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Some spoilers for young love, etc. in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Phew. Played.

So, what. I got the guy’s letter and gave it to the girl. The best part was being caught and being all “Uh….it was in my pocket guide! I’m a tourist!” Then tried to swim away and learned that this game doesn’t just let you swim for all eternity wearing boots without dying. Died. But then stole a boat and it was all good.

Left it there. Have to bring her note back. Played poker the rest of the night.

But then…just now…played AGAIN!

Did Lenny’s thing. Robbed a bunch of dudes. I kinda wish I had let him go distract the dudes, but I didn’t cuz I was worried about him. I wonder what he would have done? Anyhoo, did that. Came back, beat Tilly at dominoes, and decided to magpie back to the civil war battlefield and the church and the manor house where the raiders were. I didn’t think it would be a waste of time, because, at both places, I had a chance to “inspect site.” I’ve never done that before. Made Arthur draw a picture and everything. Can’t be a waste of time to go back! Waste of time. Found a cigarette card, some more raiders, some loot, and an empty manor. But did find a wild orchid and shot a couple of gators and a turtle.

Now I’m back in Rhodes about to talk to a stranger to get a quest. He’s black. This might be interesting.

But that’s something!

The lovers: So Lemoyne, in general, is about clinging to the past, right? Yet, here’s two lovers who think of themselves as progressive. They’re SO over all this civil war era shit. They GET it, man. I’m not finished with them, so I’m very curious as to how it plays out, but I have a feeling it will have SOMETHING TO SAY.

One thing that did stand out was the…not sure how to say this…incompleteness of her love of the future. Her “terrible place to live” was Ohio (gotta admit, laughed at that). What was in Ohio? It was her uncle who owned a factory. A factory! Isn’t industry what replaced southern agriculture? She’s not really looking towards the future. She’s looking towards a different, more modern social society, but still seems a-ok with plantations and gazebos and NOT factories in Ohio (can’t blame her).

We’ll see how it ends.

Lenny (LENNNNNYYYYY!!): Pretty standard “I love you man,” fare, but two things stood out. Lenny seems to have internalized a lot of racism. He thinks he’s inferior to the other members of the gang, and is proud that he is doing something good for them. That last conversation was like some backwards racial dynamic, the black man saying “I suck,” and the white man saying “No, man, you’re just as good or better than everyone else.”

I’m not sure if that’s very cool or very condescending.

I wish I had let him “act.”

Second, it’s an interesting narrative choice to make Arthur kinda unaware of racism in general. The whole time he’s riding out with Arthur, Arthur is all “Wait…what? Why would they treat you like that? Out west, folks is folks….”

Now, I’m not so sure that’s believable. I’m sure there was a great deal of racism “out west” in the 1890s. Also, Arthur sure as hell knew what a slave catcher was, so he had a notion that white people held black people as slaves once upon a time.

But let’s put that aside because what I find interesting is it’s the first time I can remember a narrative approaching racism with a true naif in the main role. Racism is so pervasive that we learn that it is a thing before we can read. EVERYONE knows what racism is. As much as Arthur’s naivety strains belief, having any other character in any other narrative this naive would be completely ludicrous. It’s strange and kinda interesting to have a character confronting racism with an idea of “What? Really? Why?”

I’m not sure if this is going to all tie up with the game having some degree, if not a large degree of white folk “I don’t see color” condescendsion. This runs the risk of some serious “I am a holier than thou white person” shit.

Or not. I’m curious to see.

Feminina:

You got caught delivering the letter? Man, you need to be more sneaky. I just crept around and delivered it with no one the wiser. Although it does sound like I missed some good dialogue, so perhaps you have the last laugh after all.

The young lovers are an interesting point, all right. Both utterly disgusted with their traditional, warring families, but also both very naive. They can tell what they don’t like, but they have no clear idea what the actual alternatives are, maybe. And as you say, they’re sort of disowning the past, but without any apparent awareness (or even speculation) of what the future is going to be like. (I suppose they are very young.)

I wish them well, but being Romeo and Juliet, they will likely end in tragedy. Ooh, I hope Arthur gets the role of the friar with news of the plot, who misses Beau on the road! Probably because he was too busy looting bodies.

Priorities!

I didn’t let Lenny act either. I was worried about him too! I don’t want him to get hurt!

Arthur’s lack of understanding of racism is also an interesting point, and not quite coherent since he seems to get it OK when he’s against it (he presumably doesn’t just hate the Klan because of their fashion choices–he must have some context for finding them worthy of hating). It would be easy to read his perplexity as being that sort of genuine, clueless puzzlement of well-meaning white people who oppose racism but don’t actually pay attention to anything black people say and so are against it on principle without really believing it exists: “well, that’s all horrible, but no one actually IS racist anymore!”

Except that, again, he can’t be that clueless given he’s spoken to (and been disgusted by) actual former slavecatchers, he’s hassled actual Klan members in the woods–he is not that out of touch with the reality of race relations.

I do think that there’s probably something to the idea that it was different in the west at that time–less codified, if nothing else. And there were, historically, some black cowboys, outlaws too no doubt, and there was probably to some extent less formalized racism in the west because there were fewer rules about everything, and so fewer rules about how everyone had to behave to constantly shore up the superiority complexes of white people.

So if anyone was personally ‘color-blind’ in this world, a western outlaw is about as plausible a candidate for the role as you’re going to find, and I’m willing to more or less accept that Arthur himself, raised since his formative years outside society by egalitarian outlaws who apparently accept everything, does see people as “just folks” and would probably be somewhat baffled by an elaborate system of laws and customs designed to enforce something different.

But since this isn’t the first time he’s encountered it, being all baffled NOW does seem out of place, unless it’s meant to be a sort of “however many times I see this, it still doesn’t make sense to me” exclamation or something.

As you say, it’s interesting to be looking at American racism from the point of view of someone who’s presented as not fundamentally understanding it. It also highlights Arthur’s alienation from society: he’s an outlaw in all kinds of ways, not only because he doesn’t follow the laws about, you know, robbery and murder, but also because he doesn’t even understand basic rules about who’s subordinate to whom. Being an outsider means you’re free of all kinds of constraints, maybe–both annoying rules about property ownership, and pernicious habits of categorizing other people.

Again, this doesn’t completely ring true, since he seems to grasp other social conventions (he doesn’t wonder WHY Mary’s family didn’t want her marrying an outlaw, and why they didn’t want her brother joining a cult, he greets people politely when it suits him, he understands that it’s odd Sadie wants to wear pants even though he personally doesn’t care), but it doesn’t ring as totally false as it would with a lot of other characters/settings. (Given the examples I thought of, I suppose we could also wander off here into gender, and wonder if it would be easier for him to grow up without specific ‘race roles’ in place than without gender roles…maybe later.)

Butch:

I did get caught. I was hiding behind a statue. Guy’s all “What’re you doing here?” and Arthur, fast thinking, is all “Uh…I’m a tourist! This is Braithewaite manor, right? Supposed to be beautiful! It was in my pocket guide!”

Seriously.

Did you read the letters? I did not. I half worried they were something not at all love letters. Like they were secretly slave traders or something.

And, well, but they’re not disowning the past totally. They sure do seem to like manors and gazebos and all that.

Priorities, indeed.

Wait, likely end? You’re not finished with this story line? Or are you being coy?

Race. Yeah. I mean, maybe he gets the idea of slavery, and maybe he gets that “Klan=bad,” but maybe he thinks that’s what racism is. Like, “Well, this here pardner didn’t own slaves and isn’t wearing a hood, so he must be ok with all folks….what do you mean he’s not, Lenny?”

So maybe the hatred of racists is more about his idea of hating rival gangs. If he sees someone obviously associating with a group that is opposed to the ideas of his group (confederates, raiders, klansmen) then he gets that that’s bad, but if there is no obvious affiliation with anything, then that’s just “folks,” and folks are folks who just go about their lives and are all the same. The default gang: folks.

And California and Oregon did stay loyal to the union, so there’s that. However, those places still had more than enough hatred towards Chinese people and Native Americans, so the idea of “I hate you cuz you’re different” wasn’t totally alien to the west.

And we are supposed to believe, I think, that this is his first time seeing the American south and, let’s face it, the American south did have the most extreme views of race that one could find in North America (save for that whole Native American genocide…moving on…). Maybe he’s baffled at the prevalence of it? Maybe?

Curious to see what this stranger quest brings. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Well…hmm. I’m not sure he did understand the whole “don’t marry an outlaw” or “cult” thing, at least not in the way that we do. I think he got that Mary’s family didn’t want her marrying HIM, but remember he doesn’t have a great self image. Also, maybe it was “I/they wouldn’t want Mary to go from a comfy lifestyle to sleeping in the dirt,” which he understands. Both are different from “My way of life is fundamentally bad,” which is how we feel. We would say “We don’t want our kids marrying an outlaw, not just THIS outlaw, because outlaws are immoral, awful people, dirt and stew aside.” He doesn’t.

As for the cult, at first he doesn’t really care. He thinks they’re weird, sure. Mostly, his objection is that he sees them as thieves, and THAT he gets. It isn’t “They’ll warp your mind,” which is how we’d feel. It’s “Mary asked me to do this, and they’re stealing from you.” That’s not a deep understanding of social norms.

And, as for Sadie, or anyone about anything really, his take isn’t “That person is weird,” it’s “Anyone who thinks that’s weird is weird, because it’s so obviously not weird.”

Feminina:

Yeah, that’s certainly a good point…the west may not be as obviously racist against black people (perhaps largely because there aren’t as many of them around), but oh my lord the anti-Indian racism. And given the lack of real encounters with Indians so far other than Charles, it’s hard to say where Arthur would come down on that, other than that they’re also “folks.”

But that’s unlikely to be the attitude of most of the people he meets out and about, so even if we can assume he grew up outside of formalized black/white racial differentiation, he could hardly be a stranger to the concept of a social system in which one race is considered to be obviously superior to another. In the west, folks is just folks, except some folks are Indians who are rudely trying to keep living on this land they’ve been living on forever, when we would like to do other things with it, and we obviously can’t have that.

And that’s presumably not Arthur’s personal viewpoint, but it’s the one that enabled the gang’s romantic ideal of the open west where folks can go to be free, and (Hosea’s commentary near the beginning aside) the gang’s dreams and idealized hidden spots of freedom completely fail to take into account all the people who were forcibly shoved aside to make that west so ‘open and free’ for white folks. When they’re looking for a new camp after Valentine, Dutch even says “go to this spot Micah found and if there’s anyone already there, drive them out.” Which…is exactly what “won” the west, all right.

And of course the people we found there were lily white German immigrants whom we don’t have to feel racist about ‘driving out,’ and anyway we actually wound up helping them (so they could go colonize the west some more, with their whiteness and their gold!), but Dutch didn’t specify anything like “unless they’re Indians, who have more right to the spot than we do, in which case leave them alone.” He just said to get rid of anyone who was there. Sometimes you have to push other people around when you have a grand dream of freedom!

And if you’ve already got that understanding of one race being ranked markedly lower in a social hierarchy, how difficult should it really be to grasp the same basic underpinnings of a similar system where the people on the bottom rung of the ladder are a slightly different color? “Oh, it’s a lot like how white townsfolk think about Indians” would be a reasonable leap to make, wouldn’t it? He’s not a simpleton.

So yeah, hm. Not sure I can buy Arthur’s naivety, now that I think of it.

Maybe it’s mean to be a sort of display of solidarity with Lenny, and it just comes out awkward and clueless?

“Gosh, I just can’t imagine how anyone could think any less of you because you’re black, which I barely even noticed since I just see folks–you mean other people actually pay attention to trifles like that?!”

Oh, and I did not read the letters, and I am at this point still unsure what becomes of the two lovers.

I hope it’s tragedy! No, not really. I wish them well. Unless they’re secretly slave traders. (We should have read their letters.)

Butch:

Well, we did have that one glimpse of Native Americans in the distance when everyone was coming out of the mountains way back when. Hosea commented about how tough the Natives had it, worse even than the gang. That’s it, though.

Right! The ideal is freedom…..for us so fuck you. That’s true of the gang, the USA in the west, the “free state of Lemoyne,” everyone. The ideal of “free” is a joke no matter who is saying it. Shit, even the slaver, his “freedom” to live a nice life is tied directly to depriving people of their freedom entirely. Yet, we’re supposed to hate that guy. Is he a reflection of us? I think so.

By the way…on that, you likely haven’t played dominoes with Tilly, as you are not keen on minigames. The only reason I played dominoes with Tilly (who is black), is that I hadn’t had any banter with Tilly, who did nothing but sit there waiting for me to play dominoes. I thought “Maybe this will lead to an interesting conversation or two,” and it does. FYI.

And, well…..Hmm. This may be a bit of a stretch, but Arthur’s idea of “other” is rooted in “enemy,” or, at least, someone who is actively trying to take my shit. These people are people you shoot on sight. Arthur hasn’t displayed a whole lot of difference between people you shoot (bad guys) and people you don’t shoot on sight (folk). (The fact you CAN shoot anyone is just game mechanics that make no narrative sense, so let’s ignore that.) Southern racism is different than that. Blacks and whites aren’t rival gangs who automatically kill each other, like Dutch’s and the O’Driscolls, so that’s outside of Arthur’s thinking. Americans and Native Americans did war against each other. That he gets.

Maybe just solidarity…but it sounded earnest.

He even says Lenny is BETTER than Sean. Who is white…..but also Irish. Hmm.

Oh, that stretches into Chapter four? Now I’m confused. I have two yellow quests (not counting the stranger mission, which I’m gonna do next). One is talk to someone (Bill I think?) in camp, and the other is go back to the dude with the girl’s letter. Usually you have to do all the yellow to move on, right? Not this time?

What should I do next?

Feminina:

Well…let’s just say it either stretches into Chapter 4 in some way I’ve not yet observed, or it doesn’t end. Or I somehow missed the ending. There’s more to it…go ahead and take the letter back to the dude. See where that leads. It just hasn’t so far led to any specific conclusion, as far as I’ve seen.

Maybe I’ll run into the two lovers in Saint Denis.

Also, there’s a lot of other stuff that happens before Chapter 4, so I wouldn’t worry about it.

It is true, I have not played dominoes with Tilly, but based on your advice, I shall do so. Siiiigh…even though I don’t like minigames. I’ll do it just for the conversation.

I haven’t played five-finger filet with Lenny or whoever, either. (I have ignored it so thoroughly, I don’t even know who plays it.) I suppose there’s conversation there too.

Siiiiigh. If I wanted to play dominoes or poker or knife games, you know I HAVE dominoes and cards and knives in my actual house, right? Can’t we just chat? Over coffee or something?

Heh…the implication being, I suppose, that I DON’T have people to chat with in my actual house. No offense, loving family!

Hm. Interesting thought, that maybe Arthur’s sense of society is just “folk” (whom you USUALLY don’t shoot, at least not right away) and “enemies” (with whom you usually are immediately in combat). “Are these red dots, or blue dots on the map?” (Although actually non-hostile people in this game are white dots, aren’t they?)

And if someone isn’t a red dot and deserving of instant combat, it doesn’t make sense to him that they would be considered in any way lesser than any other white dot? All white dots are the same to me, no matter their actual skin color? (And all red dots are also the same, come to think of it: he kills them without hesitation, but with no special rancor based on any personal characteristics.)

Hm. I still don’t know that I buy that he’s so unaware of how “normal” people think, even if the dot system does describe his personal social hierarchy, but it’s an interesting thought.

Butch:

A lot that happens?

What?

I’m at 41% and change, and you said that you were in chapter four at 45%.

I can’t accept that difference is a game of dominoes and a couple alligators I shot. (What? They were scaring Roach!)

Still a lot?

I won’t do the five-finger thing. I tried that dumb game and dumb game is dumb. I’ve already chatted with Lenny. We’re good.

As for the race conversation, still goes back to why they chose to do it this way. It was a narrative decision, after all, and one that I find interesting, if confusing.

Feminina:

Well, there’s the Stranger quest you just got. Speaking of race. That’s a quick bit. No doubt some interesting material that can pertain to this discussion, so heck, go do that!

Maybe some optional robberies and such at perhaps .1% each, as you estimated. Those barely count in terms of completion.

Then there’s a fair bit more Braithwaite/Gray stuff. Four or five yellow quests at .5% to 1% (my rough estimation…for a while I thought they were each about a percent, but that doesn’t seem to be consistently true, though they’re definitely worth considerably more than the white ones).

Anyway, that should about catch you up to 45% at Chapter 4.

I’m only 48% now despite playing lately. Game is long.

Butch:

I, too, have noticed the percentages are weird. I’ll do something that I think is major and it’s hardly anything, then I’ll do nothing except scan a turtle and it’s .4%.

I don’t get it.

I’ll catch up. Or not.

Feminina:

Outlook’s contribution:

“It’s not weird.”
“I don’t know either.”
“I’m not sure either.”

So…disagreement, or two different ways of expressing agreement.

You know I will pretty much never choose “it’s not weird,” so yeah, I’m not sure/don’t know either. There’s probably some formula that’s too complex for our puny brains to comprehend.

Butch:

“I don’t know either” is a pretty good reply to pretty much anything either of us ever says.

Except for things like “Booze is good” and “Needs more nudity.”

Feminina:

Good points. Perhaps Outlook will do better at writing our posts than we thought!

Butch:

When it suggests “Booze is good” and “needs more nudity” then we know it has taken over.

Feminina:

And then we’ll sit back with our booze and wait for the money and accolades to roll in.

Except that Microsoft will get them all. Siiiigh.

Butch:

I can still sit back with my booze.

T SHIRT!!!!

Feminina:

OK, still needs some work:

“I’ll bring it.”
“Can you bring it?”
“Can’t wait to see that.”

DO YOU EVEN HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT OUTLOOK?

I’ll bring/can you bring…what? A T shirt? Booze? (Granted, these are both good questions to ask about booze. T shirts…enh.)

Can’t wait to see…someone sitting back with booze? THAT IS A BORING THING TO SEE, OUTLOOK. Believe us, we can wait. (A great thing to DO! A boring thing to watch someone else do.)

The system is not ready for its blog-writing closeup.

But with our pointed and unsparing feedback, no doubt it soon will be. Just helping the machine put us out of a job here.

Butch:

“I’ll bring it” in regards to booze is pretty damn great.

Cuz life just keeps getting harder. I spent last week fixing shit. I made progress! Now, this fucking wind has blown my back screen door clean off and knocked over the basketball hoop in the driveway.

Shit’s always breaking.

Arthur’s got it right. Sleep rough. Eat stew. Carry about nine gallons of bourbon and gin.

Feminina:

Stew, booze, and a bedroll. Who needs anything more, really?

Butch:

Though, with my luck, my bedroll would break.

Feminina:

You can just repair it using pieces from another bedroll. Wait, that’s Fallout New Vegas.