Isabela and Asha just give me feels because in their own way they are both subversions of the sexy pirate chick trope and their characters are so much deeper than people give them credit for.
Confession: Isabela’s new appearance irks me a bit. No, it’s not because she’s tan, I know she’s from Rivain and that’s how she’s supposed to look; no, it’s her whole general appearance, I love Isabela but you can’t just suddenly change facial (not to mention bodily) construction when she only left Denerim a year ago.
i mean anyone should make you mad it should be merrill tho? seeing as how she had complete facial reconstruction and speech change
calls Isabela “tan”
complains about her “general appearance” changing in a game where entire races got radically re-designed and every returning DA:O character got a new face at minimum
all we’re missing here is “why doesn’t she wear pants” for the bullshit trifecta
damn it’s almost like she went through a radical redesign to better develop her as an individual character that actually has plot and character value that would require her to have specific looks so she can be identified as an important party member
instead of just an easily missed NPC that’s sole existence was to help unlock a combat specialty and thus was mostly just tossed together in the CC
kyeshgall said: I like Isabela’s style and the sense of agency I feel she has in DA, but i still think it’s important to talk about her design in the context of broader patterns of women’s representation in games. Just my take on the discussion anyway.
Totally. But sadly, what’s mostly popping up on my dash is more of the same ol’ stale slut-shaming, the whole “I hate Isabela ‘cuz she’s skanky!”/”No she isn’t!” debate we’ve all seen a thousand times before. It’s likely all born out of the same conversation that Gaider sparked.
For what it’s worth, I think Isabela’s costume design is actually quite brilliant, and very true to her character. Her lack of pants is a smoke screen, one she uses to instill in her enemies a false impression of vulnerability or weakness when in fact she’s anything but. Isabela invites her enemies to objectify and dismiss her, because while they’re busy underestimating her, she’s busy sticking a shank in their jory. Thus her hypersexualized clothing is a conscious subversion of this ideal of “the weaker sex”, which as a concept was used to justify the profound abuse and disenfranchisement Isabela experienced from a very early age. (e.g., she was forced to be a child bride, socially valued solely for her reproductive ability, experienced spousal abuse with no recourse but murder, etc.)
Isabela knows what it is to feel weak and powerless; so, like any good rogue, she cultivates the illusion of weakness and turns it into a strength, a weapon to be deployed against her enemies. Gaider once said “Isabela has no pants. Isabela needs no pants.” I’d take it one step further: Isabela wants no pants. It’s not that she doesn’t see a need for pants; it’s that she actively rejects pants, because she is stronger and better without them.
As a whole, female characters in videogames are shoved into some pretty ridiculous get-ups, and we should definitely be talking about how problematic that is. But in my opinion, Isabela is the exception that proves the rule. Her costume is the one time I think hypersexualized character design actually makes sense, and in fact, I think the argument that Isabela should be allowed to wear pants if the player wants is sort of missing the point. In Izzy, the writers have established a character who is so well-developed that even her wardrobe choices are in character; and that to see her in any wardrobe other than bare legs and a corset would actually be more absurd than what she wears in game. And if the player has the agency to put pants on Isabela, doesn’t that sort of undermine her original choice to shun pants in the first place?
I guess it comes back to the philosophical question of, how much agency should a game player really have over the non-player characters in a videogame? What’s the right balance, and how do you write an internally consistent story while preserving that balance.
Oops, sorry for the surprise word-barf all over my reply, kyeshgall. I just really, really have a lot of feelings about the costume design in DA2. :)
Why I love flutiebear. And Isabela.
I drew a non-whitewashed Isabela sans-jewelry to alleviate some…. hateformarketing tension.
There’s not a lot more frustrating from an artist’s point of view than having your character “perfected” by people who know nothing about the beauty in human diversity.
This is an answer to people who say, “Oh, modding Isabela to look white isn’t offensive because she was white in DAO. We’re just restoring her natural whiteness.” No, no you’re not. That’s Izzy’s head morph from DAO. She had the second darkest complexion.
And you know what, if there are…
We are the companions. Guardians of the Hawke and protector of heroes. Heroes like Garret Hawke. Honey, you mean Garret HAWT!
If there's a prize for rotten judgement I guess I've already won that No mage is worth the aggravation That's forgotten memories, been there, done that!
OH MY GOD NOOO
It only seemed right to do all the companions too.
I’m probably gonna end up doing another post with Seb, the Hawke family, etc. in the future.
I have way too much fun with memes.
steal all of the relivs
fix all of the eluvians xD
(617): i would really appreciate it if you would stop texting my girlfriend.
(508): i would really appreciate it if you would stop cock blocking me.
Totally relevant for my second play-through. Towards the end, Warrior F!Hawke Audra decided she was through with Anders’ bullshit and journeyed off into the horizon with Isabela.
It’s easy enough to portray sexism in a fictional setting without condoning it, whatever some might have you think. Throw in some stories about how hard women had to work to gain standing, have some male characters act like utter assholes to female characters while highlighting the wrongness of their actions, things like that. It’s enough, right? Well, it’s a baseline, a minimum, at least. Sexism and misogyny are a lot more complicated than that, and usually I sigh, make a note of any failings, and settle for not seeing some aspects of them addressed.
Dragon Age isn’t perfect in its depiction of a male-dominated pseudo-medieval society—some things are glossed over in the interests of making it easier for fans to play as a female protagonist, and some avenues are left unexplored (where are the intersectional troubles Aveline faced as both a foreigner and a woman taking on the mantle of guard captain, for example?). But one thing receives a surprising amount of focus, and that is the double standard for men and women when it comes to the subject of sex.
Sex is not the defining point of Isabela’s character. She likes it, and she sees no reason to deny herself something she likes: that’s all. She talks about sex frequently, but it seems to be as much about teasing others or deflecting serious questions as it is about the subject itself. Her defining characteristics are more a love of adventure and a devotion to the ideal of personal freedom that borders on, or even crosses over into, the danger zone.
(Isabela is Chaotic Neutral in the philosophical sense of the alignment: she has little opinion on good or evil, but believes fiercely in personal choice and freedom as opposed to the rule of law.)
In short, Isabela is sexual and even somewhat promiscuous, but in a healthy and self-respecting way most of the time. When she does slip up and catch some disease or cause an awkward situation, it’s because of her penchant for risk in general rather than an obsession with sex in particular. Unlike Zevran and his assortment of issues relating to sex as exploitation, Isabela is genuinely a pretty sex-positive character. She’s not attracted to everyone, and she’ll turn down those she feels wouldn’t respect her or would complicate things in no uncertain terms, but when she is attracted, she makes no fuss about doing something about it. And it’s just one trait among many in her personality.
“You’ve had many lovers, haven’t you?”
“Fewer than some think.”
Yet other characters, including NPCs who know little of her, comment frequently on her perceived promiscuity. Her relationship with Aveline could be the subject of a post all its own, but at least in the beginning it’s an example of the double standard. Isabela herself, judging by her cynical remarks on the matter, is very aware of how others see her. But she knows better, and while she may resent the strictures of society that make it harder for women to pursue their desires than it would be for men, she feels no shame for her own choices. To be blunt, Isabela could write a book on the phenomenon of slut-shaming and why it’s wrong, if she cared to.
It’s a nice change: both seeing the sexual double standard explicitly recognized in a work of fiction and seeing a female character who rises above it. Promiscuous women in fiction often have their sexuality boiled down to neediness and self-esteem issues rather than healthy desire in the end. That the developers of the Dragon Age games chose to go that route with a hypersexualized male character and make his closest female equivalent genuinely confident in herself (sexually and otherwise) is a nice change.
Unfortunately, more than a few fans seem to miss this entire point. Instead of celebrating Isabela’s ability to look sexism in the eye and spit on it, they fall into line with the sexist world around both her and women in real life. I have seen claims that Fenris hates her flirting (patently false, considering he flirts back and sure as hell seems to enjoy sex with her if neither of them is romanced), or, even more bizarre, that Hawke lectures her for being “too forward.” Regardless of how your Hawke feels about Isabela (mine taps that every time, of course), I think it can safely be said that Isabela would not follow and befriend, or even respectfully be-rival, someone who made a point of trying to rule how she related to other people. And this is part of what makes her awesome.
Not everyone, male or female, will enjoy sex as much as Isabela does, of course, or even necessarily think that her philosophy on it is a good idea. But when more people can see it and still respect her—and, more importantly, the real women with similar beliefs—we’ll be on our way to a better, less sexist world. And I can get behind this game for making that kind of character.
In any society, there are those “at risk.” Just what they’re at risk of depends on the time and place. In the setting of Dragon Age, the greatest threats, aside from the ever-present spectre of death, fall into one broad category: the loss of agency. In layman’s terms: being robbed of your…