- Nov 2, 2017
Just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to die along with the rest of the world.
I'm a pretty avid Overwatch player, but I had no idea that Widowmaker was a problematic character trope in Blizzard games.While he is not the first to notice, fantasy author Sam Sykes tweeted last month about the weird recurring archetype that Blizzard Entertainment has been employing with some of their most prominent female characters. While stock characters are a feature of every narrative medium, Blizzard seems to have exactly one vision for female villainy: An angular beauty with lilac skin and a traumatic backstory to explain how a nice girl ended up in the mass-murder business.
Though she’s hardly the first female antagonist in Blizzard’s games, Sarah Kerrigan from Starcraft I & II (AKA Queen of Blades, AKA Lil’ Zerg Rush) is clearly the character the mold was created from. Her arc set a tone for villainy that was clearly beloved by the audience and paved the great purple way for Sylvanas Windrunner in both Warcraft franchises and later Widowmaker (née Amelie La Croix) in Overwatch. All of them are characters for whom torture, trauma, control and revenge are indelibly written upon their bodies in an unmistakable way.
Taken together, they present a very odd throughline in terms of how Blizzard imagines anger and evil in women. No matter the size of their narratives, all are germinated from cruelty. These are women whose villainy was created, it’s external to who they “really” were. Kerrigan was taken from her family to be molded and tortured into a psionic weapon by the Confederacy. Sylvanas Windrunner was defeated in battle and ripped from her body by Arthas. Widowmaker was kidnapped by Talon and brainwashed into an assassin. There is this uneasiness around these women, because before the spectacle of their eventual rise to power, there must first be some form of degradation.