Episode #2 – “Women of Pandaria”

Episode #2 – “Women of Pandaria”

Jul 10

Our second episode features Tzufit and Apple Cider taking an in-depth look into the lore of Pandaria, specifically featuring some of the women we ran across in our travels. We highlight what’s cool about them, what’s not, and some analysis of what Blizzard’s intentions may have been with their stories.

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Below the cut is a full transcript of Episode 2, “Women of Pandaria.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Hello and welcome to this week’s Justice Points, Azeroth’s social justice and feminism podcast, with your hosts – I’m Apple Cider Mage, and we have with us as always …

Tzufit:  Hi, this is Tzufit.

Apple Cider Mage:  This week is super exciting.  It’s our second episode and we’re going to be covering the women in Pandaria.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  We are very excited about this episode.  This is one of the first ones that we really talked about when we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do with this show.  This episode in particular was definitely a focal point for us.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  There’s a lot of stuff that we are going to cover in the show.  Some of the major points we’re going to go over are Pandarian women, women in general, the Klaxxi, as well as the mogu.  So this is going to be really exciting and we should probably jump on in.

Tzufit:  Sounds good to me.  So, Apple Cider, back when Mists of Pandaria first came out on beta, you had a couple of very interesting, and very sort of oddly controversial posts at the time, about some of the dialogue that Ji Firepaw said in the pandaren starting area.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  And this is sort of an interesting background to my interest in the Pandarian lore – and it’s not necessarily the women, but it kind of has a broad effect in that in the beta, for people that didn’t know, Ji Firepaw was originally kind of a weird, weird dude.  He was – obviously he’s slated and became the Horde representative for the panda people.  He was supposed to be a contrast to Aysa Cloudsinger, who is Alliance.  The whole storyline in the starting area, for people who haven’t done it, is that Aysa and Ji are very contrasting personalities.  Aysa is very slow to react.  She thinks things through and she’s very calm and meditative; whereas Ji is impulsive and believes in action instead of reaction, and is very forward-minded.  He likes to get stuff done now versus waiting and seeing for an opportune moment.  So there’s obviously a really interesting story hook there, that they are two very different personalities, but there is a sense that they were really good friends.  By the end of the starting experience you get the idea that the reason the split to go Horde and Alliance is very bittersweet, because Aysa is upset with how Ji handled the healing of Shen-zin Su, which is the great turtle that island is on, that you are on in your starting zone.

So, originally in beta, Aysa has always been the same, but Ji was played off, even when you first meet him, as very kind of creepy.  I remember doing beta and running my little character up to this dude that you’re supposed to talk to, at maybe even level 4, and Ji Firepaw basically has this dialogue where he’s –

Tzufit:  I actually pulled it up on your blog if you’d like to have it verbatim.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yes, you can totally read it.

Tzufit:  Alright, so what Ji says to women when he first meets them is:  “Hello friend!  You’re some kind of gorgeous, aren’t you?  I bet you can’t keep the men off of you.  Join me!  You and I are going to be good friends.”  And what he says to men is:  “Hello friend!  You’ve got a strong look to you.  I bet you’re all the rage with the ladies.  Join me!  You and I are going to be good friends.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It’s very, very different.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and yet creepy either way.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  You kind of do get the sense that Ji was trying to be very jovial, but it just came off as very creepy, like he was being a weird, nerdy guy.  And he was overly focusing on women’s looks, and I took real offense to that.

Tzufit:  And I know that for me, when I played that starting area on the beta – and I think it’s still there to an extent on the version that made it live – you do get the sense, as you explained, that they’ve been good friends all along.  Even though they have two very different approaches, they have respect for each other.  There’s a mutual respect there.  But as the storyline progresses, you kind of find out that Ji sort of has this thing for Aysa.  It felt, to me at least, it felt a little out of place.  It didn’t really make sense with the rest of the story.  I didn’t really see how it was helpful to the story either, you know?

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I think, when they eventually did change it, it made it a lot more bittersweet that they were breaking them up to do the different factions.  And I want to say it’s going to play a role later on, maybe in 5.4.  And so you do get a sense that he’s going this unrequited crush on her, and that’s really cute.  But before they changed the dialogue it was really creepy.

Tzufit:  Right, exactly.

Apple Cider Mage:  We did get it changed through massive beta forum posts, but it did set up kind of a tone for Pandaria in that a lot of the Pandaria lore, particularly with the pandaren, feels like the developers were going into it with not a great understanding of how people might interpret a lot of it.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I certainly agree with you there.

Apple Cider Mage:  Ji Firepaw was kind of the tip of the iceberg, and it wasn’t until people started to get to play it on live – because a lot of this stuff wasn’t available in the beta – until we started to get to play it on live it wasn’t appearing.  And a lot of it’s kind of just unfolded, and that’s kind of why we wanted to do this episode.  Ji Firepaw was merely the starting point.

Tzufit:  So one of the things that we wanted to look at was some of the pandaren women themselves.  In particular, one of the ways that they come into a lot of the storylines in Pandaria is through sha corruption.  One of the first places that you see this is with Suna Silentstrike, who is an NPC and a member of the Shado-Pan that you first encounter towards the end of the Kun Lai quest line, and then you move into Townlong with her.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  That’s where her story starts.  You’re fighting that battle in Kun Lai, near the monastery, and you finish that whole long quest line where you defend the wall and kill the big tauren-looking dude –

Tzufit:  Yaungol.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, and Suna realizes that her husband is gone and she goes running after him.  That takes you into the Shado-Pan storyline in Townlong.

Tzufit:  Exactly.  So you follow the Shado-Pan through the Ox Gate there, and then you get a couple of quests at that point to go into the yaungol camps to kill the yaungol and blow up the various catapults and all that kind of stuff.  Eventually Suna gives you a quest, because what they’ve realized is her husband went too far when he was chasing the yaungol and was captured, and is somewhere in one of these camps now.  So Suna gives you a quest to try and find him.

Apple Cider Mage:  And the unfortunate conclusion of that is, you let many of the other Shado-Pan go, and you find out that her husband’s dead.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  And at that point Suna – right when you find the NPC that’s her husband, Suna comes running over.  She falls down on her knees and is crying.  She runs off at the end, and when you return to the other questgiver that’s with her, you find out that she’s left.  She’s not back with the other Shado-Pan.

Apple Cider Mage:  Can I just say that was one of the most emotional times I had questing with Suna crying over her dead husband’s body?

Tzufit:  Absolutely.  In the middle of enemy territory – when you do it while you’re questing, you are literally surrounded by yaungol.  The other quest that you get at the same time to do as that one is you’re breaking these other pandaren prisoners out of their cages.  So you’ve got these four pandaren dudes following you around.  And then you find Suna’s husband, and it’s just like … well, dammit.

Apple Cider Mage:  It was one of those moments in World of Warcraft questing that they really hit the emotional nail on the head.  The voice acting was pitch perfect, no pun intended.  It was really sad.  You really felt like this really brave, tough, pandaren woman that you automatically were just starting to bond with just losing her shit over her dead husband, and I would have been in the same position myself, honestly.

Tzufit:  Yeah, exactly.  They’re warrior together, side by side, in the Shado-Pan.  Like you said, you’ve gotten the idea throughout the story that she is this really strong personality.  She’s got her stuff together and just seeing her losing it at that point, it’s like – yeah, that’s exactly how it would be.

Apple Cider Mage:  And so when you continue on the storyline, you know that she’s run off.  You take a little cart to the next questing area and you realize that it is just a camp that is devoid of anything but scavengers and sha corruption.  It’s very strange and none of the NPCs know what’s going on.

Tzufit:  And there are corpses of yaungol everywhere.  It is clear that there’s been a massacre of some kind here, although initially it’s not clear who killed whom and what’s going on.

Apple Cider Mage:  Through various additional quests you basically find out that it originally looks like it might have been the yaungol that killed each other.  But then there are clues that start popping up that food has been left behind, and there’s nothing indicating that they had armor on.  It was just them being ruthlessly slaughtered.  So by the end of it, you do find out that Suna had been there.

Tzufit:  Right, and I think the way the quest line plays out is that she, somehow, uses the corruption that has started to come up with the Sha of Anger [Hatred].  She uses that corruption to make the yaungol fight each other and to slaughter each other.

Apple Cider Mage:  Ultimately the conclusion to this is that you find out that she’s sha corrupted at that point.  Her intense hatred and anger and violence that she feels toward the yaungol for killing her husband is ultimately what corrupts her.  And you have to kill her.

Tzufit:  Yeah, which I felt terrible when I got to that point in the quest line.

Apple Cider Mage:  Absolutely, 100%.  That’s basically the starting point of where I got a sense that when it comes to Pandarian women and when it comes to sha corruption, that Blizzard handles it really differently for a couple of NPCs.  And we’ll actually talk about another sha corrupted Pandaria woman in a little bit.  But it’s really weird because this storyline comes directly after – chronologically, I don’t think every player got to do it in this order – but it comes very close on the heels of players doing Shado-Pan Monastery where, at the end of that dungeon you get to free Taran Zhu from his corruption, except you don’t kill him.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and that was for me – I was really surprised when you end up killing Suna because I think I did do it in more or less that chronological order since I was questing with other people the first time I went through.  So you finish the quests at the Ox Gate in Kun Lai, and then you do that quest with Ban Bearheart where he takes you on the balloon up to Shado-Pan Monastery.  You find out that something’s going on in there and the idea is you go straight in and you do the dungeon.  So you get to the end there, you fight Taran Zhu, his health goes all the way down to 1, but then he’s redeemed.  So when you encounter the same scenario with Suna, I thought that what was going to happen is, her health goes all the way down to 1 and then she’s redeemed.  And what really happens is her health goes all the way down to 1, she has sort of this dying monologue, and then she dies.

Apple Cider Mage:  I did that about the same way, and I was surprised.  I was really, genuinely surprised because that’s not what happened to Taran Zhu.

Tzufit:  We certainly don’t get any explanation, at least that I am aware of, at any point in Pandaria as to why, for some people, in some cases sha corruption is a redeemable thing; and for other people in other cases, the only way out is death.

Apple Cider Mage:  That kind of brings us into Liu Flameheart, which is actually the first instance that most players are going to run into of sha corruption other than maybe the first couple of quests that you get if you do Jade Forest.

Tzufit:  Weirdly, the very first instance of sha corruption that you run into for Alliance players at least, is after you do the initial quest line where you fly in and you’re looking at the Horde area and all that, and there’s that one night elf who experiences doubt.  Taran Zhu comes in and he frees him.  He frees that night elf of his corruption.

Apple Cider Mage:  For most people, that’s the first time you see sha corruption.  And you really get a sense, and Taran Zhu really stresses this point that it is the Alliance and the Horde conflict bringing these even more intense sha corruptions to life.  But you just get a sense that’s Pandaria’s a living, breathing continent, and that strong emotions are going to cause corruption or going to cause sha activity.  But it isn’t until you encounter Suna and Liu Flameheart, who’s a priestess in Jade Temple whether you do the dungeon or whether you do the quest line that’s in the dungeon, that you get this very different sense of how sha corruption gets treated in the storyline.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  Liu Flameheart, as Apple Cider said, is the next to last boss in Jade Temple.  She’s the one that you fight out in the courtyard and then towards the end, she summons the spirit of the Jade Serpent, and then you fight the Jade Serpent until the fight is over, at which point she dies.  So what we know about Liu Flameheart, primarily from the dungeon journal and then from some limited information we get from the quest line, is that she trains the serpent riders at the temple, and she’s studied the cycle of rebirth for the Jade Serpent since she was a cub.  The Dungeon Journal tells us:  “When the Sha of Doubt attacked, Liu was the first to resist, but she was also the first to succumb to the corruption.”  And the nature of her doubt, of what made her succumb is that she was “consumed with uncertainty because she feared that she wouldn’t have the strength to ensure Yu’lon’s rebirth.”  If you guys remember from doing the entire quest line in Jade Forest, the ending is that they’ve built this big statue, because that’s part of the process of how you allow Yu’lon to be reborn.  Because of the sha corruption, the statue is destroyed and now the Jade Serpent can’t, essentially, reincarnate on schedule.

Apple Cider Mage:  So here we have another situation of a Pandaria woman who is in a fairly powerful position, who is given over to sha corruption because of their very strong emotions.  The very interesting thing about Liu Flameheart is, you get the sense that she has been doing this her entire life.  This is the pinnacle of her life’s work.  So it leaves me thinking why would she be giving into the Sha of Doubt?

Tzufit:  That’s the part that didn’t make sense to me, either, when I was reading the Dungeon Journal text.  It tells us specifically she’s been training since she was a cub, and she’s trained lots of other people as well.  This is the pinnacle of her life’s experience of what she has trained to do, so why is she the first person to doubt?

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Why not any of the acolytes that are training at the temple?  It’s fairly obvious that all of the bosses give into the Sha of Doubt.  Every other boss that you encounter, with the exception of the Sha at the end, they all get redeemed.  All of them.  The guy in the library, you kill the sha corruption in the books and you do the story, but he’s fine at the end, I’m reasonably sure.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and he’s never corrupted to begin with.  It’s just that the sha have gotten into the library and caused havoc and they’re making these stories come to life that are stories – kind of like Pandarian parables, basically, about why we shouldn’t allow our emotions to get the better of us, and why that’s very dangerous.

Apple Cider Mage:  You also have the jinyu priest, who you also have to fight, but he’s fine at the end.  He’s healed at the end.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and he just kind of lays down and that’s the end of his experience.  He’s recuperating at that point.

Apple Cider Mage:  So, in essence, Liu Flameheart, most powerful character in the temple – first to doubt, despite this being her life’s work, gets taken over by sha corruption, gets killed.

Tzufit:  And this was totally another experience for me where – again, you kill the first boss, he doesn’t actually die.  You kill the second boss and really all you’re killing at that point is these sort of animated story things that the sha has made.  Then you get to the third boss and I was expecting the same thing.  I actually thought, the first time I saw it, when the Jade Serpent comes out when she hits 30%, I thought that the Jade Serpent was saving her.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yes.  Or like reincarnating from the priestess, or something?

Tzufit:  Yes.  It seems like, if she is the highest servant for the Jade Serpent, then when she calls on Yu’lon to help her, I would think that the reaction is that Yu’lon’s going to help her fight against this corruption.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  This basically encapsulates my disappointment with how they handled sha corruption, because it’s very obvious that sha corruption is a mechanic in Pandaria that’s really important.  But the thing is, that we see two very powerful NPC women, who for all reasons should not be corrupted and have to be “put down,” but we have to do it anyway.  The problem I really have is it feels like very stereotypical feminine emotional state.  One is revenge because her husband had died, and she’s too angry and she’s too vengeful, despite the fact that being vengeful in World of Warcraft is pretty much standard operating procedure.

Tzufit:  Yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  And then you have Liu Flameheart, woman who has prepared her entire life to be able to create the rebirth of Yu’lon, and yet she’s the first person to doubt herself, which feels very like impostor syndrome, which is you think that you’ve tricked everybody into thinking that you’re a capable person and you’re really not.  I have this huge problem with why was Taran Zhu – I mean, everybody that I’ve talked to seems to think that Taran Zhu is too important.  Taran Zhu is the head of the Shado-Pan and it would be not very good if the head of the Shado-Pan couldn’t get uncorrupted.  Ok.  These are two women in fairly similar positions, maybe not exactly from a game mechanic standpoint, because one’s a boss and one’s a quest NPC and not a leader of a faction.  But relatively, power-wise, they’re on the same level.

Tzufit:  I think, even more compelling, is the fact that we have less important people than Taran Zhu who are redeemed from sha corruption, like the jinyu priest, like the random night elf dude at the start of the Jade Forest questing area.  It doesn’t make sense that those people who are kind of just throwaway NPCs, in a sense because we really don’t have a lot for either of them, but they make it through and these two women don’t.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It’s very different in contrast to how we’ve had the pandaren as a people established.  We were talking about this in our giant document for our show today, and Tzufit mentioned that pandaren are very self-confident.  So, what gives?  Why Suna?  Why Liu Flameheart?

Tzufit:  Yeah.  And I think that goes back to what you were point out, that Suna and Liu are given these very traditionally, stereotypically feminine reasons to become corrupted by the sha; whereas, with Taran Zhu, he’s just getting angrier and angrier about the fact that the Horde and Alliance can’t seem to figure out that what they’re doing is completely screwing up Pandaria, just making things worse.  Whereas for Suna, like you said, it’s all about revenge for this husband where she completely loses it when he dies.  For Liu, it’s this completely nonsensical doubt.

Apple Cider Mage:  It feel like they’re using the sha corruption, maybe not even intentionally, to undermine the emotional distress of Suna and Liu and giving credence to the validity of Taran Zhu’s emotional distress.

Tzufit:  Exactly.  And I don’t think it’s an intentional move at any point by the people who write the quest text or who decided this.  But it’s just this undercurrent of Taran Zhu is too important and even though these two women, these two pandaren women have very important roles in the society, they’re not as important.  So they’re disposable.

Apple Cider Mage:  That was one of my very big initial problems that I had with a lot of the women in the Warcraft lore from the pandaren standpoint.  It feels like sha corruption is being used to drive storytelling, but it’s definitely not being used in an even manner across all of the characters that it affects.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  And we should mention, as well, that we did come up with a few pandaren women who we thought were particularly exceptional and who are really amazing to quest with, and just people that I kind of just want to hang around with and have a conversation.

Apple Cider Mage:  The Shado-Pan as a faction have a lot of really cool women in it.  If you did any of the dailies, which I think a lot of newer to Mists of Pandaria people won’t be doing, which is sad because I felt that they were really cool.  But there is a triad of mages, or a duo of mages and one priest that you do dailies with.

Tzufit:  Yeah, I think that’s right.  There’s a fire mage and a frost mage and a priest.

Apple Cider Mage:  And the priest is Yalia, if I remember correctly.  She does come up in the Isle of Thunder, in one of the cut scenes.

Tzufit:  Right.

Apple Cider Mage:  And then we have Snow Blossom.

Tzufit:  Snow Blossom!

Apple Cider Mage:  Snow Blossom!

Tzufit:  This is so great.  I didn’t know about this at all until Apple Cider and I were talking about this a couple weeks ago, because we were actually, there was a moment where we thought about naming the podcast after Snow Blossom.  She’s that cool.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yes.  Snow Blossom is the – is she the fire mage or the frost mage?

Tzufit:  She’s the frost mage.

Apple Cider Mage:  Ok, she’s the frost mage.  She actually has a trinket named after her.  If you get enough Shado-Pan rep, you can get Snow Blossom’s trinket, and the trinket is Blossom of Pure Snow, I think?

Tzufit:  Yeah, I think that’s right.

Apple Cider Mage:  And the little yellow text on it is “Property of Snow Blossom, destroyer of men.”

Tzufit:  Which is just great.  When we first talked about this, I don’t really have a DPS caster who I worried enough about to get that trinket for.  So I looked it up to try and figure out where this came from or if it’s a reference to anything.  And apparently, according to an interview with Ghostcrawler at some point, somebody asked him what his favorite NPCs had been in Pandaria.  He mentioned Snow Blossom because, on the beta, when characters were working on doing her dailies – if you remember, for all of the Shado-Pan who will come and help you on the Shado-Pan dailies, to unlock them you first have to duel them in that little arena area that’s down the hill from the main quest hub.  I guess initially Snow Blossom was really difficult for a lot of people, especially for other casters, because she has a Polymorph, and she has an interrupt, and she has a Frostbolt that hits like a truck.  Around Blizzard, she started to be referred to as “Snow Blossom, Destroyer of Men.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Great.  When I saw that trinket I was just bowled over because I was like, “I have to have this trinket.  It’s the most misandrous thing I could get from this game.  That’s one of the things I do like about Pandaria lore with the women, you have Snow Blossom, you have Yalia who factors actually pretty heavily into the last Isle of Thunder cut scene.  Then you have Taoshi.  She is really a standout NPCs as far as Pandarian women are concerned.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and she is so involved in a lot of the quests both for the Shado-Pan quest lines that came at the launch, and then especially in the Isle of Thunder dailies.  She’s a major player in those.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s really interesting to see her as a counterpoint to the story work that they did with Isle of Thunder being so female-dominated Alliance side, because we also had Jaina and then we also had Vereesa.

Tzufit:  Yeah, that’s a good point.

Apple Cider Mage:  So you have these three very different women factoring into this taking over of the Alliance half of the island, and doing this military advancement, and was really not something that we’ve seen in the game thus far in an entirety.

Tzufit:  No, and to your point about both Taoshi and Yalia in general, the final quest line that you do as you’re unlocking all the different stages of the Isle of Thunder, and you go and you fight the one final mogu and the 3 Shado-Pan who help you are Taoshi, Yalia, and Taran Zhu.

Apple Cider Mage:  For me, that entire quest progression and cut scenes felt, from an Alliance standpoint, so female-heavy.  Honestly, I actually talked to a bunch of people about this, and apparently that was the brain child of Dave Kosak, who is the story lead now.  And I express my gratitude, because I really felt that it was a nice bridging of both the few Alliance NPCs that are women that are in power, because we all know that the only other woman we really see is Tyrande, and she’s basically getting “hushed” again by Varian.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and I’m really appreciative of that as well, particularly because I am not a big fan of Jaina at this point, or I guess maybe ever, so having Vereesa in there as well I thought was a very cool part of the story.  It’s interesting, too, because Vereesa is so strong through the entire thing and for those of you who have read Tides of War, as you know, Vereesa has just lost a husband.  At this point I guess it would still be less than a year ago, or something like that for them in-game.  We don’t see her really being driven by revenge.  It’s not even something she particularly talks about, but she just is being strong.  She knows this has to be done for the Alliance and for her people, and she’s just getting it done and being amazing about it.

Apple Cider Mage:  And this is one thing that I did notice from Taoshi and why I thought that she was a really interesting character, is Taoshi isn’t necessarily on the same page as Jaina and Vereesa, much like the rest of the Shado-Pan.  Taran Zhu really does not like the conflict that’s going on between the Horde and the Alliance because it’s obviously causing a lot of trouble.  Taoshi is sort of of the same mindset.  Taoshi is not just, I feel, dutifully following Taran Zhu’s lead, but any time that she talks to Jaina and Vereesa, she very much has her own perspective of why the heck are you taking these mogu weapons?  You don’t study them.  Destroy them.  They’re just going to cause more problems.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and I love Taoshi in particular because I think she’s definitely more towards the normal Shado-Pan mindset than she is towards the Alliance mindset, but she’s certainly has her own agenda and personality as well, where there’s just something sort of very mischievous and fun-loving about her, even though she’s going about this serious work.  She never sort of forgets that she loves what she’s doing.  She loves being a rogue.  And that, to me, is one of the best characteristics of pandaren in general.  I love Taoshi because she just really exemplifies a lot of the things that I think are very cool about the pandaren.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, exactly.  I feel that, for all of the faults that they had with some of the other pandaren women, I feel that Taoshi was kind of a high point, because she really is a complex character.  She has her own opinions.  She’s very serious about what she does, but she also has a fun side.  So she’s not flat.  And that I feel is a really high-water mark for a female character is they’re not flat, that they’re complex and they have flaws and that their flaws are not just there to ultimately be their destruction.

However, as we cap off pandaren women in general, there are a couple of things that were actually even more significantly problematic with pandaren women that we found, just kind of as a last note for this section.  That Valley of the Four Winds had quite a few female NPCs, most notably in the Mudclaw family, but there was a lot of really weird stuff going on there, especially in Halfhill.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and Gina Mudclaw is an interesting character in and of herself.  She’s certainly in charge of the market.  Everybody reports to her.  She’s a little bit of a loan shark, it seems, from the quest line where you have to go collect money from everyone.  But of course, that quest line is one of the things that’s sort of problematic.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I mean, basically you get this sense that she’s a very powerful woman.  And that makes sense, because she and her family basically run all of Halfhill.  But it seems like despite that, despite the fact that she is easily a powerful matriarch in some respects, it feels like there’s still a lot of weird undercurrent of undermining her in the story.

Tzufit:  Yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Like there’s the quest that you do the daily where you have to collect debts because she’s obviously loaned out money, because as you said she’s a loan shark.  She has to collect debts from people and I had a really big problem because when you go to collect the debt from Spicemaster Jin Jao, that dude is a real creepy dude.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  He really is.

Apple Cider Mage:  He obviously is infatuated with Gina but talks about her in a very creepy sort of way, and I never feel bad beating him up.

Tzufit:  Oh absolutely not.  Every time.  Happy to do it.  Not paying his debt.

Apple Cider Mage:  And you get this sense that – I feel like that dude in particular is part of the same problem that they had with Ji Firepaw in that a lot of these men in the story serve to kind of undermine or work against a lot of the powerful women in the story, which is weird because it’s creepy weird nerd dude stuff, and we deal with that outside of game, so why do we want characters that are like that in-game?

Tzufit:  Yeah, and we deal with it in-game from other real players, so don’t interject it into the NPCs as well.

Apple Cider Mage:  Exactly.  So it’s like even somebody who legitimately has these real world sort of power and she’s very financially savvy, you still just kind of get this idea that the story writers don’t necessarily always have the same goals with their powerful women characters, even on just a basic storyline.

Tzufit:  And of course the other Mudclaw that has sort of something strange going on in Halfhill is Gina’s younger sister, who is the pandaren woman you have to save from the virmen who’ve carried her off and she’s up on top of the carrot.  I think the explanation they give you is, “Well she was wearing an orange dress, so the virmen carried her off because they like orange, because they like carrots.”

Apple Cider Mage:  I found that quest really alarming when I did it, because – yeah, ha-ha, she looks like a carrot, but you get this really kind of creepy rapey vibe from it, because when you rescue her there’s actually a virmen shouting at her in English, “Keep moving those pretty furry feet,” or something like that.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  It’s just not a comfortable situation.

Apple Cider Mage:  I always keep wondering what they were really going for in that particular section of the zone, because it feels like the Mudclaw family in general has some weird stuff going on and having to rescue the “farmer’s daughter,” which is a trope in and of itself in a weird, creepy way.  Having to do that was not a pleasant experience.

Tzufit:  So that more or less rounds up our discussion of pandaren women, and the next thing we’ll head into is the mantid, which as Apple Cider has written before, we actually don’t have a great concept of how many mantid women there are or there are not, because the mantid in general we don’t really get any gender indicators for them, which is pretty cool in and of itself and not something we see very often in Warcraft.

Apple Cider Mage:  Honestly, a lot of the NPCs seem to be voiced by men, if I’m correct.  But the thing is that there’s not a lot of gender indicators, so my theory was that it really could go either way.  They seem to have a meritocracy.  So it feels like that would be a situation where it wouldn’t matter what gender you were as long as you came back from the 90 year swarm, basically, having done great things.

Tzufit:  Now the one NPC that we can be certain of, that is absolutely female, is the Empress.  The Empress is another example of the sha corruption that we were talking about earlier with Suna and Liu, where she’s been corrupted by the Sha of Fear and I didn’t really realize this until I was looking into things for the show today, but one of the major things that goes into the Klaxxi’s decision to depose her isn’t just that she’s corrupted by the Sha of Fear or making bad decisions or anything.  It’s because, since she is corrupted and allowing that corruption to spread to the land, the corruption is killing the amber trees, and the amber is the most important thing to the Klaxxi.  I think there’s a quest line called “The Amber is Life,” or something like that.  And that’s totally true for them.  It goes into their architecture.  It goes into their weapons.  They consume it.  And it’s so important for them because the amber comes from the kunchong, who are held almost to divine status for the mantid, which all this – I mean, I’ve quested through Dread Wastes I don’t know how many times, and it didn’t come together for me until I was reading all of this for today.

Apple Cider Mage:  So we have another issue with corruption and this is to the point of it being culture and society destroying.

Tzufit:  Yeah, exactly.  And so, I think, that’s kind of an interesting perspective to see that that’s why they decide she has to be taken out of power.  She is threatening their society as a whole.

Apple Cider Mage:  That’s quite a few orders bigger than Suna or Liu, where it feels very self-contained and now she’s a raid boss.  She is not just sha corrupted, she is corrupted one of the seven, as it were.

Tzufit:  Right.  What I found really fascinating, and again I didn’t know this until this week, is that Shek’zeer, who’s the Empress that we help kill at the end of Heart of Fear, is in fact not the first Empress to be deposed by the Klaxxi paragons.  And not only that, it was the Empress immediately preceding her who was also deposed.

Apple Cider Mage:  See I didn’t know that.  I knew that there had been a deposing earlier on because one of the NPC paragons talks about it with another one.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and I looked up the full conversation after you told me about this, because this is one of those little lore tidbits that you would never know if you weren’t looking for it or lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.  It’s a conversation between two of the mantid who are at Klaxxi’vess, and it’s just one of those conversational things that the game cycles through and it happens to come up at a certain point in time.  What they talk about – it’s Hiseck the Swarmkeeper explains that the previous Empress, whose name was Zek’hara, was “gripped by paranoia” and “she masked her true intentions behind the guise of matronly worry.  She claimed her overbearing ways were necessary to protect us.”  And what he means by “her overbearing ways” is that Zek’hara forbade the swarm, basically.  She said that we couldn’t swarm because it’s an unnecessary loss of life, which again not a whole lot unlike Shek’zeer, that is a threat to the very culture and standard of how the mantid live their lives and measure importance.

Apple Cider Mage:  If you think about it from the perspective of if you look at Zek’hara, does somebody on Blizzard have mommy issues or something?  Because that’s straight up reads like some weird complex stuff like the “gripped by paranoia” and “masking her real true intentions behind the guise of matronly worry.”  Like, my mom is worrying about me too much.  She must really, actually have some other hidden agenda and she’s wanting to just keep herself in power longer because she doesn’t want the swarm to happen.  Really?  Who wrote this?  Who came up with this?

Tzufit:  It is a really confusing motivation and unfortunately we don’t have any more information about it than this, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that one of the Empresses would just decide that the swarm’s not going to happen this year, or this cycle.

Apple Cider Mage:  Because it seems like that’s pretty crucial to how they cull their numbers because there’s so many of them.  So it makes sense, but it’s like if there were more – I wish we could have gotten more of a POV on that sort of thing but again, it’s one of those things that I think just didn’t get enough background on.  Here’s another NPC where I feel like the tug and pull is between how Hiseck views the situation and how Zek’hara viewed the situation, and we’re never going to hear her side of the story.

Tzufit:  Right.

Apple Cider Mage:  At least with Shek’zeer she’s alive and you sort of get a sense – it’s very cut and dry she’s corrupted, etc., etc.  But with Zek’hara, you don’t actually know.  So you’re wondering, and this is kind of what I’m wondering, what really is going on with the Klaxxi?  Obviously they’re a group of paragons.  They exist outside of the mantid law to be able to be an opposition to the Empress.  As much as I love them, it kind of feels like they’re a trapdoor to ultimate matriarchal power.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and this was sort of fascinating to me when you look at this previous ousting of Zek’hara in relation to Shek’zeer’s paranoia.  And it’s like, well yeah – I mean if she came to power because they decided they had to get rid of the previous Empress, and if you put yourself in her – I don’t want to say shoes because that seems a little wrong.  In her sort of claw-mandible-things, then you kind of start to understand why she would be paranoid and why there would be some room there for the Sha of Fear to be able to move in, because if you realize that they guys who are keeping an eye on you and watching your back could really remove you at any point in time.  I mean, they’re committed to the ideals of the mantid so it’s not like they’re going to break the cycle unnecessarily, but they’re the ones who decide when it’s necessary.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  So is that power really in your hands or are you a figurehead?  I mean they really do seem to cherish and protect the Empress, but it feels like they’re very patronizing to her.  And I can definitely see a perspective, especially from Grand Empress Zek’hara of why you wouldn’t want the swarm to occur, because maybe the population was low that year.  These are all her children.  All of the mantid that aren’t alive prior to her coming to power are from her.

Tzufit:  Right.

Apple Cider Mage:  The Empress is the woman who gives birth to the new swarm, so I can see why she wouldn’t want her entire swarm to go off and die.  Granted, it’s part of the culture to cull the weak and give rise to the strong and the most celebrated and that’s where the paragons come from.  But I can see how the cycle and the power isn’t really always tipped in the Empress’ favor.

Tzufit:  And I think it’s also going to be interesting going forward – and I don’t want to give away any spoilers for 5.4, but since the Empress was killed, since we helped kill her, and there was not an appropriate successor for her yet because they have to come to a certain age before they’re ready to become Empress and there wasn’t somebody ready to do that yet.  So, as I understand it, that basically means the Klaxxi are in power, and they’ve been up to some interesting stuff.

Apple Cider Mage:  If you finish the Klaxxi quest line and get all the way to Exalted, you pretty much know that the Klaxxi are basically just waiting around for the Old Gods to return.  That’s it.  As soon as they do, we’re outta there!

Tzufit:  And again, no direct spoilers for 5.4, but just know that we haven’t seen the last of the Klaxxi paragons.

Apple Cider Mage:  So it’s really interesting because I really love the Klaxxi paragons.  I think they’re really interesting and I think the whole entire mantid race is really interesting.  But from a very feminist perspective, it feels like another council of other people set to undermine what is a very sort of twisted version of feminine power.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  Let’s make sure the lady in power doesn’t do anything too crazy.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, exactly.  And so, again, another interesting perspective of how Pandaria has a very weird relationship with some of its major female characters.

Tzufit:  On to what is potentially the creepiest part of our podcast today.

Apple Cider Mage:  Most contentious?

Tzufit:  Yeah, which would be the mogu women or lack thereof or very specific instances, I guess.

Apple Cider Mage:  We have, maybe, only know the existence of 3 of them.  But, because of how Blizzard likes to completely not write a consistent story, there may be more?  Maybe there were?  Maybe there weren’t?

Tzufit:  We have no idea.

Apple Cider Mage:  No idea.  The first time we even got a sense that there were mogu women in existence other than one or two little phrases kind of peppered through some very obscure Golden Lotus quest lore NPC stuff, is not until Throne of Thunder.

Tzufit:  And oh boy, did we learn about mogu women then.

Apple Cider Mage:  Before Throne of Thunder came out, there was a developer interview with Ion Hazzikostas, who is one of the story devs or one of the raid developers.  And he clued us in to one of the bosses, and we had gotten some models datamined before that.  And I just had kind of gone off the handle because they looked like mogu women.  They were very tall, stony, mogu women with big ol’ rock titties and a loincloth and headdresses.  They were basically rocks stuck onto a draenei body, but they actually did look like what mogu women might have looked like.  So I was like, “Oh gosh, that’s what they look like?” and “Are they going to be in-game?”  And then we find out they’re going to be raid bosses.  Not only that, Ion Hazzikostas decides to elucidate that they were the only known female mogu in existence.  And not only that, but that Lei Shen considers them his trophies and they are there to protect him.

 

Tzufit:  Which is sort of interesting, because if we’re referring to them as consorts, that’s a slightly – just slightly – different direction than protectors.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Consorts definitely has a sexual overtone because that’s what consorts are.  They are part of a harem.  They are sexual concubines.  These aren’t just bodyguards.  They’re like the fembots from Austin Powers.  They’ve got guns that come out of their boobs.

Tzufit:  I love it.  Mogu fembots.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Except they have like solar beams instead of rockets.

Tzufit:  And crazy fist weapons.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, exactly.  You get this bunch of lore dumped on our heads that they’re the only women in the mogu culture and that there’s a complete absence of female mogu, which is pretty consistent to a lot of other NPC races.  Blizzard does not like to make female models for NPC races.

Tzufit:  No and surely that must be because it’s so hard, because the female models have to look nothing like the male models.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, I mean, what are we going to do with female models if we can’t make them completely booby, like mantid could have possibly been?  So the fact that there weren’t any female mogu up until this point didn’t seem like a stretch at all.

Tzufit:  No, it didn’t.  I guess the part that was difficult for me to accept with this was – if you just work through the steps logically.  So the dungeon journal tells you that the consorts were specifically created by Lei Shen and empowered to serve and guard him, and they are a “direct reflection of his will” rather than any broader sense of mogu culture as a whole.  So here’s where it breaks down for me.  I don’t understand why, if you’re a culture that does not sexually reproduce, which would mean, I would assume, that you don’t have any sexual feelings, why you decide to create these two highly sexualized counterparts for yourself.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  They’re basically giant sex dolls.

Tzufit:  But again, it just doesn’t make any sense as to why.  Because Lei Shen shouldn’t be capable of having sex, at least from everything we’ve been told about the mogu up to this point.  There would be no reason for him to be capable of doing so.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, because all other signs point to the fact that mogu are relatively unaffected by the Curse of Flesh.  They are Titan creations.  They’re mostly all men, other than these two.  So are the twin consorts some sort of fever dream from Lei Shen who saw other races had women and wanted to make some sexy women for himself?  Is it just a developer oversight?  It kind of made sense until you ran into Monara, who is a quest NPC that randomly spawns in Throne of Thunder.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  So here’s where the wrench really gets thrown into the whole female mogu thing.  Again, I learned so much doing research for this show, because I can’t tell you how many times my raid group has probably killed Monara and I’ve never once read that quest text.  Monara is, apparently, a former queen of the mogu.

Apple Cider Mage:  Oh no.  What the heck is going on there?  There’s no female mogu in existence except for these two consorts, but wait, there’s a ghost of a mogu queen hanging around in Throne of Thunder?  What’s up with that?

Tzufit:  In fact, the name of the quest, which again – hey maybe you should have read this, Tzufit.  The name of the quest is “Requiem for a Queen.”  And what the quest text says is, “Monara was the last queen of the mogu, but was killed by Lei Shen so that he could start a new empire.  Her tormented spirit now rests within the Throne of Thunder.”

Apple Cider Mage:  So, not only is Blizzard terrible at being consistent, it seems like they’re grip on female mogu ends and starts with violence and no actually sexual reproduction, but it’s pretty obvious from, again, some of the discussions that Lei Shen had with Sparkmaster Vu that there was a fight over a woman at some point.  Was it her?  Was it somebody else?  While Blizzard said there’s no female mogu in existence now, there were obviously female mogu in existence and in power back before Lei Shen came about.

Tzufit:  The explanation of this is that there’s a time called the Age of the Hundred Kings, which supposedly happened sometime between the Age of the Titans and where we are now.  During this period, the mogu turned to flesh and started fighting with one another.  So the land’s in chaos because the warlords are fighting each other for territory and power, and it’s during this point that Lei Shen was originally born and eventually united the mogu.  So you can understand, I guess, at that point when they turned to flesh why – just as with all of the other races who have been subjected to the Curse of Flesh.  Their default form is male.  Then once the Curse of the Flesh happens, we see them branching out and we get both male and female models.  So we can kind of understand, I guess, why female would have shown up at that point because they did have to reproduce naturally.  But what doesn’t make sense is why there aren’t any left now.

Apple Cider Mage:  My speculation is that Lei Shen had them all killed.

Tzufit:  I mean, knowing Lei Shen it doesn’t seem that farfetched.

Apple Cider Mage:  Because if you are looking to herald another age of becoming rock again, or something, why not get rid of the reproduction aspect?  And why not get rid of the women that were obviously in power?  Just from a lore standpoint, it’s kind of creepy.  From a Blizzard standpoint, it’s really creepy.

Tzufit:  Right, exactly.

Apple Cider Mage:  What kind of stories are they writing?  This is so weird.  The mogu are already an extremely sadistic, violent, sexually weird culture and now you’re telling me that they had women at one point and now they don’t?  People are speculating that maybe they’re hidden somewhere.  Some people are like, “Oh no, they’re just completely all gone” because of the developer interview.  I would really not be surprised if they were all spirited away or killed or maimed and here’s the really creepy thing that I was thinking of:  The mogu are very adept fleshcrafters.  They frequently would inhabit new forms, particularly rock forms because that was their original form.  What makes you think that the twin consorts or any other quilen or other mogu were not the regenerated spirit shells of all of the women that they killed?

Tzufit:  Oh wow.  Because yeah, you’re certainly told that they can put existing spirits into new bodies – but bodies not being biological in this sense, the clay or the rock bodies that they use.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, that they can use spirits bound to rock creations that are under the will of whoever crafted them in there.  So you’re basically taking a clay pot and putting someone’s spirit in there to make it move around, but they’re under your control.  I would not really be surprised if Blizzard had some other ulterior motive of making all the quilen all the old women, or the twin consorts all the old women.  What if Lei Shen in all of his disgusting, perverse glory, decided that the real fuck you to all of the mogu women would be to take two of their spirits, stick them into new bodies that he created and thought were pleasing to him, that were very reminiscent of what the actually mogu women looked like, and then had them as his personal slaves/sex bodyguards.

Tzufit:  Yup.  That’s pretty terrible all around.  I like your theory better, well “like” being sort of a strange word there, I guess.  The theory that I sort of assumed along the way was that when the mogu started to recover from the Curse of Flesh and decided they were going to move back toward the Titans’ original concept of perfection for themselves, they realized that if anybody had any lingering desire to procreate naturally, that would hinder them getting back to this more perfect version of themselves.  So what if they just decided to remove that temptation by killing all the women?

Apple Cider Mage:  Honestly that doesn’t seem out of bounds with my theory either.  It feels very genocidal, which would be completely in character for the mogu.

Tzufit:  Yeah, exactly.

Apple Cider Mage:  Which is even creepier because it’s an entirely male-dominated society that doesn’t necessarily “need” women now, because they don’t need to make babies, so they kill all of them off including the ones that were in power.

Tzufit:  Well, especially the ones that were in power.

Apple Cider Mage:  Exactly.  Obviously Blizzard is really inconsistent and not very good at developing some of its lore in this respect, because it’s pretty obvious to us from the developer interview that the twin consorts were supposed to be a sun and a moon spirit rather than twin consorts.  All of their spells indicate this, but they realized that it was going to be too confusing with the Taur-ahe beliefs of the sun god and Elune and stuff like that.  So they thought that players would get confused.  However, when you stamp down on them being the only female mogu in existence, you’re going to confuse the players anyway.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I’m really confused.  I think I might have been less confused by the other option.

Apple Cider Mage:  Exactly.  Not only have they succeed in confusing everybody further, but they’ve also pretty much painted the mogu to be the most disgusting, rapey, masochistic or sadistic, masculine society in World of Warcraft.

Tzufit:  Yeah, it’s kind of difficult to feel bad about killing 8 of them every day for the Golden Lotus.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, absolutely not.  I mean, speaking of the Golden Lotus there’s that one quest where you’re with – was it He Softfoot or was it Lao?

Tzufit:  It’s Lao Softfoot.  [It is, in fact, He Softfoot.]

Apple Cider Mage:  Where you get captured and the mogu in charge is like “Let the men have their way with them.”  That was really fucking weird.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and I think kind of with everything that we’ve discussed today, it’s that problem where you write a line and you think, “Oh yeah!  This line sounds good and creepy, and it’s going to have an emotional impact on people when it happens to them in game.”  And there’s not thought of – right, but what is the emotional impact it’s going to have on people who are not male?

Apple Cider Mage:  And even men can be-

Tzufit:  Oh absolutely.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, there’s men who I know that were creeped out by the sexual assault stuff because that happens to everybody.

Tzufit:  Exactly, exactly.

Apple Cider Mage:  I really feel like, in a lot of places, Blizzard wasn’t thinking.  And the mogu really seem to be the pinnacle of that for Pandaria.  I really am very unnerved by that whole thing, which sucks because I liked Pandaria in general and I felt that they overall had a lot of really cool female characters.  They really undid a lot of that with how they handled the mogu.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and it’s unfortunate because I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on with the mogu society, but at the end of the day it just comes out feeling creepy.

Apple Cider Mage:  Oh well.

Tzufit:  Better luck next expansion.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, exactly.  We’ve reached the end of the show, but we want to know – do you have any thoughts and feelings about any of the topics we’ve talked about today?  What do you think about mogu women?  What do you think about the sha corruption and stuff like that?  Let us know in our comment section or you can email us at justicepointspodcast@gmail.com.

Tzufit:  Also are there other women in Pandaria that we didn’t cover that we should have, that you think are really interesting or maybe really problematic?  We would love to hear that from you as well.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  If you have any ideas for people that we should interview or topics that you want to hear on the show, again leave us a comment or email.

Tzufit:  And next week we have another interesting show coming up.  We’re going to be taking a look at mental health and mental illness in Azeroth, both from lore perspectives and how it affects us as players.

Apple Cider Mage:  And we’re going to be having @mainfloortank as our guest on that episode.

Tzufit:  Yay!

Apple Cider Mage:  Yay, first guest!

Tzufit:  I guess we have to be on our best behavior.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, we definitely do.  But if you have any questions for them and anything that you want brought up or read on the show next week, especially if it has to do with mental health or mental illness in Azeroth, again let us know.  We also have Twitter that you can reach us at.  We are @justicepoints, if you want to hit us up with a comment.  We also got our iTunes subscription.

Tzufit:  Woohoo!  And it’s complete with some amazing artwork by Apple Cider.  So check it out.

Apple Cider Mage:  Oh, thank you.  If you want to go to iTunes you can subscribe, comment, or rate us.  If you want to give us little gold stars, that would be appreciated.  So check us out and you can listen to us any time that we put up a new episode through iTunes.  That’s super, super cool.  And as always we are absolutely grateful and hosted by Safe Shark Hosting.  Safe Shark Hosting does hosting because hosting doesn’t have to bite.

Tzufit:  Thank you Safe Shark, we love you!

Apple Cider Mage:  And I think that is it for this week.

Tzufit:  Thanks for listening in.  We appreciate it and we would love to hear any comments that you have about today’s episode.

Apple Cider Mage:  Absolutely.  And we will see you next week.

5 comments

  1. What about Gu Cloudstrike?

    • justicepoints

      Oh we didn’t even think of her. Our bad! We have only so much time and we highlighted some of the women we thought were important.

      • Him…his was the first boss in the shadow pan monastery and you totally kill him.

        • justicepoints

          Oh then I’m not sure why we’d cover him since we were talking specifically about women.

          • Sidenorna

            It’s context. Not all males that were corrupted by the sha have happy endings. To focus on Teran Zhu being cleansed and then saying these two important females could not be saved. It is omitting that an important male figure in the shado pan also was not cleansed.

            Before the escape of the sha. ‘Gu Cloudstrike was entrusted with training the elite Shado-pan spellcasters…’

            He was important and powerful, and we killed him. I get that you were talking about the problems wow has with females in the story and game. I just think this one issue is not as black and white as your show has it. This is not to say the show as a whole was not good.

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