Sunday, August 8, 2010

In the grim future of Starcraft 2, there is only war (and EXTREMELY rigid gender roles).

I'm uncertain how many people know this, but Starcraft was heavily based on the WH40k universe. Zerg are modeled after Tyranids, Protoss are modeled after Eldar and Terrans are modeled after Terrans. Obviously, the storyline was changed drastically, the Space Marines do not count fanatical devotion to the Emperor as their chief weapon. I find it odd then, that one aspect they chose to keep the same in Starcraft 1 was the exclusion of women in power armor. It seems like common sense that gender and sex would have no impact whatsoever on the capability of a power armor-clad space marine. Even the sexist Heinlein, the first sci-fi writer to make fiction with battlesuits couldn't help but imagine that such technology would lead to an egalitarian armed force where position is based on merit.

Sure, Starcraft 1 did toss us Sarah Kerrigan, arguably one of the coolest super soldiers whose name isn't Samus, but one could easily make the case that she existed only to give us an interesting bad guy later on (ala Arthas), or to flesh out Jim Raynor's character. One would assume that Starcraft 2 would learn from the Warhammer 40k universe (or the Duneiverse for that matter) and introduce an all female army, or a few cool empowered female characters, or just some visible characters that aren't heterosexual white males. What we get instead is a Pioneer Woman in a labcoat in cutscenes, Kerrigan appearing as Queen of blades with extremely vague motives, and in game we finally do get women in power armor...only they can only heal...and if you click on them a bunch they are sexualized much like the dryads from WC3. At the end of the day the only positive depiction of women in the battlefield is the Medivac pilot(s), Banshee pilot(s) and Nova, who appears for one mission in a grey zero suit that can cloak.

I think what bothered me the most in the game was the character of Dr. Ariel Hanson though. She sends out a distress call because her people are under attack from aliens, Raynor shows up and saves the day, then she becomes a member of the crew while her people find a place to settle down. When they finally find a world that seems suitable, she asks Raynor to come live with her (in spite of the fact the two haven't known each other for more than a week, and that for all we know they have never even had one discussion about something other than the Zerg or the Protoss), then she kisses him as he establishes himself all the more a stoic man of action, unwavering in his dedication to the cause. A character introduced, then dismissed, solely to establish character traits of a male lead. Instead of women in refrigerators I guess it's women running from Zerg/Protoss in the land of SC2.

The Whole Ariel Hanson story arc felt tacked on, by the by. Not saying there weren't some fun and creative missions there but if I had to pick any part of the campaign where it felt like they wedged it in to make the campaign longer to be better able to justify breaking the game up into three parts, it would definitely be that part of the campaign.

As far as Nova, she shows up, is pretty cool as far as doing the exact same thing Kerrigan did in the first game (minus being abducted by the zerg) and then leaves after one mission. I don't know what else to say, except I wish they made Starcraft: Ghost.

There is also the Kate Lockwell, who is constantly having everything she says dismissed by her Glenn Beck-ish co-anchor. She is a fairly entertaining character, but only appears in optional cut-scenes. This character really doesn't stand out too much, likely because of how little impact the news team has on the story proper.

In game we have the Medic unit the Medivac unit and the Banshee unit, all female gendered. As mentioned previously, the Medic unit makes sexually suggestive comments as the "joke", in a manner similar to the dryad. The Medivac unit just makes some Airplane! jokes, which is fine for those of us over 25. The Banshee unit is actually pretty cool, has a few "banshee" related jokes. At the end of the day, if you are male in the SC universe you can be a: space marine; combat pilot; transport pilot; tank operator; battlesuit operator; HUGE battlesuit operator; starship captain; medic; scientist; Ghost; Spector or TV Anchorperson. If you're a Woman you can be either a: Doctor; Ghost; Banshee Pilot; Merc (there is one I forgot to mention), or an Anchorperson. I suppose also Queen of Blades but that position is occupied.

I'm going to close by saying that in spite of the few women that did appear, Kerrigan is the only one who really impacts the story, and even at that her motives are unclear. In DOW2, although there was only one visible female gendered character, she saved several worlds through actions that put her own life in danger. Given the impact Jayna had in WC3, I'm somewhat surprised that female gendered characters are thrown by the wayside in SC2. Perhaps this will change in future chapters?

PS: Needless to say, LGBT are completely invisible in starcraft 2. There are no conversations between 2 women and there sure as hell are no conversations between 2 women which does not relate to a man.

PPS: I didn't mean invisible as in they have cloaking fields. Although perhaps that is possible.

12 comments:

Ms. Heathen said...

Ariel Hanson's willingness to shack up with a guy she's only just met COULD have been easily explained if they'd bothered to give her a little bit more fleshing out. Extreme stress leads people to make really bad decisions, and she could just be looking for something to cling to as her entire world has been lost. Still, that would take actual character development and exploration of the character's psyche just to set up the woman-as-reward-for-hero trope, but at least it would work better. Just once, I'd like to see the inexplicable love interest relationship fall apart before the game even ends, as the characters realize that they're actually strangers.

But yeah, a power-armored army whose gender makeup reflected the general makeup of the population would be a really nice thing to see. Every futuristic game should embrace the concept of women in forward combat positions. Wait, this is Activision/Blizzard, I'd be better off wishing for a unicorn pony.

Ms. Heathen said...

PPS: I didn't mean invisible as in they have cloaking fields. Although perhaps that is possible.

Stealth queers, we're everywhere and you'll never know it.

Retta said...

You didn't see what happened when you sided with the Protoss, did you? It's arguably more insulting. Look it up on youtube or see if you can go through it again.

The Fremen said...

You know, I did finally look over the missions and do that alternate (if you side with the Protoss) and WOW. Total woman-in-refrigerator moment.

amarillion said...

I did get tired of the girls being only pilots and medics quite fast with SC2. However I consoled myself with the thought of all the red hot loving that was obviously going on between Jim Raynor and his steadfast Second in Command, Matt Horner.
I also noticed that non-whites get an even shorter shrift. One character I think can be considered non white. The rest are...either very dirty, or borderline. There might be someone with vaguely hispanic features floating around in the background, but yeah....Lots of race and gender fails in SC2.
Which kind of hurts because Blizz seriously own my heart in so many ways. :(

tms said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tms said...

"I find it odd then, that one aspect they chose to keep the same in Starcraft 1 was the exclusion of women in power armor."

Uhh, except that Warhammer 40K HAS women in power armour... the Sisters of Battle in the Witchhunters army.

Just sayin'.

The Fremen said...

@TMS well it is technically power armor, it's not quite the same specs as the armor regular space marines wear. I do love the Sisters though. My favorite army by far. I mean, to the Sisters the world is made up of two kinds of people: The Sisterhood/Inquisition and The Heretics.

@Amarillion You're absolutely correct, I'm pretty bad at noticing race, the only POC in the whole game was The Military Commander Dude.

01d55 said...

@Amarillion You're absolutely correct, I'm pretty bad at noticing race, the only POC in the whole game was The Military Commander Dude.

Wow, you didn't notice Black Voodoo Guy? There's colorblind, and there's Steven Colbert, dude.

It's kind of funny, lots of people miss Military Commander Dude, and say Black Voodoo Guy is the only POC.

The Fremen said...

@numbersperson whoops! Totally forgot a black dude wandered into the game for five minutes and was summarily killed off. (at least in one playthrough)

William said...

Extra weird is that SC1 was actually not terribly bad. There weren't really many women etc. but for the most part the women who were there actually participated in the plot and (well, if I remember correctly anyway, my memories of the game are like, 13 years old now :p) were generally not treated differently from their male peers. Similar case with ethnic diversity, while you saw a lot of extra white space southerners, you also saw enough hispanic (or well, I always assumed the ones I vaguely remember were supposed to be :?) a few PoC and I *think* maybe an asian? (which since everyone outside of a cutscene was like, a faceless mook uh...something ah crap I'm losing track of what I'm saying here D: )

Uh...I guess what I'm getting at is that 13-or-so year old me got the impression that Terrans in SC1 were about as diverse as the Earth Alliance in Babylon 5 (which I was at the time Starcraft came out, and still am in love with), and that it seems odd in an annoying way that the team that worked on the sequel couldn't manage the level of not terrible that the first game managed.

William said...

Extra weird is that SC1 was actually not terribly bad. There weren't really many women etc. but for the most part the women who were there actually participated in the plot and (well, if I remember correctly anyway, my memories of the game are like, 13 years old now :p) were generally not treated differently from their male peers. Similar case with ethnic diversity, while you saw a lot of extra white space southerners, you also saw enough hispanic (or well, I always assumed the ones I vaguely remember were supposed to be :?) a few PoC and I *think* maybe an asian? (which since everyone outside of a cutscene was like, a faceless mook uh...something ah crap I'm losing track of what I'm saying here D: )

Uh...I guess what I'm getting at is that 13-or-so year old me got the impression that Terrans in SC1 were about as diverse as the Earth Alliance in Babylon 5 (which I was at the time Starcraft came out, and still am in love with), and that it seems odd in an annoying way that the team that worked on the sequel couldn't manage the level of not terrible that the first game managed.