Sunday, April 26, 2009

First Glance Analysis: Conan the Republican-arian

Conan is a bad-ass mofo. He's big, he's bad, he's an asshole - put that together and he's a big bad-ass. If my simplistic deducting skills only allow me to accept walking and talking ducks as the only kind of duck acceptable, then allow me to put it another way: Conan is the perfect kind of video game character - he says things very loudly and plainly by splitting other people heads open: he walks softly and carries a big dual-handed stick that is upgradeable with spent red experience orbs from said splitted-head enemies.

Conan has been described as an "anti-hero" for being a protagonist who isn't the nicest guy you'll meet who'll offer you the loincloth off his bare back. However, when playing "Conan" (2007) by Nihilistic and published by THQ I interpreted it in another way: if Conan was alive right now he'd vote Republican.

Now, this isn't the first video game character with a political agenda. A.V.A.L.A.N.C.H.E. from Final Fantasy VII were terrorists fighting against the evil corporation Shinra with a pro-environmental and pro-life force agenda. Red Faction stars a blue collar miner who leads an armed revolt against the oppressive corporation that has reduced them to wage-slaves on Mars, making this more or less a sci-fi video game first-person shooter union trainer. Deus Ex was also about something, except that I didn't play it.

Conan leans to the right of the politican spectrum. Not content to riff off witty one-liners like "Don't get ahead of yourself!" or "Two heads are better than one - lying decapitated on the ground!" or "Hats - and heads - off to capitalism!" , Conan instead has to remind us at every turn his world view.

Even though the world Conan lives in is rife with anarchy and chaos, Conan has a specific view on how to live the world: that only the strong survive, and the weak will fail. Conan prides himself on his ability, and lives without reliance on anyone. If people suffer because of him it is only because of their own weakness and inability. In this way, Conan's life as a barbarian has similar ties to an corporate banker or lawyer who likewise have a "live by the sword, die by the sword" philosophy of life.

He believes that his god, Crom, is the best and strongest of all the gods in Cimmeria's multi-faith culture and will deliver the final judgement to those who face him in battle, even if they don't believe in Conan's religion. "Let Crom judge you!" is a religious epithet that lies very close to the "Jesus saves" of the religious right.

Conan only does things for himself. In this game, only the fact that his goals and the goals of the pirate queen what's-her-face-advancing-the-plot dovetail that Conan gets any treatment as a sympathetic character. Were it not that Conan is trying to recover his lost magical armor, he wouldn't care at all for the pirate queen's plight to save her people from the Black Plague. Conan is a selfish son-of-a-barbarian; in fact, many in-game character say the word "barbarian" as an insult to suggest that nobody likes barbarian who are considered uncouth and uncultured. It seems that Conan has pride in that title the same way many southerners take pride in the derogatory term "redneck". The only thing missing is a comedy bit by Jeff Foxworthy that goes, "You know you're a barbarian when..."

What this makes in a video game is a character that unapologetically likes to mix it up, roll up his sleeves metaphorically and allow us to spam on the attack button. Freed of any morals or logic in stories, the video game then can let us murder pirates and dragons indiscriminately. If Conan doesn't care, why should we? This results in unabashed head-bashing goodness.

That this game also shows nipples and full-frontal female nudity only just reaffirms the game's rightist position. Lewd sexuality is a reward for all your hard work. Would unions and pooling your individual efforts to a common goal let you see nipples? In this case, the two points deducted off your paycheck would result in a PG-13 game.

That said, Conan (2007) is a fun and bloody game that's probably better than an average Monday at corporate HQ. That is, unless hookers and blow aren't in the equation. The Republican-right subtext probably wasn't intended to be there, but the parallels are definitely there.

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with being a Republican. I just don't know how they sleep so easily at night.

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