Feminist Frequency and The Witcher 3
Geralt does it with two swords, while I do it with a pen — but we’re both fighting venom-spitting creatures. So let’s talk about Feminist Frequency.
To be honest, I was not planning on addressing anything the Feminist Frequency duo said ever again. They are so useless with their “everything is sexist, everything is racist, and everything is homophobic” lack of filter* that the critique is ultimately pointless. I mean, I can “prove” that a silver spoon, with its phallic shape, is an element of patriarchal regalia — but I wouldn’t expect anyone waste their time discussing and debunking that.
*The quote comes from Anita Sarkeesian’s QA part of “How to be a Feminist” panel. She is mocking “a year” of her life when she was “obnoxious” about everything being sexist, racist and homophobic. She then explains she still believes that, it’s just that she chooses her battles now.
Also, I’ve published and compiled enough critiques of Feminist Frequency already — before the realization they’re not in it to discuss anything — that one more seemed unnecessary.
However, a few people requested my opinion and I care about The Witcher 3 deeply, so let’s take a quick look into the darkness. I’ll keep it spoiler-free, nothing here will ruin your experience.
First, the Feminist Frequency writer decided it’s cool to lie about Geralt:
Funny thing is that the games and the books have the opposite problem. Geralt is described as devoid of human emotions, but somehow he keeps caring about basically everybody, often refuses money for his services, can melt around Ciri, and, when faced with an option to ask a djinn for whatever he desires, he chooses to save the life of a woman he just saw the painful past of — and so on, and so forth. A true robot indeed!
A good example is a certain scene in the Witcher 3, when his supposedly emotionless character claims, with genuine sadness in his voice, that he wishes he could cry. You see the contradiction? He is emotional about not being emotional.
Geralt’s “extreme deficiency” is simply not true at all. We see this in the way Geralt behaves around Ciri, his reaction to the revelation of The Isle of Mists quest, or in the emotional impact of the life-changing decisions about Triss or Yennefer. Heck, a few missions with alternate paths and endings actually bet on the player behaving emotionally and making highly emotional choices. And, of course, Geralt’s facial expressions and body language properly accompany these choices.
Geralt, the man who never gets teary eyed…
…and never smiles.
Despite being a hard-boiled monster killing mutant, Geralt is one of the most human video game characters in the history of video games. To claim — what McIntosh does in later tweets — that he is a “stoic”, “emotionally stunted” with only rare outbursts of “anger and rage” is a pure lie.
Later, McIntosh tweets some photos of kittens and goes on a rant how the ability to control one’s emotions is actually a “toxic masculinity”. All that without a second of reflection why composure is appreciated in our culture in the first place (hint: we expect people in power and with access to deadly weapons to behave rationally under stress). But that’s a completely different topic, so let’s move on to the second thing.
Yes, Feminist Frequency has an issue with idiot brutes trying to enrage a woman in hope to weaken her defenses. Because apparently that never happens in real life.
What really doesn’t happen in real life, though, is that you can decapitate and dismember your trolls, and be rewarded for it — which is exactly what The Witcher 3 offers.
But however silly it is to complain that villains are not good people, it is not the real problem here. The real problem is this:
Before we get to that, a quick note on writing. It started with confusing tools (tropes) with what people do with tools, and this is yet another example when the Feminist Frequency duo proves they have absolutely zero clue about creating characters and worlds. “Anything goes because it’s fantasy” is something only the least talented of writers use, ones who wouldn’t see a problem with Geralt using an iPhone.
To be clear, the world in which Geralt has an iPhone and bad men behave nicely is possible. It might even be a great, inspiring piece of art — talented writers can turn almost any idea into something exciting, just ask Harlan Ellison. But claiming a fantasy setting means the author should avoid reality hooks to history, medieval culture or the harsh realities of human condition — however ugly any of these may be — is preposterous. Not to mention it reveals a complete misunderstanding of why staffage is used in fiction.
But what’s the “real problem” I mentioned earlier?
It’s the Feminist Frequency’s desire to turn art into propaganda.
What’s the alternative of idiot brutes talking shit to a woman fighter? Well, the alternative is to lie or at least avoid the truth. To pretend they would never reach for the sexist insults.
We do this with children’s cartoons all the time. People don’t swear in cartoons, and swords rarely behead anyone. While certain truths are kept, the world is usually a much nicer place than reality.
Is this what should happen to art for adults as well? Should we lie about or sugar coat the world that surrounds us, no matter what is our story’s staffage? Should we treat ourselves as children, never ready to deal with inconveniences of reality?
Nearly a hundred years ago, Stendhal wrote this in The Red and the Black:
Ah, Sir, a novel is a mirror carried along a high road. At one moment it reflects to your vision the azure skies, at another the mire of the puddles at your feet. And the man who carries this mirror in his pack will be accused by you of being immoral! His mirror shews the mire, and you blame the mirror! Rather blame that high road upon which the puddle lies, still more the inspector of roads who allows the water to gather and the puddle to form.
Feminist Frequency and the like-minded fanatics don’t want the art — literature, film, video games — to be that mirror. They want it to be the guiding light. Something that promotes and educates, reinforces and normalizes, no matter how far away it all is from the reality. They have the utter distaste for the idea of people forming their own thoughts and interpreting the reflection in the mirror themselves.
But their guiding light is just a mere, nomen omen, fantasy. Instead, as they’re usually pathetic at the act of creation and much better at the act of destruction, all they do is just spit at the mirror and accuse its holder of being immoral.
It seems that as long as they keep haunting these lands, my silver monster-hunting pen is, sadly, not going to be gathering any dust.
P.S. Please consider these articles as well:
Sure, there may be trolls and elves and dwarves, but if one thing must stay the same for the art to have any purpose or meaning, it’s human nature. Bad people have to keep doing bad things. A world where everyone behaves nicely and does nothing wrong or offensive isn’t a reflection of a real world. It has no value.
Likewise, the Witcher games deal with racism. Elves and dwarves aren’t just other races there for the fun of it — they represent downtrodden racial groups. There’s even pogroms. Racial-based murders and backlash from those murders, and so forth. Would it be better to not deal with racism in games like this because “it’s just fantasy”? What a juvenile, backward way to view the world, to view art.