Disorder Reviews: Elden Ring’s Problematic Female Representation

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Martintox

Mister Disorder
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I have recently released a Shin Megami Tensei mashup album. Instead of posting reviews on the Disorder Reviews blog, I generally upload playthrough videos on the Mr. Disorder YouTube channel. I'm doing better in regards to the stroke and the debt, thank you for your concern.

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Elden Ring’s Problematic Female Representation

In this current era of video gaming, FromSoftware are the big AA darlings, and it’s been this way for so long that it’s not a stretch to believe their best years are already behind them. Elden Ring may show them to be more successful than ever, but it’s a title that only innovates on their Soulsborne formula (something they had already perfected in Dark Souls 1) by half-fixing issues they had introduced in DS2, DS3, and Sekiro. For what it’s worth, it’s much better than all three of these games, but FromSoft can only rehash their golden formula for so long before the cracks start to show. Depending on one’s ability to be pedantic, the fundamental issues in the studio’s modern game design philosophy could be the subject of a whole 10-hour essay. However, just as egregious is their inability to incorporate sensibly-written female characters into their stories. This is a problem that has, unsurprisingly, been left unaddressed by the predominantly male user base.

First and foremost, what’s the story of Elden Ring? For the purposes of this think piece, simply think of it as a poorly written fantasy version of Fallout: New Vegas. In the wake of the shattering of the eponymous FromSoftware’s Elden Ring, a good half-dozen factions are now looking to take control of the Lands Between (a well-known allegory for the vagina, being located between a woman’s legs — already a bad start). The complexity of this plot is in great part a result of the absurd number of notable figures and demigods present. Most of them, for that matter, share George R. R. Martin’s initials, because that ugly bastard knows he can get away with fellating himself in his own mythology. It also doesn’t help that the lore associated with these similarly-named characters is spread across a map that becomes distressingly dry of good ideas after the halfway point, much like a woman’s privates upon learning her date plays Smash competitively. With this in mind, the game’s “peculiar” perception of women comes into play extremely early. To be more precise, its second most problematic character instigates an event that leads to nearly every single bad thing that happens in the setting.

Those of you who have played Elden Ring or browsed a porn site in the past four months will already be acquainted with Ranni the Witch. I have to give it to FromSoftware: you’d think the Doll from Bloodborne was already a masterful work of waifu bait craftsmanship, but you know they have outdone themselves when more players on Steam have gotten the achievement for completing her side quest than they have for getting the standard “Elden Lord” ending — and it’s not merely a side quest, it’s an odyssey of simping that lasts the entire playthrough. They were so successful, in fact, that these “people” have failed to acknowledge she is an unhinged lunatic who is looking to use the powers of degenerate pagan moon “divinities” to undermine the reign of the Two Fingers. In the process of ridding herself of her original corporeal form, she enlisted the help of DEX players to assassinate Godwyn, the Golden, a decision that directly led to the shattering of the FromSoftware’s Elden Ring. Think about that for a second: possible millions of gamer hours have been spent traversing the game’s barren post-Leyndell areas and fighting legions of recycled enemies, all because one woman decided she really hated Gnosticism. To be fair, it’s a bummer to live in a theological system that blames a woman for the creation of the material world, but this kind of characterization is right out of a big-budget movie that undercuts a villain’s justified anti-capitalist agenda by making them mail anthrax to orphanages.

Much like its wealth of repeating dungeons and enemies, Elden Ring is resplendent with female schizophrenics who enact plans that not even the most talented of DS3 lore apologists could try to decipher. Queen Marika herself, the central figure of George R. R. Martin’s totally not Norse-inspired mythology, is a maniac that fell for Ranni’s plan and trapped herself in a quantum inferno of shattering the FromSoftware’s Elden Ring while her male half Radagon simultaneously attempts to fix it. Truth be told, I’m willing to cut her some slack because gender dysphoria really breaks a homie. I cannot extend such sympathy to Fia, who not only drains your HP under the pretense of giving you physical affection, but brutally murders one of the most attractive and desirable bachelors in FromSoft’s entire catalog. If that wasn’t enough, they decided to round out the set with a diseased sex worker and a scalie with insane gamer neck.

All of these cases are bad enough on their own, but we simply cannot touch upon Elden Ring‘s female misrepresentation without discussing Malenia, a person so reprehensible that she may as well have set the rights of fictional women back a good 30 years. For one, she’s objectively unfair, even by the standards of FromSoft’s raging hard-on for enemies with absurdly fast combos. For another, she is a sore loser woman-child who, upon being driven back by the honorable Starscourge Radahn, decided to call upon the forces of heretical outer gods to give an entire nation flower AIDS just so she could say she has never lost a battle. She didn’t even win, mind you — she was too weak to kill her adversary with outside help, but she was still willing to doom a fifth of the Lands Between just so she could have a tie. (In a sense, I do have to admire how faithful she is to the mindset of a DEX user).

I never expected to say this, but not even Dark Souls 3, the nadir of FromSoft’s catalogue, was that bad with its female characters (DS3 fans, savor this moment while it lasts). Granted, that’s because most of them serve to titillate the average weeaboo instead of having agency of their own, but this is preferable to what Elden Ring is doing in the same way that not having gay representation in a movie is preferable to having a character with a dead gay partner that you can easily edit out for the Chinese market. In all regards, Sister Friede is a vastly superior take on what they were trying to do with Malenia: not only is she a more fair boss battle in spite of having three phases, she is morally in the right for trying to kill you. You were the one who entered her world and started bullying the local populace. What kind of moral grounds does Malenia, “””Blade of Miquella”””, have? Instead of rescuing her brother from a renowned sex predator, she decided to mope at the bottom of a tree and regale players with a boss battle so terrible that Bandai Namco gave a guy a sword for fighting her honorably — a courtesy that she does not deserve. What’s worse, she took the time to get herself prosthetic limbs. That’s right: she’s a filthy, disgusting, good-for-nothing xenofeminist. It’s okay to have female villains, but this is going a little too far.

It’s rather sad to think that FromSoftware had it right as early as the first Dark Souls. Can we really say that any female character in Elden Ring reaches the same level of depth as the likes of the Daughter of Chaos? Which are you more likely to remember: the chick with scoliosis and an impossible quest line, or that iconic exchange of feminist counterpoints with Maneater Mildred at the bottom of Blighttown? Despite having a much smaller pantheon, Dark Souls actually has a perfectly equal gender ratio. Of the three proper gods in Lordran, Gwyn is male, Gwynevere is female, and Gwyndolin, being a twink, is half of each. In contrast to this wonderful cast, I only count two respectable women in Elden Ring. One is Roderika, whose relationship with Hewg is one of the most emotionally compelling storytelling moments in the game. The other is Nepheli Loux, who, despite Knife’s need to spam my DMs to express his lust for her “chocolate tomboy abs”, also has a very good character arc. My only explanation for their presence is that there remains one lone writer in the FromSoft offices (let’s call him Tetsuya Yamagami) who knows how to talk to actual women, and he worked tooth and nail to prevent his co-workers from making even worse decisions. We should be thankful for Yamagami’s efforts; if it weren’t for him, maybe scalies would have been rewarded with — heaven forbid — a Rya sex scene.

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THE UNDERTALE REMINDER

Undertale only has three major female characters. Two of them have internalized misogyny, one of those two is a war criminal, and the last one is a divorcee that predates on children. I’m getting the feeling Toby Fox has some underlying issues regarding the ladies in his life, and he should use all that furry money he has to get help instead of developing a second game over a 12-year span.​
 

Martintox

Mister Disorder
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UPDATE: I have been informed that, when viewed on a map, the landmass of the Lands Between looks very similar to a fetus. The most disturbing part of this is that the Mountaintops of the Giants correspond to the head, which implies that the infant has both a brain defect and a tumor coming out the back of his skull. I can appreciate showing support for abortion rights, but I'm not sure this is the best way to go about it.
 

mirbrownbread

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Is this like a parody of a review? Because if so, you get A* from me.
It's obviously written with care and borrows from a vast pool of knowledge about these games, so it seems a genuine take?! Still, Seinfeld was more about "something" than this... But I guess the fact that FROM refuses to fix Malenia's random recovery periods between two Isshin moves justifies such posts, comedic or not...
 
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Chimpzy

Simian Abomination
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It's obviously written with care and borrows from a vast pool of knowledge about these games, so it seems a genuine take?! Still, Seinfeld was more about "something" than this... But I guess the fact that FROM refuses to fix Malenia's random recovery periods between two Isshin moves justifies such posts, comedic or not...
Martintox has an absurdist style, not to be taken fully seriously.