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Ethics of Storytelling: Jason Rothenberg and Fan Interaction



I would be underselling it if I said a lot has happened in The 100 fandom since Lexa’s problematic death several weeks ago. Not only have we seen two more people of color die—Lincoln and Hannah Green—and witnessed the first wisps of Bellarke rising from the barely cold ashes of Lexa and Clarke’s relationship, other TV shows have had their share of problematic character deaths. Abby Mills was sidelined and killed off from her own story, and the death tolls for lesbian and bisexual female characters is growing higher and higher every week. The Bury your Gays trope, it seems, is not only still around, but just as prevalent as ever, though Kylie makes a compelling case for how its use can be less problematic in some cases.

There is a prevalence of writers using problematic tropes with Unfortunate Implications™ on television, not least of which is due to the influence that a certain show has on storytelling methods (having received several Emmys last year). I’ve discussed the use of grimdark and its effect on audiences while also touching on what I think of as ‘narrative sadism,’ or when storytellers delight in punishing their audience for emotional investment. But now it’s time to discuss the ethics of fan interaction: how writers/producers interact with fans and how fans communicate with writers/producers.

Listening: JRoth vs. D&D vs. JGM/The Cast

Ethical communication is a two-way street that begins and ends with listening. Immediately following Lexa’s death, Jason Rothenberg took to the airwaves in a series of tone-deaf interviews that can be summarized as “I didn’t do anything wrong, and you shouldn’t be offended.” When asked point blank about Lexa being a lesbian character who was killed off and whether or not he paid attention to the Bury Your Gays trope, he denied that he thought about it at all, acting offended that anyone dare question his motives or process. For almost three weeks, his tone was one of hurt (that people were upset with him), dismissal (of their concerns/frustration/anger), and mild condescension (that anyone would find this narrative offensive).

Then, on March 24th, he issued a public apology. He admitted that the show perpetuated the Bury Your Gays trope, though unintentionally. He apologizes for hurting fans unintentionally, but stands by his decision to kill off Lexa. He only admits her death would have “played out differently” if he could have predicted the fan response. Embracing the “anyone can die excuse,” the overall tone of the piece comes off more as ‘I’m sorry you’re offended by my legitimate, authentic, completely understandable choices’ than ‘I am deeply, truly sorry for the pain I’ve caused.’ It was also, shall we say, rather timely.

It came on the heels of a rather disastrous interview where he defended his choices vehemently, insisting that despite the fan reactions, he would not change anything about the way Lexa’s death was scripted (and for those who don’t want to give the TV Insider website hits, the interview has been transcribed here). Three days later he would be saying the opposite.

The apology was posted on the internet mere days before Wondercon and immediately picked up and circulated by other sites. The conversation entering the conference was therefore about Jason’s apology rather than the aftermath of his storytelling choices, which had been the focus of discussion the past several weeks leading up to the con. It worked. Instead of questioning him further, sites posting the apology rallied around him.

“But even if this is an attempt at damage control (and why would any sane person not attempt damage control at this point?), it can also be genuine. Just because he waited three weeks doesn’t make it disingenuous. In fact, when confronted with such a sea change in the discourse, it’s only natural that it would take time to absorb and react. It shows thoughtfulness. Not rash reactionary defense. I’ll be attending The 100 WonderCon panel and I’m very interested to see how the discourse continues when the fans and creators are face to face.”

—Haleigh Foutch (source)

I disagree, wholeheartedly. To me, the convenience factor looms too large for there to be much genuine sorrow in his words. Mere days before WonderCon where a large panel discussion is planned for The 100? A week before the second half of the season starts? Only three days after he’d vehemently defended his storytelling choices in another interview and plainly stated he would not have changed the story one bit? I don’t buy it. His apology effectively shifted the conversation from his choices to his ‘heartfelt’ apology. Anyone still upset over Lexa’s death could now be painted as overblown and reactionary; he’s already apologized, move on, get over it.

Yet Ms. Foutch is correct to point out that damage control need not mean the discussion is over. You would think that the apology would have allow for more open discussion of Lexa’s death at the con. You would be wrong. Not that he was particularly offensive. He repeated the same things he mentioned in his apology about not being fully aware of Bury Your Gays, about how Lexa had to die for the plot, about how no one is safe and her seemingly random death highlighted the fragility of life, that he regrets his comments on social media led to people thinking Lexa would not die.

He also undersold Clarke’s reaction to Lexa’s death, focusing on her ability to compartmentalize (read: move on) and need to focus on her people rather than her pain. One of the writers had a video on Periscope up three days after “Thirteen” aired that mentioned Clarke being Lexa’s soulmate, but not the other way around, a sentiment that was apparently repeated at WonderCon (this Periscope has since been removed).

More to the point, he blacklisted questions about Lexa during the audience Q&A session, and he did so after he had his TV Insider interview, where he said,

“I’m looking forward to getting in front of the fans and talking to them and having a real dialogue about this, if that’s something that the fans want. It’s an honor and a privilege, it’s really the greatest privilege of my life—other than being the father of my kids and the husband of my wife—to be the creator of this show and I really love the opportunity to get to talk about it as much as possible.”

—Jason Rothenberg, (source)

This is not how you have a respectful dialogue with fans.

Granted, he could be worse. At least he showed up to the WonderCon panel, even if he blacklisted Lexa in Q&A. Showrunners of Game of Thrones, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have neglected to even attend panels in the past, leaving their young female actors to deal with the aftermath of their poor writing choices. At least Rothenberg apologized for killing off Lexa, even if it was far from heartfelt, obviously damage control, and reeked of “I’m sorry you’re offended.” D&D have never, not once, apologized for how their decisions affected their fans. Rather, they continue to defend their horrible choices, tell people “it was a year ago, get over it” if they don’t like it, and claim “not one word” of Season 6 has changed despite audience outcry. While Rothenberg sounded suspiciously like D&D up until WonderCon, I can at least take some satisfaction in the fact that he had to issue an apology. Distressed GoT fans haven’t gotten that.

Lexcru fans can also be grateful Rothenberg didn’t treat Lexa’s death and Alycia Debnam-Carey leaving the show with the same casual dismissiveness that he treated Ricky Whittle’s departure and Lincoln’s death. Granted the situations are slightly different in that Whittle had previously thrown shade at Rothenberg for on-set bullying. Unlike Lexa, Lincoln’s character had been sidelined from the narrative this season, this despite the fact that he had been a main character since the pilot. Whereas Rothenberg had purposefully hinted that Lexa would survive to the end of the season and then killed her off in Ep 7, Lincoln was originally meant to survive until the end of this season, and with a major plot arc.

Instead, Whittle watched as his plot arc and lines were cut down to barely more than a few seconds an episode, culminating in the death of an unlawfully imprisoned black man shot execution style by another black man while he kneeled in the mud. I have one word for that scene: humiliation. His only response to Whittle’s scathing interview after being written off the show:

“Ricky Whittle is a talented actor; I appreciate his work on The 100 and wish him all the best moving forward on American Gods.” (source)

Rothenberg has yet to say anything (that I can find) about Hannah Green’s death last week.

But back to the things we can appreciate about Rothenberg, because I ought to give credit where it is due. Unlike D&D, Rothenberg is not hiding behind his cast to justify his behavior. Where Sophie Turner, Emilia Clarke, Natalie Dormer, Iwan Rheon, and now even Peter Dinklage defend D&D’s choices to the point that they seem to be attacking fans, Rothenberg has a cast that is actively against him. Bob Morley (Bellamy Blake) has made his distaste for a romantic relationship between Clarke and Bellamy well known. Eliza Taylor (Clarke Griffin) has made no secret of her opinions on Lexa’s death and the Clexa relationship, even saying the exact opposite of Rothenberg at the very same WonderCon panel.

So yes, on the one hand, Rothenberg’s far better than the tone-deaf producers of one of the most popular show on television (the very producers he admires and wishes to emulate, might I add). On the other hand, he could be so much more.

Javier Grillo-Marxauch, one of the staff writers this season, called the entire situation a clusterfuck. While he is currently on vacation and actually left the show after “Thirteen” due to paternity leave, his Tumblr account in the weeks following Lexa’s death are eye-opening. He sympathizes with hurt fans and shows genuine empathy for their psychological and physiological trauma following Lexa’s death. He admits that he, Rothenberg, and the other staff writers were well aware of the Bury Your Gays trope but believed they had built up enough trust from the audience to get away with it.

He listens. He actively admits wrongdoing and apologizes. Not three weeks later and not because it was convenient to apologize. Not for PR. Just for himself; for the fans. He promises to do better, but warns fans not to trust screenwriters implicitly. He tells fans to make writers earn their trust. Second to the massive donations to the Trevor Project from Lexcru fans, JGM is the best thing to come out of this, as he puts it, “clusterfuck.” He shows us all a better way for a screenwriter/producer to engage with fans.

I’d put the cast at a close third or even a tie. As I mentioned above, Rothenberg does not have as tight a leash on his cast as D&D do theirs. Lindsey Morgan (Raven Reyes), Alycia Debnam-Carey (Lexa), and Eliza Taylor have all gone out of their way to empathize with fans. They’ve tweeted their disgust and frustration with Lexa’s death. Taylor refuses to downplay Lexa’s importance for Clarke, even when Rothenberg is doing the opposite. Despite the show’s recent seeding of a romantic relationship between Clarke and Bellamy, or perhaps because of it, Eliza played up Clarke’s bisexuality in an interview with After Dark this past weekend. I choose to believe that she’s doing this on purpose, to fight the seeming erasure of her bisexuality in the push for Bellarke to happen onscreen* (please see note and below for a full discussion of what I mean by this).

As with JGM, this is a cast that does what it can to empathize with and even voice the same frustrations as its audience. Yes, they are contractually obligated to promote the show. But that doesn’t mean they have to parrot Rothenberg’s bullshit. The eyerolls, posturing, and word choices all point to this being a cast that is not only fed up with its showrunner but are also willing do to what they can to communicate that to their fans.

Ethics in Internet Marketing: the Elephant in the Room

“At least he’s not D&D.” If that’s all I can say about Rothenberg, that’s…not high praise. Yes, we can critique timing, intention, and content. We can discuss how JGM provides a helpful counter-example for how to engage with fans when you and your creative team have made a problematic choice in storytelling that you believed you could get away with. The answer there is listen and empathize. And don’t make it all about you.

But I also want to discuss the ethics of internet marketing. We live in an age where fandoms have a larger platform and louder voice than they used to. Gone are the days of maybe once yearly cons and snail mail or AOL fanfic writing. Gone are the days of coffee shop conversations quickly forgotten. With the internet, fans can engage with each other instantaneously and rally around Twitter hashtags in the blink of an eye. Fans can be choreographed within minutes of an upsetting event and conversations heat up to vitriolic levels in a matter of hours rather than months.

Showrunners understandably want to capitalize on viral fandom. Having a strong presence online is almost a must these days, but where it goes wrong is when social media is used to blatantly mislead fans to avoid losing viewers.

During S2 and the hiatus following its airing, Rothenberg and staff writer Kim Shumway sought out and engaged with LGBT fans on social media. They promoted Lexa as a shining example of media representation of lesbianism. When they discovered their fans were scared that she might die, both emphasized her status as very much still alive on the show. Rothenberg even commented that the Clexa ship was “seaworthy.” When S3 was still filming, Rothenberg recruited fans to come to the season 3 finale shooting in Vancouver, a highly visible Lexa on set the obvious target of his marketing campaign.

More blatantly, another staff writer Shawna Benson starting posting anonymously on a popular lesbian forum, ostensibly there for “rumor control.” A poster had surfaced, signed by Alycia Debnam-Carey with “Thanks for the opportunity,” and fans started speculating that she was going to die. At this point, “Thirteen” had definitely already been scripted and Lexa’s fate sealed, so when “Your Friendly Neighborhood Lurker” (aka, Shawna Benson), popped up to assure fans that no ‘goodbye’ was intended by the note, she clearly knew otherwise. The full discussion up on We Deserved Better also makes it clear that she hung around the forum for a very long time, long enough to reference in-jokes and specific names from threads when she said her goodbyes.

That might not sound like a big deal to some, but it is. The production staff, including Kim Shumway, Shawna Benson, and Jason Rothenberg himself, went out of their way to deny rumors of Lexa’s death. When fans pointed to the Bury Your Gays trope prior to the airing of S3, they responded with reassurance that, although vague enough to not be outright lies, still purposefully mislead their audience. Elizabeth Bridges, a professor at Rhodes College in Memphis states,

“It was all to keep viewership and keep the core LGBT audience guessing, but hopeful.” (source)

This is not how you do internet marketing. Safe spaces are safe spaces for a reason even on the internet. An admittedly straight woman infiltrating a lesbian forum for “rumor control” that amounts to misleading fans may be legal, but it is unethical. This is classic bait and switch marketing: lead your audience to assume X character, the reason they are watching this show, is alive and well only to kill them off later for shock value.

If you read Rothenberg’s full apology, you will see that he misses the main thrust of LGBT fan’s frustration: her death was not handled correctly. He is fixated on the fact that she died rather than 1) how, namely the Stray Bullet of Plot Convenience, 2) its meaninglessness in Lexa’s arc/characterization, 3) it wasn’t entirely necessary, 4) it’s context as right after sex, 5) it’s context in the Bury Your Gays discussion. Yes he mentions these things, but he focuses on justifying her death in terms of the narrative he wants to write.

The shooting in Vancouver and its misleading conclusions about Lexa still being alive is mentioned, and he apologizes for other people misinterpreting it. He does not mention Kim Shumway’s hiatus interactions with fans about Lexa. He does not mention his “seaworthy” comment or the blatant infiltration of lesbian spaces by staff writer Shawna Benson who urged Kim Shumway to “sell it hard.” He tries to paint it as “we were so excited for Clexa we got carried away” but when you see exactly what was done, it’s blatant audience manipulation of the worst kind.

“I promise you burying, baiting or hurting anyone was never our intention. It’s not who I am.” —Jason Rothenberg, (source)

Really? How are we to believe that, Rothenberg, when you actively mislead your audience? How are we to accept this apology when it is a bald-faced lie? Actively engaging with and recruiting LGBT fans, even going so far as to interact with them in their own spaces, all the while calling the f/f relationship “seaworthy” and reassuring fans that Lexa was safe in your hands, that you would treat her and us with respect. You do all this and then do the one thing fans repeatedly said would break their trust. You call the pain you caused “delicious.” Rothenberg, this is the definition of baiting. Hurting people was your intention, just not in exactly this way. It is who you are because it is what you did. This is what you ought to have apologized for.

Interaction is one thing, infiltration and purposeful misleading another. Ethical storytelling is more than just telling a good, compelling, or even challenging story because it isn’t just about the story itself—though it is about that, too. Some stories are poor quality, poorly executed, or downright destructive. Such stories deserve criticism. Being an ethical storyteller also includes how you tell the story and how you interact with the audience.

If you are bullying your actors or writing them out of their own stories because they shine a light on a negative production environment (see also Game of Thrones and Sleepy Hollow). If you are purposefully engaging fans and misleading them in order to avoid losing viewers. If you issue an apology immediately followed by a silencing tactic to draw negative attention away from your creative choices. If you use the excuse “everyone can die” but only (or predominately) kill off minority characters. If you remove yourself from social media and refuse to engage with fans after making a controversial choice (Rothenberg hasn’t tweeted since his apology). If you refuse to discuss blatant audience manipulation tactics and instead focus on how personally hurt you are that fans don’t like your decisions. All these and more may not be illegal or immoral, but they are unethical.

Audiences won’t always get the story they want, that much is true. Characters we love will die, stories will take turns we neither expect nor want. This is a part of life. However, audiences do deserve to be treated with respect, care, and empathy. We deserve stories that make sense and deaths that make sense. We deserve stories and storytellers that neither exploit nor harmfully manipulate us, that may explore but do not actively advance damaging stereotypes.

While we cannot control the narrative, we deserve storytellers who are aware of the history and context of problematic tropes, who are willing to listen to how their stories have impacted their audience and perhaps even make adjustments based on what their audience says. We deserve real apologies and storytellers who own their mistakes rather than whitewash or dismiss them. We deserve ethical storytelling, not perfect.

What next?

So what do we do? As storytellers, I have already hinted at the solution. Above all, listen. When you think you’ve heard enough, listen more and harder. Do what JGM and the cast of The 100 are doing in not only listening to, but empathizing with their audience. Don’t talk about how hurt you are that the audience is frustrated. This isn’t about you or your artistic vision right now. Show up to your panels and don’t blacklist questions about complex issues. Don’t make your actors do the leg work for you (I’m looking at you D&D). In sum: Listen to your audience, and tell better stories.

As the audience, don’t give up. Continue to voice your frustration about unethical storytelling. Don’t let it die down just because the network, producers, and certain media outlets might want you to. Continue to ask pointed, but respectful questions. Don’t use slurs or become vitriolic in public or to an actor or producer’s face. Be the better conversationalist without giving up your frustration or passion.

To move forward with The 100 specifically, it’s helpful to think about what we want. Rothenberg can’t “unkill” Lexa or Lincoln or Hannah Green (well, they could, but that wouldn’t fix anything and might even make the story worse). We’ve made our frustration heard, now its time to think further down the road. Ultimately what we want is better, more ethical stories. Stories that represent minorities as interesting, compelling, well-rounded characters who are more than just sidekicks or throw-aways. We as Clexacru and Team Lincoln/Linctavia, as POC and LGBT+ viewers, we want what every other viewer wants, good and ethical stories.

“While fans don’t have a right to dictate what a storyteller writes, they can demand that what they write is done in good faith and an understanding of harmful representation in the past. They can demand that our representation be fair. They can demand that our on screen lives, and happiness, matters as much as any other character. They can demand when being wooed by showrunners to watch, that they keep their promises.” (source)

So what do we do? Continue to demand better storytelling.

*NOTE: In light of negative reactions to my use of the phrase “seeming erasure of her bisexuality,” I am compelled to clarify my intentions.

I am a bisexual woman (currently in a committed relationship with a man), so I do not believe that in real life a bi woman in a relationship with man erases her bisexuality at all. However, Clarke Griffin is not a real life woman, she is a fictional character. Her relationships do not exist in a vacuum nor can they be equivalent to a real life human being with agency. In short, Clarke is a fictional character whose depiction on screen has consequences and implications for the audience in a way that my personal expression of my bisexuality does not.

Knowing what we know now about Rothenberg’s intentions, i.e., that he always considered Bellamy to be endgame and Lexa no more than a phase, the implications for Clarke’s identity and depiction as a bisexual female character fit into the disturbingly common pattern of prioritizing m/f relationships over f/f ones for bi female characters. Lexa is a “phase”. Clarke might be bi, but all she needs is the right man (Bellamy) in the end. It fits in with society’s messaging that bi women aren’t really bi at all, they’re just confused, experimenting, faking it, or just haven’t found the right guy yet. That bi women are all secretly straight. This kind of messaging is erasure.

To the degree that Clarke’s journey from Finn to Lexa to Bellamy prioritizes her m/f relationships (she’s given more time to mourn them, for example) and pairs her off with a male as endgame, it fits into this societal pattern. It reinforces very real biphobic messaging and bi-erasure that is prevalent in real life. Her character is still bisexual, but the messaging surrounding her sexuality on the show fits in with damaging tropes about female bisexuality that are erasure. That is what I meant by “seeming erasure of her bisexuality”.

I did not expect such a strong reaction to what is a minor point in my overall argument, hence why I did not elaborate on this phrase in the article itself. Please forgive my lack of clarity and I hope this explains my intentions more fully.*

Bi, she/her. Gretchen is a Managing Editor for the Fandomentals. An unabashed nerdy fangirl and aspiring sci/fi and fantasy author, she has opinions about things like media, representation, and ethics in storytelling.

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Sith Inquisitor’s Journey to Freedom




Minor spoilers for the Sith Inquisitor class quest chain; minor spoilers for the Knights of the Fallen Empire/Eternal Throne DLCs

It is a great part of RPG experience, and even a greater part of RPG enjoyment, to like your character.  And by “RPG” I mean any RPG whatsoever, from LARP to tabletop to video game. Which is only natural, as you can’t really relate to the character you don’t like. And what is RPG if not relating to a character so that you can share its fictional experience?

Which, mind you, doesn’t mean that person should be likable. More like, they should be interesting. An interesting piece of shit, after all, has a much bigger chance to win over your emotions than a bland, shallow Stainless Hero. Like, when you watch The Thief and The Cobbler (the recobbled cut, of course, not that abomination), you sympathize with the first much more than the latter. What a perfect role model he is! But I digress.

When I first set out to play Star Wars: The Old Republic, I was highly unsure if I really wanted to do so. I’ve always had problems with video games in the sense that they don’t actually let you create your character. You get a not-so-wide variety of characters and must choose one to try to empathize with. This makes every game a hit-or-miss case for me: either it’s love at the first sight, or it’s “who are those people and why should I have anything to do with them.”

Sith Academy; a gloomy place, isn’t it?

Meeting the Sith Inquisitor

I confess, I made my initial character choice based on my desire to shoot lightning. I thought it would compensate for the lack of emotional involvement I expected. Luckily, I was mistaken!

The story was captivating right from the start because it had questions to ask. And those questions were directed to me, a player. It was me who had to answer them for myself. It was me who had to choose for myself. Because my course of action depended not on what were my plot goals and neither on my gameplay preferences. It depended on my opinion on certain problems.

Basically, you start in a very unprivileged position, that of a slave. An alien slave, if you really want to experience this story in its full power. You finish in a rather privileged position, that of a Dark Council member. On the surface this seems like a typical rags-to-riches story. However, the action/adventure story is only a minor part of the experience. The main part is the inner path—looking back to your past to create your own future and, more importantly, your future self.

In a nutshell, it is a story exploring how you deal with the trauma from past abuse: do you internalize the point of view of the abuser or the abused? As a survivor myself, I can only praise the way this narrative was given and framed in-game.

Dealing with the Trauma

So, you are a slave. You spend half your Prologue experiencing constant verbal and physical abuse from your sort-of teacher. He wants to get rid of you so that a free, Sith Pureblood candidate will win the golden ticket. But justice is served, and the ticket is finally yours. You are no more a slave, but a Sith—a person in the position of power above all non-Sith. What do you do now? And more importantly, how do you do it?

The game has a Light/Dark Side system in it. Before it was totally remade (broken, I’d rather say) it worked like Paragon/Renegade system in Mass Effect games: you choose one of two alternatives, you get certain amount of Side points, you become more attuned with a certain side of the Force. Or sometimes there is a neutral way, that’s neither. It doesn’t give you any points, but still is important in this storyline.

Your first encounter with Dark vs. Light presents a very typical kill the baby/save the baby dilemma: you can torture a witness to extract the criminal’s name, or you can talk to him and exchange help for information. A very easy choice, is it not? The next encounter is the one that gets under your skin.

It is with the evil mentor who wanted to kill you, who humiliated you, who was your abuser. You can scorn him now that you are free and a Sith in service of a Lord far above your former teacher’s station. You have every reason to hate this man, you have to wish to humiliate him in return. The first option is to threaten him, and while taking it would be extremely understandable, it is not a neutral option–it’s Dark Side. It is still playing along the rules of the system: might is right; you now have both, he has neither.

The Light Side option is to thank him, to break those unholy rules. You may not forget it, and you may be quite bitter later on about your early experience. You may never actually forgive him. Yet you refuse petty revenge, you refuse the power play. Because evil can’t mend or undo another evil.

I swear, something in my heart trembled when that rat of a man smiled to my character in return and thanked him. Because at last I saw the real Dark vs Light narrative, where Light begets more light–and Dark begets more dark.

Thus I understood that I really want to experience that story up to the end.

How can it be Dark Side? It’s fairly innocent… or is it?

Your Choices

While both versions of the Sith Inquisitor’s class story present him dealing with his trauma, I could never get myself to try the Dark one. It was really, really dark; the story of a person broken and driven to the edges of sanity, who would never let anyone have anything that person was once denied. I really couldn’t help pity the creature that person would eventually become. It’s not that this story is exactly bad, but I think it is somewhat toxic and too much in line with “being tortured makes you evil” narrative. Not exactly the trope that is in any way helpful for abuse survivors.

The Neutral path—what you tread if you don’t follow any consistent course of action—was less devastating on the personal level. It is more of a quest for identit-y than anything else. Your character does eventually give in to the darker side of their nature, but also eventually does something truly and genuinely good and selfless. In the end they receive the name Occulus, for being a mystery to everyone , including themselves. Because they really don’t know themselves. After all, the Sith Inquisitor is presumed to be very young; somewhere in their early twenties.

Sith Inquisitor

My own perfect cinnamon roll of an Inquisitor

I really loved the third option, the Light Side. It is a path of empathy, a path of true freedom. It is also the path most difficult both for your character and for you as a player, for it consciously sets you against certain old tropes and easy decisions.

Good Is Not Easy

Many games try to “convince” you to do right thing by making good choices less hard than bad ones. In general, this game is no exception; if you were to take the Dark route as a Jedi Knight, it would require more time and work from you than the opposite. But on this route it’s the other way around. Being a good person here is not—just as in real life—easy. It is hard.

I can’t describe Light!Sith Inquisitor as anything but a Suffering Empath. Having experienced much trauma in the past, this Sith Inquisitor struggles their best to shield others from the same trauma, even when it doesn’t benefit themselves. Even when it means direct harm to themselves.

For example, their power is based on that of the restless spirits they’ve bound to their soul. Letting those spirits go means the Sith Inquisitor goes back to the start, where they are fairly ordinary a Sith and no match for the truly mighty ones. It means a real threat to their life or, at the very least, their well-being. But because it is right, they fulfill their promise and let the spirits go and find peace.

In another instance, they encounter a racist, foul-mouthed, self-infatuated prick, and they don’t kill him. They choose this because that abominable creature is someone else’s loved person. and your own (both player’s and character’s) desire to punish him cannot be given a higher priority than someone else’s love and anxiety.

This route is hard, because it requires additional quests and lines of dialogue. It is hard, because sometimes you really want to teach someone the hard way, to vent your own (player’s) disgust and rage, to punish the bad guys. But as long as you remember the “two wrongs don’t make right” rule, you can really enjoy that story.

Well, “enjoy” is not exactly the right word, but you get it.

When they spoke of finally knowing true freedom (in being released to the Afterlife) I really cried from happyness

True Freedom

This story is about real freedom; that is, spiritual freedom.

One of the easiest paths to achieve your goals in Star Wars universe is by using Mind Trick. You simply make the other person do and think what you wish them to. It is often used as, well, an easy and harmless workaround. It is often marked as a Light Side option in the Jedi class stories (the Dark option being to fight).

But on this route it is never a offer as a good option—usually neutral, but sometimes even bad. Because, y’know, it’s about freedom. What is more abusive, after all, than to deny a person that person’s free will?

I cannot fathom an action more free of will, of an agency more openly expressed, than denying a whole system of oppression while being raised as a part of it. But the Sith Inquisitor does just that.

Every time they eschew their own in favor of someone else’s, they deny that system. Every time they refuse to acquire more power because it would others more dearly, they deny that system. Every time they choose to respect the free will of the others, even if it means problems for themselves, they deny that system.


What I really wanted to do, right from the beginning, was to thank the author.

Rebecca Harwick created a fascinating story that works perfectly for a genre that requires deep emotional connection with your character. RPG is about living other lives, those we can never experience IRL but those still having an impact on us and our life. We all know that stories matter, and I think we need more stories like that.

And it is a highly satisfying story. You really feel it by the end, that peace and glory that come with being righteous.

Personally, it helped me deal with my own trauma and helped me sort out things and realize that some options are not really an option—that giving in to the abuser’s point of view would really keep me stuck in that trauma forever.

That, while trying to be a good person is often hard, it’s worth it.

P.S.: And Then They Ruined It…

When you experience something that great, you want more of it, do you? Well, I wanted. So I went on to playing DLCs that are supposed to cover the later life of the same hero.

Sadly, the story-line there was clearly written as a continuation of the Jedi Knight’s class story, and any difference in dialogue was purely cosmetic. This actually came out bad for many classes, but the Sith Inquisitor suffers not only plot-and-logic-wise, but also thematically and, I daresay, problematically.
You see, it is generally okay if a privileged golden boy of a Jedi, who was always treated as someone special and a Chosen One, gets a lecture from those still above him about him not being special and his real role being a mere gear in a much greater machine. It serves him right and it even has some thematic significance. I am, of course, referring to the Jedi Knight—the supposed Anakin-done-right hero, the most obviously coded as male and most irritatingly problematic in and of himself.

This kind of lecture is certainly not okay when delivered by two uber-privileged guys (a Jedi Grandmaster and a Head of the Dark Council) to a former slave. They tell this slave to be nothing more than a cogwheel, that freedom is overrated and that they need to subjugate themselves to someone or something greater. They directly say, “you are weak because you fight for your freedom, become a willing slave (to the Force, but still) and you’ll be strong.”

It is problematic, isn’t it?

It really ruined the thing for me. The narrative that was centered around freedom, around acquiring it, understanding it and using it right…it was thrown away in favor of a rather lazy “we all are slaves of the Fate” plot device. And that’s only when we talk themes and not slavery per se, and the narrative completely forgetting about it.

My only solace is, it was written by another person.

Images courtesy EA Entertainment

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Will Has a Women Problem




Love him or hate him, you have to admit William Shakespeare wrote some of literature’s most iconic women. Queens such as Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, and Titania; tragic heroines like Cordelia, Juliet, and Ophelia; the outspoken self-advocates Beatrice, Katherina and Paulina. While only some of Shakespeare’s women wield legitimate, authoritative power, all of them are powerful figures on stage: women of devastating conviction, integrity, and passion At a time in history where women had few legal rights—and couldn’t legally appear on a stage—Shakespeare’s women stood as monuments to women’s potential and women’s reality.

It’s unfortunate, then, that Will, TNT’s ten-episode period drama, does its women a disservice. This is not to say that Will’s women are bad characters. On the contrary, Alice Burbage, Anne Hathaway/Shakespeare, Emilia Bassano and Apelina are powerful, bringing some of the most poignant emotional experiences to the show. Unfortunately, those performances don’t happen for the sake of their own characters’ individual growth. Frustratingly, Will’s women instead end up as tried-and-true tools shaping men’s destinies.

As Will’s love interest, Alice Burbage is the woman most affected by Will’s underlying misogyny (although she’s not the most insidious example). From her first appearance in “The Play’s the Thing,” when she leans out of her window, breasts just short of dropping out of her bodice, Alice is set up as a sexual object for Will’s attention. But it is her brilliance and dedication to the theater that draw Will to her as a lover and intellectual soulmate.

Alice is an “educated woman,” her learning much more advanced than the supposed average early modern daughter or housewife (who actually had to have a decent bit of learning in order to maintain the household, but suspension of disbelief and all that). She can read and write well enough to provide clean copies of scripts for the actors of her father’s theater, and has enough business savvy to help her family with the theater business.

Alice’s intelligence doesn’t exist for herself, though. Rather, it exists for Will. A blossoming-playwright with no experience, Will is a really terrible addition to the Theatre. He has talent with words but little else; he barely understands how theaters and theater-going works. For Will, there is only “the art,” which finally bites him in episode 3, “The Two Gentlemen.” No one will buy Will’s newest play, a complicated piece of poetry with nothing to appeal to an audience. Once he admits Alice is right and he needs her help, though, Alice gives Will access to all the plays in her father’s repertoire and then helps him hit upon the then-not-so-novel idea of stealing the overarching idea.

Once that’s in hand—with Alice guiding him in the selection and the theft—Alice helps him write.

“To him she must be like day, like night, like light. Like light.”

“Like light?”

Even when Alice is asleep, her presence is the thing that spurs Will to continue to write, his eyes fixated on her as he writes passionate speeches for Sylvia. When James discovers them in the morning, it’s Alice’s fury and insistent on its quality—quality she oversaw—that gets it performed.

Alice does the same for Henry VI pt 2. After encouraging Will to write the histories out of order, she gives Will the title for the play:

“Henry VI: The Rise of the Dauphin Menace. When I was reading the histories, I discovered the Dauphin, Charles II, joined forces with Joan of Arc.” (Episode 6)

The pair of them function like this for most of the season: Will comes to Alice with the seeds of a play, the words that are his signature, and Alice provides the necessary structure to see the play succeed and Will’s star rise. She coins the term“prequel” for Henry VI pt 2, decides on the overall plot of that same play, and, perhaps most importantly, suggests Will humanize Richard in Richard III, making his actions more horrific by highlighting the humanity still lurking in the monster. Without that crucial character change, the endgame against Topcliffe would have failed.

Alice, however, never receives recognition for her significant, life-altering contributions. Will, of course, praises her genius and recognizes that without her, his writing stagnates. But he makes no effort to inform her father, mother, brother or any of the company about her crucial contributions to the plays that have made them and him, so popular. Instead, he sits proud and preening over the work she improved, enjoying her labors and her love until he is forced to end their relationship.

This is perhaps why Alice switches intellectual loyalties—Father Southwell gives her credit. The more entwined Alice becomes in his Catholic plot, the more Southwell praises her devotion and willingness to endanger herself. Southwell, however, is no better than Will, using Alice’s brilliance, grief, and determination to further his cause. As his newest convert, Alice is best suited for smuggling messages since she is thus far unknown to any of Topcliffe’s informants; moreover, her connections to the theater, frequented by one of the Queen’s advisers, give Southwell noble connections he needs to deliver his manifesto to the Queen. Alice, then, is Southwell’s newest and best instrument in his Catholic war. She’s also the one he loses most quickly.

In the end, everyone loses Alice; her destiny finally to leave the world she loved and desired in the hands of a man she can’t stop loving. Her suffering at Topcliffe’s hands encourages the company to perform Richard III (thus altering the torturer’s destiny) and cements Will’s undying love for her—none of which she can share. Instead, Alice must go, freeing herself and Shakespeare from a love she now knows could never be and no longer wants. It is only through that pain, apparently, that Will can go on to right the greatest love story: Romeo and Juliet, where his “bright angel” will shine again.

Alice is just one woman robbed of a life or dream for men’s sake. Another, set up against Alice, is Anne Hathaway. Never one to get a fair treatment in adaptations, Anne is everything Alice isn’t: an obstacle to his art and an intellectual inferior. From her opening line, Anne is portrayed as shrewish and incapable of seeing Will’s greatness: “Who will want a play by William Shakespeare?” (“The Play’s the Thing”). Anne is incapable of seeing Will’s art, and clouds his genius with mundane concerns like the survival of his family.

Is the sarcasm evident?

Anne’s demotion to a tool of Will’s destiny is briefer than Alice’s but just as unfair because she deserves better, from both Will and Will. However, her dire situation is never taken seriously. When Anne brings Will’s children to London to visit him, and  learns about his affair with Alice, her hurt is shown as unjustified. Alice understands Will in a way Anne simply can’t; how dare Anne reject Will for something as simple as a connection with an intellectual equal?

Moreover, when Anne finally admits to Will her situation in Stratford, he cannot fully recognize or accept her pain or the fear that fuels her inability to believe in him. Living as a servant to his parents, with the threat of homelessness and beggardom, Anne physically can’t believe in his dream because a dream can’t help them now. It can’t provide them food or shelter. It can’t give them a livelihood and future. The money Will makes as a writer isn’t enough to ensure her and her children’s safety if they are forced out by his family and his father’s poor business practices. But Will sees her insistence that he take responsibility for them, that he look after them as he promised to, as manipulative and cruel.

All of this is heartbreaking because Anne loves, or at least loved, Will, and at some point, Will loved her. At the tavern, after she’s accepted by the company even after her fumbles, Anne and Will dance, smile and laugh. As they walk home and speak of the early days of their relationship, there is genuine warmth and affection in the shared memories. But domesticity chafes Will. It suffocates him in a way Anne is able to—and has to—endure, and he can no longer return the love she still extends to him. At his distress over Topcliffe’s threats against his family and Southwell’s inability to understand his situation, Anne reaches out to him,

“Yet you do not talk of your struggles with me. I am here to listen and to ease your burdens, as a wife should. If you would share with me.”

For her pains—for her labor, emotional and physical—all she gets in return is Will insistence he can’t, and won’t, share with her.

“I cannot speak of what’s inside of me. That is why I write.”

But Anne can’t read. Will’s writing—his plays, his dreams—is an impassable barrier between them, one which Will doesn’t bother to pull down and which Anne eventually accepts.

That’s Anne’s destiny: acceptance of being not even second best. “It’s not about the girl,” Anne tells him in episode 6, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” as she piles their children in a carriage bound for Stratford. Anne is Alice’s inferior, but more than that, Anne is not theater. She is not the escape, the support and the adoration Will craves and now enjoys in the London theater. Anne is just the mother of his children, a burden to his art. Although it clearly pains her to realize it, she has to step aside; her only purpose left in his life is, as she says, “to leave you free to be who you wish to be” and fade quietly into a lonely life, awaiting money and the occasional letter.

Anne’s grieved blessing and disappearance are required. No longer a figure in Will’s life or thoughts—she’s referenced not even a handful of times after her departure and is never seen again—Anne no longer obstructs his art or his destiny. With this freedom, Will is able to put his pen and his talent to bringing the Theatre up and tearing Topcliffe down with one of his most powerful plays. He can take the first steps into the fame that will follow him for centuries.

Alice and Anne’s roles as destiny-tools are specific: they shape Will, and to a lesser extent Topcliffe and Southwell, into who they are meant to be. Emilia Bassano and Apelina don’t operate in quite the same way. Although they also, indirectly, affect Will’s destiny, their characters exist as more generalized comments on the role of women in Will’s narrative world.

At her first appearance in “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” Emilia Bassano seems to be a noble woman. Alice, however, breaks that illusion. She reveals that Emilia is Lord Hunsdon’s newest mistress—replacing the one from episode one—and although she was once nobility, she’s fallen on hard times. The daughter of a Venetian musician and “impoverished Moroccan royalty,” Emilia has taken up residence with Lord Hunsdon as a companion skilled in conversation and poetry.

She has absolutely no illusions about her purpose and position. “Thou art sorely misguided,” she tells Will in episode seven, “What Dreams May Come,” “None of this is mine. It belongs to Lord Hunsdon, just as I do.” Emilia is property, dressed up in the finest the Queen’s advisor and cousin can offer but with the knowledge that she is no longer her own. Emilia is a thing now, a thing as pretty as her dresses and jewelry, but expected to perform certain duties and services or suffer unspoken consequences.

Her status as high-class property affords Emilia some freedom, but nearly all of it is used to serve others, most often as facilitator. She puts Will in touch with Lord Fortuscue, whose commission for A Midsummer Night’s Dream saves the Theatre from closing. She overhears Lord Hunsdon’s conversations and then shares important details about Topcliffe’s promotion and Alice’s increasing role in Southwell’s plot with Will. But Emilia also provides what she can, especially when Will rescues Alice from Topcliffe’s clutches. She opens Lord Hunsdon’s house to them and gives them access to her own personal physician, even knowing the danger it puts her in.

As Emilia said, nothing she owns is hers. If Lord Hunsdon, cousin of the Queen cousin and–until the last episode–Topcliffe supporter, learns of her aiding and harboring Catholics plotting against him, her life could be in danger. But no one ever addresses or acknowledges this. Emilia is not important enough for fear. Convenient when she is needed, shelved when she is not, the precariousness of her situation—a situation Will brings her into with a well-written sonnet—is never given serious consideration by anyone.

Nor is Apelina’s, although she is confronted with the danger of her choices almost daily. Her situation, in many ways, mimics Emilia’s: they’re both owned, although by different classes of people. Emilia is a nobleman’s mistress, Apelina a peasant sex worker. Apelina has a nearby brother to consider while Emilia is separated from apparently all she’s ever known (but never seems bothered by that fact). However, the most important difference between these two women is that Apelina is given no identity within the narrative.

From her first appearance in “The Play’s the Thing” to her death in “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” Apelina has no personal identity or discernible history apart from “motherless whore,” “dirt-some punk,” and Presto’s sister. Her name is never even mentioned in the show; it only ever appears in the ending credits, a brief half-second flash near the end of the cast list. Without an identity, Apelina occupies the lowest space for women in Will: a complete and total object, to be used, cast aside, and then briefly mourned, if she’s lucky.

She is somewhat “lucky,” in that regard. Her brother Presto is clearly devoted to her, or at least to the idea of her being free. He takes up thieving to pay for her freedom and tortures himself with every day she suffers under Doll’s thumb. Apelina shares that love, and fully verbalizes it when Doll tries to sell Presto to Topcliffe. She helps him escape and undergoes torture to keep him safe. When Presto is caught and agrees to prostitution, she tries to make it as easy as she can for him, giving him alcohol to ease the pain and offering him a compartmentalization technique that has always helped her.

None of this, though, is for her.

Everything Apelina does is as Presto’s sister; everything she does, and says, and is, is for Presto’s growth. Presto needs to suffer, needs to steal from the Theatre and then feel the intense grief and pain to move him into position for Will’s final endgame. But unlike Alice’s case, it is a private grief. No one apart from Presto and Will ever know about Apelina and her role, and even they speak of it only in passing.

In a way, it makes sense that the women in this period drama are so suppressed. Will focuses on the downside of pursuing dreams: the things lost when dreams become obsessions and are followed without any sort of consideration for the lives affected. Yet, Will never took the opportunity to explore the women’s dreams. Alice could have been shown learning that she would never inherit the Theatre and then working to change that reality. Anne could have turned her attention to a different destiny than the happy, stable marriage she once desired. Emilia could have looked for ways to restore her status, or to bring unmentioned family to her side. We could have seen Apelina dreaming of a life of freedom, a home for herself and her brother.

But Will doesn’t care about women’s dreams and women’s destinies; there are dozens of women in Will, named and unnamed alike, and none of them exceed Alice’s crucial instrumentality or Apelina’s limited use. Even Queen Elizabeth I is only referenced, never seen. Will’s world is a man’s world, and male destinies, desires, and hopes are the only ones that matter. Women—their needs, their livelihood, their lives, their bodies—are considered only so far as they work to further or hinder men’s destinies. They are tools, sharpened for use and discarded when no longer needed.

Instead of characters, they are caricatures.

Images courtesy of TNT Productions

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The Source deals with Feminism and Intersectionality





A common criticism of feminism is that, as it exists today, it tends to forget the most vulnerable of women, i.e., those that are not wealthy, white, cisgendered, able-bodied, neurotypical, or straight. The response to this has been to draw increasing attention to the principle of intersectionality, that is how one oppression interacts with and complicates others (if you are non-white, neurodivergent, and also LGBTQ+, for example). Similarly, intersectionality seeks to investigate how privilege might interact with oppression (if you are a woman but also white, or if you are a POC but also rich, etc).

Despite the fact that intersectionality has become a common tools of analysis in the social sciences, cultural productions haven’t kept up. Sure, we talk more and more about oppressed demographics, but typically one at the time. We don’t want to strain a muscle, I guess.

And it’s true that even if lately we’ve saw an increase in feminist productions, they tend to primarily cater to one, maybe two demographics (when they actually manage to be feminist at all and not just an exercise in faux-feminism, but that’s another problem). And those demographics aren’t always intersectional.

That maybe why The Source, a feminist movie focused on poor Arab women in a country who suffered colonization, strikes me as special in today’s cultural landscape.

The Source or The Women’s Source

The Source is a 2011 French movie (original title La Source des Femmes literally The Women’s Source) that presented at the Cannes Film Festival the same year. Radu Mihaileanu wrote and directed it, taking inspiration from the classical play Lysistrata and from an actual women’s revolt in Turkey.

The story follows a community of women in a tiny village, nowadays in an unnamed muslim country that used to be a colony. In this village, it is the tradition that women bring the water to their family. The source is, and has always been, at the top of a mountain.

Not exactly an easy way of doing things.

One day, one woman falls while coming down and miscarries. For Leila, who has herself miscarried under such conditions, it is too much. She organizes a strike to persuade the men to do something to bring the water directly to the village. This strike is of a special kind, though; it is a love strike. With time the strike unleashes a debate way larger than the access to water, namely, on the condition of women vis-a-vis traditions.

The movie is supposed to be a dramatic-comedy, and you will laugh yes, but way less than you might have anticipated. And, if you plan a light evening of good fun, I recommend you postpone watching this movie.

So before we move on to the themes, it’s worth summarizing the main characters:

  • Leila– clearly the main protagonist, she didn’t grow in the village but came to live there when she married. She is not completely accepted there.
  • Vieux Fusils– (literally Old Riffle), among the elders of the village, she supports Leila in her idea immediately. Married when she was a child to a violent man, now that she is a widow recognized for her wisdom.
  • Loubna/Esmeralda– teenage sister-in-law of Leila. Madly in love with a boy from another village and has decided to marry only for love. Fan of a telenovelas and therefore nicknamed Esmeralda by the other women.
  • Rachida– Leila’s mother-in-law. Hostile to Leila and her strike.
  • Sami– Leila’s husband and teacher at the local school. In favor of the strike, but maybe more in favor of a peaceful village.

There are of course a lot of other characters, in favor of or against the strike, but these are the most important to the story.

A Feminine Feminist Revolution

The way Leila and the other women decide to lead their ‘revolution’ might at first appear artificial and even a tad insulting. Is a woman’s only influence on the world through her sexuality? But the fact is that this women don’t have the choice. To have water in the village the government must pay for important construction works, and for this to happen you have to face the AdministrationTM. And the administration has a directive to do nothing if not absolutely necessary, which typically means having time, connections, money, and education.

No woman in this village has all of that. Not even the entire group of women can gather all of those things. To tell the truth, the men don’t have them either. Their lot is better than that of women, but in front of a disinterested government they are as powerless as the women are. To gain what they want, the entire village must work together.

The women don’t want to penalize the village. The want the men to realize that they are suffering for nothing, and that if they love and value them they should help them do something about the condition of the water supply.

“Your hearts are dry and thorny like this well.”

They do not reject femininity for the sake of it. But they reject thousand-year-old traditions that are outdated or were wrong to begin with. For example, going up the mountain to carry back water when running water could be installed. But as I previously said, the debate about water brings other questions, like that of the relation between men and women. The husbands think it is their right to sleep with their wife, so due to the strike, eventually practices such as marital rape and child marriage are also denounced.

There is something that grabbed my attention about The Source. In Lysistrata, one of the inspirations behind the movie, the title character (whose name literally means ‘Army Disbander’) wants to stop a war by not sleeping with men and making the other women do the same.

Yes you want to be her.

And there is this conversation in The Source:

Hussein (Leila’s father-in-law): Don’t belittle men. My grand-father and my father waged war on the colons and on our neighbors. In order to defend our tribe, our village, our family, and to defend our source of water. During those times women and children stayed at home, sheltered. A lot of us died. Men hunted (…). You realized it was never easy

Leila: They were all warriors.

Hussein: Valiant warriors of great courage (…). We never asked you to do our work in our place. It is for your protection and it is the tradition. The cycle of life. (…) But with the drought there is no more work.

Leila: And no more war.

The Source talks about changes in the society. How the men fell out of employment and how, if they could, they would follow the traditional role they were assigned but they can’t. And the answer given is that maybe it is for the best. Maybe we are best without the violence that exist in the traditional roles of men.

When men have it bad women have it worse

Now on to other subjects tackled by the movie that fit into the idea of intersectionality. Women suffer in this village because they are women, but also because the majority of the village suffers too. If girls barely go to school, boys don’t have a possibility to achieve their dreams either. Women don’t have it bad, per se, they have it worse.

The village is isolated. The climate has changed and agriculture has became impossible. The people in the village as a whole are stuck in there, without a chance to access a better life. The women in the village are stuck in homes they didn’t choose without a chance to access a better life. Worse, the little they have—food, respect, a roof above their head, their children—can be taken from them at any moment if they step out of line

And they are people who don’t want things to change. Some men abuse their wives at their will and use the bad situation to do virtually nothing with their lives. The government doesn’t want change either. It is shown as corrupt and not in any hurry to do anything to better the lives of its citizens. That’s why it doesn’t want to help this village. Because if it does listen to the demand of the women, the most fragile demographic of their country, they might have to listen to other oppressed voices.

A parenthesis on western ‘humanitarian’ tourists

The Source is nearly free of western, white characters. The only ones in it are humanitarian tourists, and oh boy is it glorious! If you are not aware there is currently a backlash against a certain type of humanitarian work. The one that is way more performative than effective and reeks of neo-colonialism. When rich young people pay to have ‘humanitarian’ trips and do to work they are untrained for (but I guess are naturally experts at through the sheer power of whiteness), in order to discover the Real Meaning of LifeTM and add a line to their CV. Just a new rebranding of the good old White Savior.

Well our westerners are those humanitarians. Well I guess they are not that bad because they bring money and don’t receive or offer life lessons. But seeing clueless Europeans watching a show made for them (to show gratitude) while the tensions of the village unfold in front of them is so nice. They can’t understand it, since they don’t speak Arabic, but long story short, The Source makes a point explaining that you can’t be the hero of people you don’t understand.

Of Hope and Love

Gloriously, the movie never becomes nihilistic. Sure, there is despair in our world. There is apathy, oppression, violence, and people who will stand for it. But it doesn’t mean that all hope in mankind must be forsaken. There is love in this world, and love conquers all.

That’s what Loubna’s story represents. Everything is possible when you believe in love, even when the object of your love is proven to be disappointing. Because as long as you believe in the idea of love you can muster the courage to move forward, and maybe find someone more worthy of your love. Like Leila did.

To truly love and be loved you must be worthy of this love, and eventually both Sami and Leila are.


It is also important to love your neighbor, as Vieux Fussil does. She might not have children of her own but she takes care of every young women in the village because they need love and support. Because to turn into the best version of yourself, you need love. Love is like water, it brings life.

And that’s what the women ultimately bring to the village: Love and Life.


The Source isn’t a perfect movie; it has its flaws. It is probably a bit too theatrical, but it is inspired by a play after all. It’s a bit Manichean too, though while not stigmatizing Islam. (The fact that the imam refuses to move against the women because he has been convinced by them is touching.) But it is important to remember that the movie is a fable. It was never intended to be a realistic social movie.

It’s a tale about women and their emancipation. It’s a tale about change and its benefits, and it’s a tale about love. It’s different, and in the end, it’s enjoyable to watch. So I would say that The Source did its job fairly well.

Images Courtesy of EuropaCorp

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