In Defense of the Dead Mom

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Posted by jeremyf (409 posts) -
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Some people on the internet have been raising complaints with the story in God of War, notably around the choice for Faye to have passed away before the game begins. I don't want to pick apart people's interpretations of story elements, because I see where they're coming from. but this particular choice was really effective for me personally for a few reasons.

For starters, let me make the obligatory comparison to The Last of Us, which I've done before. When the intro of the game shows the daughter, Sarah, I couldn't care less. We know what kind of game this is, and its attitude towards concepts like "happiness" and "being alive." Sarah practically has a target painted on her face from the beginning. So, why should I get invested in this character that only exists to make Joel sad and have him do some dumb things?

Faye is handled differently in a way that gets me actually invested in her story. We don't see her brutally murdered like Kratos's previous wife. She's one of the only entities in the series to die from something resembling natural causes. The game is ostensibly about the people left behind mourning her after the fact. I love this choice because her death isn't played for shock value or as a trigger for revenge, but a tragedy. One that ends up bringing everyone closer, through murder I guess.

While we don't see the real Faye in the game, we hear her memory. She was a great warrior and a caring mother. Bits of her poke out in Atreus's stories. The players only have the idealized version of Faye, not the actual one. The ending reveals that she kept as many secrets as Kratos, and he and Atreus don't quite know how to react. They may feel slightly betrayed, but Faye's machinations ultimately succeed in bringing them together. For that, they are grateful.

As seen in the image, Faye's is the invisible hand that guides Kratos and Atreus on their journey, in more ways than one. Her power in the story comes from her absence. Had she made a physical appearance at the beginning, I believe a lot of the impact would evaporate. In the narrative weight of her death, she pulls off one final miracle.

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#1 Edited by NTM (11872 posts) -

Eh... I'll stop where you said Faye is handled differently in a way that makes you invested in comparison to the first part of The Last of Us. Your opinion is invalid to me. Just kidding. I read it all, but I disagree about the comparison to The Last of Us. That specific moment, as well as how it affected the overarching story of the character of Joel was way more powerful than pretty much anything the new God of War had to say in my opinion. That all said, maybe it's because I wasn't interested enough in the new God of War to read deeper, but I haven't seen many complaints about the story. Lastly, although I can agree that The Last of Us is that kind of story, I don't think it was 100 percent clear that Sarah was going to die in the beginning.

The way it was presented was also very affecting and immersive; the way everything was set up is very poignant and 'relatable'. I actually just restarted playing The Last of Us since I don't have anything new to play, and it's still amazing to me. I don't think God of War really presented itself in such an overtly emotional fashion, or if it tried it failed. I didn't really get much out of Faye as a character, though I don't think it needed to show her. The reveal at the end of the game was about the most interesting thing about her. I thought God of War was good, but I did get the feeling of 'been there, done that' to a large extent, and done better elsewhere in my opinion, or just not as good as I had hoped. I was also kind of disappointed Kratos didn't mention that he had a family in the past!

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#2 Posted by Vasta_Narada (751 posts) -

I prefer the way God of War handled it compared to The Last of Us, but that's partly because of what The Last of Us does with the dead family member aspect. Joel's arc is basically about Ellie becoming a surrogate daughter, which is just about the most obvious thing you could do--not that it's inherently bad, or that the game didn't do it well (I thought it did)--whereas God of War goes out of its way to make sure that Faye's void remains a void. Kratos never finds a new romantic interest, and though it looks like Atreus might find a new mother figure in Freya, they curve away from that pretty quick. And permanently. I don't personally need Faye to have been a tangible character to get invested in Kratos and Atreus' loss; they do a good enough job in my opinion establishing through dialogue and actions what Faye's importance to those left behind.

@ntm said:

I was also kind of disappointed Kratos didn't mention that he had a family in the past!

Why? Kratos struggles enough just telling Atreus the barest of details of his past. Kratos opening up to that level doesn't make sense for the character to me.

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#3 Posted by Sahalarious (796 posts) -

Yeah, there is a lot of outcry about Faye, notably under a feminist light. I NEVER want to discredit that kind of talk, but when I disagree with it from a storytelling perspective I feel like I have to express my opinion. Faye was this massive presence that permeated every character, every single step of the journey.

While she didn't have a voice actor or a character model, she also didn't have a sexualized appearance or some damsel in distress mechanic. Kratos, a character known for literally disemboweling GODS, reveres this mysterious woman as a warrior of unmatched skill. Her son views her as a mother of the greatest compassion, and in the end the two are still surprised to see just how elaborate of a labyrinth through realms she created.

The stakes of her plan working are global, and unending. I cannot imagine a more powerful character. Yes this is an action game, and one in a storied franchise, so we do have a large Spartan man ripping people in half, but in Faye both earning the respect of and changing the heart of this impossible beast, we see Kratos as somehow small, scared, and inferior to his late wife. One of his most powerful moments was during a boat ride where Atreus insinuates that Kratos has no real emotion about the death, where he booms nearly as loudly as the World Serpent; "DO NOT MISTAKE MY SILENCE FOR LACK OF GRIEF!". Personally the story and execution across all characters here blew me away, and I think that Faye needs more credit than shes getting here.

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#4 Edited by Mike (17997 posts) -

I haven't played the game, but is this thread title a spoiler? Or is this something shown in trailers and what not?

Moderator
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#5 Posted by Sahalarious (796 posts) -

@mike: its the entire premise of the game, but could probably use a spoiler heading

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#6 Edited by BoOzak (2648 posts) -

I didnt realise this was a thing that needed defending but I guess everything does these days. I agree with your points. (OP) Even if I enjoyed the story in TLOU more. I knew that Joel's daughter wasnt going to last and wasnt shocked when she died. The game was good about filling in details of the world and it's characters as you play. Many of the most interesting characters never appear and I liked that. I'm sure she'll be a ghost or something stupid in the sequel though. (if only to appease the internet)

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#7 Posted by Efesell (4567 posts) -

It's a good implementation of a trope that maybe just needs to take a backseat for a good while.

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#8 Posted by jeremyf (409 posts) -

@mike: The first scene is Kratos at her funeral.

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#9 Posted by Brackstone (942 posts) -

For me the issue with Faye being dead before the story begins is that it also allows God of War to never really acknowledge the transition between new and old Kratos. He begins the game as a changed man, and while he stuggles with his past to a certain degree, he's largely a different person from the outset. But he is such a different person compared to his old self, that by omitting anything of that transition, it's hard to reconcile the new Kratos with the old Kratos, even if I appreciate what they're going for. It's a gap that also affects Faye since she is in many ways just a tool of a narrative, the impetus for both the plot and for Kratos' change of heart. An abstract moderating influence upon his horrible tendencies. Even if she isn't brutally fridged like many women in videogames, she's still primarily just a narrative tool.

I do think that showing certain things is important. In the case of Joel, simply talking about his daughter dying and describing the circumstances could never hold the emotional weight of seeing it happen. It's not the fact that Joel has a daughter that dies that defines his character, but who his daughter was and how she died. Similarly, how Faye lived is very important for defining the new Kratos and justifying his change, but we only get insufficient glimpses of this, mostly related to how she raised Atreus. We don't know how it happened, just that it happened. When it's something as hard to believe as the Kratos of God of War 3 mellowing out into a well meaning but struggling father, the how ends up being pretty dang important.

Basically, Faye's complete absence represents a much larger gap in the narrative of God of War, the transition between the old series and the new. The game never allows Faye to be an actual character of her own despite her great importance to the narrative, and so just skips her entirely, which just feels weird.

Maybe there's going to be some kind of dlc along the lines of The Last of Us: Left Behind that could explore her character more, and that would remedy the situation, but until then Faye feels like a pretty large gap in the narrative.

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#10 Posted by jeremyf (409 posts) -

@brackstone: Really good points. I would like to see more of the transition between games, since Kratos goes from destroying the world to "now he's somewhere else." I am also curious what they do from here, whether they leave Faye in this role or expand on it like you said.

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#11 Posted by burncoat (559 posts) -

@brackstone: This is how I feel. There's a lot of "telling" us about how great Faye was, but we never "see" it. All they tell us is how kind she was and that she was a great warrior. We never got a story about what she did one time. Atreus and Kratos never recount a happy memory about her but we get loads of Aesop's fables and Norse lore dumps. And despite how great she was, she apparently did all the child rearing. It took her death for Kratos to realize he's a parent and he even laments this when he's dragging himself back to the house after fighting off Baldur.

In general there's a tired trope still going around of "fridging" a woman to give grief and motivation to the male character. The Last of Us and even God of War does it better than other games and media, like the first Watch Dogs game, but its still a trope that needs rethinking. The problem with God of War is that it has a history of this trope, of using the death of women to drive Kratos's motivations. They don't serve any purpose but to be used by Kratos, die for Kratos, or killed by Kratos. That the newest game starts with this trope from the get-go is disappointing when a lot of the game seems to suggest that Kratos is maturing.

I like the new God of War a lot. I honestly loved the story. But I'm still super critical of how it handled certain elements.

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#12 Edited by Brackstone (942 posts) -

The other thing I was thinking about after I wrote that last post is that the relationship between Kratos and Faye is inherently imbalanced, and perhaps that's why I don't gel with her portrayal. We only hear what Kratos saw in Faye, and what he got out of the relationship, what she meant to him. By not having Faye present at all, we never learn what Kratos meant to Faye, what she saw in him, why she loved him and chose to start a family with him. Relationships are a partnership, what brought these two people together? Again, all things important to explaining the transition between games and how Kratos changed.

Show me how someone can love Kratos, and I'll believe it if it adds up, but you've got to show your work.

Spoilers: The ending revelations could cast it in a slightly different light, but then that's something Kratos should have to deal with. Was the relationship genuine (I hope so) or was he once again just the tool of a divine conspiracy? Maybe it's both.

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#13 Posted by BigBoss1911 (2936 posts) -

Could we not put spoilers in thread titles please?

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#14 Posted by Humanity (18948 posts) -

@bigboss1911: it’s the entire premise of the game, it’s literally a “back of the box” type of deal. This is like spoiler tagging the fact that you get augmentations in Deus Ex.

As for the story criticisms - I listened to the Waypoint spoilercast a while back where they raise those issues. Ehh I dunno, I just don’t see it. Parts of that story aren’t handled well but female characters and their representation isn’t part of it, in my opinion anyway.

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#15 Posted by FlashFlood_29 (4452 posts) -

I actually enjoyed the way Faye was presented as a character. Not who she was made out to be but just the approach to it. Yes, it's a two people's idealized version of the character, but it's awesome how the designers made me care about a person who isn't even present in the game tangibly. Kratos is a shitty father and Faye is the one responsible for shaping Atreus into fine young boy that we're given at the beginning of the game. He's not perfect but he's wise. We learn more and more about her as the game goes on and then anything you learn about her in the end doesn't ruin anything about her, or put her down.

Is there a talking point about how females are portrayed in the game? Sure, maybe. If others have a problem with it, I won't tell them they're wrong. But removed from that, I like what the game did with Faye's character, regardless of her being a female.

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#16 Posted by Justin258 (15689 posts) -

I didn't even know there was an outcry at this aspect of the game. They would have had to unravel the entire story to avert this.

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#17 Posted by breq (107 posts) -

I didn't even know there was an outcry at this aspect of the game. They would have had to unravel the entire story to avert this.

Away from the internet, there isn't.

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#18 Posted by SirPsychoSexy (1646 posts) -

@burncoat said:
They don't serve any purpose but to be used by Kratos, die for Kratos, or killed by Kratos.

That is not exclusive to women dude. I am pretty sure you described literally every single character in the entire series besides Atreus.

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#19 Edited by NTM (11872 posts) -

@vasta_narada: Correct, he struggled with really opening up, but it doesn't mean I'm not disappointed he didn't open up a little more. Mentioning that he once had a family would have felt more powerful to me and I'm curious as to how Atreus would feel about it. Plus, even more callbacks to the original trio I would appreciate.

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#20 Posted by Sahalarious (796 posts) -

@ntm: I think that is still to painful for him. We all talk shit about the original trilogy GOW, but dont forget the game opens with him trying to kill himself. He has never been okay with his choices.

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#21 Edited by Cerberus3Dog (1029 posts) -

Spoilers Ahoy

I thought it was really cool how she was the catalyst to the whole game. Kratos chopping down the trees with Faye's hand prints (her dying funerary wish) deactivated the spell which was hiding their home allowing Baldur to find them. Baldur finds Kratos thinking that he was Faye and the whole game is now off and running. All of the yellow markings in the world were also made by Faye leading Kratos and Boy to Jotunheim (Faye's wish for her ashes). Finally at the end in Jotunheim, Arteus is revealed to be Loki and Faye, Laufey. Her death brought Kratos and Boy there sending them on their journey to fulfill the role Faye had in mind for them. Her position in God of War was crucial to the game's entire story.

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#22 Edited by NTM (11872 posts) -

@gtb08: I don't really talk shit about the original God of War. I liked them and am one of the people that thought it was a little deeper than people let on. Still, it's not really about misunderstanding why he didn't do it, it's just something I would have liked to see. It's not really a big issue though. Oh, to be honest, I wasn't a fan of God of War 3 for a few reasons, Kratos is one of them, just what he turned into. That said, with more context and hindsight, that issue is alleviated just a bit.

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#23 Posted by Humanity (18948 posts) -

@burncoat: In a game that centers around a father and son story, of discovering one another and forming bonds, I think it’s a little strange to ask “but what about the mother?” Fridging is a very reductivist term in this case because you’re undermining the entire narrative because of the absence of a character that would otherwise interfere with said narrative. I guess I just don’t understand what the alternative is in this situation or how this story of bonding over grief would be told better if his wife was constantly showing up as a ghost or a vision - because that is basically the alternative right? Her exclusion from the story simply serves a very important narrative purpose as opposed to being a sexist slight.

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#24 Posted by Coryukin (109 posts) -

I really don't understand how this is an issue. The story told is good and Cory Barlog has said that the game is partly about how he struggled with lack of connection to his son. The game is introspective and sees characters evolve, change, and reflect on what they have done. Barlog even stated the game was also about teaching his son that it's ok to be emotional.

The story says it's ok to change and be weak emotionally at times. It's about the story of a father and son and how they teach each other what it means to embrace the positive aspects of masculinity and be better people in general. There's nothing wrong with telling a story that centers around a father and son primarily. Barlog told the story that spoke to him and his life. If you can't relate to a story of parental connection(or lack there of), or what it means to change even when it's hard, or admit when you're wrong when it's hard, or at least empathize with those characters going through those emotions simply because then gender isn't what you want it to be, you can fuck off. There is so much value in the story and reducing the story to being about having the right genders do the right things is ridiculous. I can't believe people.

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#25 Posted by Jonny_Anonymous (3675 posts) -

This wouldn't be a problem if there was a single well represented woman in the game.

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#26 Edited by theacidskull (1095 posts) -

Man people really dig shit out of their own assholes to complain about don't they? Faye's presence, for the time being, would have upset the father/son dynamic. She was never intended to be the main focus of the game, rather an element that would compliment said dynamic.

@jonny_anonymous said:

This wouldn't be a problem if there was a single well represented woman in the game.

It isn't a problem in the first place, and what does this even mean? You don't need a female character if her one and only purpose is to just be a female character. Besides, there is a good female character that serves a very particular purpose in the game, which perfectly ties into the overarching theme of the entire narrative.

Her name is Freya, and as the game sets up, she'll become an important figure in the future installments. What is it about Freya that makes her any less of a woman? She can't fight because of a spell that was put on her, but beyond that what's wrong with how she is portrayed?

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#27 Posted by Jonny_Anonymous (3675 posts) -

Man people really dig shit out of their own assholes to complain about don't they? Faye's presence, for the time being, would have upset the father/son dynamic. She was never intended to be the main focus of the game, rather an element that would compliment said dynamic.

@jonny_anonymous said:

This wouldn't be a problem if there was a single well represented woman in the game.

It isn't a problem in the first place, and what does this even mean? You don't need a female character if her one and only purpose is to just be a female character. Besides, there is a good female character that serves a very particular purpose in the game, which perfectly ties into the overarching theme of the entire narrative.

Her name is Freya, and as the game sets up, she'll become an important figure in the future installments. What is it about Freya that makes her any less of a woman? She can't fight because of a spell that was put on her, but beyond that what's wrong with how she is portrayed?

The fact that she is the only female in the game? There is no reason why we get the sons of Thor and not the daughter. There is no reason the Witch of the Woods needed to be rendered incapable of acting on her own so that she basically ends up screaming hysterically in the background as the manly men ignore her and get down to business. There was no reason for the only choice she was able to make to be ignored then her turned into a moustache twirler swearing vengeance. There was no reason for every Valkyrie to be a non-character that needed to be killed off.

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#28 Posted by theacidskull (1095 posts) -

@theacidskull said:

Man people really dig shit out of their own assholes to complain about don't they? Faye's presence, for the time being, would have upset the father/son dynamic. She was never intended to be the main focus of the game, rather an element that would compliment said dynamic.

@jonny_anonymous said:

This wouldn't be a problem if there was a single well represented woman in the game.

It isn't a problem in the first place, and what does this even mean? You don't need a female character if her one and only purpose is to just be a female character. Besides, there is a good female character that serves a very particular purpose in the game, which perfectly ties into the overarching theme of the entire narrative.

Her name is Freya, and as the game sets up, she'll become an important figure in the future installments. What is it about Freya that makes her any less of a woman? She can't fight because of a spell that was put on her, but beyond that what's wrong with how she is portrayed?

The fact that she is the only female in the game? There is no reason why we get the sons of Thor and not the daughter. There is no reason the Witch of the Woods needed to be rendered incapable of acting on her own so that she basically ends up screaming hysterically in the background as the manly men ignore her and get down to business. There was no reason for the only choice she was able to make to be ignored then her turned into a moustache twirler swearing vengeance. There was no reason for every Valkyrie to be a non-character that needed to be killed off.

It's way to early to judge what her role in the latter games will be, the only thing we are sure of is the fact that we will get to fight the original queen Valkyrie (freya), seeing as how she confronts mimir about the whereabouts of her wings, which was what was preventing her to actually throw a punch. Odin cursed her to be unable to fight or harm another being.

Say all you want about menly-men, but the only man in the game is Kratos, considering the fact that baldur's character is that of an insane teenager. Freya, even with all the constraints on her was extremely powerful given her ability to resurrect a dead fucking giant. Her character is also a good template for abusive relationships, given how her marriage to Odin culminated in her warped sense of love for Baldur, which for all intents and purposes drove the fucker into the insane wreck we meet at the beginning of the game. Freya screaming for Kratos to stop hurting her son when she is LITERALLY cursed to be unable to seriously intervene is an excellent way to tie in to the matricide/patricide cycle gods through. It's not like Balrog shat that one out of thin air. Freya is far more complex of a character than the dickheads magni and modi, who were pretty quickly slaughtered handily. Plus Modi was pretty much a coward, running away as soon as Kratos seemed to gain the upper hand over him, so again, not sure what your point is about freya being a bad representation of women. I'd say she's one of the more empathetic characters given her predicament and her flaws as a person. Her marriage to a monster turns her into antithetical kind of monster.

The Valkerie's were also not part of the main story, but there was a fair bit of information given about them. Plus, their extreme and almost insane power was communicated through the gameplay. Especially Sigurn given how ridiculously hard it is to beat her.

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#29 Posted by theacidskull (1095 posts) -

@humanity said:

@burncoat: In a game that centers around a father and son story, of discovering one another and forming bonds, I think it’s a little strange to ask “but what about the mother?” Fridging is a very reductivist term in this case because you’re undermining the entire narrative because of the absence of a character that would otherwise interfere with said narrative. I guess I just don’t understand what the alternative is in this situation or how this story of bonding over grief would be told better if his wife was constantly showing up as a ghost or a vision - because that is basically the alternative right? Her exclusion from the story simply serves a very important narrative purpose as opposed to being a sexist slight.

It's one of those complaints that is there just for the sake of it. It's like getting mad at DOOM for not having a love interest for doomguy, even though anyone can clearly see that the game is not gearing towards that kind of story telling.

Obviously the complaint isn't as jarring in god of war since Faye holds a significant presence, but her inclusion or appearance would have disrupted the flow of the story that is centered around Kratos and Atreus.

Throughout my playthrough it never once occurred to me that Faye is what the game needed, especially when there are other kinks that keep the game from being perfect.

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#30 Edited by Ungodly (449 posts) -

I mean, I thought the mother was a distraction. Having no real clue as to who she was, made every mention of her distracting. I kept wondering who she was, and how she got with Kratos, but not in fascination and more in a “why should I care?” way. If there was one narrative failing for me it was never feeling like she really mattered, and the ending only made me feel like everything was how it should be.

I never expected to enjoy a God of War game, so hats off to the people that made it. I didn’t think the story was that great, though. Pretty boiler plate to me, and it took too long to get to certain beats.

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