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Author Topic: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?  (Read 515 times)

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Offline MeatboyTopic starter

Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« on: October 14, 2018, 05:14:12 PM »
Now, for my other world-building question, is portraying amazons as an "evil" race sexist?

To put my question into context, my fantasy setting has no humans. Instead, they are replaced with amazons just as halflings have been replaced by pygmies which were mentioned in a previous post. This is a holdover from my interest in games and settings like "Queen's Blade" which is filled with sexy and strong female characters.

As for how evil they are, I would say that the amazons are not really "evil" per se (contradiction, I know) but are more or less misguided. They are no more evil than, say, ancient or medieval humans. Which is actually, in retrospect, quite evil.

Offline Missy

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2018, 05:19:13 PM »
what is morality?

Offline Nachtmahr

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Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2018, 05:22:38 PM »
Of course it isn't. If they are evil then they're evil. If you imagine a group of women in a real-world setting doing something that's generally considered evil, it's not sexist to call them evil either. And in a fantasy setting all bets are essentially off - at least in my opinion. Imposing real-world social standards and norms on fiction would require us to censor most of our beloved fiction as it is.

So no, I wouldn't say that it's sexist at all. For the same reasons I wouldn't say that portraying the orcs as evil in the lord of the Rings is racist.

Offline Skynet

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2018, 05:40:59 PM »
Now, for my other world-building question, is portraying amazons as an "evil" race sexist?

To put my question into context, my fantasy setting has no humans. Instead, they are replaced with amazons just as halflings have been replaced by pygmies which were mentioned in a previous post. This is a holdover from my interest in games and settings like "Queen's Blade" which is filled with sexy and strong female characters.

As for how evil they are, I would say that the amazons are not really "evil" per se (contradiction, I know) but are more or less misguided. They are no more evil than, say, ancient or medieval humans. Which is actually, in retrospect, quite evil.

This and your other post is preoccupied with avoiding being seen as sexist or racist. There's a chance that you might be worrying too much to the point that you're fearful that even merely touching a subject matter that smacks of it will get you labelled as such. This may not be the case, but if you constantly stop-guess all the time you'll end up not making any progress at all.

As to your Amazon society, it all really depends. You haven't explained how said Amazon society works in detail, or how the rest of your fictional world treats gender issues to juxtapose them to said Amazons. If you had them (and other societies ruled by women) as disproportionately evil, that would come off as sexist.

Since you mentioned Queen's Blade being a primary inspiration, is your writing meant to be softcore porn and/or erotic literature? Because if so, it is going to be viewed through a sexist lens by default in the sense that pornography in general is objective by nature.* Making an all-female race "hot and sexy" in a non-erotic work is going to raise the point of children, elderly, overweight, and plain-looking women and where they fit into the narrative. If your other societies and male characters run the gamut of appearances and body types, this imbalance is going to be viewed as sexist.

*I'd like to note that this is not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of erotica touches upon things we know are "bad/naughty" but can indulge in without genuinely thinking it's an IRL ideal. If your setting is meant to primarily  indulge your fetishes, you don't need to put as much detail into its workings than if you are making non-erotic material with broader appeal.

Offline Nachtmahr

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Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2018, 06:32:20 PM »
This and your other post is preoccupied with avoiding being seen as sexist or racist. There's a chance that you might be worrying too much to the point that you're fearful that even merely touching a subject matter that smacks of it will get you labelled as such. This may not be the case, but if you constantly stop-guess all the time you'll end up not making any progress at all.

As to your Amazon society, it all really depends. You haven't explained how said Amazon society works in detail, or how the rest of your fictional world treats gender issues to juxtapose them to said Amazons. If you had them (and other societies ruled by women) as disproportionately evil, that would come off as sexist.

Since you mentioned Queen's Blade being a primary inspiration, is your writing meant to be softcore porn and/or erotic literature? Because if so, it is going to be viewed through a sexist lens by default in the sense that pornography in general is objective by nature.* Making an all-female race "hot and sexy" in a non-erotic work is going to raise the point of children, elderly, overweight, and plain-looking women and where they fit into the narrative. If your other societies and male characters run the gamut of appearances and body types, this imbalance is going to be viewed as sexist.

*I'd like to note that this is not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of erotica touches upon things we know are "bad/naughty" but can indulge in without genuinely thinking it's an IRL ideal. If your setting is meant to primarily  indulge your fetishes, you don't need to put as much detail into its workings than if you are making non-erotic material with broader appeal.

While I do disagree with a few of the underlying points here, I agree with the overarching message: Meatboy, you're overthinking it!

That's not a bad thing of course - unless it's because you feel pressured to do so. It's good that you care about what kind of message you're sending. But I think you've opened a can of worms that can be difficult to get out of by considering every aspect of the world you're building and comparing it to a social standard that's not necessarily representative of the world you're making. In short, you can easily have a society that consists exclusively of women that's generally seen as bad or primitive without it being sexist, as long as you're not deliberately going out of your way to present it as a representation of your actual feelings toward women in general.

But the thing about perception is that it's rarely objective, and people can of course read anything into any work of art. If someone's heading into your world with the intention of finding something to be offended by, they will most likely be successful, assuming their bar for what can be considered offensive is different than the one you had while writing. The fact that you're this mindful about not wanting to step on anyone's toes says a lot about your own intentions though, and you're clearly not trying to deliberately say anything hurtful about any real people.

I wrote a lot of this to expand on my earlier post, as I felt like it might've been a little unsatisfactory.

One thing any artist always has to keep in mind is that there is no way to appeal to everyone. Your work can't both be targeting boys and girls of all ages, male teens, female teens, adults, the elderly, and specific subcategories like socially awkward 17 year olds. Write with your intended audience in mind - if they're adults, feel free to include adult themes. If they're children, avoid adult themes.
Be consistent and make sure the reader is able to infer that these people aren't the villains if that's not what you intend - make it clear, although not too clear, that they're different, and that what they do might be considered evil when viewed through a different cultural lens. Show that you understand the subjectivity of morals.

But I definitely disagree that you don't need to mind the details just because you're writing erotica, if that's what you're doing - good writing is never a net negative. :)

Offline QuackKing

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2018, 06:33:50 PM »
I think it's actually sexist to think that portraying a group of women in an antagonistic perspective is somehow bad or sexist. This kind of thought is based heavily within certain cognitive biases that can generally be categorized under the women are wonderful effect, where people tend to assign or imbue their perspective of women with more positive traits than their perspective of men. By questioning whether it is proper to give certain females negative traits you are feeding an implicit bias in favor of women, which actually is sexist. O8)

But, in general terms, fantasy for the purpose of escapism shouldn't be bogged down with questions of morality and philosophy. Certain populations being categorized as good or evil isn't something you should be having debates over. In settings of wizards, dragons, gods, demons, whatever - the last thing that should cross someones mind is whether it's really right to call all orcs bad guys or if NPCs need better gender representation or some other silliness.

Offline Missy

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2018, 06:41:44 AM »
So the rest of folks have actually gotten closer to the mark for your state of mind about it than I.

Anyway, if you're really that concerned that someone might take it more seriously than your intention and think less of you for the favour, then add a passive aggressive disclaimer to it. Just say it's fiction and not resemblant of the real world or anything factual in nature or something blah blah blah. Don't be too direct about it though. "the following is not a statement about women or commentary on gender roles" or something screams too much of insecurity and would likely draw all the kinds of attention you intended to avoid. Try something more in the direction of "the following is a work of fiction and all characters concepts events and places are fictional, any resemblance to real persons, places, things, ideologies political, religious or of any other kind are unintentional and purely coincidental" or something like that.

Offline MeatboyTopic starter

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2018, 07:15:03 AM »
If THAT's the case, I'm gonna go ahead and start world-building!

Thank you all for taking the time to reply!

Offline RedRose

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2018, 10:51:43 AM »
Not sexist, if they are evil. If you consider them evil because they're (say) strong and powerful then yes.

Offline Nachtmahr

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Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2018, 11:45:58 AM »
Not sexist, if they are evil. If you consider them evil because they're (say) strong and powerful then yes.

I don't think that's necessarily true either. I mean, you could say that they are a race/tribe of very powerful women, and that they're evil because of the way they're exerting their power over other people. It's not quite as black and white. Obviously, a powerful woman can be as evil as anyone else.

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2018, 12:10:28 PM »
Evil is not defined by who you are, evil is defined by what you do.

Offline Nachtmahr

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Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2018, 12:17:53 PM »
Evil is not defined by who you are, evil is defined by what you do.

But of course what you do helps define who you are, so I'd say both components matter. :P

But I think we'd be strafing off topic if we had that discussion here. ^^

Offline Regina Minx

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2018, 10:12:17 AM »
I have problems with the notion of an 'always evil' or 'usually evil' race in a fantasy setting. Fantasy races are humans with funny names at the end of the day. We just suspend our disbelief and pretend they’re not. What I usually see happen is writers going on elaborate justifications about their barbarism, cruelty, and evil as a method of justifying their wholesale slaughter in the story they're writing. The way they do so tends to resemble wartime propaganda, and yes, that can carry with it very nasty, racist undertones, which I don't think is helped by making gender the defining characteristic of your Amazon race.

However, like so many other things, it comes down to execution. You could have a very cutting and poignant deconstruction of any kind of idealization of feminism by suggesting that a female-led society is capable of committing the same atrocities as of a male-lead society. Or you could give the exact sort of impression that your initial post worried about. So I guess my answer is "It could be."

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2018, 10:22:24 AM »
But of course what you do helps define who you are, so I'd say both components matter. :P

But I think we'd be strafing off topic if we had that discussion here. ^^

Alright, I guess that is a bit of a philosophical chicken-egg loop. ;D

Offline QuackKing

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2018, 10:58:06 AM »
I have problems with the notion of an 'always evil' or 'usually evil' race in a fantasy setting. Fantasy races are humans with funny names at the end of the day. We just suspend our disbelief and pretend they’re not. What I usually see happen is writers going on elaborate justifications about their barbarism, cruelty, and evil as a method of justifying their wholesale slaughter in the story they're writing. The way they do so tends to resemble wartime propaganda, and yes, that can carry with it very nasty, racist undertones, which I don't think is helped by making gender the defining characteristic of your Amazon race

There's a very large disconnect between characterization of fantasy races for the purpose of a fun adventure and actual racial prejudice as seen in something like wartime propaganda. In fantasy, accentuating acts of depravity and general evil (regardless of how realistic it is) merely serves as a way to show players clear reasons as to why they are in conflict with them, and does not make unfounded judgements on the nature of their population.

Saying that fantasy races are merely stand-ins for certain groups of humans can only go so far, as the fact that these races are clearly defined as different species limits how much empathy one can feel for them. In more naturalistic terms, conflict between races in fantasy settings is very similar to predator-prey dynamics. If orcs are cruel to humans, often raiding and pillaging their villages and killing innocent beings at a whim, it makes sense that humans and those allied with humans would not like orcs and would, by default, fight orcs. You don't fault Jerry for hitting Tom, nor would you fault Tom for chasing Jerry - their dynamic is based upon biologically ingrained conflict. Likewise, you don't fault humans for killing orcs if orcs, by default, kill humans. Sure you can make goblins that go "I'M SAD" whenever they get antagonized but if there's a purpose for that antagonism (mainly due to reciprocity of conflict) then it really makes no sense as to why they should get sympathy.

At the end of the day, bad guys are bad guys. In a meta-game sense, there would likely always be something predisposed to fighting the player and it would be a waste of time to dwell on how correct it is that this specific race is deemed as the cause of this conflict. In a roleplaying game, the only thing that really differentiates a tarrasque from an orc is stats.

Offline Skynet

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2018, 05:08:33 PM »
There's a very large disconnect between characterization of fantasy races for the purpose of a fun adventure and actual racial prejudice as seen in something like wartime propaganda. In fantasy, accentuating acts of depravity and general evil (regardless of how realistic it is) merely serves as a way to show players clear reasons as to why they are in conflict with them, and does not make unfounded judgements on the nature of their population.

Saying that fantasy races are merely stand-ins for certain groups of humans can only go so far, as the fact that these races are clearly defined as different species limits how much empathy one can feel for them. In more naturalistic terms, conflict between races in fantasy settings is very similar to predator-prey dynamics. If orcs are cruel to humans, often raiding and pillaging their villages and killing innocent beings at a whim, it makes sense that humans and those allied with humans would not like orcs and would, by default, fight orcs. You don't fault Jerry for hitting Tom, nor would you fault Tom for chasing Jerry - their dynamic is based upon biologically ingrained conflict. Likewise, you don't fault humans for killing orcs if orcs, by default, kill humans. Sure you can make goblins that go "I'M SAD" whenever they get antagonized but if there's a purpose for that antagonism (mainly due to reciprocity of conflict) then it really makes no sense as to why they should get sympathy.

At the end of the day, bad guys are bad guys. In a meta-game sense, there would likely always be something predisposed to fighting the player and it would be a waste of time to dwell on how correct it is that this specific race is deemed as the cause of this conflict. In a roleplaying game, the only thing that really differentiates a tarrasque from an orc is stats.

As a Dungeons & Dragons player, this last statement is just not true and is also a very "gamist" way of looking at fantasy worlds, like everything is just there to be killed in a dungeon without a world built around the game itself. It also depends on the setting. In Dungeons & Dragons there are variations of how morality can manifest: demons are the literal incarnations of wicked concepts and thus are more or less shackled to evil. Drow and orcs have just as much capability as being good like humans but their societies are under the thrall of evil gods and thus the more "moral" members end up meeting cruel fates.

Tarrasques, dragons, demons, etc are far enough removed from baseline humanity in appearance and in several cases mindset from the near-human orcs/goblins/elves that having them as inherently evil does not have the same "bite" to it.

There are lots of fictional media which plays up biological incompatibility and how it can lead to tension, but what causes heads to turn is when the writers do poor world-building or start having the Always Evil race have defenseless children or societies much like ours where they have bakers, blacksmiths, and normally-functioning members who get along with each other save when humans/elves happen upon their lands. At that point the "biological/inherently evil" society begins to fall apart.

Offline QuackKing

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2018, 06:22:22 PM »
As a Dungeons & Dragons player, this last statement is just not true and is also a very "gamist" way of looking at fantasy worlds, like everything is just there to be killed in a dungeon without a world built around the game itself. It also depends on the setting. In Dungeons & Dragons there are variations of how morality can manifest: demons are the literal incarnations of wicked concepts and thus are more or less shackled to evil. Drow and orcs have just as much capability as being good like humans but their societies are under the thrall of evil gods and thus the more "moral" members end up meeting cruel fates.

Tarrasques, dragons, demons, etc are far enough removed from baseline humanity in appearance and in several cases mindset from the near-human orcs/goblins/elves that having them as inherently evil does not have the same "bite" to it.

There are lots of fictional media which plays up biological incompatibility and how it can lead to tension, but what causes heads to turn is when the writers do poor world-building or start having the Always Evil race have defenseless children or societies much like ours where they have bakers, blacksmiths, and normally-functioning members who get along with each other save when humans/elves happen upon their lands. At that point the "biological/inherently evil" society begins to fall apart.

As a D&D player, my statement is very true. Things like tarrasques, orcs, demons, etc. have their primary functions as agents of conflict, specifically conflict via battle. This conclusion isn't the result of being a murder-hobo, but based off of objective evidence regarding their context in game design. Games like D&D have a variety of ways to challenge the player, one of those is combat - and it would be patently untrue to say that killing things and doing battle isn't fun and what the game was, in part, made for. Monsters in the Monster Manual were designed for fighting first, everything else later. This isn't to say that you cannot add flavour to these monsters: have them get special abilities or look differently or have them serve purposes that aren't combat oriented, but to be ignorant of their intended purpose does not do their design justice.

You can add complexity to their society while still having them be considered evil by nature. It would still mean that they are predisposed for conflict with good protagonists. The fact that they have babies or can work as farmers or whatever is irrelevant in the perspective of the heroes, because these creatures will (by the laws that govern the nature of this world) want to fight and kill humans/elves/good people. Morality may be subjective, yes, but if you are roleplaying you should see it from the perspective of a character, not some omniscient god. Moral muckery is what drives campaigns to a halt when you add stuff like orc babies who your characters don't know what to do with when they kill the orc camp, so it is completely fine to create a setting where there are biologically determinant behaviors for the purpose of plot cohesion.

Offline Regina Minx

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2018, 06:35:20 PM »
There's a very large disconnect between characterization of fantasy races for the purpose of a fun adventure and actual racial prejudice as seen in something like wartime propaganda. In fantasy, accentuating acts of depravity and general evil (regardless of how realistic it is) merely serves as a way to show players clear reasons as to why they are in conflict with them, and does not make unfounded judgements on the nature of their population.

You say that, but I don't agree. I mean, let's take a look at an example that came immediately to mind when I made the statement in the first place. Let's take a look at the image and description of goblins from D&D's 3rd Edition Monster Manual:



“Goblins are small humanoids that many consider little more than a nuisance. However, if they are unchecked, their great numbers, rapid reproduction and evil disposition enable them to overrun and despoil civilized areas.”


Now let's compare that image and description to this image of wartime propaganda of the Japanese during World War 2:



There’s an unfortunate level of resemblance here, I think. In both cases we have a pointy-eared, wide-mouthed, snout-nosed, yellow-skinned people who only mean us harm, so we can’t trust them. They’re the enemy, and the only way to deal with them is to fight them. The very thought of treating the Japanese as people seems vaguely treasonous in the world of American propaganda of the time. Treating goblins as people is crazy-talk in most tabletop sessions of D&D.

Let's look further and see what the book has to say about their combat tactics:

"Being bullied by bigger, stronger creatures has taught goblins to exploit what few advantages they have: sheer numbers and malicious ingenuity. The concept of a fair fight is meaningless in their society. They favor ambushes, overwhelming odds, dirty tricks, and any other edge they can devise.

"Goblins have a poor grasp of strategy and are cowardly by nature, tending to flee the field if a battle turns against them. With proper supervision, though, they can implement reasonably complex plans, and in such circumstances their numbers can be a deadly advantage.”


OK, that sounds bad. However, what does the same book say about elves?

“Elves are cautious warriors and take time to analyze their opponents and the location of the fight if at all possible, maximizing their advantage by using ambushes, snipers, and camouflage. They prefer to fire from cover and retreat before they are found, repeating this maneuver until all of their enemies are dead.

They prefer longbows, shortbows, rapiers, and longswords. In melee, elves are graceful and deadly, using complex maneuvers that are beautiful to observe. Their wizards often use sleep spells during combat because these won’t affect other elves.”


Talk about "unfounded judgment". Despite the fact that these two passages use different words, they're saying the exact same thing. Use of hit-and-run tactics, guerrilla warfare, asymmetrical engagements, long-distance combat. Withdrawing when things don't go their way. Elves get adjectives like 'graceful' and 'beautiful.' Goblins have a 'poor grasp of strategy' and are 'cowardly'. The reason for this disparity of language in describing the same tactics is because we’re meant to sympathize with elves and hate goblins.

Let's look further. What does the book have to say about orcs, another classic evil race?

“Orcs are aggressive humanoids that raid, pillage and battle other creatures. Orcs believe that to survive, the must conquer as much territory as possible.”

Well then. It’s a different sort of portrayal. They’re not treacherous, runty rat-people; they’re savage and violent people who come to take our land. I want to point out that they're “usually Chaotic Evil”, which in the book is defined as meaning that about half of them is likely to be evil. Elves, which are "usually Chaotic Good" have the same proportion of members that aren't good, meaning that the proportion of evil elves and good orcs should be exactly the same. Yet the orcs' brief description lacks any redeeming qualities.

Lest you think I'm picking on a description of a book almost 20 years old, let's pull from newer editions. 4th Edition:

“Goblins are wicked, treacherous creatures that love plunder and cruelty. They’re not very big or strong, but they’re dangerous when they gang up.”

...

"Orcs worship Gruumsh, the one-eyed god of slaughter, and are savage, bloodthirsty marauders. They plague the civilized races of the world and also fight among themselves for scraps of food and treasure. They love close combat and plunge furiously into the thick of battle, giving no thought to retreat or surrender.”


Goblins get even less of a description than they did in third. Orcs get technically more words, but the words only concern themselves with the fact that they’re bad and not only need to, but deserve to die.

Finally, 5E:

“Goblins are small, black-hearted humanoids that lair in despoiled dungeons and other dismal settings. Individually weak, they gather in large numbers to torment other creatures.”



“Orcs are savage humanoids with stooped postures, piggish faces, and prominent teeth that resemble tusks. They gather in tribes that satisfy their bloodlust by slaying any humanoids that stand against them.”


It seems to be that every edition takes a step back from portraying those races as anything other than acceptable targets. The possibility of an individual orc or goblin being anything other than a non-evil menace is removed more and more with each edition. And again, this limited description of them as a savage monster to be slaughtered on sight resembles war-time propaganda pieces. Let’s take look at posters from World War I:





The German appears as an ape-faced brute who’s after “our” women. The Bolshevik on the German poster is pretty much the same thing. Either way, the images are simple and unambiguous – that’s the enemy, he’s bad, he’s horrible, we must destroy him. I really can't find a meaningful distinction between those propaganda posters and the descriptions in the three editions of the monster manual I quoted. The purpose for both is the same: paint a picture of an enemy fit for slaughter. It's not just a question of defense: Both war-time propaganda and depictions of “evil species” work to justify brutal retaliation or even preemptive strikes. After all, it’s one thing to defend ourselves when goblin raiders come to take our land, plunder or kidnap. But what about cutting them down as they escape? Following them home and repaying them in kind? Hiring mercenary adventuring parties to track them down and exterminate them?

Offline Skynet

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2018, 06:51:35 PM »
As a D&D player, my statement is very true. Things like tarrasques, orcs, demons, etc. have their primary functions as agents of conflict, specifically conflict via battle. This conclusion isn't the result of being a murder-hobo, but based off of objective evidence regarding their context in game design. Games like D&D have a variety of ways to challenge the player, one of those is combat - and it would be patently untrue to say that killing things and doing battle isn't fun and what the game was, in part, made for. Monsters in the Monster Manual were designed for fighting first, everything else later. This isn't to say that you cannot add flavour to these monsters: have them get special abilities or look differently or have them serve purposes that aren't combat oriented, but to be ignorant of their intended purpose does not do their design justice.

But that was not the argument you made. You were claiming that all monsters in D&D were functionally the same and that their relationship with the "good races" was more or less a biologically-driven predator-prey situation:

Quote
Saying that fantasy races are merely stand-ins for certain groups of humans can only go so far, as the fact that these races are clearly defined as different species limits how much empathy one can feel for them. In more naturalistic terms, conflict between races in fantasy settings is very similar to predator-prey dynamics. If orcs are cruel to humans, often raiding and pillaging their villages and killing innocent beings at a whim, it makes sense that humans and those allied with humans would not like orcs and would, by default, fight orcs. You don't fault Jerry for hitting Tom, nor would you fault Tom for chasing Jerry - their dynamic is based upon biologically ingrained conflict. Likewise, you don't fault humans for killing orcs if orcs, by default, kill humans. Sure you can make goblins that go "I'M SAD" whenever they get antagonized but if there's a purpose for that antagonism (mainly due to reciprocity of conflict) then it really makes no sense as to why they should get sympathy.

You can still have agents of conflict with more nuance or the monsters having free will. The Scarlet Brotherhood of Greyhawk, the Zhentarim of the Forgotten Realms, the Emerald Claw of Eberron, are all prominent examples of evil organizations who in the latter 2 have monsters as well as humans and the "main races" among their number. But in most modules they are an antagonistic faction to fight just like orcs and demons: Scarlet Brotherhood are racist conquerors, the Zhentarim are amoral profit-seekers, and the Emerald Claw are nationalist terrorists. Many modules portray them primarily as enemies to gut with sword and spell, even if their motivations are more complex than "they're evil because they're evil."


Offline Blythe

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2018, 08:07:31 PM »
Moral muckery is what drives campaigns to a halt when you add stuff like orc babies who your characters don't know what to do with when they kill the orc camp, so it is completely fine to create a setting where there are biologically determinant behaviors for the purpose of plot cohesion.

...if this sort of thing drives a game to a halt, it's not 'moral muckery' doing it, that's just the players significantly lacking any form of imagination. <_<

Offline Oniya

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #20 on: October 16, 2018, 08:28:00 PM »
...if this sort of thing drives a game to a halt, it's not 'moral muckery' doing it, that's just the players significantly lacking any form of imagination. <_<

* Oniya remembers a time when the D&D party managed to acquire a 'heck puppy'. 

Our party had more imagination than the GM could handle sometimes.

Offline Regina Minx

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #21 on: October 16, 2018, 08:58:36 PM »
* Oniya remembers a time when the D&D party managed to acquire a 'heck puppy'. 



YES!

Offline QuackKing

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #22 on: October 16, 2018, 09:57:44 PM »
You say that, but I don't agree.

Talk about "unfounded judgment". Despite the fact that these two passages use different words, they're saying the exact same thing. Use of hit-and-run tactics, guerrilla warfare, asymmetrical engagements, long-distance combat. Withdrawing when things don't go their way. Elves get adjectives like 'graceful' and 'beautiful.' Goblins have a 'poor grasp of strategy' and are 'cowardly'. The reason for this disparity of language in describing the same tactics is because we’re meant to sympathize with elves and hate goblins.

The German appears as an ape-faced brute who’s after “our” women. The Bolshevik on the German poster is pretty much the same thing. Either way, the images are simple and unambiguous – that’s the enemy, he’s bad, he’s horrible, we must destroy him. I really can't find a meaningful distinction between those propaganda posters and the descriptions in the three editions of the monster manual I quoted. The purpose for both is the same: paint a picture of an enemy fit for slaughter. It's not just a question of defense: Both war-time propaganda and depictions of “evil species” work to justify brutal retaliation or even preemptive strikes. After all, it’s one thing to defend ourselves when goblin raiders come to take our land, plunder or kidnap. But what about cutting them down as they escape? Following them home and repaying them in kind? Hiring mercenary adventuring parties to track them down and exterminate them?

The difference lies in the fact that you cannot say there is malicious bias within a characterization of a fantasy race by the setting's creator, unlike with war propaganda. The creator is the person who decides how the setting works, so they are the definitive, objective source of truth. If orcs are described as nasty, brutish, and short by whoever made up the world they inhabit, it should be considered an objective truth. Use of language of varying connotation is just a means to help accentuate a general aura around a race for the purpose of giving it more vibrancy. It should not be considered duplicitous because the evil race was characterized with language commonplace to evil characters.

Roleplaying also creates with it a meta-game in which players can, to some extent, understand these objective truths. In character, views of races and their ability to be evil are subjective, and they very well could be influenced by propaganda and rhetoric. But out of character, players understand that this is a game and that a game has rules - players can separate themselves from their characters to view the setting on a broad scale. A player saying, "the Orc's statistics say it is evil, so it is an enemy and we should kill it" is, to an extent, an abstraction of what their character is thinking, but that phrase is also tempered with foresight and game knowledge.

But that was not the argument you made. You were claiming that all monsters in D&D were functionally the same and that their relationship with the "good races" was more or less a biologically-driven predator-prey situation:

I meant in the sense that, on the functional level, stripped down to the bone, a monster is (in the vast majority of circumstances) nothing more than a block of stats that the players are meant to encounter. They are road-blocks to the player, and making them evil is the most simplistic form of showing the players that they are meant to be fought.

...if this sort of thing drives a game to a halt, it's not 'moral muckery' doing it, that's just the players significantly lacking any form of imagination. <_<

Bruh the last thing I want in my campaign is the party getting into a shouting match over what to do with the goblin nursery that was left over from our raid. There's always going to be someone who hates goblins, there's always going to be someone who says "Boss, those are just kids", there's always going to be someone who wants to keep them, someone who wants to leave them there, someone who wants to give them to an orphanage, etc.

tbh fam, just let me point to the rulebook, say that they're made to be evil, then bash those tiny green skulls in. The only good goblins are the ones who never come out of their stinking holes.

Offline Blythe

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #23 on: October 16, 2018, 10:17:44 PM »
Bruh the last thing I want in my campaign is the party getting into a shouting match over what to do with the goblin nursery that was left over from our raid. There's always going to be someone who hates goblins, there's always going to be someone who says "Boss, those are just kids", there's always going to be someone who wants to keep them, someone who wants to leave them there, someone who wants to give them to an orphanage, etc.

tbh fam, just let me point to the rulebook, say that they're made to be evil, then bash those tiny green skulls in. The only good goblins are the ones who never come out of their stinking holes.

You do you. But my players have literally never gotten into shouting matches over this sort of thing--they've always been mature enough to not get in arguments over that sort of thing. They usually see it as a good RPing opportunity and usually akin to a sidequest.

Offline Oniya

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #24 on: October 16, 2018, 10:26:20 PM »


YES!

I mean, when your gaming group is the type that also does read-alouds of Good Omens, and took the Last Voyage of the Marie Celeste and wound up introducing - logically, mind you - a vampire dolphin that could turn into a seagull...

Our GMs could roll with anything.

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #25 on: October 16, 2018, 11:43:32 PM »
So I think what we have here is not so much a failure to communicate as a collision between two diametrically opposed playstyles.

From a gameist perspective, the various features and inhabitants of a campaign world are first and foremost defined by their relation to the player characters. Monsters both humanoid and non-humanoid are exactly that - monsters. Their purpose for existing is to be fought and to be killed by the PCs; they might have a culture, or complex motivations, but these are explicitly and ultimately secondary to their being opponents. From the other side, Farmer Bob the NPC exists so he can give the PCs a quest to rescue his pig from the goblin raiders. Maybe Farmer Bob has a family, maybe he has a backstory, maybe he even has a last name - but if he does, they're extraneous to his role as a quest-giver. Gameist players don't want to wrestle with complex moral quandaries or delve into the reasons why the ogres are attacking the town, it's enough to know that they are ogres and thus evil monsters to be killed and looted. It's not a game style I prefer, but enough people play this way that I can't say it's an invalid one.

From a simulationist perspective, the world exists even when the PCs aren't in close proximity to it. Even parts of the world the PCs might never see, or even know about, still exist for the purpose of a living, breathing world. For simulationists, verisimilitude is king. The Broken Fang tribe of orcs would prefer to stay in the mountains, but hostile giants have moved in and taken over their hunting grounds - now they have to raid human settlements or else starve. Farmer Bob Smithson used to be an adventurer until he took an arrow to the knee, now he raises prize-winning pigs and brews the best apple stout for a week's ride in any direction. Simulationist players will look at the world from a 'why' perspective, and are more likely to come up with unconventional solutions to problems as they internally justify that 'why' with something the GM hadn't thought of.

Thus, orc babies breaking campaigns. This isn't the inevitable result of having orcs be anything except ambulatory sacks of loot and XP, nor is it always due to immature or unimaginative players. It's what happens when a simulationist GM runs for gameist players ("why are you butchering the defenseless orc children, you monsters?"), or when a gamist GM runs for simulationist players ("why do you care about the babies? They're not worth XP"). This sort of thing is why style expectations are best laid out clearly beforehand.

Offline Blythe

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #26 on: October 16, 2018, 11:54:08 PM »
Hm. That is good food for thought, Glyphstone, thank you. I'll have to think about that; it's certainly an interesting point to consider.

Offline Regina Minx

Re: Is portraying Amazons as "evil" sexist?
« Reply #27 on: October 17, 2018, 07:46:21 AM »
The difference lies in the fact that you cannot say there is malicious bias within a characterization of a fantasy race by the setting's creator, unlike with war propaganda. The creator is the person who decides how the setting works, so they are the definitive, objective source of truth. If orcs are described as nasty, brutish, and short by whoever made up the world they inhabit, it should be considered an objective truth. Use of language of varying connotation is just a means to help accentuate a general aura around a race for the purpose of giving it more vibrancy. It should not be considered duplicitous because the evil race was characterized with language commonplace to evil characters.

Of course there are differences. The differences aren't nearly so meaningful as the fact that both instances reflect the same behavior; we want to have an "other" enemy. Someone we don't need to apply our moral and ethical standards to. Someone about whom we can feel justified in saying "we kill them all." This tendency might be a very perfectly natural human instinct, but that doesn't make it right, or less of a thing we should reject when we see it. As I said in my first post on this thread, I find it unfortunate that so much of fantasy, especially gaming, relies on it.