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Spoilers for the Margaret storyline in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Ok, phew, played. PHEW!

But, gotta warn you, if you haven’t done what I did, you may not think I played and that I’m still bonkers.

Here’s what I did: I found a dude on a hill who told me he found a widow in a home, and she must’ve liked him because she told him to go away so nicely. He rode off after “recognizing” Arthur. He left behind a tent with a lot of dirty pictures, handcuffs and a doll. (This game does have its share of creepy.)

Then I found an unrelated (I think) abandoned cottage. I kicked in the door, and found an entire family murdered mid meal. Still sitting around like everything was normal. Couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but found a book for Jack and a pen for Mary. (This game does have its share of creepy.)

And then….I swear I’m not bonkers….I did a whole quest…really, I’m not…that entailed….don’t judge…retrieving a menagerie of animals for a British drag queen.

Which had themes! And it was real! Unless I was really tired and hallucinating.

That’s what I did. Did you do that? Please say you did that.

Feminina:

Wow, you did a lot of stuff! Nice!

I have not done either of the first two things you mention, so it’s possible you’re hallucinating, but I DID do the entire Margaret quest. That was a thing, all right. Several things.

Stagecraft, for one. There was a lot about showing people what they want to see, and they’ll be happy to believe it because it’s wondrous and entertaining. And at the same time, Margaret himself is kind of seeing the entire west the way he wants to see it–Daddy thought it was a stupid idea to come here to make his fortune, but this is his land of opportunity and he’s going to be famous!

And there’s a bit about gender, although this is also about stagecraft, because according to Margaret it’s much more impressive to see a WOMAN animal trainer and so that’s what people will want…and apparently they’ll be satisfied enough with seeing it that they won’t care if it’s actually a lushly mustached man in a dress. It highlights the way a costume, almost by itself, has the power to create a character (in this case, the character of “woman animal trainer”) for the purposes of a show.

But that almost makes you think of Arthur’s “summer gunslinger” and “winter gunslinger” outfits, and reflect on how he himself, even though he IS an outlaw, is to some extent also playing the part of an outlaw, in his own mind and to the rest of the gang.

“This is how we dress in this gang…this is how we act…these are the things we do.”

Which leads us back to social roles, and how we’re all playing different parts at different times, not in an insincere way but simply based on the different contexts in which we operate throughout the day…I play a different role, and present myself in a different way, at work than at home, etc.

Margaret is playing a rather more obvious role than most of the characters in the game, but he’s here in pursuit of his ‘American Dream,’ just as Dutch and the gang are in pursuit of theirs. And in the long run, his is perhaps no more a fantasy than theirs.

Margaret is also interesting because rather than trying to show the West to other areas (like Albert Mason the photographer, or the guy who wants perfect pelts for taxidermy, or whatever), he’s trying to bring other areas to the West. He sees the west not as some uncharted wilderness to be explored and sent back home, but as someplace with an existing culture that might be interested in things that would also be interesting ‘back home.’ Like lions and tigers and fearless woman animal trainers!

Obviously, the uncharted wilderness viewpoint is willfully incorrect given that the west was already fairly full of people and existing culture…maybe Margaret actually proposes a better way. Stagecraft and dreams for peace!

Or maybe he’s just a cheap huckster who follows in the wake of colonization to sell fakery to the rubes. Reckless and dangerous fakery at that!

And speaking of danger, then there’s the matter of reality! Even when he’s not faking, he’s incompetent! People are going to get hurt!

Yes, there’s a lot there. Margaret is rather fascinating.

DISCUSS.

Butch:

Dude, it was either do stuff or madness. MADNESS!!!!!

That it was a thing with Margaret, that it was. And the two other things weren’t “doing” things, per se. They were stumbling upon things. (Shit! I forgot! I also tossed a stick of dynamite into a Klan rally and killed everyone and got…dialog. TOO MUCH TO BLOG! Later on that.) I’ve noticed there’s stuff worth finding off the road.

I shall discuss!

Stagecraft, indeed. I do rather like when art discusses art.

Yes, Margaret does have a romantic “Came here to earn my fortune” bullshit view of the west. That he does. That said, it seems he knows it, and he accepts it. It’s similar to the way that he doesn’t really apologize for being fake himself. He says, and who are we to argue, that his audience, at least at some level, knows that his show is just that: a show. We go to see Wicked on Broadway and sure, we know that the witch isn’t really flying at the end of act one, that it’s just an actress on a wire, but who cares? It’s a show! Margaret is of the same opinion both for his show and for the larger show of the American West and America in general. “Sure, America is bullshit, the American dream is bullshit, but we can know that and still enjoy it, right?” “RIGHT????” (Not saying I have an answer to that, or the game does.)

What do you make of the fact that the quest name itself draws attention to the fact he’s foreign? The name of the quest is, oddly, “Of course he’s British.”

As for your “even when he’s not faking, he’s reckless and dangerous,” yes, but I think the lion had more to say than that. Admit it: you were surprised as hell that that was a lion. I sure was. Arthur sure was. That was a hell of a good twist. After all his weary “Guys, it’s just a dog, let me in,” to those poor, doomed dudes (I felt bad about them), to that, to him being so exasperated with Margaret (“It could have been a goose for all I knew!” “I told you it was a lion!” “Yeah….but…..”). All that said, I don’t think it was there to say “Margaret was reckless or bad.” I think it was there to say “Wait a minute….even when we’re putting on a show, telling a story, looking back at a way of life, whatever, in a way that is obviously steeped in bullshit, that doesn’t mean it’s ALL bullshit. Some of it can be true. Some of it probably is. Why were you so quick to make the assumption that nothing here CAN be true?” Then it doubles down: The TRUE THING here was the ONLY thing in the whole quest that could kill you. The danger was the reality, and it was the reality that we blithely assumed wasn’t real. Shit, the danger was reality, and it was the reality we blithely assume COULDN’T BE real.

Gender sure is a thing here. I found it interesting that the game staunchly refused to call Margaret anything but Margaret. Often, in games, in situations like this, the sidekick or whoever will eventually roll his or her eyes and be all “Oh, stop it, your name is Edward” or something. Here, he’s Margaret all the way through. Even Sally calls him “Mr. Margaret.” Margaret, and the game, never broke character. Or maybe his name really IS Margaret? Why am I assuming?

I found the whole return conversation to be fascinating. Sally all “I want to be the second best female animal trainer someday!” Even she was conceding that Margaret was the best “female” trainer! What’s more, here’s Arthur all “Maybe the best female should be female..” and “You can do it” and encouraging her. Arthur is many things: sexist isn’t one of them. He has no issue with the idea of women wrangling wild beasts or doing anything else. (He’s not a racist, either. Remind me about the Klan and dynamite.) That said, the game doesn’t get heavy handed about that. We don’t get a scene (like we would in some games) with Arthur lecturing Margaret all “You know, Sally can do her own thing” and then getting mad when Margaret is all “What, a woman?” Arthur listens, says his piece, rides off.

That’s good stuff about playing a part and roles and all that. I keep forgetting this game has NPCs that treat you differently based on your hair. It’s true: gunslinger and all that. Shit, I even put on a new outfit when I go to fancy places because it’s nice and I like it and it’s called ‘The Ruffian’ and how cool is that?

But yes, I certainly see how Arthur (and most of everyone, really) is playing the part of whatever. I’ve said before: Arthur isn’t, at heart, as bad a guy as he thinks he is, or as bad a guy as he thinks he has to look like. He’s playing the part of an outlaw. More, he’s playing the part of the stone killer who is close to the gang leader, not the planner, the butcher, the whatever.

Hmm. There is a lot here.

Feminina:

I think you made the right choice. I mean, madness is also entertaining, up to a point, but it eventually takes a toll.

I stumbled on a small Klan gathering at one point, two guys in the woods attempting to raise a cross while another one ordered them around. I sauntered up to them all casual-like, meaning to see if they had any conversation or anything that we could discuss later, but I must have startled them or bumped into them or something, because I swear the next thing that happened was that the two guys somehow dropped the cross on themselves and apparently were crushed to death, and the other guy panicked (as one might, I suppose) and tried to shoot me, so I obviously had to shoot him.

So yeah. No love for the racist viewpoint. Also true that Arthur seems to have no beef with women doing whatever–he didn’t object to Sadie’s trousers, doesn’t have any negative comments about Sally wanting to train animals instead of keep house like a normal woman. Nor did he have any real concerns with Margaret wearing a dress–plenty of people would see cross-dressing as an abomination, but he barely bats an eye.

He’s quite broad-minded in social matters.

Also yeah, I was completely surprised to find that the lion was actually a lion. I thought it would be a dog like the other ‘lion’! Or, as you quote Arthur, it could have been a goose for all we knew–but certainly not actually a lion. (A touch of the boy who cried wolf, here?)

I felt bad about the dude it killed and ate, even as I also felt kind of bad about shooting it. It wasn’t the lion’s fault it was thousands of miles from its natural habitat and probably mad with the trauma of being locked in a tiny cage for years.

But I think the game is only partly saying that amid all the fakery we lose track of the fact that some things are real, and dangerous–that is definitely true, but it’s also true that some of the fakery is itself dangerous. Margaret’s tiger was ‘only’ a mountain lion, but as evidenced by the dead dog, a mountain lion is still nothing to sneeze at. So there’s something interesting in there about dressing up very real, local dangers in more interesting and ‘exotic’ colors for the sake of show…a mountain lion IS actually scary, but it’s not scary in an interesting way, so we have to paint it up for the stage.

Maybe something about how we hide real danger behind pretend danger, and then convince ourselves it’s all under control because it’s only pretend? And maybe this is part of the ‘taming’ of the west itself–dressing up the very real hardships and dangers (getting mauled by cougars or shot by outlaws IS in fact a risk) as something exotic and almost glamorous, and selling that image, and making it seem appealing that way.

I don’t know.

I also don’t know quite what to make of “Of course he’s British.” I guess…obviously British guys wear dresses? Or maybe in this time, in the popular imagination, British people are just kind of wacky and who knows what they’ll do? There’s also a possible undertone there of “oh, it’s harmless, he’s just British” which suggests that maybe Margaret can get away with being weird because he’s a foreigner–but a familiar, basically harmless variety of foreigner. It makes me seriously wonder if he even IS British, or if that’s part of the act. Certainly much of his story about coming from a fine estate and daddy not wanting him to leave, or whatever, is likely made up. And the enormous gem he pays you with–did that not scream ‘fake’ to you?

Arthur took it and was happy with it, and I donated it to camp where it was apparently worth $50, so no harm done, but a gem of that size? I don’t see how that could be genuine. Again, everyone’s happy with it, but it smacks of more showmanship.

And maybe even the fact that everyone’s happy with it is part of the theme…Margaret tells us that people want to see a certain thing and he gives it to them and everyone is happy. So, Arthur wanted to see a big jewel, and he got one, and he’s happy! And if everyone buys the fantasy, including whomever camp apparently sold the gem to, then…it IS real, in a way, isn’t it?

Its value is genuine if someone’s willing to pay for it. And that’s the same way that Margaret’s show is genuine, and maybe that’s the same way that the legend of the Wild West is genuine.

I’m very curious if we’ll meet Margaret and/or Sally again.

Butch:

“madness is also entertaining, up to a point, but it eventually takes a toll.”

T SHIRT!!!!

Ah, ok. On the Klan, I had a thing last night, really a revisit of a thing, cuz the first time I saw it I tried to intervene and got very killed. This was a while ago.

Anyhoo, it’s night, and there’s a big ol’ burning cross, and a bunch of Klan dudes all “welcoming in another brother to the fold” and having speeches and initiations and all that. Themewise, there was quite a bit of talk about how Congress was imposing their will too much on these lands, and it was up to them to keep things the way they should be blah blah blah. Yet more “America is becoming a nation of laws….” but instead of “And that’s bad cuz cowboys!” it was more a sense of “And that’s ok cuz without laws we have this Klan stuff.”

Anyway, I knew that if I peacefully intervened they’d shoot me, but I couldn’t let Klan shit stand so I chucked a stick of dynamite in, blew about 11 of them up (Dear GOD dynamite is great) and the other, well, he took umbrage, tried to shoot me, so I killed him.

And two more themey things happened: First, Arthur, with much anger, after killing the last one growls “I’ll kill each and every one of you hooded fuckers” or something along those lines. Like, it is the only time we’ve really seen Arthur be all flaming sword of justice, but he was. This wasn’t a “you messed with me, so growl,” this was legit “I hate these racists.” Hmm.

Second, on the body of the initiate, I found a letter he was going to send home (had he not met dynamite) to his father, explaining that, despite his father’s pleas he cannot ignore the science of eugenics, cannot ignore the fact that whites are better blah blah blah so he’s going to the West where he can be with people who think like he does and all that. It’s yet more “I’m going to show my parents….I’ll find a place to be me in that place out West where everything’s possible.” Instead of it being rather amusing and about dressing as a woman with animals, it’s racist and disgusting.

But, in the end, the same.

Arthur’s broad-minded in some ways, but, again, not really class matters. His eye rolling was more “People actually PAY for this? Why?” He’s very practical, Arthur.

And, strangely, honest. He’s an admitted killer and robber and criminal, but he just plain doesn’t like the idea of fooling people. Given he’s likely fooling himself, we’ll talk. Later.

I felt bad about the lion, too. Not so bad that I took the trophy that let me craft the lion talisman and get a perk. You DID do that, right?

Your take makes a lot of sense. Also explains the very dangerous, yet glamorized, outlaw having sympathy for the very dangerous, yet glamorized, cougar. Did you catch that Arthur, when locking in the cougar, apologizes to it, in a whisper Sally can’t hear? He knows what it’s like when the outsiders come to tame you, better than most.

Oh the gem screamed “fake” from the rooftops. I half expected the quest to end with Arthur yelling “Hey! This is glass!” and there being an annoying chase scene.

I don’t see how it could be real, either. I showed it to the fence that made my talisman, and he was gonna give me fifty bucks, too, but I kept it cuz it said “unique item.” It’ll still be there at the end of the game, next to other shit I could have sold.

Pretty excellent stuff. Game and bloggage.

I kinda hope we meet them again. They were interesting.

I want to say here: This was a random encounter side quest. It had themes up to and including the value of the “gem” we got as a reward. We got more interesting thought out of this one damn quest than we did out of half of Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Every single little detail was tailored to support the theme.

Liking this game yet?

Feminina:

Ah, interesting. Indeed, everyone has a different dream for the vast, open country of the West.

Some want to get rich laying railroads and establishing banks. Some want to farm on their own homesteads. Some want to live free of the crushing grip of civilization. Some want to live free of the crushing grip of having to pretend they think non-white people are human.

This is a particularly interesting note in this context, given that the entire project of westward expansion is based on the idea that the non-white people who already lived all over that country were less human and could be pushed aside or eliminated without guilt.

“Hey, oppressive civilization is making some feeble gestures toward recognizing the rights of black people in the south, so let’s head west where it continues to not give a rat’s ass about the rights of Indians!”

We haven’t even seen any Chinese people that I can think of, but let’s also not forget that Chinese immigrants built huge parts of the transcontinental railroad not that long ago in game time (trains: those mighty symbols of encroaching civilization, and also those brand new targets for outlaw attacks!), and as a friendly reward they were being treated like a terrifying menace, what with the Chinese Exclusion Act.

There’s a whole system of underground tunnels and rooms and stuff in the town of my birth, in the west, and there’s a rather cool tour about the history of it, and one of the things I remember learning was that at one point there were Chinese railroad workers in town for a while and they all had to live in this underground space and couldn’t go out at night because they’d get attacked on the streets if they were seen by the residents.

Good times. Good, wholesome times in the wide, free country of the west.

Butch:

Yup. I still am curious as to what, if anything, will lead us up to that Indian reservation in the north, there. Maybe it’s something we’re just supposed to find. I dunno. The dreamcatchers? We shall see. I hope it’s interesting.

Well, the Lemoyne raiders are a big part of that idea, right? Though there it’s not just “oppressive civilization” it’s “northern aggression” or whatever. There, again, those are bad guys. They’re almost instant Kevin.

We have not seen Chinese people, though, in my vain search for more cheat codes, I bought a paper and there was an article about the Chinese Exclusion Act. The paper seems to vacillate between providing ambiance and setting up later events, so I wonder which this reference was, but it was there, I’ll give it that.

Traditional values, man. Americana.

Admit it: You’re liking this game.

Feminina:

I don’t know if ‘like’ is really the word I’d use. I think I like talking about it more than I like actually playing it. It’s certainly very intellectually enjoyable–lots of discussion points and conversation topics. Plenty to say. Good blog-fodder for sure.

When it comes to actually playing it…I don’t know. Some things about it are fun. It’s very pretty. I get into the groove of riding around and it’s cool. Sometimes there’s entertaining dialogue. The fishing was fun.

But I also kind of just want to finish it so I can be done with it.

I skip some nights, even if I have the time to play, because I can’t be bothered to load it. Like, it’s just not worth it to me at that moment to switch the TV from Netflix to this game. Which is not a ringing endorsement of how much I like playing it.

I mean, I don’t hate it. And it hasn’t reduced me to screaming white-hot rage in a while. And as I said, I’m enjoying TALKING about playing it.

Maybe it’s just that “play first” is a necessary prerequisite to “talk later,” but “talk later” is actually what’s more interesting to me in this case.

I dunno.

Butch:

I’ll take that. Talking later is fun.

It is different, I’ll give it that.

But I gotta say, especially given the rather chaotic nature of life in the last few months, I’m kinda liking the ability to just ride around or fish in the evening if I feel like it.

And it does have mad bloggage.

Though really, if the only nudity I get is the weird, grainy pictures the guy from yesterday had, I call false advertising.

Feminina:

It does have a great deal of bloggage.

So far, I haven’t even seen that nudity, so no help there. But I’ve been to vaudeville shows in the big city! I’ve seen…[whispers]…drawers. It was utterly scandalous.

Butch:

I’ve…..searched drawers in this game.

The humanity.

I’m sitting here planning yet another trip. My parental/family/sibling thing this year looks like Miami. Looks nice. We need that travel bloggage!

Though I’m going to have that Will Smith song in my head for months.

Party in the City where the heat is on….

Help.

Feminina:

[Whispers] Ladies’ under-drawers. They did the…the can-can. I nearly swooned with the shock.

Butch:

Oh my….

Oh. My.

Now all you need is a game where brooding, bearded dudes with exoskeletons and/or heavy armor do the can-can.

NEW SENTENCE!

Feminina:

I’m going to love that game. And maybe the can-can will replace Will Smith in your head! Win-win!

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