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Mizhena, Social Justice and why we can't have nice things

The topic of Mizhena came back up lately. I too have been thinking about it a lot the past few weeks, I even had a loooong post prepared, but then I chickened out of posting it, because I was too scared of the repercussions. So here is me finally speaking up, openly and honestly.

Please note that the following words are not just strictly about Mizhena, but more about my thoughts and feelings towards the general topic of social justice in the media. My words will be harsh and for some of you they will most certainly be hurtful. A good chunk of you are probably gonna disagree. I am also gonna repeat a bunch of points other people already made, for sake of completion.


Mizhena - as a character - was both a huge failure and a small success.

A lot of people have been going on about how disliking Mizhena automatically makes you a transphobe, but honestly, assuming that makes you ignorant and short sighted. Yes, some of the Mizhena haters most certainly are transphobic, however, I would like to believe that those are just a small - alas vocal - minority.

Wizards of the Coast and Ed Greenwood themselves have come out saying that D&D and the Forgotten Realms have always included transgender characters.
Let me call out bullshit on that statement.

Sure, we had Corellon Larethian and co. for the longest time, but the beauty of Dungeons and Dragons is, that it’s what the players want it to be. For some players it’s orthodox dragon hunting and dungeon crawling. For some it’s a Game of Thrones inspired hellhole. For some it’s a world of rainbows, bunnies and sunshine. For some it’s the place where they can be who and whatever they want. The list goes on and on.

I am dead sure that for a good chunk - if not the vast majority - of players, transgender characters never made an appearance in their games and even if, just as fuels for jokes. Until the very recent years and months, most players didn’t even know what modern, “american” transgenderism is after all (myself included).


Which brings me to my next point: The associated implications.

The problem isn’t and has never been the fact that Mizhena is a trans-woman.
The problem is what people associate with the topic of transgenderism.


A lot of us non-left-extremists had our fair share of not so pleasant run-ins with self-proclaimed “Social Justice Warriors”, most of which ended badly. I myself became target of a witch hunt on Tumblr a few years back, where I openly called out a bunch of people who said that all non-trans people should die. Literally and repeatedly. A few years ago, Tumblr was FULL of posts like these and they usually were widely celebrated.

After openly disagreeing with a statement like this, people lost their proverbial shit. A flood of hatemails came in. People telling me to kill myself, people telling me to leave the fandom, people telling me to delete my account, people telling me that they were disappointed, people calling me a Nazi over and over again, especially after they found out that I am German.

I mean, f*** me for not wanting the vast majority of humanity dead, right?

The entire situation escalated so badly, that people started spreading lies about me (for example, I allegedly tried to break up two “fandom famous” people who were in a relationship [spoiler: I didn’t]) and started harassing my friends. One of them even started to physically harm themself because of it.

That was when I ought the person who “lead” this witch hunt to sit down with me and have a talk in private. It ended with me making a long, public post apologizing for my “mislead believes” and stating that I had been wrong all along, yada yada.

I was literally bullied into openly betraying my morals and my believes.
By self-proclaimed Social Justice Warriors.

The very same people btw where actively and systematically bullying other artists off the website who did not openly supported their agenda, effectively censoring art and free speech.

So you should be able to understand why I am a tiny bit squeamish about social justice as a whole.


Cases like these are not the exception. They happen all the bloody time.
Remember Feminist Frequency and Anita Sarkeesian? Yeah.

Of course people are gonna have a negative reaction towards a character like Mizhena, especially in a game series that previously treated transgenderism as a joke. Edwin’s Nether Scroll quest, anyone? And the girdle of masculinity-femininity is a tool for literally punishing players for not identifying magical items.
Baldur’s Gate is a game that treats sexchange as a punishment.

And you don’t think that Mizhena might seem a tad bit out of place as a result? No?

Even a lot of transgendered people and even self-proclaimed SJWs didn’t like her.
Arguments like her being nothing more than a token, her being just a tool to make the team look progressive were made. Even going so far that it incidentally “put a giant target sign” on the backs of transgendered people.


Alright, to my next point. This is not a black and white issue.
It’s not “SJWs vs. GamerGaters”.
There are as many different views and reactions as there are players.
And if you believe that not agreeing with one side of the argument makes you automatically part of the other, then you my friend are an idiot. Plain as that.
The entire issue is as colourful as all of the LGBTQ+ pride flags combined.

I know for a fact that the majority of players don’t even really care that Mizhena was included. Some of us were initially put off when meeting her but moved on with a shrug. Some of us were genuinely happy. Some of us couldn’t care less. Some of us didn’t even find out that Mizhena is trans. But all of us - within the active community at least - had to witness this ugly gross mess of a shitstorm that took over the forums and the social media.


Baldur’s Gate is an old game. Baldur’s Gate is a traditional game. In fact, it prides itself on how traditional it is and the fact that it’s so traditional is the main selling point for most players today.

This game was around before social issues like transgenderism were openly discussed in the media. So of course the entire topic is bound to be alien and/or off-putting to a really good chunk of the players. Especially those of us who are not from North America.
This might come as a shock to some of you, but Baldur’s Gate has fans all over the world, not just in the US of A and Canada. And even more shockingly, the rest of the world only rarely shares the same issues as North America. North America is not the hub the world.

And if you are going to argue that Baldur’s Gate and D&D are games from North America, then I have to remind you that these games are almost entirely based in foreign folklore, culture, history, religion, mythology and literature.

Just to make this clear, I am not saying that there are no transgendered people in the rest of the world, that is of course far from the truth. But each country and culture, treats the topic differently. For example where I come from, we don’t even have a word for “Gender” in our language. The entire concept of gender is either completely arbitrary or solely rooted in sexist stereotypes. Transgenderism is almost exclusively about wanting a physical sexchange to some degree and the majority of people “live at let live”. “It’s your body, do with it what you want.” I have heard of no laws that forbid you to get a sexchange and to change your name and official gender accordingly. At least judging from what I’ve seen.

And in different countries it’s gonna be different again.

To me as a foreigner, the entire topic looks insanely american-centric. And boy, am I sick and tired of how american-centric international media is.


Next point. Beamdog, you guys handled this entire drama horribly. I love you and I support you but the way everything went down after release was terrible. You openly asked for better reviews? That was so unbelievably weak of you. You closed every thread on the forums that handled the topic? No wonder that there were a billion threads at all times. People wanted to talk about the topic and not all of them are the “evil GGlers”. You simply should have merged all those threads into one and only removed/ altered the specific posts that broke the rules. You openly engaged in the drama on Twitter, even tried to get f***cking Feminist Frequency to get in on it??? I literally cried after I saw that. You guys literally made me cry.

I am so so disappointed that you guys didn’t show the farsight and delicacy that hot button topics like transgenderism need and deserve. The term “unprofessional” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

If I wouldn’t know better, I’d say everything was an elaborate marketing stunt to make the news. Every publicity is good publicity, am I rite? (Sarcasm)


Now let’s get to the only thing that should have mattered. Mizhena’s character and dialogue.
She is not well written. No matter how I look at her.

First of all, the name thing? How/ why would Charname notice that she has a weird name? Everyone in this world has a weird name. That is just how this genre works. She doesn’t even have the weirdest name in Siege of Dragonspear, that award goes to Fenster (german for “window”).

Second, the part about Mizhena just straight up telling you that she is trans. In reality a lot of transgendered people are very closeted about it. A lot of them don’t like to talk about it. I certainly have never talked to anyone who just openly told a complete stranger without reservations. It would have been so much better if some other character would have pointed it out or if the reveal would have been later in the game.

Like, okay, here are some ideas. I am not saying these ideas are good ideas, but they are definitely better ideas than what we got. Maybe she could have gotten a letter from home, where one of her loved ones brings up the topic one way or another. Maybe she could have been wearing the girdle of masculinity/ femininity and Charname could have picked up on that. Maybe (if she is not physically transitioned/ doesn’t look traditionally feminine) another NPC could have misgendered her and she could have shown her disdain for that.

I mean, Mizhena did get some good moments. I really cracked up when she loses her shit during the thief guild quest. I also thought it was clever to incorporate her in the Talos shrine quest (my favourite quest in SoD, btw).

Anyway, the problem is, that Mizhena’s lack of quality writing just ads up to the perceived tokenism.


I am still upset that Mizhena was the cause for such disproportionate drama, especially about all the personal attacks Amber had (and probably still has) to go through.
But for all the bad things that happened, there also was one good thing. The massive uproar lead to just as massive transvisibility. People started talking about the topic. People started to become more aware. It’s a small win, but a win non the less.

Either way, I am looking forward to see what the team is gonna do with the promised update on Mizhena’s character. I am also really glad that David Gaider is on board now, because he has proven time and time again that he knows how to write delicate topics like these (thank you for Krem and Dorian. Seriously, thank you.)


To wrap things up, here are two videos I’d like you to watch.
Rantasmo’s take on Mizhena (I don’t agree a 100%, but he brings up some very good points) and the Nostalgia Critic’s Ghostbusters 2016 review (different topic, equal situation).




Thank you all very much for reading and your time.

FinneousPJdunbarRavenslightThacoBellajwzWowoVallmyrNonnahswriterMandragorasarevok57lolienAethernautscriverRaduzielsparkleavDullSkullTheSecondgorgonzolaFlashburnScum_of_DunwallMagpieRandomsRawgrimReibornHalfOrcBeastmaster
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Comments

  • JonnecyJonnecy Member Posts: 56
    edited August 2016
    In other words, BeamDog thought it would be a good idead to turn the game into a playground for one of their SJW writers and their propaganda, completely ignoring the fact that this sort of thing is the very last thing any D&D players wants or needs in their game...serioulsy, who thought that was a good idea -,-
    If anyone wants to have a SJW discussion or have any of their non-sense slapped around their face/ears/whatever they can do that in a forum or on youtube or wherever; but since when have PC games (fantasy games in particular) become a medium for delivering socio-political ideas, especially when it is done in such a blunt and in-your-face sort of manner ?
    Bad idea, BeamDog, bad idea indeed!

  • ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,769
    edited August 2016
    @Jonnecy That is very overgeneralizing it. There are a lot of D&D players who are also SJWs in one way or another. And there are also a lot of players who are happy or indifferent about the the inclusion of Mizhena.
    Also, please define what you mean by "non-sense". There is nothing wrong about including these themes in the game. Just this particularly way it was done is bad.

    PS: Differnet social justice themes have btw always been a topic in the games. Racism and classcism probably being the most prominent ones.

    ThacoBellSamuelVarg
  • FrancoisFrancois Member Posts: 452
    edited August 2016


    Baldur’s Gate is a game that treats sexchange as a punishment.

    Not exactly, because the girdle (or wild surge) sex change doesn’t affect your abilities, unlike the gauntlets of fumbling or the Discipliner. The way I see it it's more for comedy purpose (Rob Schneider used to be a Red Wizard... until one day...)

    I love the Nostlagia Critic and I'll be sure to watch the video.

    By the way, is it only me or does Imoen's SoD portrait looks a bit like Anita Sarkeesian?

    ButtercheeseAethernaut
  • ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,769
    Francois said:

    Not exactly, because the girdle (or wild surge) sex change doesn’t affect your abilities, unlike the gauntlets of fumbling or the Discipliner. The way I see it it's more for comedy purpose (Rob Schneider used to be a Red Wizard... until one day...)

    That is essentially true, but you have to look at the context in which it is used. The girdle is one of the first magical items you can find in the game. So to teach the player to ID their magical items before using it, they give it a curse property that is in itself not harmful yet still annoying to the vast majority of players. Also, notice that it's literally called a "curse". Certainly it's for commedic purposes, yet still a punishment.
    Francois said:

    By the way, is it only me or does Imoen's SoD portrait looks a bit like Anita Sarkeesian?

    I don't see it, to be honest ... and even if, I'd rather not see it. (I am really not fond of Sarkeesian.)

  • ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,769
    edited August 2016
    @Shandyr Ah, but that is exactly my point. It's not about who and what Mizhena actually is, it's about what we, the players, see in her. And simply because transgenderism is such a hot button topic currently, all those views and opinions asscociated with that get connected with her in a lot of players heads. That's why everything blew up so strongly.

    Like Rantasmo said in another video (don't ask me which ...), this stuff is not happening in a vacuum. People are jumpy about the topic, now more than ever.

    That is especially true, because she doesn't have a lot of other stuff going for her.

    I mean, it sucks that it is that way, but that doesn't change that truth.

    Post edited by Buttercheese on
    [Deleted User]Ravenslightdeltago
  • semiticgoddesssemiticgoddess Member Posts: 14,833

    A lot of us non-left-extremists had our fair share of not so pleasant run-ins with self-proclaimed “Social Justice Warriors”, most of which ended badly. I myself became target of a witch hunt on Tumblr a few years back, where I openly called out a bunch of people who said that all non-trans people should die. Literally and repeatedly. A few years ago, Tumblr was FULL of posts like these and they usually were widely celebrated.

    After openly disagreeing with a statement like this, people lost their proverbial shit. A flood of hatemails came in. People telling me to kill myself, people telling me to leave the fandom, people telling me to delete my account, people telling me that they were disappointed, people calling me a Nazi over and over again, especially after they found out that I am German.

    I veer left myself, but I have to agree that the left has a vocal section of intolerant folks who believe people on the right--or even demographic groups who veer to the right on average--are enemies worthy only of destruction. People often have a perverse desire to sort human beings into factions.

    My condolences, @Buttercheese. Nobody should have to deal with that.

    ButtercheeseRavenslightNonnahswritergorgonzola
  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    I approve of this message.

    ButtercheesesemiticgoddessRavenslight
  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 12,222
    The only problem I have with the Minsc line, is that I don't see him using the word "ethics". Make him ham it up too, "ADVENTURING IS ALL ABOUT GOODNESS!"

    Buttercheesetypo_tilly
  • FrancoisFrancois Member Posts: 452
    edited August 2016

    ...Also, notice that it's literally called a "curse". Certainly it's for commedic purposes, yet still a punishment.

    It's a curse because it cannot be removed at will. That doesn't mean that the effect is in itself portrayed as negative. Many good things can be a curse when you lose control over them. If the girdle could be put on or removed at will it would surely be appreciated by a lot of people.

    In fact, an unwelcomed sex change would upset almost anyone, including transgendered people. You could say that transgendered people were essentially born or raised with that girdle and they want to remove it, in the metaphorical sense.

    typo_tilly
  • ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,769
    O_Bruce said:

    Granted, you have to pry about her name for her to tell about her... "issue", but still I think she's too open about it. That kind of openess towards complete stranger is psychotic But you know, what's also psychotic?

    - Immediately asking total strangers you met in the woods to help you in wyvern hunt (even if none of said strangers look trustworthy and reputation of said strangers are that of a villain) - (Coran)
    - Immediately asking total strangers you met in the woods (again) to help you in getting to Grand Duke's daughter (again, no matter who's among the group) - (Eldoth)
    - Immediately asking total strangers you met to kill the witch without any good reason besides "just because" (even if there are lawful and good characters in the group, and also said witch's protector) (Edwin)
    - Immediately asking total strangers in the middle of some wilderness to help you find the reasure nearby (Safana)

    Mizhena doesn't have an "issue" and I don't like the way you word that but you have a point about her being so open.
    Though one could argue that the other ones aren't particularly good examples of writing either. That's the problem with wordcount regulation and not fleshing out characters. Also, the writers learned their lessons by the time of BG2. I mean, there are probably some examples of this as well, but far fewer ones. I can't think of any at the top of my head.

    O_Bruce said:

    In my opinion, people are actively seeking things to be offended by, especially on the internet. If you mix that with the fact that majority of population seem unable to rate recieved stimuli in constructive way and being able to express only polarizing opinions (I like/I hate instead of "I like it, but I also think it has some bad things about it" or "I hate it, but I can also notice some good qualities about it") then you'll have answer as to why people are so prone to creating pointless shitstorms and dramas, despite the fact neither does the topic any justice.

    Pretty much, yeah.
    My personal theory is, that too many people are using topics like these to vent their anger about comepletely different topics. A few months ago an old friend of mine suddenly started ranting about their hate for muslims completely out of nowhere. After I verbally ripped them a new one and they had calmed down, I started prying for the real issue. Which - as suspected - where family problems.
    Also, remember the SJWs I mentioned above? Yeah, the main person behind that was a college dropout who was kicked out by their family.
    That's why I don't openly engage in dramas like these anymore. Because the people involved are usually so driven by emotion, that they are not able to have logical arguments about it anymore.

    O_Bruce said:

    Here we go again. Another thread about this topic. How wonderful.

    Well, yeah. Because time had to pass so that people can calm down. I am not here to to take a stance for or against Mizhena, I am here to paint the bigger picture of exactly what went wrong and to give a new perspective. I too don't care enough about Mizhena as a character, but aparently everyone else does enough to blow up the forums, twitter, tumblr and whatnot. That is my issue.

    ThacoBellsparkleav
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.

    Escarche
  • RavenslightRavenslight Member Posts: 1,611
    @Glam_Vrock said:
    Part of why we "can't have nice things" is because people will create half-hour diatribes protesting a line of easter egg dialogue in a wizards and dragons video game.

    Oh yes, how dare she express her feelings! They couldn't possibly have any validity. After all, they don’t agree with your own feelings on the matter. Everyone who was not happy should just keep their mouth shut.

    It’s so easy to dismiss anyone who wasn’t happy with all the choices that were made as haters or winners. This woman expressed no hate. You may not agree with how she felt about it, but that in no way makes what she had to say, or how she said it, a diatribe.

    Unlike your remark about her, there was nothing bitter or abusive in what she said.

  • ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,769
    edited August 2016
    @Shandyr
    Well, I didn't perceive it this way until all this drama went down either (still don't really), I just find it noteworthy that aparently nobody is making a connection here. And yes, transgenderism and sex changes are not the same thing, you can't deny though that they are connected. Especially in this context where people like to connect everything with everything.
    Either way, it's just a small thing I wanted to point out.

    @Glam_Vrock & @Ravenslight
    People can talk about what they want for how long they want.
    The real reason why we cannot have nice things is that too many people got unnecesarrily hostile over this instead of speaking their minds like the adults they claim to be. You saw all the personal hate Amber Scott received. No matter how good or bad Mizhena is written, nobody deserves treatment like that.

    RavenslightNonnahswriterlolienIllustair
  • ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,769

    I'll be honest; I didn't actually watch it.

    Don't comment on things you don't bother participating in.
    That's like when politicians start blaming video games for real world violence.

    sparkleavRavenslight
  • Glam_VrockGlam_Vrock Member Posts: 277
    Except having now listened to it, I stand by everything I said except maybe the word "diatribe", and I kinda meant to say "dissertation" anyway. Just pattern recognition, captain.

  • randomhero890randomhero890 Member Posts: 82
    edited August 2016


    2) Please don't take this the wrong way, but, JEEBUS CRIPES WHY ARE YOU EVEN THINKING ABOUT IT??? Why are you even sparing the time and energy to worry about this? They're just people! There's all sorts of people with all sorts of characteristics, some of whom are oversharers. Who cares??

    This is a good point. I was a bit weirded out to find out that Dorn will hit on male characters unabashedly, but supposedly that's due to the game's programming interpreting a particular response as attraction instead of just praise. So that's just kind of obscure dialog writing. I feel this way about all the romance dialog, but I know people are into that in these games, so I'll let them have their thing.

    And yeah, baldur's gate characters often have personality stereotypes, so one that overshares their sexuality I wouldn't consider all that ridiculous, compared to all the ridiculous things characters say in baldur's gate. Xzar and Tiax are borderline crazy and Minsc is kind of dumb. And just about every non-joinable NPC's has hugely exaggerated personality traits, often that will lead you to kill them in self defense quite easily at various points. So a character that just runs up and tells you "I'm gay!" or whatever, doesn't even seem all that farfetched considering the dialog in these games.

    In fact, just off the top of my head (having just played BG1) there's spots where characters dialog breaks the 4th wall by saying "Don't click me, I don't want any trouble!", and a spot where a character references a modern day device (can't remember exactly where it was said). So I wouldn't take keeping dialog to rigid D&D setting as gospel for any of these games

    Buttercheesetypo_tilly
This discussion has been closed.