivienne’s fashion sense, Sera’s affiliation with the Friends of the Red Jenny, and Blackwall’s affiliations with the Grey Wardens.

All in all, I am very excited to see Leliana once again in the coming installment into the Dragon Age series. I hope to see romance-specific content for Leliana, as well as continued mentions of all of her ‘old friends’.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is coming out on October 7, 2014 for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

An Argument for the Legitimacy of Fictional Characters as Role Models

Many of us have been there. We’ve circled up for the question game, and the question has been asked: who is your hero? And around they go, the echoed presidents and athletes and artists and freedom fighters. And then they get to you and everyone is staring and you answer, “Batman.”

Youre-kiddingThey laugh like you’re kidding.

You and I both know that Batman is not, strictly speaking, real. For many of the uninitiated to the world of fandoms and comics, the very notion that a fictional character could serve as a role model for anything is ridiculous.

The argument goes something like this:

Me: It’s not a joke. Batman is really my hero.

Person: But he’s not real! You can’t ask him questions, you can’t go to him when you don’t know what to do. You need someone to look up to that you can talk to.

I’d like to direct your attention to the above gif to give you an idea of my reaction. I have seen this argument many times in the dangerous world of real-life. It’s the argument for human interaction, the forefront of ‘everything that is wrong with this generation’. There is no real interaction: it’s all screens and keyboards and everything about it is terrible. But there is one crucial thing that everyone miraculously forgets: those athletes and activists, those presidents and authors:

How many conversations have you had with them?

We go around the circle: Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Oprah, Parental Unit, Hilary Clinton, Audrey Hepburn – no one bats an eye. They smile, they nod, they ooh and they ahh as they learn the sparkling traits of your human functionality and the importance of the things you value. At the mention of someone that is ‘not real’, they laugh, they mark you as ‘the funny one’ or ask you to ‘please take the question seriously’. And when they realize you are, in fact, serious, well:

tumblr_mn4p7ckqcg1sreq5lo1_500

Clearly, the true reason for this trend is not that ‘you can’t really talk to them’ – though many seem to adopt this rationale. The reason for this trend is that many people do not understand the impact a fictional character can have on an individual and, subsequently, do not realize the lasting impact a fictional character can have on the world as a whole. Within these ideas are many more issues, prominently, the troublesome perception of our society that in order to be important, it has to have been important on a national or global scale. And, of course, the value we place on the idea of ‘realness’ – an idea that is, in itself, quite abstract.

tumblr_inline_mvcy8pIKda1qze50nSo, what is real?

According the the dictionary:

actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.

According to philosophy:

It’s more complicated than that.

It is generally considered that fictions are inherently ‘not real’. However, the idea that something ‘not real’ can have an affect on something that is ‘real’ has become increasingly apparent in popular media, appearing in such works as The Hunger Games, Divergent, Supernatural, and Inception.

Consider for a moment a nightmare: While you are there, you can feel it. And even though it may be inconsistent with reality, with everything you know, you accept it as reality because it feels real. When you wake up, you feel scared. And this is as a direct result of the nightmare you experienced. It is something that is not technically real that felt real and created a real affect on you.

This in, in a nutshell, why we love fiction. Although it is not real in a universal sense, it is experienced as real on an individual sense. Which begs the question:

 

Why is the universal real more important than the individual real?

This all comes back to universal effects vs. individual effects – in order to be important, it must be important on a national or global scale. In order to have an impact on the world, you have to be famous, you have to do something big. This is no new phenomenon – we’ve had revered royalty, figureheads, nobles, philosophers – all rock stars of their time. We have have people releasing sex tapes and murdering people all in the name of getting noticed.

Fame does not serve any clear social or psychological need, so we really have no idea why we’re obsessed with it. But, for whatever reason, we are.

tumblr_inline_n5xswr97sB1sqp98s

This strange obsession with fame is a big part of what drives the preference of the universal real over the individual real. With that in mind: when I say Batman is my hero, many people, knowing nothing about him, think I’m kidding because they do not experience Batman as a fact of reality, as having an effect on the course of real life history. It does not occur to them that I might have that experience, as their only individual experience is the one that they have experienced. And we all know that reality to one person can be vastly different than the reality of another person.

tumblr_mevn1yCwzN1r74e8xThe actual point I’m getting at is this: we need to realize that the difference in experience leads to difference in perception, and difference in perception leads to difference in experience. I can’t ever talk to Batman, he can’t answer my questions or console me when I am upset – but neither can Nelson Mandela. And I may not have somebody to talk to, but I may have my own world. The place I go to figure things out, to find wisdom, and find help. The feelings I get from that are very real, and definitely effect me in my day to day life. To treat that as invalid in not okay, because it says that my experience is less important than someone else’s.

Let’s fix it.

Fictional characters make great heroes. Although they aren’t technically real, they are representative of the values of a society or of a real person, and the situations they find themselves in are analogous to real life issues and experiences. We analyze these sorts of works because they say something about us and the world that we live in, and they can reveal things about ourselves that that we can’t know in the moment of the real life situation. If we look past what is big and remember our own individual heroes – our parents, teachers, friends – then we open ourselves up to a whole new idea. It’s not weird or even particularly different – it’s something. It something that someone has decided to hold on to. It’s something that, like any real like hero, can make us go like this:

tumblr_m6g4wlDqqJ1rziwwco1_500

And this:

tumblr_inline_mpeb5b6fA61qz4rgp

And sometimes this:

25kuge9jpg

 

Because this is what these characters make us feel. This is the experience, the very real emotions of life we are forced to cycle through much quicker than is healthy because of the current state of our favorite character, our hero, and the best friend we’re sure we have. Because that’s what makes it real to us – that individual real. And it changes our world, and what we know, and how we experience life. We watch their lives and we we a make connection.

And this – this is very important.

Dragon Age and the People of Color ‘Debate’

The internet (namely, tumblr and twitter) have been abuzz as of late with an oddly large number of people freaking out about the ethnicity of a recently announced character for the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition. Much of the fan art for the character has made him look ‘more white’ than he was intended. This, naturally, caused a sort of uproar wherein the majority of people were 100% confused, spurring such comments as:

Dude. Dorian’s got olive skin, which is the usual southern European/Mediterranean colour, and you can bet your arse that we all identify as white.

…how is Dorian NOT white. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for poc character and I got super excited when I saw vivienne because not only is she black, she HAS features common of african ethnicity and not just a white person colored black…but Dorian’s a pastry white ass guy.

While there is much there to address, if you’re unfamiliar with the Dragon Age franchise, this is the character in question:

dorian

When I first saw Dorian, I thought he was white. And this is not so much his actual appearance, but a deeper issue that this has been revealed in media: I thought Dorian was white because I expected him to be white. He has some color to his skin, he has features not commonly associated with Caucasians or white people (rather, features commonly associated with Indian or Middle Eastern heritage). In fact, he looks like  me. And I am very much not white. Despite all of this, I assumed that it was just the lighting, and that he was another white character. And a lot of other people did too.

This is a problem.

And I shouldn’t have to tell anyone that this is a problem for them to realize that this is, in fact, a really big problem. We live in a society where there are so many white leading men that, unless we get a character that is outwardly black or Eastern Asian, the assumption is that he is white.

Since the above comments were made, several of the writers and developers on the game have come out to address the issue. John Epler, cinematic developer for BioWare, had this to say:

When you take a character that -is – a PoC and you draw them as white, you’re sort of saying ‘don’t care about you unless you’re white’. And that’s a feeling that people will take into their real lives. ‘Unless your’e white, we don’t think you’re worthwhile’.

This speaks to a much deeper issue than let on. As previously stated, the artists that drew Dorian as white did not realize he was not meant to be white. His skin isn’t noticeably dark, therefore he has to be white. In my eyes, the problem is not that people drew Dorian white. The problem is that everyone is so sure that he is white that they’ve become outwardly opposed to any other idea.

The logic, as seen in the first anonymous comment above, is that Dorian has light skin, therefore he is white. And this speaks to an issue that has been hugely prevalent in culture throughout the last century: passing. I talk more about that idea here. Specifically in the poem Passing by Tori Derricotte:

Why presume “passing” is based on what I leave out and not what she fills in?

Too many people need to know, and too many people fill in. In the case of media, it is very important as there are not many not-white main characters. By filling in his race, too many people have made a crucial mistake. And this is something we should talk about, and this is something that we should work on.

We see race in terms of black and white, and that has never been okay.

That being said.

There is another fundamental misunderstanding that has made this conversation a hell of a lot harder to have. People keep talking about white washing, and Dorian being a Person of Color and all that. But what most have failed to talk about is what, exactly, Person of Color means. Where I come from, it means black.When we get letters that talk about ‘people of color’ from colleges and the like, many have the response ‘but I’m not black’ and others, like me, feel the term is dated and weird. In my region, the only people who call all minorities people of color are the white people of the north end. Everyone else associates the term with people who identify with the black cultural identify. This predominantly includes people with ethnic ties to Africa, Jamaica, and South America. So for someone like me, and I’m sure for many other people, to hear that Dorian is a PoC, their first response is ‘but doesn’t look black’. And ‘reasonably’ so, as there have always been differences in social structure and slang across different regions (again, assuming a cultural identity based on appearance is a tricky thing to do). But pulling this entire idea into the area of ‘PoC’, everyone has latched onto this idea of black, and thus the central issue – the fact that he is not white and the shocking issue that so many people ignored his actual appearance as so many people expected him to be white – has gone largely ignored.

This is a problem.

I do not believe that they should have has to make Dorian darker. However, I do wonder why they didn’t. I’m not sure if that’s also a problem, or if it’s just the reasonable exercising of his country of origin (Tevinter) and the fact that the only Tevinters we’ve seen so far in the series have been darker than Fereldens and Kirkwallers, but not as dark as commonly associated with East Indians. And there is also the thought that Western media tends to latch onto the darker people in the Middle East and generally ignores the diversity that exists within skin tone and appearance.

There really is a lot going on here.

What is your take on the issue? And what does PoC mean to you? Let me know in the comments below.

Review: Geography Club

Geophardy-ClubSixteen-year-old Russell is still going on dates with girls while having a secret relationship with football quarterback Kevin, who will do anything to prevent his football teammates from finding out. Min and Terese tell everyone that they’re just really good friends. And then there’s Ike, who can’t figure out who he is or who he wants to be. Finding the truth too hard to hide, they all decide to form the Geography Club, thinking nobody else in their right mind would ever want to join. However, their secrets may soon be discovered and they could have to face the choice of revealing who they really are.

Disclaimer: I’m not reviewing this as an adaptation. I have yet to read the book, so I’ll get back to you if I do. Also, as always, slight spoilers ahead. 

Geography Club attempts to tackle the struggles, internal and external, that come along with coming out of the closet. It has central themes of fear clearly represented in all of the major characters, as well as the difficulties that come with deciding to be yourself within an environment that all but demands you conform. In this endeavor, it was almost successful.

From the start of the movie, I was hooked. I identified and connected with most of the main characters. I am very much a character person, willing to forgive shortcomings of a movie or book or game if it has compelling characters that I can relate to. In that effect, the movie was solid. Each character had their own story; each character was interesting in their own way.

GEOGRAPHY-CLUB-pic-01_3

Russell and Kevin

Russell, the lead character, had an interesting conflict. At that start, he is only mostly sure he’s gay, but the thought still makes him uncomfortable. He’s nervous to explore the possibility, and won’t even consider the idea of telling anyone else about his struggle. His story arch remains quite real, and does a great job at portraying the struggles of coming out. Unlike many films on the topic, his love interest is not on the opposite side of the coin. Kevin, star quarterback of the school, was raised in an environment where it was perfectly acceptable to be gay. Despite this, he is not ready to come out. He has many reasons, the chief being he knows he will be persecuted and he doesn’t want to have to deal with it. Also, it may actually ruin his life. Both of these stories were presented with real conflict and real sympathy. Each character, gay and straight, had their own interesting story, and that made the movie worth watching.

That being said, by the end of the film I was left wanting. Not wanting more at the end, as much as wishing that there would have been more throughout the movie. It did trouble me that Min, originally written as bisexual, was made gay for the purposes of the film. Brian, while his clear abuse at home and school sat comfortable on the sidelines of the story, it was eventually used as a conflict for Russell, and resolved in a ‘no consequence’ faction. The movie had time to take that extra step, to go just a bit deeper into each of the characters and give many more shades to the central conflict of the film.

As for the ending, while I was glad the movie avoided the ‘happily ever after’ scenario, the way the ending was portrayed left me feeling a little sick to my stomach. And by that, I mean I was angry.

The last twenty minutes of the film seems to do everything it can to belittle Kevin’s conflict, almost outright stating that what he believes in and what he loves do not matter. When Russell is ready to come out, he seems to lose all sympathy for Kevin, who still isn’t ready. This is understandable, as dating someone in the closet can truthfully be compared to being back in the closet. However, Russell never even considers the idea of supporting Kevin through his struggle. He tells Kevin that ‘if he really cared about him’ he would come to the GSA meeting after school. The film does nothing to question this statement, drifting over that fact that it is unreasonably selfish. When Russell comes out, he is kicked off the football team. If Kevin comes out, the same thing will happen. Unlike Russell, who has always been very strong academically, all Kevin has is football. Not only does he love it completely, it is essentially his only hope for getting into a good college. Russell asks him to throw it all away, and the film proceeds to make Kevin out to be the bad guy when he can’t do it. There is almost a scene of redemption for the filmmakers, as we see Kevin come to the hall to attend the GSA meeting. But, as much of the football team is standing outside the door to haze the people who enter, Kevin cannot go into the room and leave. This fleeting moment of sympathy for Kevin is all the film offers.

While I enjoyed much of the movie and connected with many of the character, the film missed many key layers of what it’s like to come out, even brushing over the fact that Goodkind High School is a dramatically unsafe place for people who are different. It had character and conflict, but it lacked consequence and a sort of depth it definitely had the potential to achieve. I would recommend it for the general fan of LGBT films and conflicts, and especially for fans of Glee.   

star 5/10