Apr 26


Further Thoughts on Villeneuve

Posted by: Heather Albano | Comments (13)

“Villeneuve is way cooler than any of the boring boys at the dance! We made such a good team.”

Quoth my friend Becky, explaining her surprise that it was not (at that time) possible to pursue a same-sex relationship with Villeneuve. A common sentiment, as it turned out.

“I think there’s such an interest in this aspect of the story,” wrote Spider in a comment to an earlier blog post, “because Villeneuve is the best-fleshed-out character. You don’t have the same level of interaction with the three marriage interests, and relationships with them feel rushed…”

And Spider is quite right about that. We didn’t design the possible spouses to be less interesting than Villeneuve… but the fact that many players viewed them that way says something about modern (visceral, not intellectual) reactions to 19th century courtship rituals.

Nowadays, we tend to want partners for our spouses. We seek out a member of our preferred gender with whom we share values and interests, with whom we can talk and upon whom we can rely. “We make a good team” is something you expect to be able to say of your spouse. Nowadays.

This is not the case in a Jane Austen comedy of manners, because it was not the case for gentry of the early 19th century of whom Jane was writing. The Season, as ridiculous as it sounds to us now, was a real thing. Upper-class young men really did meet young ladies at balls, court them under strict supervision and in highly artificial circumstances, and propose marriage after three to six months’ acquaintance. The spheres of men and women were so profoundly divided that for a wife to have full partnership in her husband’s world would have been an absurd thing to contemplate. It’s an unfortunate side effect of putting women on a pedestal: it’s kind of hard to be partners with them afterward. When they’re all the way up there and you’re not.

So of course most players were going to have a more genuine emotional reaction to Villeneuve than to the boys at the dance. Villeneuve is like them (like their characters, I mean, and of course depending upon choices made) in a way that the boring boys at the dance just aren’t. It’s possible to have a full partnership with Villeneuve.

The trade-off appears to be (again) between genre conventions and instinctive emotional resonance. A more modern relationship between the PC and his/her spouse might have been more emotionally satisfying… but then again, might have felt less true to the feel that Broadsides was attempting to evoke.

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