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Homosexuality in Exalted second edition

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  • #31
    Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

    The flaw I find in your reasoning is the assumption that obligation is typically a thing people engage in reluctantly, if not continuously struggle against. Looking at the Scarlet Dynasty holistically, one might assume that a majority of its members respond to an upbringing that trains them to treat their obligations with enthusiasm. That's the sort of thing people can manage in real life, and one might read into the capabilities of the Terrestrial Exalted that they're pretty good at it. That a Dynast's childhood involves social Charms frequently being employed in the lessons they're given about the importance of their duties.

    That in addition to the references to how courtships are protracted to assess compatibility, that a priority is based on the parties actually liking one another.

    And just the general social environment. A man of the Scarlet Dynasty is typically not being sent off to live as a stud in a gilded cage to some lecherous older spouse. You're being partnered up with somebody close to your own age (who may very well be a quite impressive specimen of the Dynasty), valued for personal talents that you'll be expected to employ frequently, with the potential for reward and prestige in doing so.

    Marriage is still an adventure, and one does not need to go along with that grudgingly. Gay Dynasts might be the more begrudging area of that, but not in all cases. Perhaps even not in most cases, if the spouse your mother lines up is sufficiently compelling and the prospects in the new household are high enough.

    The Great Houses might enjoy the melodrama of the lovers who stoically (and with just enough reluctance for a moving soliloquay) set passion aside for duty, but I feel as though the milieu of the Realm's Dragon Blooded would be one in which love struggles to be the more compelling impetus against the pragmatic benefits of a standard household (not least because ultimately, House elders will prefer to placate then alienate the Exalts who have their hearts set).

    And then you get the interesting intersections like Kes and Szaya, where they might have greater platonic love for one another than any romantic love for anybody else, and marriage conforms to the baseline while still being what they wanted.

    The scarlet Dynasty is a place that churns out dragon blooded, and puts them through the crucible. They have an arduous early childhood, that then moves to teenage life and then adult life. Children aren't even allowed to be raised by their own parents. Nannies and tutors are the ones who raise the dragon blooded, while they coldly look on to check to make sure the child is doing well. When they're children they're forced to be perfect in order for their parents to brag about them, when they're teenagers they're put through the wringer and sent to the most nightmarishly strict schools in the realm. It's only when they're adults that they even taste freedom. They exist as pawns from the moment they're born up until adulthood. It's not all bad. They live in a life of luxury unknown to anyone but the gods of yushan. However, even the marriage is just another power play. Most dragon blooded have no say in who they marry. Sometimes, very rarely from looking at the bios of the dragon blooded, they find someone they like or even love. However, neither factors into it.

    Also, I never said the marriage was unequal. Just that that in a large number of cases the dragon blooded marriage system, the dragon blooded are almost never together. They're off doing their own thing, and then they meet up to preform their obligation. They attend social functions to keep up appearances but for the most part they are usually expected to have lovers. I think it gets lost about the realm but most of it is about obligation over personal freedom. The scarlet empress has to be a tyrant to keep her empire a float. The great houses have to torture their children to make them stand out. The children have to do what they're told or they'll be disavowed or sent to a detention school worse than most prisons.

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    • #32
      Originally posted by Jutlander View Post
      Well, except maybe Azure Path,
      Even Azure Path was just not mentioned.

      He wasn't out-and-out decanonized (like Lillun or Desus).

      Ophilis's son plays a different narrative role. Lover to kidnapping victim is not a replacement.


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      • #33
        Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
        He wasn't out-and-out decanonized (like Lillun or Desus)..
        Were they? Lillun cropped up in Return of the Scarlet Empress.

        Do you mean in third edition?
        Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
        Ophilis's son plays a different narrative role. Lover to kidnapping victim is not a replacement.
        I get what you are saying, but not mentioning a gay lover and then introducing a son implies heterosexuality.

        But, you are right. They never made Ophilis Ses explicitly straight.

        They did, though, explicitly make him a devil-worshipping traitor to Creation, but that is a whole other mess.
        Last edited by Jutlander; 04-04-2021, 05:45 AM.


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        • #34
          Originally posted by Jutlander View Post
          Were they? Lillun cropped up in Return of the Scarlet Empress.
          .
          Third Edition removed both characters because of their 2nd edition presentation. Lilun has been confirmed not to be returning iirc, while Desus was explictly written out at least in regards to Lilith.


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          • #35
            Originally posted by Epee102 View Post
            Third Edition removed both characters because of their 2nd edition presentation. Lilun has been confirmed not to be returning iirc, while Desus was explictly written out at least in regards to Lilith.
            Well, I won't miss them. I expected Lillun (and, really, all of the Infernal sigs as well) to be removed as Infernals are getting a much-needed do-over, but I had not heard of Desus. Cool.


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            • #36
              It's worth remembering that Exalted editions, unlike WoD, are not continuations of the same setting so to speak, but soft reboots. Even 1e to 2e changed the map a bit, added locations, and changed the depictions of people and locations. 3e mostly continues this. But in that context, it's also worth remembering that just like how 3e if someone doesn't show up they may just not be there anymore, that's an implication in 2e.

              Note this is an issue with Azure Path especially. He might well still be there, but if you are only interacting with 2e and 2e material about Ses...he doesn't. Ses instead has a biological son, which implies at least having slept with a woman at least once, while never saying anything of him with ever being with a man. What evidence he was every at least interested in men in 2e is absent, and any information of what he does have interest in is pretty straight. So in context of 2e being as much a redo instead of expansion of 1e, it seems like erasure to me at least.


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              • #37
                Idk enough about 2e to contribute to this discussion, but I enjoyed reading it.


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                • #38
                  Desus could still exist, but if he does, it'd probably be like he was in 1e - as a one-off mentioned in the background of Oliphem (assuming O shows back up), never to be mentioned again, and with none of the baggage of his 2e presentation. Just some Solar who ruined a behemoth's entire life.

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                  • #39
                    I realise it's not meant mean-spiritedly. But, frankly, I find the insistence that a gay man can't have a "biological son" insulting as fuck. I'm not saying we shouldn't discuss it. I'm not saying that folks don't have sterotypes and assumptions. And I'm certainly not saying that anyone involved in this discussion is in any way at fault for raising this as a concern. But let me just make this point real quick so it's explicitly stated:

                    Gay people are allowed to have kids. Being a parent does not take away your gay card. It's a very hetronormative (and cisnormative) statement to make. And I realise it's being made as part of a critical deconstruction, and I'm not saying it doesn't have value as a statement or that it isn't worth discussing. But it hits, personally, very close to home. (Entirely outside of a magical world with neomah and the whole issue around adding the word "biological" to this story.)

                    If your opinion is that 2E made Ophilis Ses straight, then you are entitled to your interpretation of the text. Your opinion is valid and I respect that.

                    But it is an opinion. It's one possible interpretation of the material presented, based on drawing inference from social coding and stereotypes. It is an argument you can make, but it is not something explicit in the text. It's you proceeding from the assumption that straight is normal.

                    And that's my point. 2E's "broadest possible base" approach was one of starving gay characters of oxygen. Ledaal Kes existed. He was in a chapter comic in MoEP: DB. But he didn't get a write up, let alone a mention of his sexuality. 2E didn't explicitly make him straight, it just sidelined him as a character and threw a veil over his sexuality. I'm not saying that Ledaal Kes and Ophilis Ses got exactly the same treatment, and in some respects, that's probably worse than saying "Ophilis Ses is straight now"... but my sum point is that the book doesn't, out-and-out, say "Ophilis Ses is straight now".

                    I have no objection to folks stating "it seems like erasure to me". Because that's exactly what it is. It's quietly sanitising and censoring Exalted to broaden the appeal. The books have limited word count and WW chooses whether to spend those words drawing attention to gay characters or pulling attention elsewhere. Not talking about gay characters is a choice, deliberately made. I think it's fine bringing the point up to discuss it: I'm not insulted by someone mentioning that a fictional character has a kid (that's not objectionable to me). I don't think anyone has crossed a line here. But I feel a powerful need to say something before this conversation goes further.

                    I do freely concede that of all the implied and indirect erasure Azure Path and Ophilis Ses got the worst of it. And it's completely reasonable to assume Ophilis Ses is straight from the published text (it's not, in any way, an unreasonable assumption to draw -- no-one is a bad person for making such an assumption). 2E gives exactly the same amount of evidence for Ophilis Ses being gay as it gives for Cathak Cainan liking liquorice -- exactly zero. But that's not the same as the books printing "Cainan doesn't like liquorice".
                    Last edited by JohnDoe244; 04-05-2021, 12:30 PM.


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                    • #40
                      As far as Kes goes, there was at least an art piece in Shards of the Exalted Dream that alluded to his sexuality by showing an alternate reality version of him looking glad to be surrounded by Chippendale dancers.

                      I also realize that allusion to homosexuality can be an unsatisfying, even frustrating thing, on several counts.

                      The things this thread are pointing out to me are compelling, because I would not have considered the books from this angle. Being online about Exalted tended to convey the orientation of characters, but the idea that other people who read the Second Edition books and kept to themselves would have been unaware of such ideas, it's worth observing.


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                      • #41
                        Hmm... 2e seems more like the edition of "inside baseball" than "broaden the base". Isn't it a common complaint that 2e was self referential and leaned into its own mythology in unapproachable ways? Quite a few things are "We already know you've read 1e so we're not really going to describe this...". I'd also say it seems like the edition of low focus on character and high focus on "punch it into the sun"? (Kind of an energy some ppl liked tho.) And so character relationship description might suffer a bit?

                        (3e on character seems to be very efficient, have characters designed for very hooks, though I think losing the 1e style splatbook approach of introducing a few characters with big character portraits is less good at conveying the anime style of "soulful bodies". That's this idea that the constraints of both limited animation and synergy with manga in anime gives rise to high emphasis on visual character design and "soulful bodies," that is, bodies where spiritual, emotional, or psychological qualities appear inscribed on the surface", including through static stances and shots (which is much parodied, but actually totally awesome). And thats something that influences a lot of this Japanese stuff that breaks through in 80s-90s, incl. CRPGs. And it's easy to lose that for something which is closer to a more novelistic, writerly S&S style. But this is complete a tangent that deserves a separate thread.)

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                        • #42
                          Originally posted by Ghosthead View Post
                          Hmm... 2e seems more like the edition of "inside baseball" than "broaden the base". Isn't it a common complaint that 2e was self referential and leaned into its own mythology in unapproachable ways? Quite a few things are "We already know you've read 1e so we're not really going to describe this...". I'd also say it seems like the edition of low focus on character and high focus on "punch it into the sun"? (Kind of an energy some ppl liked tho.) And so character relationship description might suffer a bit?
                          Yeah, the fact we even have the plot hook about Ophilis Ses and his missing son in the chapter comics is a symptom of that.


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                          • #43
                            Originally posted by Ghosthead View Post
                            Hmm... 2e seems more like the edition of "inside baseball" than "broaden the base". Isn't it a common complaint that 2e was self referential and leaned into its own mythology in unapproachable ways? Quite a few things are "We already know you've read 1e so we're not really going to describe this...". I'd also say it seems like the edition of low focus on character and high focus on "punch it into the sun"? (Kind of an energy some ppl liked tho.) And so character relationship description might suffer a bit?
                            Yeah, that's a fair interpretation.

                            A lot of 2E stuff is copy-pasted over from 1E. And there's some lore changes between 1E and 2E. So it's not cut and dry. But, sure. I don't want to be prescriptive about it.
                            Last edited by JohnDoe244; 04-05-2021, 10:29 AM.


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                            • #44
                              Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                              I realise it's not meant mean-spiritedly. But, frankly, I find the insistence that a gay man can't have a "biological son" insulting as fuck.

                              Gay people are allowed to have kids. Being a parent does not take away your gay card. It's a very hetronormative (and cisnormative) statement to make. And I realise it's being made as part of a critical deconstruction, and I'm not saying it doesn't have value as a statement or that it isn't worth discussing. But it hits, personally, very close to home. (Entirely outside of a magical world with neomah and the whole issue around adding the word "biological" to this story.)

                              If your opinion is that 2E made Ophilis Ses straight, then you are entitled to your interpretation of the text. Your opinion is valid and I respect that.

                              But it is an opinion. It's one possible interpretation of the material presented, based on drawing inference from social coding and stereotypes. It is an argument you can make, but it is not something explicit in the text. It's you proceeding from the assumption that straight is normal.
                              I am not sure if you are replying to me, but I would like to state for the record that I never stated - or insisted - that Ses - as a gay man - could not have a child. Nor did I say that 2e made him straight and much less that they did so explicitly.

                              I am sure there other ways that I may have misstepped, though, and for that I apologize. I am working on a feminist post-structural discourse analysis project analyzing Exalted second edition, I noticed something I had not noticed before, and I thought people might find it interesting. As I have stated before, I am neither trying to complain nor stir shit.


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                              • #45
                                Originally posted by Jutlander View Post
                                I am not sure if you are replying to me
                                Sorry, that came out way rantier than intended. I have trouble reading and tend to fill in what I expect to see rather than what's actually written and I have a bad habit of conflating the points of everyone who disagrees with me. I editted what I wrote but it still sounds kinda "charged". That's my bad, not yours.

                                It's a perfectly valid thing to discuss, it's fine as a topic -- please don't let my insecurities stiffle your discourse (that's absolutely the opposite thing to what I want). We should talk about this stuff.

                                My point, from which I feel I've strayed, is that 2E didn't devote a lot of word-count to gay relationships (in comparison to 1E or 3E). I think that was a deliberate choice to go mainstream. Lioness and others have suggested it was more benign. Frankly, everything else that I've posted on this thread is more distraction than anything else, it's very incidental to my point and not worth dwelling on.
                                Last edited by JohnDoe244; 04-05-2021, 12:31 PM.


                                Hi, I'm JohnDoe244. My posts represent my opinions, not facts.

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