in the Shadow of Greatness


January 11, 2007

Zelazny: canon gender values in play

Once again (and perhaps since I'm now down to a single female PC from my various range of PCs across the years), I ponder gender and rping. Good stuff linked from the 20x20 Room. Setting, genre and gender, oh my.

Now this is really good:

A misogynistic context does not require a misogynistic text, any more than a text set in Nazi Germany is required to be anti-Semitic, or one set in pre-civil rights America is required to be racist, or one set during the JFK presidency is required to be pro-Vietnam. Blaming the context or the setting for how the author chooses to portay the characters is nothing but a spectacular case of passing the buck.

and this LJ commentary:

simadrienne: It's not discrimination, it's historical

Well, okay, let's say you're playing a game where traditional gender roles are an indispensable component of the setting, and your players are all cool with this. Surely the girls have no grounds for complaint now, right? Well, there's still the matter of the many choices you make about plot. (Or characterization of your NPCs, if you're playing in a game where GM authority is shared to the extent that talking about a premeditated "plot" isn't helpful.)

A friend said something recently about my own NPC/PC females. I'll paraphrase, "Your females are always a lot smarter than they pretend to be, or else they don't really pretend."

Another aspect of Zelazny's Corwin? "Neither interested nor fit?" Lots of female readers blow off Zelazny's Amber because of the 'all boy' world shown. RZ framed the tale through the eyes of a moody male privileged protagonist. (I don't automatically think this means Zelazny was one, but I can see why it wouldn't be entertaining to read about one.)

So I think I'm a canon buster on this. Or perhaps a princess-apologist or something. I tend to do that with the Amber female characters in my rpgs: they always seem to say exactly what the boys expect them to OR they bite back hard about the chains of paternal expectations.

Unstable or insane women with possible axes to grind? Well, yes, my game has those archetypes as well. But they aren't the movers or one-note archetypes.

Filed under : Amber at 11.01.2007
MT Fierce says...

I'm at a strange place with Marius (PC in House of Cards.) Being a feminist-misogynist myself (no, they're actually not incompatible; I have high expectations of the women I don't like) I try to fall harder on the "women are incapable" side when taking his impressions. I think he dreams of women in penance.

Posted January 15, 2007 2:00 PM