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Minor spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Well, played some, but didn’t do much. It was one of those sessions where you just kinda take care of business. Sold some stuff to empty the satchel, upgraded some stuff on Roach, upgraded my guns, watched a show about Josiah Blackwater that was….interesting…(What are your thoughts on that? I’m not sure what mine are), asked in a dive bar about the guy and was told he was in the nice bar (surprise surprise), and then it was too late in the day to start a bounty or a main quest or vaudeville so I played dominoes and called it a night. I’m starting with vaudeville when I next play.

I do have some thoughts.

First, just the other day the blog had something up on race and how we haven’t seen Chinese people very much. You mentioned you’d seen a couple around St. Denis, and I have as well, but I want to mention one in particular. You don’t generally go to shops, but did you notice that the gunsmith is Chinese? His shop even has a Chinese name. It is NICE inside. Compare that to the other guy I visited: the trapper. The trapper is a grungy white dude who has a stall in the grungy market.

Is that saying something? The Asian with the technical know how is making bank in the “future” and the white guy with outdated skills is not? Certainly, the differences were striking.

Race aside, it was striking how different the shops were. In other towns, shops were pretty much shops. There wasn’t much differentiation as to who as doing great and who wasn’t. Everyone was pretty much on the same page. Not so much in St. Denis.

OOO! There was another key difference! The fences in Emerald Ranch and Rhodes were grungy as hell, right? Working out of a shack and a stable. Did you visit the fence in St. Denis?

Wonder what they’re saying there. Hmm.

Ok, Second:

I see what you mean about the differences in different parts of the city. Certainly the richer bits pop with color, even at night, and the racial divisions and how they’re portrayed would be just as much at home in Mafia 3. That said, there are a couple of key similarities in the different parts of the city. One in particular stood out to me: it’s claustrophobic as hell. Everything’s narrow, you’re bumping into people, there’s very little (intentional choice of words incoming) freedom to move. That’s true even in the nice parts!

It was a telling thing that I gave up trying to ride Roach. I stabled him. It just wasn’t working. The last straw, and a telling straw it was, was when I hitched him (hitched him for god’s sake! To a hitching post!) and a trolley went by and he panicked and ran. Here I was trying to keep “my ways,” do what I had been doing all along, what I liked doing (that is, ride my horse) and eventually I, the player, said “fuck it, ain’t working.”

That’s cool game design.

Not bad for a playing session where I didn’t do much.

Feminina:

See, this is where it’s good we’re both playing. We can notice different things! Because those are good points to notice, about the shops and the fences, and here’s the thing: I did not notice those things at all.

Because I pretty much never go into shops, and I have never visited a fence except when I had to drop off stolen carriages with that dude as part of a mission. (I just can’t be bothered! I donate all my fenceable items to camp, and haven’t had to sell to clear my satchel in ages…I guess I just eat everything?)

So I have no personal experience with what you’re talking about, but I totally believe and validate your observations!

It’s like, all the money is in the city with the ‘future,’ isn’t it? That’s where you go to get some of the glory and riches of the modern age. The rest of the world is just scraping by with the same old worn-out stuff, but in the city, you can make it big!

Since I HAVE wandered around the streets, I have certainly noticed, like you, how crowded it is. As you say, it feels so different from what we’re used to in the wilderness, or even in small towns. The narrow streets you have to share with trollies, the people everywhere, the buildings all wedged together. Unlike you, I persist in riding my horse around everywhere anyway, because I’m just that stubborn, but I definitely have to ride a lot more slowly. It’s a nice bit of scene-setting and differentiation of environments.

I vaguely remember the Josiah Blackwater show, but it’s been a long time since I saw it. He was kind of horrible, wasn’t he? I remember thinking something like “well, that’s another founding legend revealed as a monster.” And yet the show didn’t even seem to be aware that it was revealing him as a monster, it was quite unironic and presenting all his deeds as if they were unquestionably glorious. That’s how history gets told, I guess.

First perhaps as bare facts, then dramatically embellished to make a point that resonates with the present audience, then revisited (perhaps many times) as sensibilities change. And we’re playing a part in that sequence, revisiting the tale with our own modern sensibilities. We’re part of it all too.

Butch:

I sorta figured you’d missed stuff. It was very interesting how they were portrayed.

So the fence in St. Denis…well, you remember the fence from the carriage mission. He was in a stable. The dude in Rhodes was in a shack. But THIS guy, he’s French, for starters (again, a foreigner having the nice shop) and he’s surrounded by art and jewelry and all sorts of nice stuff. It’s the technician and the guy who is both taking and selling to the rich who are the ones that are well off, and both are from other countries.

You can make it big… Well, yes and no. The trapper, out in the wilderness, was doing ok. Last time I saw him, he was up on a grassy hilltop with a great view, he had two or three big ol’ tents, big ol’ campfire with meat roasting, living the grand outdoor life. Now, he’s in a shitty, tiny stall in the shitty, cramped market wearing shitty, dirty clothes. No one wants the services of someone who can skin a legendary wolf anymore. He was doing FAR better before.

It really does feel different, though. Games aren’t always very good at that. Games do ok at making things LOOK different, but I can’t remember a game where playing it felt so different in a different environment.

I still feel like the place is uniformly unpleasant. I haven’t really explored the nice bits, but even those feel cramped and unpleasant. I want to be out riding the plains again! And I think the game wants me to feel that way, too.

Josiah Blackwater: Unquestionably glorious and unquestionably true. They say “There he was, riding two gators down the river shooting eagles out of the sky when he saw a mountain lion.” Like, that’s not a deed, dude, but told as total fact. Even the way he was portrayed, having a beard since the day he was born.

We’re playing a part, all right. Dramatically embellished to make a point that resonates with the present audience could apply quite nicely to the game we’ve been playing all this time.

Oooo! And before I forget, cuz I forgot, did you see my screenshot? I also know you don’t buy newspapers.

Feminina:

I DO buy newspapers, actually! Whenever I see a guy selling them! I have several!

I just don’t read them. I think my Arthur buys them for toilet paper and kindling.

I haven’t seen your screenshot, as I did not play last night. What was it?

Good point about obviously ridiculous legends being presented as simple truth. Like our own cherished myths about George Washington’s cherry tree or Davy Crockett killing a b’ar when he was only three. Or the wild west being a place of ideal freedom and opportunity for all.

Butch:

So the paper had an article about the lion being shot and Margaret.

Remember we thought that Margaret was just him staying in character? I’ll quote myself:

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 said that last bit as a joke, kinda.

But guess what?

The paper said, paraphrasing, that after the death of his lion, HAYWOOD MARGARET is believed to have returned to England.

Which….themes, now.

We didn’t really believe he really WAS Mr. Margaret, right? We thought he was insisting on being called that, etc. But it turns out he really was named Mr. Margaret. It wasn’t a stage name. It wasn’t even a first name! I put “Mr. Margaret” in quotes! We assumed it was bullshit, and it wasn’t bullshit.

So here we are, and there we were, talking about things that were “obvious bullshit” that turned out not to be bullshit at all.

Hmm.

Also…..

He returned to England. He took his shot, it didn’t work out, and he left. This around the same time that Dutch, on his way to St. Denis, talks about maybe leaving the country. Arthur kinda pooh poohs it, and rightly so. Do we really think they are going to (or can) leave the country? I don’t. But Mr. Margaret did. The outsider got out. When his American dream failed, he turned out (we assume….maybe we shouldn’t…) kinda ok. At least he had a fallback plan. The outsider, again, wins.

All this from an article.

Feminina:

Oh man, that’s AWESOME. His name was really Margaret? And he was really British? We wondered whether that might not also have been part of the act, but if he went back there…though I suppose it’s also possible that he just told the reporter “I’m going back to England!” and then slipped into the crowd, dropped the accent, and went off to Ohio where he met up with the young lovers and they all started a business together.

Anyway, interesting. Very interesting. An intriguing addition to the set of examples we have of people with dreams who tried to make it in the west and failed.

Margaret goes back to England, the Downes family is shattered by death and driven off their land, Mary’s brother is dragged back into the grasp of normal life. They’re all retreating, in one way or another. The dream of starting somewhere new didn’t work out for them, so they went back to something less exciting.

And the gang, too, was fleeing farther and farther west, but that dream has failed for them and we see them now retreating back into civilized lands. Hm.

Butch:

And the Greys and the Braithwaites and and and.

Really, the only dude we’ve seen who’s come west and has made it is Cornwall, who a) is not likeable at all and b) is, knowing what we know in 2019, just as doomed. Railroads aren’t exactly an industry that has a future, right? Another article in one paper I read talked about cars getting more popular. Cornwall is, in a way, going to meet the same fate.

The only folks we’ve seen who are prospering, sorta, and will continue to do so as far as we know are the fence and gunsmith in St. Denis (there will always be guns/tech, rich folk buying stuff) and Strauss the banker.

And they’re all foreign.

Hmm.

Feminina:

Guns, cars, and banking. AMERICA, damn it!

I wasn’t even thinking of the Grays and the Braitwaites as people who came west and failed, more as established representatives of older (and still failing) systems in the south, but that’s an interesting take. I saw them more as a counterpoint…a sort of “whether you stay where you are with your old family estates, or strike out for unconquered territory in the west, the future is still going to crush you.” But certainly they came west of where they were, in generations past, and in the end that experiment failed for them as the dynasties they tried to be.

It’s an interesting point, about foreigners. (Have you met Bronte yet?) Because certainly another part of the soul of America, celebrated at least at some points, is that we’re “a nation of immigrants.” These AREN’T necessarily foreigners, are they? They’re likely citizens, immigrants who will stay here, part of the soul of the country. Not Margaret, since he went back to England…but then, his dream failed.

We have to think, too, about the fact that this story is about the ‘open west,’ where pretty much every person who wasn’t an Indian was in fact an immigrant/foreigner. Arthur’s a foreigner there, and he’s arguably doing better for himself than Indians shoved onto reservations at gunpoint.

Hm.

Butch:

Well, Arthur is weird in that he’s the one person we know is FROM the west, a second generation immigrant, if you will. This is assuming, as you say, the Greys and Braithwaites are from the South. Even Dutch seems to be from away, as his father was from Pennsylvania. Arthur is a card carrying Westerner, someone who has been there since birth. He didn’t go to the west. He was already there.

Feminina:

Well, him and Charles. Maybe Javier. That is another interesting point, the shifting definitions of ‘from here’ and ‘outsider.’

Have you read Arthur’s journal entries about Saint Denis? Very harsh words. He’s not a fan.

Butch:

Ooo! Not yet.

Javier’s from elsewhere. He’s Mexican.

Charles I’ll give you.

And, well, you have to shift “from here” eventually. You say you’re from the West, but if we go back far enough you have a relative who isn’t. I figure, you’re from there if you’re born there. Good enough.

Feminina:

Good enough.

Check out that journal. Very scathing language about the crushing muck of the city and stuff. I felt that here he’s actually saying that yes, he really BELIEVES in Dutch’s dream of freedom and open space and all. He’s so laconic, it’s hard to tell a lot of the time if he’s really onboard with everything because he shares those ideals, or if he’s just kind of following along with Dutch because they’re family and Dutch is the boss, but this made me think he really is a believer. Or at least he was, and still wants to be–clearly, he’s also become a doubter in the sense that he’s not sure Dutch can pull it off, but he still thinks it’s worth fighting for.

Butch:

I will check out the journal. Odd, cuz I usually do. Missed that.

I haven’t met Bronte. I did find out he’s Italian, though. Interesting twist.

Is he going to annoy me? I’m already annoyed at how they portrayed half my heritage.

Feminina:

He…may. Not to prejudice you against him, but…he may well.

Butch:

Great.

This game has been pretty good about portraying minorities and women. Until it isn’t.

Feminina:

I mean, he’s not without layers, and I’m not sure he’s any worse than other people we’ve seen. He has a dream, like everyone else. We’ll talk later.

Butch:

We always do.

I really hope I get something in tonight. Have to run Junior around.

Vaudeville first. Best to see the knickers with Mrs. McP out.

Scandalous.

Feminina:

She would swoon. SWOON I tell you! There’s also some belly. It’s practically pornography.

Butch:

Aw, shit. Belly?

I best close the shades.

Feminina:

Yes, that would be safest. Otherwise you’ll never be able to walk down your street again without the neighbors whispering.

I mean, even more.

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