the redeemer

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.

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Dorian – The Redeemer

 

BrKum9sCIAA_Os4He wears the labels of “pariah” and “outcast” proudly, knowing that views of the Imperium are unlikely to change until and unless someone of his ability stands up to make a difference.

Dorian is a Tevinter mage who, unlike every other Tevinter mage we’ve met thus far, disagrees with what the Imperium is doing. He comes from a wealthy and influential family, and is a very powerful mage. He would be the “perfect mage” (and, subsequently, the perfect son) if not for a few key ‘flaws’. For one, he opposing everything the imperium stands for. He thinks the imperium is corrupt and wrong in what they do. Also, he’s gay. And he’s not ashamed of either of these things. He’s become a sort of pariah among the upper families of Tevinter.

His place in the plot is interesting. So far, it is clear that Dorian once studied under Alexius, a corrupt Tevinter magister and a major member of the Venatori. Not much is known about the Venatori. We know that they’re activities cause the Inquisition to have reason to intervene, and we know that at some point the Inquisitor can storm a keep run by the Venatori, and the faction eventually takes over Redcliffe Castle. This, again, is extremely interesting as it is said that Ferelden will not fall as long as Redcliffe stands. This brings question to the state of Ferelden and the exact level of involvement from Tevinter.

Because of the state of Tevinter (and the world) Dorian is generally a bit jaded. He’s sarcastic, witty, and very intelligent. Behind this, he’s a bit of an idealist. As in, he’ll still be disappointed when bad people do that bad things he expected them to do. He also dabbles in some Tevinter specific magic that most mages from other places might consider ‘distasteful’. Namely, spells involving spirits and the dead.

Because of his general personality, he and Vivienne come into conflict quite a bit. They’ll tear into each other, but, according to David Gaider, they’re the Statler and Waldorf of Thedas. Maker help us. His interactions with Iron Bull are also noteworthy, as Tevinter has been at war with the Qunari for centuries, and neither of these character are typical of their homeland. I image there will be others who don’t appreciate his quips, and those that really do (namely, Varric. Possibly, Sera). And I image do his his spirit/dead things related magic he’ll have at least something interesting going on with Cole.

dorian

So far, I quite like Dorian. And I quite like that fact that he’s definitely a romance option for a male Inquisitor. His personality type, right off the bat, is quite similar to Zevran. And I love Zevran. So I’m very excited to get to know him and the story surrounding him. What do you think of Dorian so far? Disappointed/excited he’s gay? Ready for all the dashing wit? Let me know in the comments below!