You’re a fresh recruit, right out of the Stormwind army’s training camps. Bright eyed, you want to make a difference in this mixed up Azeroth! You think you can do it – after all, plenty of women have worked their way up the ranks to become leading lore figures!
But as a leading lore character, what are your options? Well, take a look at this handy chart and decide which path you’d like to follow:
(And to note: This isn’t even touching on how crappy it is to use insanity or mental illness as a plot device for villainy in this game. I take real issue with that, but it’s a complaint for another time.)
Look at that! A whole 4 options for you to choose from. What’s even nicer is that every choice you make, you’ll have a fanbase at your heels constantly calling you a “psycho bitch” or “whore” regardless. And you’ll have a development team that doesn’t particularly care how the fanbase reacts, because they openly admit to certain parts of WoW being a “boys’ club.” Or they encourage it by writing in quests where a leader openly calls a lady leader a bitch as well.
Okay, hyperboles aside, the above stuff was meant to prove a point. Do I think the writing team purposely portrays women this way? No. I just think they aren’t sure what to do with their women characters, and they have an increasingly hostile fanbase that twists their words to a point where any time Jaina Proudmoore is brought up, the first word uttered is “Alliance bitch.”
It’s hard for some people to understand, so let me put it this way. When Varian is brought up, he is not called a whore because he had feelings for Tiffin. (Unlike Jaina and Arthas.) When Garrosh is brought up, he is not called a psycho bitch for his genocide against Theramore. (Unlike Sylvanas and her motives. While his behavior isn’t excused, it’s usually justified by his lust for power, not his “bitchiness” or “unstable emotions.”) Thrall isn’t called a wuss for seeking neutrality.
So why the disconnect? It’s a symptom of the disrespect people have for these characters. It is the exact definition of a double standard. And the only real difference is the genders of the characters and the way they are perceived.
Let’s take a quick look at the major lady lore figures in the warcraft universe:
- Azshara: Queen of the ancient and beautiful highborne. She was renowned for her beauty, vanity, and lust for power. In fact, she embodied vanity and greed. And thus led to the downfall of her entire race.
-Magna Aegwynn: A guardian of Tirisfal. Incredibly strong, hard headed, and powerful. Blunt to a fault, she single-handedly fought off the fallen Titan Sargeras. She largely disappeared from the public eye until she sacrificed herself for her grandson, Med’an. A woman who DEFEATED A TITAN sacrificed herself so her grandson could kill Cho’gall, a beginner tier raid boss.
-Sylvanas: Leader of the forsaken and a force the be reckoned with. Deadly with a bow, and more than a match in wits for the lich king himself. Now considered to be on a power trip, players discuss how they can’t wait until she’s a raid boss and can be killed, and even in game Garrosh calls her a bitch with no repercussions.
-Jaina Proudmoore: One of the most powerful mages alive. Continuously does what she thinks is best for her people and faction, regardless of the toll it takes on her. Though she could have destroyed Orgrimmar in a tidal wave as payback for Theramore’s destruction, she resisted. She even refrained herself from smacking Thrall upside the head when he told her to get a husband to even her emotions out.
-Tyrande Whisperwind: Leader of the night elven people and a powerful priestess/warrior in her own rite. Waits dutifully for her husband Malfurion, and follows his commands to the letter despite the traditional NE idea that priestesses are to be led by the head priestess and only druids are to be led by the archdruids. Can best be summed up by the quote: “Hush, Tyrande.” and now seeks to wage war wherever she can.
-Maiev Shadowsong: Staunch in her duty, she led the powerful NE wardens for centuries including keeping the jailed Illidan in line. Appears at the end of black temple to help strike the killing blow. Later re-appears and takes issue with the fact that Malfurion let the highborne (see Azshara) back into NE society. It’s not so subtly implied that she is off her rocker, and thus she falls into the annals of “insane villainess” history.
-Aggra: Appeared in a book to teach Thrall. Had a single questline. Served her purpose by having Thrall’s son. Never seen again.
-Moira Thaurissan: Held under the thumb of a father that was angry she was not born a son. Told throughout her childhood that she would not amount to a good leader because of it. Ran away and found true love with a Dark Iron king who treated her as an equal. Said king was then assassinated at the command of her father. When she returned to claim her rightful spot on the throne with her legitimate heir son, she was almost assassinated by Varian Wrynn. Probably one of the characters most frequently referred to as a “bitch” by the general playerbase because no attempt to explain her motives exists in the game.
There are some exceptions to these characterizations in the game. Namely Alleria, the dragon aspects, and Shandris Feathermoon. (Please, Gods of WoW lore, do not take Shandris from us!) but overall I think you can see the running theme here.
It’s bad that these characters are pigeonholed into these roles. It’s even WORSE that the community will continually resort to gendered insults whenever any of these characters makes a move. I think Sylvanas could sit down and have a tea party and someone, somewhere, would call her a bitch because of it. And that’s really not right. And it’s not fair.
Thankfully, Pandaria was full of awesome characters, both men and women. It was certainly a step in the right direction! Except the mantid society. What was up with that? Helmed by a powerful queen that existed merely as a figurehead, kept constantly in check by the Klaxxi. It’s like they took the idea of insect biology, specifically bees, and warped it into some bizarre amalgam that only half worked. It was still a good storyline, but the idea of it annoyed me on some level.
Do I have hope for change in Warlords of Draenor? Not really. I am absolutely thrilled we’ll be getting a new leading lady in the form of a draenei priestess. But I don’t have much hope for her not following the footsteps of her predecessors. Or even worse, she will be subject to a fanbase that presumes to call her a bitch or a whore regardless of any choices she makes. I find that really, really sad.
On their face, the issues with the characters don’t bother me as much as the reaction of the community to them. Nothing is worse than having a good discussion about Jaina on twitter and someone randomly butting in to call her a bitch. Thanks for your input, random person, and thanks for reducing an entire character down to a stereotype about her gender. I would hope, deep in my heart, that kind of thing would be obnoxious to the writers of the game as well. They spend time trying to build up characters, only to have them and their motives explained away by PMS. But you’d think that id it did bother the writers, they would be trying to affect some change in the way they, themselves, treat and regard their own creations.
All I can say is that it does bother me. It should bother everyone.