Far Cry 3's Citra Is Straight From the Freakshow

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anteater123:
[...] As someone who actually spent a considerable chunk of his life in the South Pacific and has befriended and spoken with quite a few Polynesians from quite a few cultures (in other words, someone who actually knows what he's talking about) [...]

One of the problems with Polynesian stereotypes is that the world at large knows so little about the South Pacific and its cultures that people don't even know the stereotypes when they see them. To claim that Polynesians sacrifice virgins to volcanoes, dress in grass skirts and coconut bikinis while living in grass huts and forcibly tattooing white men is about as ignorant and racist as claiming that black people are related to chimpanzees, are all drug dealers and love to rape white women, but because most people have probably never even met or spoken with a Polynesian they don't know how problematic these stereotypes are.

That's because those stereotypes DON'T EXIST ANYMORE.
I know you want to get on your white horse and save
the poor brown people, but it's 2013. Society has
moved on, even if you wish you lived in the past.

strumbore:
Just face it. You couldn't see the forest for the trees, and now you
want to burn it down. You wrote a ridiculous screed on the designer's
insidious subconscious attempt to patronize and vilify minorities,
when publicly, in reality, the only theme he intended to explore was
the duality of human nature.

I'm gonna have to agree with this.

There's an awful lot of lambasting unleashed on Far Cry 3 recently by people who are staring themselves blind on tiny little issues. This article, the whole "Rape of Jason Brody" thread... It's getting a bit ridiculous.

Nicolaus99:

maninahat:

Exterminas:
How could would a better use of these tropes look like?...I don't see any way you can tell a story that involves a native population without stepping in anyone of the dozens trope-traps.

Nicolaus99:
My god, there is no satisfying political correctness obsessives like you... You may as well link to TV Tropes and list the hundreds of ways you will never, ever be satisfied.

I described a case wherein I liked the depiction of natives. Check the first comment on the thread. Basically, you can offset negative stereotypes by showing a greater range of native characters over-all. Have other Rakyat characters offering contrasting perspectives - ones that show Rakyat as being something other than blood thirsty savages who like to ritually screw foreigners for their magic babies.

Ok, lets reverse that and see what comes of it.

A male Rakyat who is well educated/cultured/civilized who does not screw foreigners and does not believe in magic or magic babies. This person can replace Citra in FC3.

So... yea. Good luck marketing that. Is the story more interesting as a result? + or - I get the feeling that would be a lopsided poll.

...That's not what I was saying. If you applied my logic to FC3, you could still keep Citra, ludicrous cultural stereotypes and all, and all you would have to change is protagonist. You wouldn't even have to change the characteristics of the protagonist - he could still be an ignorant, wealthy, young tourist out with his friends - all that's changed is him being a Rakyat ex-islander.

Though the change is only minor, it has a huge influence on the implications of the story. Instead of it being "white guy goes to an island and finds the natives to be jabbering savage lunatics", it turns into "Rakyat returns to his homeland, finds his people have converted to some weird savage religion." Just by having a reasonable, relatable, contemporary Rakyat as the protagonist, the game is making it clear that not all the Rakyat are lunatic primitives; that this isn't normal behaviour for people of this ethnicity, and that these people have a range of attitudes and practises. Basically, it is safe for a story to depict people behaving in a negatively stereotypical fashion, as long it shows there is more to these people than the stereotype, or that the stereotype doesn't apply to all of them.

It also provides its own interesting themes on cultural heritage vs modernisation - we have Citra, who embodies ancestral cultural practises, Vaas, who has embraced a materialistic, modern perspective, and the protagonist, who is riding the line in between. Instead of it being "mightey whitey and the white man's burden", its "prodigal son returns to save his people".

Casual Shinji:

strumbore:
Just face it. You couldn't see the forest for the trees, and now you
want to burn it down. You wrote a ridiculous screed on the designer's
insidious subconscious attempt to patronize and vilify minorities,
when publicly, in reality, the only theme he intended to explore was
the duality of human nature.

I'm gonna have to agree with this.

There's an awful lot of lambasting unleashed on Far Cry 3 recently by people who are staring themselves blind on tiny little issues. This article, the whole "Rape of Jason Brody" thread... It's getting a bit ridiculous.

There is nothing subconscious about any of it. The writer specifically came out and claimed to have wrote in ugly, racist cultural stereotypes, though he reasoned that this was for the purpose of satire. This was after half-wits outright denying there was any racism at all, and scoffed at the likes of me for "looking for things to be offended by".

The writer dropped the ball on the satire, and that is why he is getting criticised; because the story he wrote (which again, he purposely wrote to be full of offensive ethnic stereotypes) accidentally gives off the wrong message, contrary to the one he was trying to impart.

Which difficulty setting would I have to play the game on for Jason's baby batter to be considered 'innately superior' to all the non-player characters he meets and then brutally murders along the way?

maninahat:

Casual Shinji:

strumbore:
Just face it. You couldn't see the forest for the trees, and now you
want to burn it down. You wrote a ridiculous screed on the designer's
insidious subconscious attempt to patronize and vilify minorities,
when publicly, in reality, the only theme he intended to explore was
the duality of human nature.

I'm gonna have to agree with this.

There's an awful lot of lambasting unleashed on Far Cry 3 recently by people who are staring themselves blind on tiny little issues. This article, the whole "Rape of Jason Brody" thread... It's getting a bit ridiculous.

There is nothing subconscious about any of it. The writer specifically came out and claimed to have wrote in ugly, racist cultural stereotypes, though he reasoned that this was for the purpose of satire. This was after half-wits outright denying there was any racism at all, and scoffed at the likes of me for "looking for things to be offended by".

The writer dropped the ball on the satire, and that is why he is getting criticised; because the story he wrote (which again, he purposely wrote to be full of offensive ethnic stereotypes) accidentally gives off the wrong message, contrary to the one he was trying to impart.

Well first of all, I never listen to a thing writers have to say about their own work; I'll make up my own mind about what I'm seeing/reading. And secondly, is there honestly any way of displaying a savage, tribal culture without people claiming 'racism'?

To me, Far Cry 3 was simply Locked Up Abroad meets Rambo mixed with a slight bit of Heart of Darkness. And the only sense of satire I got from it was maybe Jason's older brother, painted as the typical cool-as-a-cucumber hero, getting killed right out of the gate.

Maybe this just reveals my ignorant mindset, but I seriously never got hung up on the racial stereotypes in this game. I viewed it as a fabricated setting with some real world grit to give it that extra bit of punch.

I can't say that I felt the game being racist for simply one fact, my mind wrote it off as "fiction" and held no weight to it. I never even thought about thinking the island being a place associated with somewhere in the real world, I thought it was generic island, with kinda tribal, but not really, people. It was more about how some one turned into a killer, not really the people. But that's my experience, and I'm sure others share it, but not everyone.

I played the whole game and didn't see a single stereotype.
Vaas was a psychopath.
All the islanders were "normal" (see below).
There was no island hocus-pocus anywhere
except with a secluded island-cult leader
with psychotic-fantasies, in this case,
infatuation with powerful men.
Stop over-thinking this. It's patronizing
and presumptuous to assume there's any
crime against culture here. (see last comment)
Nobody thinks polynesians are dancing around
cauldrons or raping the sailors (lol). To
claim such a thing shows your willful ignorance
of the times we live in.

If you really do want to get your panties in a
twist over a stereotype, most "First World" people
assume island peoples live in extreme poverty because all
they hear about them on tv is liberals whining about
how ratty their lifestyles are, and how westerners
need to send intellectuals over to save their societies.
_________________________________________

strumbore:

You bring your magnifying glasses and your color wheels
to every game evaluation. By doing so, YOU MISS THE THEME
completely, and make false accusations. The majority of the
islanders of the game lived in TOWNS. They ran shops, drank in
taverns, congregated in the square, and did normal activities
like anyone else. They wore t-shirts. If anything, Citra was an
outcast-psychopath with only a handful of followers. She held no
influence anywhere else on the island.

strumbore:

anteater123:
[...] To claim that Polynesians sacrifice virgins to volcanoes, dress in grass skirts and coconut bikinis while living in grass huts and forcibly tattooing white men is about as ignorant and racist as claiming that black people are related to chimpanzees, are all drug dealers and love to rape white women, but because most people have probably never even met or spoken with a Polynesian they don't know how problematic these stereotypes are.

That's because those stereotypes DON'T EXIST ANYMORE.
I know you want to get on your white horse and save
the poor brown people, but it's 2013. Society has
moved on, even if you wish you lived in the past.

Anyone else getting tired of this whole 'boohoo, FC3 is racist' whinging? Just drop it already, everyone's had their chance to flame it for it's racial stereotypes, showing the world what wonderful openminded beings they are towards other races, now let's just move on.

wearedevo:

Some of the comments above are breathtakingly stupid, but thanks at least for helping me shade the "typical liberal BS!" "it's satire!" "it's just a game!" and "stop overanalyzing everything!" squares in my Dumbass Internet Comment bingo today.

I think someone is confusing a different point of view with a difference in intelligence.

I actually learned a lot from this article and am thankful that it exists.
Wasn't that the point of this article? To educate? It was not a commentary on racism as much as it was a history lesson.

That's what I got out of it, anyway.

Saxnot:
This is one of the most absurd accusations of insesitivity to racial stereotypes i have ever heard. you're claiming the game is racist or racially insensitive because of 19th century freak show tattooed men narratives? do you have any idea how obscure that is? This stuff isn't relevant to modern culture anymore. It's like somone getting insulted because you called him 'dude', since dude is originally a 19th - century racist term for immigrants.

in these things, context is everything. The author expressed the intention, and there is no overt racism in the game itself. The one interpretation that could be described as racist is the noble savage vs. evil savage. there are two problems with this interpretation:
1. the Rakyat are not savages: i never got the idea the rakyat are supposed to be savages. they are relatively passive in gameplay terms, sure, but no more so than most NPC factions in games like these are. they are passive in the same way the Saints are passive. you interact with them like you interact with most allied NPC factions in games. those interactions are coloured by cultural context, of course, which brings me to

2. there is no way to do it right: if you make the rakyat to passive, they are simple natives being rescued by the white man. if you mkae them too agressive, they are dangerous savages. the only way to portray them positiveky is by making them the protagonists. which would be interesting, but isn't the narrative of the game.

there is neither the intention of racism, nor racial insensetivity here. Rather, the rakyat are shown as having their own goals and methods to get what they want. That seems a welcome change for a group that is too frequently portrayed as passive and weak.

Do you know why a white man painting his face black can be found offensive today?

Because of shows from the 1800s showing black people as idiotic savages. 2. centuries. ago.

The practice of black face has since been tainted with racism for 2 centuries after they stopped it. It still lingers on today. So no, the sailor story isn't "the past." Its isn't "obscure."

The stuff we did circa 1800-1900 is still relevant, since its declined lingered on well into the 20th century. Freak shows were huge in America at the time, they had wide cultural penetration. Its still referenced today. Especially since "tattoo man" is still a part of the handful of freak shows left today. Their history is very much relevant.

Its a story that has been repeated from freak show to freakshow. As common the bearded lady or the "man-woman." Freak shows have RELIED on the cookie cutter stories like the sailor and the bearded lady.

The things we do have long legacies, and writers often pull story elements even from the most obscure references. So you can't write it off "the past" when modern culture is still heavily influenced by what we used to do. Especially if its race based. Culture have longer memories then you give them credit for.

Good article. I felt they missed a massive oppurtunity in Far Cry 3. The cultural hodge podge they use is laughable. I know its satire but their are elements of Balinese architecture, and Malay patterns from the most western fringes of the Pacific, all the way to Easter Island type head statues. This would be like showing a Samoan a game where you have Stonehenge, next to St Petersburg Palace, and Bhagdad, and saying "That's 'Europe'".

This would be fine if there was a wider knowledge of pacific islander cultures but there isn't. So as you say, this may be the ONLY view many western gamers get.

Frankly, I found the whole Citra/tatau/warrior plot completely laughable. It's a massive gripe I have with many games that players a) are suddenly the chosen one, and b) basically a slave to whatever NPCs ask you to do with little or no point, or motivation that makes sense. The Hero's Journey is so well worn it amazes me when they stupidly cut out intergral parts, like "rejecting the call" and also not giving a solid reason to go forward (particularly after you've saved everyone in Far Cry 3, being Citra's bitch was not my idea of becoming the ultimate warrior).

The moment did have an effect on me though. I immediately thought "Nope! I'm getting my friends and getting as far away from this nutjob as possible". If Citra is supposed to be some male fantasy, it's not one I've had.

maninahat:

...That's not what I was saying. If you applied my logic to FC3, you could still keep Citra, ludicrous cultural stereotypes and all, and all you would have to change is protagonist. You wouldn't even have to change the characteristics of the protagonist - he could still be an ignorant, wealthy, young tourist out with his friends - all that's changed is him being a Rakyat ex-islander.

Though the change is only minor, it has a huge influence on the implications of the story. Instead of it being "white guy goes to an island and finds the natives to be jabbering savage lunatics", it turns into "Rakyat returns to his homeland, finds his people have converted to some weird savage religion." Just by having a reasonable, relatable, contemporary Rakyat as the protagonist, the game is making it clear that not all the Rakyat are lunatic primitives; that this isn't normal behaviour for people of this ethnicity, and that these people have a range of attitudes and practises. Basically, it is safe for a story to depict people behaving in a negatively stereotypical fashion, as long it shows there is more to these people than the stereotype, or that the stereotype doesn't apply to all of them.

It also provides its own interesting themes on cultural heritage vs modernisation - we have Citra, who embodies ancestral cultural practises, Vaas, who has embraced a materialistic, modern perspective, and the protagonist, who is riding the line in between. Instead of it being "mightey whitey and the white man's burden", its "prodigal son returns to save his people".

That makes more sense but probably very bad marketing given the target majority young male white gamer audience. The whole Roots theme would not have nearly as much appeal. Also preys on modern fears of the target audience with the whole soft westerners visit foreign lands, get kidnapped, tortured/killed and maybe ransomed - which is actually still an active criminal market though they prefer to target local businessmen. The homecoming thing could work but what studio would risk a AAA dev' budget on it? For AAA titles, that's $40mil + Marketing can cost 3 or 4 times that much alone.

http://www.develop-online.net/news/33312/Modern-Warfare-2-dev-costs-put-at-40-50m

That pretty much guarantees a shotgun approach to audience appeal.

I'm really late to the party. I only just finished Far Cry 3, and didn't want to be the unwitting audience for spoilers, so I apologize. (And I picked the "save your friends" ending, because I can spot a "bad end" coming a mile away, so I had to see the "Join Citra" ending on Youtube. But I digress.)

The background is interesting reading, and I agree that the narrative of Far Cry clearly echoes it. But there is something that troubles me about the perception of that narrative, as presented, as racist.

The old "Tattooed Man" stories gave the audiences a thrill and entertained them because they gave them a look at a people (however fictionalized) who were different while re-enforcing the audience's belief in their cultural and racial superiority. The "savages" were dark skinned and ugly, they worshipped "false gods", they lived in squalor and their beliefs and actions caused lives that were nasty, brutish and short to be even more so.

The Rakyat, by comparison- well, they're not ugly. In the case of Citra, one could argue they're beautiful. They all appear to have mastered at least two languages. The towns that you visit have electric power, gas stations, and quite modern-looking (if limited by nature of their isolation) general stores. They have modern weapons and use them competently and fearlessly.

And their beliefs...? Everything that the player sees in the game strongly suggests that rather than pursuing savagery out of ignorance and superstition, the Rakyat are actually tapped into something so powerful that the real wonder is why the slavers don't flee the island in terror.

In all seriousness, I kept waiting for the "other shoe to drop"- to discover that the protagonist was actually hallucinating everything while lying in a stupor with a bullet lodged in a vital organ or the last several hours had been a side-effect of one of the multiple concussions and doses of hallucinogens the character withstands through the course of play.

The growing tattoo and the "syringes" created from local plants are on one hand just interesting ways of interpreting old video game tropes of healing and skill progression. But on the other, the Rakyat have discovered herbal medicines that turn multiple gunshot wounds into trivialities, allow people to "see" enemies half a kilometer away through solid walls, and render the users all but impervious to fire. Likewise, the tattoo isn't just some tribal marking or even a kind of legend recounting a warrior's great deeds- its presence allows the bearer to do great things, turns a cringing tourist into a man who kills a roomful of heavily armed mercenaries who have the drop on him without apparently even being aware he's doing it.

So if, at the end, your fool self chooses to join Citra and she kills you with the idea that the ritual will bring a powerful child into the world-- Um, who's to say within the context of Far Cry 3's world that she isn't entirely correct in her understanding? And that, however violent and terrifying they might ultimately prove to be, the Rakyat aren't in some sense superior to the invaders and tourists who behold them?

Honestly, I have a far bigger problem with the fact that Citra is so under-developed that you barely see the machinations the writer apparently envisioned, and the change-over from the Rakyat being oppressed bearers of powerful traditions to violence-hungry brutes who are jealous of the notion you might reject their ways seems sudden and gratuitous. It doesn't feel like the ending arose out of what came before it; it feels like the ending came out of a desire to work one more twist into the mix. There was an opportunity to more fully flesh out the relationship between Citra and Vaas that could have better highlighted the two as opposite sides of the same dangerous coin, and it wasn't really fully capitalized upon (that Vaas/Citra hallucination on the stripper pole noted, but found rather minor and missable.)

well i'm just gonna say that i read most of these comments and 8/10 of y'all come across just as much humorless PC liberal nutcases as y'are, no.... you dont have the white man's burden
you got the white man's guilt
its a game okay? it aint real, if every character was some intellectual liberal without any color or character to him then the game really wouldnt be worth much, i liked the citra character, spiced up the game, hell i liked the whole campaign, characters and ideas, if you got a problem with playin as a white man killin black/"brown" thugs then you got a problem with reality
Just let go... forget the politically correct nonsense you been brought up on for a change, you claim to be "open minded"? well maybe practice what ya preach,
Jesus man... sports, games, we play these to get away from your overpoliticizin of everything and everyone, now you gonna politicize these too?
just take the whole thing with a good humor and a grain of salt
my only problems were all the damned bugs and that uplay s**t makin me unable to use the nonfunctioning damned multiplayer

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