I found this wee game a while ago and I think it’s really fun – maybe not relevant, but I really like this game and I want to share it. (And I have been playing it when I’ve been taking breaks, so that must matter for something, right? …Right?)
In my last blog, we established that the female characters in The Wolf Among Us are witty at best, useless at worst, and while not entirely a weak cast they never use any physical strength. Now I’m going to move onto the male characters and see what crops up before comparing the two. As with last time, here be spoilers. Not played the game? Play it first, or look up a lets play.
It makes sense to start with the player character Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf himself. Bigby is the sheriff of Fabletown, so naturally he’s the one solving the mysteries and getting into fights. Generally he’s a surly kind of guy, smoking a Huff and Puff and scowling at people. It makes sense, he’s got a rough past behind him – as Colin, one of the Three Pigs, says ‘[he] ate a lot of people in [his] day.’ – and nobody lets him forget it (Seriously, it’s mentioned at least four/five times a chapter). However, he does have a caring side that starts to show as the game progresses, where he bails out Faith and Beauty – though he is more indifferent to the latter – and makes his feelings for Snow more apparent in chapter 2, saying ‘I’m glad you’re not dead’ and ‘I almost lost you once…’; these aren’t things a guy like Bigby would say to just anyone. He cares about people, but he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve as much as he keeps it in his pocket; it peeks out when he wants it to but he mostly keeps it to himself.
Depending on the player’s choices, he can choose to atone for his past mistakes by being as kind as he physically can while apprehending suspects and interrogating people, or he can embrace the fact people are scared of him, ripping people’s arms off or burning them with their own cigars. Either way, Bigby has a good balance of brain and brawn and he’s a decent enough guy; he looks out for Snow White, his partner in crime (?) and love interest, he doesn’t necessarily start every fight in the game – though he doesn’t do much to avoid them – and he helps people out of rough patches where he can (But the option to cause trouble is there). On the other hand, he has a really short fuse, and often when he gets to the end of his tether he lashes out, or in extreme cases transforms. So far in the game he’s only partially transformed, with yellow eyes, a bit more hair on his face, claws and increased strength. We need to wait a few more chapters to see him go berserk; I shudder to think what causes it.
Toad and TJ
Mister Toad is the first NPC you see in the game; he’s a three-foot toad. He’s the landlord of a shitty apartment block in the South Bronx, where he lives with his son, and possibly a wife – he mentions a ‘whole family’, implying there is more than just two people in the apartment, but we never see or hear about them. He could just be exaggerating. He doesn’t have the physical strength or intelligence of the other characters; he’s smart enough but he can’t lie to save his life. His status and stature give him little power over his tenants, so he has to call on Bigby to occasionally throw people out. His role in the game is to provide occasional information (Though he might need some, ahem, encouragement) and to look out for TJ, his son. The option is there to pester him about his glamour, but he doesn’t pay any heed, leading to my confusion about glamours in the previous ramble.
He’s a stubborn guy, which makes interacting with him difficult near the end of chapter 1; his interrogation scene drags out as he tries to cover for Tweedledee with constant lies. His relationship with Bigby is really confusing. He doesn’t seem to like him, complaining when told to get a glamour or go to the Farm, but he calls on him for help on a regular basis and doesn’t seem to hold much of a grudge if you talk to him peacefully. However, if you interrogate him violently, threaten him or frighten his son he will get mad and just walk away from you. It’s also implied that he uses Bigby to make his son behave; when TJ peeks his head around the door, Toad asks him if he wants ‘The Big Bad Wolf to come take [him] away’. There’s not much more to say other than he’s stubborn, two-faced and a cheeky bugger, but somehow really likeable. (I might come back to him if he’s ever shown in glamour later on.)
TJ is just a kid, and a shy one at that. It’s not clear whether this is just because of Bigby, but he does seem more outgoing or at least less nervy when Bigby isn’t around. He collects bugs and finds it hard to make eye contact with people, which is fairly natural when you think about it; the only grown ups he sees in the game are either strangers or boogeymen to him, so logically he’s not going to be the best of friends with them. He doesn’t tend to say more than he needs to, and in Chapter 2 he winds up being interviewed after he finds Lily’s body in the river. His reactions vary with gameplay, but either way he gets upset and frustrated and just plain scared. It doesn’t help that in a scene before this there is the option to hit Toad during interrogation. If you do this, TJ walks in and gets upset, after which a notice appears onscreen; ‘TJ is afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’. There’s not a whole lot more to say about TJ other than he’s an average kid, a little nerdy, with his slogan t-shirts and his bug collection, and shy. He’s also voiced by Clementine from the Walking Dead games, but that’s hardly relevant.
The first antagonist we meet in the game. He’s a violent, washed-up drunk. We don’t hear him talk until he’s got Bigby against the wall by his neck. He gives Faith a black eye and gets thrown out of a window. He’s shown to have at least average intelligence, but the drink drives him crazy. He gets taken down fairly easily but he definitely packs a punch. (Strange little fact here; Bigby and Woodsman are both played by the same voice actor, so he’s essentially having a fight with himself.) After the axe incident, we don’t see him again until Bigby goes to the Trip Trap bar. He’s sobered up, or at the very least given up fighting; he only talks to Bigby about Red Riding Hood and his plans to rob her. It turns out that he only saved her for a reward, but nothing came but false fame and free drinks. He’s shown to be a lonely old drunk that can’t fit his own legend. You can choose to interrogate him further, since he’s the last person to see Faith alive other than Bigby, but you don’t get much from him except for an interesting twist with Lily; if you interrogate him in Episode 2, it’s revealed that he hired Lily while she was working at the Pudding and Pie, presumably without Holly’s knowledge. Woody is one of the more tragic characters in the game; he’s a victim of his own situation and there’s no chance of him changing it.
I would write about Dum as well, but we’ve barely seen him so far.
Tweedledee is a bastard, but he’s one of those bastards you can’t help but like. He’s our other main antagonist in Episode 2, and he’s slippery; he doesn’t answer questions clearly or directly and he’s not easy to catch. We first see him after he hid in the closet in Faith’s apartment – or after he breaks in apartment and Bigby jumps out of the closet. He insists that he’s ‘on the same side’ as Bigby, but then sets his brother on him, and continually fights him or runs away when their paths cross. Also, he attacks Toad and TJ offscreen, threatening to kill TJ if it’s revealed that he was in Woodsman’s apartment. We learn that he’s somehow involved with the Crooked Man (Who we’ve yet to see) as a debt collector, which explains his connection with Beauty – she took out a loan to avoid eviction. There’s still a ton of things to figure out about Dee – what his connection to Faith is, if there’s more to him than just a loan shark, what he’s up to in general – so there’s not much I can say for definite other than what I’ve already said. He’s a bastard.
The Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, he’s in control now that King Cole is missing – no-one gives any clues as to his whereabouts. Crane is not cut out for mayor; he repeatedly shifts blame from himself, yells at people, turns Fables away when they really need his help, and slopes off for a ‘massage’ whenever he can. He’s very much hands-off in the game, but can be useful when pushed; he gets Bigby out from the interrogation in Chapter 2 – it’s possible the police are mundies since Crane is driven to make them forget everything about the case.
It’s revealed that Crane has a thing for Snow White – his ‘massages’ are really visits to the Open Arms, the sleazy motel Beauty works in, where Crane sets up prostitutes as Snow White in her glass coffin before he wakes her up with a kiss, and more. There is blood found all over the room Crane was using, and Lily and Faith both saw the same client – probably the woodsman – so Crane is well and truly up shit creek. I personally don’t think he’s the murderer; what’s his reason to kill the prostitutes? Also, we can’t guarantee that Faith saw Crane – the note linking Faith and Lily mentions an apartment, and Faith was covering for Lily and not vice versa. Besides, we’re only on Chapter 2 so far; it’s far too soon to solve the mystery. There’s another side to this somewhere.
Crane has a bit of a beef with Bigby, probably because of the occasionally violent ways he deals with other Fables. The office gets a lot of complaints, apparently. There may also be some jealousy there; in some dialogue choices with Crane he lets slip that Snow is ‘fond’ of him, whereas she seems to outright despise Crane.
He seems to have an aversion to trolls, but this isn’t explicit – it’s only mentioned during Lily’s autopsy, and it just might be because he didn’t know she was a troll and he was shocked. He seems tetchy in this scene, but that’s just because he doesn’t want anyone to know about his Snow fetish.
I think Crane’s just a frustrated old man, in more senses than one; he’s lonely, and he’s in a position he can’t really fulfil. He’s a terrible mayor, and he tries to get others to listen but they refuse. This makes him lose heart which makes him care less, which makes him turn people away. It’s a never-ending circle, really. He’s under pressure and he knows he can’t deliver, but he has to try. From what I saw of the Chapter 3 trailer, he’s sent away or at least leaves the Woodlands for a time; when you look at the guy, it’s quite sad; he’s got a weird fetish, he gets humiliated and accused of murder and gets sent away from his job and probably his home to boot. That’s rough.
Another one of the security staff in the Woodlands, Bluebeard isn’t seen often and doesn’t do much in the game. Bigby doesn’t trust him, and to an extent he’s right not to; the guy’s a brute. He’s violent in interrogation and fights with Bigby if he refuses to get violent with suspects. His part in the game right now has been quite small – really he’s just a rival for Bigby at the moment – so there’s really not much to say, but I suspect more will come later on.
Faith’s husband. Other than Toad, he’s the weakest physically – but seeing as he’s been stabbed/shot, that’s understandable. Depending on game choices, you either save Lawrence or watch him die. He’s heartbroken after his wife leaves, and Dee reveals her death – or he just feels like a burden on Faith, in which case Bigby can reveal her fate, lie about their visit or tell Lawrence she’s missing. I’m a little muddy on the facts but it’s implied that he stabbed himself in the heart after finding out; though there is a bullethole in the wall, Bigby says the gun hasn’t been fired in a week. Also, the knife is in a patch of blood that is still sticky. It is possible that Dee is injured as he is covered in blood if Lawrence dies. Not much is revealed other than what happened and I’m not sure if he’ll appear later if he’s not dead, but you can probably rule him out as a suspect; he’d rather kill himself than hurt Faith – that’s why he killed himself, or tried to.
The owner of the Pudding and Pie, the sleazy strip club/prostitution agency (I don’t think the place is a brothel, most of the appointments seem to happen in the Open Arms). Georgie is as you’d expect, a bully with a big mouth, though I will admit he makes me laugh when he makes fun of Bigby – I think his scene is my favourite in Chapter 2. His sense of humour is both scathing and dry, and there’s something admirable in that. He’s certainly not afraid of Bigby, if he’s afraid of anyone at all.
He seems to take glee in being a bad guy. He swears like a well-versed sailor, chips away at Bigby with sarcastic comments, makes casual insults and threats at his staff – particularly with Hans when he reveals the logbook Georgie was trying to hide from Bigby – calls the business office after you try to interrogate him – never thought I’d see a pimp call the equivalent of the police – and even has a bat in his possession marked ‘crowd control’. He’s cool under pressure, acting as if he’s always got the upper hand in heated situations; until you try to convince him to open the floor safe or destroy his DJ booth.
Is it wrong that I really like this character? Yes, he’s a pimp, he’s exploitative and he’s abusive, but his scenes are by far some of the funniest in the game. He’s the only character that isn’t nervous around Bigby – and to be fair, the digs he makes at him are true! And the tone is perfect. I guess you could say I like his writing and delivery more than I like the character as a person. Definitely in my top three favourite characters. He’s an absolute arse, but at least he’s honest about it.
Bufkin works in the business office with Crane and Snow. He’s first seen drinking Crane’s wine – he got Snow into trouble for that – and if you use the magic mirror later on while he’s meant to be sourcing information he’s still drinking it. He’s mainly a comic relief character – telling him to fuck off was one of my more guilty comedic moments in the game – and he reads information Bigby can’t read; it looks to be in Latin or another language.
He’s shown to be clumsy – he drops books and forgets the evidence for the autopsy – somewhat immature – he laughs at the word ‘ass-skin’ – and a tad sneaky – steals the wine. He’s more of a secondary character and hasn’t appeared much so far, so there’s not much else to say.
Gren is a regular at the Trip Trap, also a troll. He seems to be close to Holly, helping out with finding Lily and looking out for her when people overstep the mark. He’s protective and quick to lash out when angry, escalating frustration with Bigby and Snow. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just frustrated with the system; he did everything in his power to find Lily, but the people who had the power to help didn’t do anything until it was too late. He holds a grudge because of both this and the fight with Bigby; if things turn sour, you can rip off his arm, in which case Bigby taunts him and throws it across the room. He’s not hostile unless he’s provoked, being quite gentle with Holly after the news in Chapter 2.
We only met Jack in Chapter 2. He’s a loudmouth with a habit of stepping in it. He harasses everyone – possibly because he’s bored – and ends up making giving Holly the news about Lily even more awkward. I think he’s just for comic relief and to segway giving the news, so there’s not much else to say. His Tweedledee impression is amusing, but that’s all I can really come up with.
So there are most of the male characters in The Wolf Among Us. There are others, such as Hans, the Mirror (I assume it’s male, anyway) and the Mysterious Ginger Man (who I suspect we’ll learn more about later) but I only had enough knowledge about them to maybe cover one or two sentences.
It’s clear that the male characters are by far the angrier ones. They use the most physical violence – in fact, they’re more violent in general as they’re the only ones to make threats and hit first. They tend to have the funnier lines. However, the strange thing is that all of the men – with the exception of Beast and possibly Gren if you squint – are alone. Their partners have either left them, died or are never seen/mentioned. They’re also the ones that reach out for the opposite gender; the single women in the game are either prostitutes or not actively seeking a partner. The male characters are also less sensitive; the other men will almost immediately threaten Bigby, or vice versa. The exceptions here are TJ, who’s just a kid, Lawrence, who seems to be a shy, sensitive person, and Beast, who will only threaten or get violent when angry with another man – he seems to be gentler with Beauty, avoiding her during the fight scene so as not to hurt her, and aiming his anger at Bigby rather than her.
Perhaps I’m being too general by saying the men’re ALL more violent; it’s more that they fit into a sort of Venn diagram; you have the angry, the depressed, the comedic and the shy. The characters cross into lots of these, such as the Woodsman (A/D/C), Crane (A/D/S to some extent) and Georgie (A/C), or even TJ (S, S/D in Chapter 2).
It’s harder to find a similar idea for the female characters; you could put them into categories in the same way, but it’s easier to come up with different yes/no to categories in the male characters. This could be because they get to say more and we learn more about them, and frankly they just get some of the better material to work with.
If I was pushed, here are the categories I’d choose;
M: Angry, Depressed, Comedic, Shy
F: Tough, Smart, Secretive, Charismatic
(It was really hard NOT to make ‘prostitute’ a category)
The weird thing is, male characters tend to fit more categories, whereas female characters cover maybe two at best. This might be my fault because of the way I’ve framed it, but it’s a fascinating result.
I guess the main thing I found is that the men are portrayed as the more tragic characters in the game. While the women aren’t given as big a role in the action, they’re mostly content or at least coping with their lot, whereas the men are often seen as feeling unfulfilled, being left alone or having to live with a past they don’t want. The women suffer from the present and the men suffer from the past.
In the past when I heard feminism, I used to think about the stereotypical bra-burning, man-hating crazy lady I’m sure a lot of other people think about. It’s only been in the past couple of weeks that that view has changed. Feminism is about equality among genders as well as what makes people ‘feminine’. Some theory states that gender is performed; instead of what we’re born with, it’s what we do and wear that dictates our gender. Am I a feminist? I’m still thinking no, I know we’re not completely equal but I don’t know enough about it to really get behind it yet. However, studying feminism has changed how I look at my favourite things, particularly movies and video games. So naturally, I was balls deep in analysis when I discovered The Wolf Among Us.
For the uninitiated, The Wolf Among Us is a Telltale Games series set in Fabletown, a section of New York populated by Fables – fairy tale characters that have escaped their war-torn Homeland and settled in the real world. I won’t spoil the story for you here, but I’ll warn you now that here be spoilers for the first two chapters. If you’ve not played it, at least check it out on youtube before you read this, it’s an awesome game.
It’s a murder-mystery/noir-style adventure title, so it makes sense that certain genders play certain roles. I’ll show and analyse both, starting with the female characters, of which there are only seven – only six are analysed as the last one only opens a door and I don’t even know her name.
Here is one of the characters that ticks me off the most; I don’t know what Snows role actually is. It’s never blatantly mentioned, I think you see her name tag at her desk once, but it’s vague at best. She works with the player character Sheriff Bigby Wolf (See what they did there?) and seems to be in charge of their apartment building – Which I think is also where they work, it’s not entirely clear to me. She also deals with other Fables problems such as missing people or damage to property, but nobody’s happy and she seems to be doing a pretty crappy job. This is partially Deputy Mayor Crane’s fault (More on him later) because he tells her to turn people away, but fuck sake I have no idea what she’s actually meant to DO! She spends her time in the game complaining about Crane, chastising Bigby for doing his job, wanting to come with him on an investigation, not saying anything, then conveniently leaving before a fight-scene. She gets frustrated with others in the game when they’re just looking out for her; in Episode 2 she’s presumed dead. When it turns out to be a mistake Crane and Bigby can suggest that she lay low for a while. She gets offended and starts arguing. This seems out of hand to me; I understand she doesn’t want to sit in an office all day when she can try and help, but she almost died. Someone was killed that looked exactly like her. Surely you’d stay indoors for a while so the murderer doesn’t come after you?
She does do some good in Episode 2 when we find out why she was missing – Mr Toad’s son, TJ, found a body while he went for a swim, and she had him brought in for an interview. This is important to the game, and wouldn’t have happened if Snow had been with Bigby. Despite my grievances, I don’t actively hate Snow; I’m more confused about her purpose. She’s a main character, especially in episode 2, but for the most part she’s more of a witness to the events or a love-interest than a fully-formed character.
When Faith was introduced in Episode 1, she was a really promising character. She’s a prostitute from the Pudding and Pie Club, and we first meet her after a fight with the Woodsman. She’s snarky even when she’s literally backed into a corner and isn’t easily intimidated. I genuinely think she might’ve come out alright even if Bigby hadn’t gotten involved. He does, though, and she’s thankful. She won’t give him the whole story as to what happened but she’s the first character that doesn’t seem to hold a grudge against Bigby. In the few minutes that we know her, she proves to be charming, smart and good in a fight, saving Bigby from the Woodsman with an axe to the head. Then she gets her head cut off.
It’s a kind of shame that she’s just a plot point. Yeah, she’s throughout the entire game, but only as an idea. We don’t learn her name until half way through the first chapter even though she’s one of the most interesting female characters… and she gets wiped out in the first ten minutes. Not cool.
Beauty and The Beast
(I know I said I was doing female first, but these two go hand in hand and I don’t have much to say)
Okay, never mind my beef with Snow, Beauty just full-on pisses me off. She does nothing – and I mean NOTHING. She’s a secretive person, constantly asking Bigby not to say where he saw her and what she was doing. She works the desk in a seedy hotel behind her husband’s back to pay rent and loans she didn’t tell him about. She doesn’t know much about anything she’s seen and nothing she says is of circumstance or even interesting – a lot of her dialogue narrows down to ‘I don’t know, I didn’t see’ or ‘don’t tell Beast you saw me’. The one incident where she is useful she just unlocks doors and complains about it. She could very easily be replaced and it wouldn’t affect the story at all. She is by far my least favourite character. At least Snow could be useful and doesn’t grate on me.
Beast turns up once in each chapter for less than five minutes. The first time he’s looking for Beauty. The second time he finds Beauty and Bigby in front of a hotel room, gets the wrong idea, gets angry and starts a fight. What does this accomplish? A fight scene and a door opening. That’s all. After that he’s sent into the hall to keep people away. He’s shown to be very kind and protective of Beauty, but with a short temper and immense strength when angered. This couple is purely for padding; they fill a space in Chapter 2 where there hasn’t been a fight scene for a while. Maybe they’ll be more significant in later chapters, but right now they’re pretty pointless.
My favourite female character, if not my overall favourite. Holly runs the Trip Trap bar. This is the only place we see her but while she’s there, she shown to be tough, witty and unafraid to speak her mind. She is also a troll, so she isn’t afraid of physical confrontation, more than I can say for other characters. She has a great balance of brains and brawn and she’s pretty badass, but there’s another, more vulnerable side to her. When she learns about her sister’s death, she sits on her own, contemplating and not making a scene. She is understandably dejected and there’s a visible change in her. Her voice is calmer and quieter, she doesn’t make eye contact as easily and will not argue with Bigby. It’s because of this scene I would argue that Holly is actually the most rounded female character; we get to see her at her strongest and her weakest, which I cannot say for the others. She has sides to her personality and we learn far more about her personally than we do with the likes of Faith and Snow – we learn a fair bit about Beauty’s backstory, but it’s more financial than personal. We see her physical and emotional strength, which is probably why I think she’s so awesome.
Holly’s sister. We never see her alive in the game, and when we first see her she’s been ‘glamoured’ to look like Snow White. Like Faith, she’s a prostitute, and she was also on drugs. This is basically all we find out about her. I’m going to use this space to discuss the appearance of the women in the game. None of them are unattractive. They are all very traditionally pretty; thin, high cheeckbones, big eyes, nice hair. The only time we see a particularly ugly person is when Holly and Lily are out of glamour, i.e in troll form. Surely if you were a glamoured troll you would have a similar body shape to your usual form? It seems a weird design choice to make a troll thin and attractive in human form. I personally would have at least given them some more curves – you don’t need to be thin to be attractive! I’ll continue this debate if we ever see Toad in his glamour; he’s short and stocky in toad form, and it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with him.
The Little Mermaid, another prostitute. She has real legs, and they ‘cost [her] a lot’, but that’s all we know about her personally. We meet her at the Pudding and Pie in Episode 2; she’s topless and dancing on a pole. We don’t see her often unless the player chooses not to move toward Georgie (The owner) and start his cutscene. She is later seen in her dressing room where she refuses – or more likely can’t – talk about work or Lily. She then sets up an ‘appointment’ with Bigby so she can give him the key to Lily’s hotel room. This is her main purpose in the game and so far we haven’t seen her since. Will she return? Who knows?
So there you have it. The weird thing is the characters that come from a shadier part of town are more interesting than those living in the Woodland Luxury Apartments (Snow and Beauty) – though this might just be my preference for tough, witty characters. The characters I’ve shown here are all intelligent but only one is physically strong. All have varying degrees of charisma but the more charismatic characters are given less time. All of the women are traditionally attractive – or changed to be so – and most of them are prostitutes or involved in some shifty activity.
Does this make the game sexist? Does it mean I don’t like it? No and hell no. I should clarify, I love this game; otherwise I wouldn’t take the time to think about each character. To be honest, the fact that there are many prostitutes makes sense; the game is a murder-mystery set in the shady parts of a city. Also, prostitution isn’t glamourised at all in the game, in fact it’s shown as quite the opposite, but I will clarify that none of the prostitutes are shown in any vulnerable positions (With the exception of Nerissa, but nothing explicit is shown). The locations for the girls are run-down or tacky, often with tears in the wallpaper or cracks in the mirrors, and none of the women enjoy it. They’re trapped, but they’re crafty enough to make the situation just about bearable, often going behind their employers backs or coercing clients to give them enough money – or just to take it when they can. These women are not portrayed as particularly physically strong, but they are not helpless and can take care of themselves.
I’ll continue this with the male characters and compare the results soon. Catch you later!