Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Elizabeth and Booker's relationship and how other relationships need to be re evaluated. (Major Spoilers)

Elizabeth Colmstock is actually Anna, Booker's daughter.  However, we don't find that out (conclusively) until the last few minutes of the game. 

While it does provide a wonderful and interesting dynamic, especially considering their age and how they react to eachother for the first time, the game never provided any large romantic hints for each other. 
(Yeah, this never happened in game)

And when the game dropped the reveal,  some people were happy.  Others felt disgusted.  They had grown quite fond of the two as a couple and father/daughter pairings are generally agreed to not be a good thing.  Other people just said screw it and continued to think of them as a couple. 

However, the problem lies in the assumption.  If you have a male and female character together people are often to assume that the two are to be romantically linked unless they are early on announced as family.  

This is something we need to change.  (And we need more mother and daughter/son games but that is a different story) 

Platonic loving relationships (also known a Zucchini's, QPP, or Queer Platonic Partner) need to be more of a thing.  There is a glorious beauty in relationships that offer companionship without any romance.  They are also just as valid.

Let me direct you to Elementary.
Elementary charts the evolving relationship between a Sherlock Holmes and a (female) Joan Watson.  The creators have said, repeatedly, that the relationship will stay platonic, and as a result the series is an incredible breath of fresh air.  The two share a house, Joan has changed in the room with Sherlock (undercovers with his back turned for her privacy)  and the two argue over chores.  It could be romantic, but it's incredibly platonic and very sweet.  There are no kisses, some rare hugs, and a lot of calling eachother out on Sherlock's problematic behaviors and Joan's level of deduction (Both of which are improving.  Sherlock is behaving better and Joan is deducing more)  and we are never doubting how they care for each other.

Games need more of that.  We need to talk to characters without wanting romantic outcomes.  NieR has every one of his companions in love with him.  (Seriously, Emil is canonically Gay, Kaine is in love with him, and  Yonah is either his sister or his daughter depending on the version)  Cloud gets every girl (and Barrett) on a date with him.  Jack and Doctor Tenenbaum are not friends, just allies.  Rudy falls in love with Princess Cecilia.  The Kingdom Hearts trios are... complicated.


This turns relationships that could be complex one dimensional.  Romantic attachment leads only to an attempt at marriage or sex down the line.  When we view a relationship in only romantic or familial terms, we strip it of any extra nuances, or deny that a love can exist between friends.  These extra nuances are what make someone more fleshed out.  These relationships are NOT there because they because they "Have" to (I.E. family)  or out of hope or knowledge of some sort of payment (Romantic love)  these people are doing this because they want too. They are doing this out of love with no expectation of anything back.  And, this is happening on both sides.  Neither the boy nor the girl expect any sort of romantic repayment or familial devotion.  They are doing it because they have something in common and like each other in such a way all they want is this companionship. 

Think of what the writers can do with that!  At what point could it become too much?  Could one support the other at home or separated?  Would one die for the other?  There are so many untalked about subtleties in this kind of relationship.  How would Final Fantasy be different if the Tifa/Cloud/Aerith relationship didn't exist?  If Yonah was NieR's friend, not his sister or daughter? If Tenenbaum and Jack got to know each other better and decided to help each other for the relationship's own sake? (And not because of what Atlus could do to Rapture and the surface world) 

We need more of this kind of relationship.  We need to show how much love and trust can go into a non romantic relationship.  Dipper breaks up with an abusive boyfriend for Mabel, and Mabel saves Dipper when the abusive boyfriend fights back.  Joan knows enough to know that she MUST stick around when he's in danger of relapsing even when she's no longer employed as a sober companion, Sherlock knows parental approval for her Sobriety Companion career is important to her so he talks up her skills and results at a dinner with her parents. 

And Booker and Elizabeth? Well, he took down an entire civilization just to say her. She in turn went back to a place that was worse than death, sacrifices her sanity and a version of her existence to keep him alive and to fix it. It's because they are friends, partners, and it isn't until AFTER they are revealed to be family.  Not because of romantic love.

5 comments:

  1. I haven't played the game, but going by your description of events it seems like the creators may have included the fact of their being father and daughter specifically to deter the idea of a romantic relationship. What are your thoughts on this?

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    1. I actually hadn't thought of it in that way. There was some loose foreshadowing before the big reveal that Elizabeth WAS Booker's daughter, but nothing substantive. If it was meant as a strict deterrent to a romantic relationship, that wasn't the best way to handle it. If it was because they thought it would make the ending more sacrificial, then it's good.

      However, my issue is partly that the players were more likely to interpret the relationship as strictly romantic, rather than allowing a true friendship to blossom. I may not have explained it well enough.

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    2. [SPOILERS]
      No, I don't think so. Elizabeth being Booker's daughter is a major plot point. The reason Elizabeth is even in the city is because Booker sold her when she was a baby in exchange for him getting his gambling debts paid off. The game is partly about setting things right and undoing his mistake. Their relationship is not incidental- it's vital to the whole main plot and the motivations and fates of the hero, the heroine, the antagonist and several of the secondary characters.

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  2. I like your post. I didn't ship Elizabeth or Booker. In fact I was sceptical over having a Bioshock game where the protagonist talked and had a companion.

    But I ended up loving their relationship and its evolution- it was one of the highlights of the game for me. While I do sympathise with the disappointment of having a romantic ship sunk (at least where canon is concerned) I would argue that Elizabeth and Booker's relationship is at least as interesting as any romance could have been. I personally think it's a shame that some fans were so hard set on seeing a love story that they didn't consider other possible relationships for the two to have.

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  3. Interesting, and I think you're right. Platonic relationships among main characters are very underrepresented in storytelling mediums. I think one example that actually does a pretty good job of the father/daughter relationship is the Dishonored games, in which the rightful heiress Emily Kaldwin's protector, Corvo Attano, turns out to be her father.

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