Thursday, August 13, 2009

Evil pastimes

-->Spoilers ahoy!

Wouldn’t you say that Guybrushs’ attempts at being frightening, evil and piratey are misguided? I mean, ze isn’t evil, is ze? Really, isn’t ze simply... a coward who wishes to overcome ze’s own insecurities? But being an inherently good-willed guy while being (or trying to be) a pirate isn’t easy, unless there are excuses for why you are perceived as evil (misinterpretation), the evil deeds done by the good guy are mistakes (motive), or, if the good guy basically is misguided (humour, forgiveness). There are also the internet-roaming kind of pirates who may be written off as evil (misinterpretation) by media but nonetheless seems harmless by most of the people, an issue that Telltale for me has failed to incorporate or allude to in their first revamp of Monkey Island—possibly due to the fact that they’ve dealt with similar issues already in Sam & Max’s “Reality 2.0” and not because Monkey Island would be the wrong place for anachronistic or non-dietetic real-world humour; a U-Tube just seems like to much of a coincidence.

Are there reasons for Guybrush to commit illegal acts of spite, even? The main story is similar to many prototypic video game series such as Metroid, Castlevania or Zelda where the hero starts from scratch at each new adventure. Sometimes simply because the hero is a different character than in the previous game, but most of the time because it makes sense from a game-mechanic progress and development-perspective. In Tales of Monkey Island you have to prove yourself as a pirate once again and must do so by committing petty crimes. Your other motives are saving Elaine and, stopping LeChuck and doing something about that pesky cursed arm of yours. But let’s focus on the actions you as a player commit, and how evil they really are.

The three missions you have taken up on are stealing in order to start a fight, trick a lunatic to find a treasure, and throw a bomb to become Captain. How are these actions' evilness lessened by the narrative? Sure, the game rewards you for stealing, but it turns out the one Guybrush stole from didn’t mind Guybrush taking ze’s property. The bar-fight is caused by the cursed hand (misinterpretation) which has a will of its’ own and therefore has nothing to do with our hero (forgiveness/motive). The same character from whom Guybrush steals is the one you bomb away, but this person loved the challenge to begin with, taunted you while to tried to commit the atrocity and failed, and also congratulates you afterwards and becomes your first-mate, which lessens the impact of the perceived evil even less. When it comes to tricking Joaquin D’Oro—the person obsessed with dolls—well, ze is happy afterwards, and isn’t that all that matters?

There is also the Town Gazette, spreading all these rumours of you being frightening, and you actively contributing to this by tipping of the only journalist of the crimes you’ve committed. You do this because the journalist knows the locations of Deep Gut whom you must get a hold of. There are all these rumours circulating around Deep Gut, all of which turn out to be wrong. This gives reason to believe that also Guybrush perhaps isn’t evil even if ze is perceived that way—if somebody should have missed that. (I’m interested how the whole LeChuck-goes-human-and-good turns out; is the curse of LeChuck simply that, a curse? What are the implications of evil being seen that way, and what would happen if Elaine suddenly got the curse?)

Why should I give you the Map?!

Is there more to Guybrush’s wanting to become a pirate? There doesn’t seem to be any ideology behind ze’s vigilante identity; an anarchistic laissez-fair ideology where pirates take over the ships of their rich, undeserving rulers and then roam the sea in order to achieve some kind of independence wouldn’t give enough incentive to do much else, except for when the governments demonize pirates as a species in order to be seen as enemies by the public and Guybrush took it on ze to change this. Guybrush aspirers to be a pirate because... I dunno, because we're all supposed to have been small boys growing up, wanting to become pirates? He's cute like that, Guybrush. A kid. Misguided. Just like we were. Not anything like Marquis DeSinge (whose name reminds me of someone special, especially considering Singes’ monkey has masochistic tendencies) is the real evil antagonist, as it turns out after a while. The obvious difference between the two make Guybrush so much less evil, even if both characters are going for some kind of dream; one wanting to become a pirate and the other advocating sacrifice in the name of science. On whose side is the law? Well, technically speaking the law is on vacation in Tales of Monkey Island, but one of the final puzzles is solved with the use of the carvings on the empty prison cells… which has to mean something! Is it justification, or just irony? (For a moment there I thought that it would be cool if that specific puzzle was the one that trapped DeSade, but on the other hand he got his own science-made weapon turned against him, which is neat also.)

Marquis DeSinge is a mad scientist, a man, yes: Tales of Monkey Island is a mans world with only 2/10 characters being female, including Elaine and Guybrush. And while we’re on the subject of representation, it’s interesting that there are so few coloured people in the game, and that LeChuck turns white when he becomes “good”. Will this whiteness or the simple good-will of LeChuck make ze a sympathetic character in the following episodes? Will we learn some kind of moral lesson through all of this? Will our lover Elaine become cursed and evil, LeElaine? Me, I'm hoping the second episode begins with an insult sword fight!

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