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what's extreme is people like you not realizing that sometimes diversity can go too far. When characters are made black or disabled or gay for no reason it hurts the story and it hurts the cause of the people who are supposedly being represented.
I like how you sent me an ask claiming that no one says a thing except people rhetorically making fun of the position that no one actually holds, and then you send me an ask clarifying that you hold exactly the same position.
I’m kind tempted to just not address anything else you said and just marvel in the perfection of that.
What’s the reason for making a character white? What’s the reason for making a character straight? What’s the reason for making a character abled or neurotypical or cis?
When you assume that making a character Other relative to yourself weakens the narrative, you’re revealing a terrible thing about yourself: that you can’t imagine that those people have backstories and inner lives the way that you do.
Every single person in a fictional narrative is ultimately there because a writer decided they needed to be there, but when the person looks like you and matches your expectations, you accept that this person who was made up for the plot had a life full of events that led them to the point where they’re appearing on the screen or page.
But when your expectations aren’t met, you start saying it’s forced. You can’t accept that events led them here because you don’t grant them the kind of life that you know you have. Your empathy does not extend to them.
Look at how many white people think they can relate to a little girl in an industrial orphanage who falls in with a capitalist robber baron during the Great Depression more than they can relate to a little girl in the foster system in modern New York who falls in with a career politician, all because of a difference of race. The original Annie’s situation and world were only slightly less alien to us than the Victorian period, but making her white somehow makes her relatable in a way that a little girl who clearly exists in our world isn’t.
The fact is, empathy is linked to imagination and we can (and do!) relate to people who are literally alien beings in literally alien worlds. The choice not to relate to Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie—or a Black or gay or female or trans video game character—is a choice to shut off both imagination and empathy.
The failing is not with the narrative, it’s with you.
Love the 4th parag, especially
It seems that Goldana is pretty universally hated. I haven’t spent a lot of time seeking out information on her; maybe there is a flourishing enclave of Goldanna-love on fanfiction.net. I don’t know and I kind of don’t want to know.
After all, I really dislike(d) her, too. This is due, in large part, for my love of Alistair. When Goldana rejects him, I, me personally, Fuck Yeah Aveline feels like “How dare you mess with my friend!”
But since starting my companion blog Fuck Yeah Anora, I’ve been thinking about Goldana and who she is (and about unpopular viewpoints within the fandom). Pretty much every character has an apologist, has hundreds or thousands of words devoted to them and why they are misunderstood or whatever. Goldanna, not so much.
We don’t know much about Goldanna. I opened up both of my complete playthroughs this morning, and I could not find a codex on her. Her Wiki entry is quite brief. All we have to go on are her few scenes in DA: where she rejects Alistair, and her appearance in his Fade nightmare.
Her name is off-putting from the start. Gold-anna, really? “Greedy” was too obvious? They couldn’t call her “Jenny” or something that fits in with “Alistair”? This name perhaps suggests at a mother’s hopes and dreams — maybe Goldanna would rise up in society. (I don’t want to get too deep in to it, but there’s a lot of intriguing literature out there about names. Freakanomics, for example, has an interesting chapter on it. For example, names will start at the “top” among the upper classes and then trickle down and become more common until they are associated with the “lower classes.” Names like “Crystal” and “Amber” follow this pattern. And doesn’t “Goldanna” seem like a good companion name to Crystal and Amber? Conversely, those who have a lower status might name their children with a “high” status name — “Bentley” and “Lexus” are examples of this. Anyway, the name stuff is interesting to me, and I hope it doesn’t come off as classist. I don’t know if that’s what’s going on with “Goldanna” as a name, but it fits those patterns, it seems to me.)
(For an actual medieval example, consider the name Anne. Despite its Biblical connotations [Anne is Mary’s mother], it was not common in England until the very late 1300s. Why? Richard II’s queen was named Anne. She was from Bohemia. The name took off among the nobility; a century later, Richard III married another Anne, this one a homegrown English woman. From there, “Anne” grew with the lower classes, giving us the name and nickname Nan [“mine anne”]. Nowadays, “Anne” seems like a pretty “normal” name, not something fancy and royal, though I believe there are still some Princess Annes running around.)
Okay, so the name is already kind of a problem.
Goldanna doesn’t know who Alistair is, thinking he wants to employ her services. We learn she is a poor woman, a washer woman. This is not easy labor. I suspect very few players have ever had to wash a lot of clothes by hand. It sucks. Why? Well, it’s heavy, back-breaking work. It’s often smelly. Ammonia, usually straight from urine, was needed to keep whites looking their brightest. Medieval soap was often quite caustic and difficult to make (I’m not sure if Goldanna would have made her own or would have bought it). She has a pile of kids; I don’t think a partner is mentioned, so she might be a single mother, as well. When she learns who Alistair is, all she wants is money.
And that’s why people seem to hate her, because she doesn’t try to get to know Alistair or to embrace him or accept him as family, but just tries to get what she can from him. Alistair wants so desperately to be loved, and the one person left who should love him refuses to.
But let us consider all this from Goldanna’s point of view.
She accuses Alistair of taking her mother away — implying that Mom died in childbirth. Her grief, then, is understandable. Their mother was a serving girl, so it’s not like Goldanna was born into a secure life or anything. With her mother dead, she’d have to fend for herself, even if her father was still alive. A lot of conflict arose among stepfamilies in the Middle Ages (there’s a reason the “evil stepmother” trope is so common), so if Goldanna’s father was alive and remarried, she might have been forced out of her own house.
Goldanna is given some money for her silence. But it doesn’t last — if due to her own fault or because it wasn’t much to begin with is unclear.
This grieving young woman, then, must find a way to support herself and her eventual family. Who knows what she did in the meantime, but she becomes a washerwoman in Denerim. This is ultimately a pretty hard life.
Alistair had a difficult life, too, but he always had food to eat and a roof over his head. He didn’t want to be a Templar, but at least they would provide for him. This must seem very attractive to Goldanna. How many nights did she go hungry? How many nights did she sleep out in the open? What options are open to her in terms of making money or being cared for?
I don’t mean to suggest one life was worse than the other, merely to point out how it would look to Goldanna.
After living this hard life, this “fight for your life” life, a stranger appears on her doorstep. That can mean only one thing: he wants something. And if he doesn’t want his clothes washed, he must want something else. What? Her body? A place on the floor? A bite of what little food there is? Money? Everyone else in her life has probably wanted something.
The audience knows that Alistair is a good man and doesn’t want to take anything from her. But she doesn’t know that, can’t know that. Her place in life has conditioned her to view/think/act in certain ways. She can’t escape that.
A life of hard work, and probably bitterness and regret, have hardened her. She cannot understand what he wants (love?), but she understands pragmatism. He is a noble — a royal bastard man is still higher in status than she — and she knows what she wants: something to ease her own life. He cannot restore her mother, he cannot put her into a mansion, but he can give her some money.
I suspect that most people who play DA are good people, not twisted up by grief, bitterness, anger, and regret. But those emotions can work at you, eat at you (Flemeth reminds Hawke about this later). It can poison your mind. You cannot see that one human being is generally reaching out to you; you can only process it as “What does he want? What can I get from him?”
In conclusion, it’s fine to dislike Goldanna. But like all the other characters, I think it is helpful to consider her situation, her life, where she is coming from. If only things had been just a little different…
the worst type of procrastination is the one where you’re totally insistent that you’re going to be productive, so you spend hours on tumblr, but refuse to catch up on tv shows or anything because “i’m going to work in like a second”
But, even if you’re not fat, if you’re a woman, you’re probably still so caught up with your toxic weight shit that you can’t even see straight. During my working life I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been part of these ridiculous workplace group diets. Almost all of the participants have been women. Sometimes they even try to bribe one another with money. They all put in ten dollars on the first week and whoever loses the most wins the pool at the end of 4 months, or whatever it is. Look, I’m like you. I’ve done it too. And at a perfectly normal, healthy weight I’ve done it. All because of a sick, shitful, ugly little voice in the back of my head that tells me I ought to be smaller.
And that’s the rub, right there. Exactly why do we want to be smaller? What exactly is the appeal of being smaller? How does it benefit us? Does it make us better mothers? Better students? Better lovers? Better artists? Scientists? Friends? Does it make us more badass badasses?
No, no, no, no, no. You must see that it doesn’t. It doesn’t do anything but make us smaller.
Babies and puppies are small. So are dimes and Skittles. You’re a fucking woman. A woman! You are entitled to occupy as much fucking space as you like with your awesomeness, and you better be suspicious as fuck of anybody who tells you differently.
Why, ladies? Why must we continue to whittle ourselves down? Who is it for? What is it for? You can walk through a certain aisle at the pharmacy or at the grocery store and see the language of diminishment all over the packaging for weight loss aids of all kinds. “Shrink your waist.” “Lose inches off your thighs.” “Slim down.” “Get skinny.”
How about “Grow your mind.” “Increase your confidence and productivity.” “Beef up your knowledge.” “Enlarge your scope of asskicking.”
That’s a valid message for women and girls: grow, expand, branch out, open up, get bigger, wider, faster, stronger, better, smarter. Go up not down. Get strong, not skinny.
You are not here to get smaller. You are not here to have a thin waist and thighs. You are not here to disappear. You’re here to change the world! Change the fucking world, then! Forget about “losing a few pounds.” Think about what you could be gaining instead."
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