Tropes vs the Recently Released

movie-focused, but also related i feel...

[[Content warning for movies scenes containing domestic abuse]]

Pop culture detective continues to produce good stuff!

pyxistyx wrote:

Pop culture detective continues to produce good stuff!

Someone I'm now pretty comfortable with calling a "former friend" posted a screed last night about a video about how "B&tB was rape culture," and how this just showed how divided we were and blah blah blah all the standard signs of Alt-Righters projecting their self-loathing outward into whiny misanthropy because they can't handle pretty basic cultural/literary criticism--pretty obviously it was this. I appreciate having the mystery of what set him off solved.

Sorry, had to vent a little. It is a quality video.

Whoa there, what's this? The stars are aligned and the tropes thread has risen from it's sleeping depths to talk about The Sinking City!

First though, a quick reminder of one of the ground rules...

-If someone shares their emotional reaction to content in a game, this is not a place to argue with them about whether or not the content is actually problematic.

Right then. So. The Sinking City. First off...I really like this game. It's janky as all hell, oftentimes broken and none of it's components really work all THAT well, buuuut it's still got SOMETHING that really clicks with me. Might just be the "Pathalogic" effect where everything is just weird enough that it all feels like some terrible Yog-Sothian fever dream (there are streets that end in buildings that are fused to the buildings next to them, wandering NPCs wearing cultist robes and buckets full of body parts rubbing shoulders with dazed businessmen, and the copy-pasted buildings give the whole city a nightmarish "ever changing labyrinth" feel to it.

*Oh and there ARE KKK in the game but you have to shoot them. So that's good.

ANYWAY. that's not what I'm having a problem with.

I'm going to skip the racism stuff since I'm not best suited to talk about it, but know that it tries to have a meaningful look at racism and...kinda falls into the usual trap of making the target of the racism (the Deep One hybrid "Innsmouthers") ACTUALLY up to no good and mostly (but not always) untrustworthy. Oh and there is a man who is half monkey because his dad slept with an actual Ape in Africa. (taken from one of Ol' Howard's most racist of stories).

No, the real problem I want to talk about is the fact that they ALSO seem to have tried to authentically include Lovecraft's attitutes towards women. Namely, there are no women in this game who aren't either (a) A victim, (b) a literal or figurative monster or (c) both.

I don't have a tracker of how long i've played so far but I reckon i'm probably closing in on half way through the "third act" of the story and the women NPCs in the game can basically be summed up as follows (spoilered for....well, spoilers). So disclaimer I guess that maybe the game pulls some amazing twist in the last stretch. Stranger things have happened.

ok, going from memory... (note: this spoils a few major plot points).
To briefly sum up: The most sophisticated complex women character in the game i can mention without major quest spoilers is a woman who had her lips sewn shut for gossiping. When you solve her problem, she decides to keep the stitches rather than go back to a successful singing career because she 'deserved it').

Spoiler:

- What looked like it was going to be the main "co-lead" of the game, an archaeologist woman who you spend all of the first act trying to rescue from (a) a subterranean dig-site then (b) one batch of kidnappers then (c) ANOTHER, different batch of kidnappers. You FINALLY catch up to her at the end of the act and get maybe three lines of dialogue with her before cut scenes happen and you wake up to find her in the morgue at the start of the next set of quests. so...THAT HAPPENED I GUESS.

- One quest giver (librarian) who WAS once a famous singer but when we meet her she has had her lips sown shut for gossiping too much. When you solve her problem (haunted by an evil witch) she keeps the stitches because she thinks she still deserves the punishment.

- One brainwashed cultist for the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Mothers a deep-one hybrid off-screen. Thought they might have been setting her up as the main villain of the peace but if so, she hasn't returned to the story beyond one short main quest, the she literally vanishes.

- Elderly woman who is traumatised from the loss of her son through supernatural means and escapes with an asylum to set him free. You can either let her resurrect the son into his old (very dead) body or you can return the mirror to the aforementioned ape man (the dead boy's brother). If you do the latter, he intends to resurrect the kid also, but into a "proper" body. Oh and you have to kill the old woman in this outcome.

- An ancient Mayan priestess/vampire. Literal monster AND victim. As she was summoned to do the bidding of a couple of men. Right now SHE's the most compelling woman character in the game.

- The wife of a man who is forced to try to frame you for murder. She is kidnapped and being used as ransom. The wife has a son who is also kidnapped but HE manages to kill an attacker in the attempt. And also when you catch up to them, you can have a lengthy dialogue with the son, and a single throw-away line with the mother. Her most fleshed out plot development she had one of her fingers delivered in an envelope to the husband.

AAAANYWAY, I shall add an addendum later once i'm finished with the game, but so far at least, that's pretty much it. There are non-interactive women wandering the streets, and a couple of "receptionist" npcs in some of the key buildings. But that's pretty much it for women in the Sinking City.

P.S. It kinda has a sign on the hospital that says...I think it's "Every life matters" that made me raise an eyebrow because not sure if a direct "All lives matter" reference or not. Entirely possible i'm reading too much into that, but the game DOES have a Trump analogue in one of the mayoral candidates (who wants to build a wall around the city and throw out all the Innsmouthers to make the city "great again") so i wouldn't put it past the developers to throw in a problematic meme or two.

Waypoint Radio had a pretty good discussion of the race issues in this, if anyone is curious (I think it is one of their most recent pods, maybe episode 244 - but they have earlier episode son Lovecraft in general and how Lovecraft inspired or referential content demands subversion of the source material.) Thanks for laying all of this out there, this is a side to the conversation around this game that I haven't seen articulated yet. Austin, Danielle, and Rob have all put in some time, but are only part way through and neither of them really touched on the misogyny stuff (they go pretty deep on the racism, representation, and coding side of things.)

As far as the PS goes, considering it is a hospital, I wonder if that's meant to be some sort of anti-choice sign?

oh, i didn't even consider that possibility. Blarg.

I have now finished the game and, nah...doesn't get any better. I met one more woman with some dialogue and she literally burns herself alive a few minutes later.

The problem is actually acutely highlighted as you end the game, since you get a parade of "here are the people who you affected in different ways throughout the story" events as you run through the epilogue, and of the dozen or so examples given, only ONE involves a female character - the professor who you spend half the game trying to rescue, have a three minute conversation with and then...

Spoiler:

...is killed off-screen because despite being one of the "chosen ones" your main character is an EVEN MORE chosen one, I guess ).

For what it's worth, a search for "Every Life Matters" mostly turns up anti-suicide campaigns.

TBH, chances are that was probably entirely coincidental and not related to any real world political doings anyway and just something i've chalked up to me being over-sensitive of sneaky hidden alt-right/gamergate bullsh*t in games.

If anything the most glaringly political thing there was the aforementioned Trump caricature, which doesn't exactly show "the right" in anything resembling a favourable light (he asks you to kill is mother for him so he can claim her inheritance to fund his campaign).

That, and your only real interaction with the Klansmen is to shoot them in the face repeatedly.

Waypoint came away from the game thinking that they failed to smartly/effectively push back against some of Lovecraft's baked-in racism, but that their efforts and the things they did do are much preferred over a company that doesn't even try to engage with this stuff. They seemed to think the company had its heart in the right place but didn't succeed on a lot of fronts.

Please keep talking about this, good and bad takes. I've been on the fence. (Given limited time, I'm hyper picky, so now I'm leaning away.)

Pyxi, in your original post on the subject, I think you might have inadvertently left something outside the spoiler tags you didn't mean to?