There I was, playing Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, a 2005 game for the Nintendo DS, with no intention to write about it because, even though it’s great, I couldn’t imagine that anything about it would be interesting eight years later. But then I came across a conversation so bad I couldn’t just ignore it. Luckily, I’d just saved, so I went back and took horrible iPhone screenshots of the whole thing.
Now, Castlevania is not known for its stellar writing. After all, It’s the series that gave us this classic:
But while that’s quite silly, it can at least claim to not be ridiculously sexist. Sadly, the dialogue I’m going to show you cannot say the same.
Here’s the setup: you play as the hero, Soma Cruz, who is the reincarnation of Dracula (but not really, for some reason). Yoko Belnades acts as a shop for Soma throughout the game. She stays in the same room the whole time because she gets ditched at the entrance to the castle by her alleged friend, Julius Belmont. Got that? Okay, here we go.
To start, Yoko wants to talk to Soma about something.
Here’s our conflict. Like I said, Julius double-jumped his ass straight over the closed castle gate, leaving poor Yoko in the lurch. Soma is already being disagreeable, but at this point maybe we can charitably assume he’s trying to defend his friend or put a positive spin on things (spoiler alert: nope).
What a prick! I should say that, in the world of Castlevania, Yoko is more than capable of busting up some skeletons and Medusa heads. The Castlevania Wikia calls her “a powerful witch,” and she’s a playable character in the game. She’s not just some random shopkeeper.
So, definitely a dick move by Julius, right Soma?
What?! You’re playing the “calm down” card? She has a totally valid point! Just because she used two exclamation points doesn’t mean you get to talk down to her.
I know, right? Tell him off, Yoko.
I’d say something snarky here but Yoko’s response is actually perfect.
Yes! Can you believe this line is from a videogame? The entire medium is pretty much based around heroic men saving helpless women, and here we have a very non-helpless woman telling them all to mind their own business. So good.
If only the scene ended here.
Oh my god. I’ve looked at this screenshot 100 times and I still can’t believe it’s real. There are ten million things wrong here, but what bothers me most is that Yoko actually understands how Julius was thinking perfectly. She says he treated her like a child, and that’s exactly the sort of infantilization that fuels the “helpless woman” trope in fiction and reality. But even though the writer put those words in her mouth, he apparently couldn’t grasp the truth of them. As Soma will now demonstrate.
I can barely wrap my head around the awfulness of this message, especially in the context of this game. The male characters get to go kill monsters, which is literally all you do in Castlevania, while Yoko has to shut up, sit in a corner, provide support for the men, and get lectured at when she says anything.
Oh, the poor poor man. Won’t someone think of the man?
Great, not only is Julius an asshole, so is the dude I’m playing as, who I’m supposed to find cool and relatable. That’s depressing on many levels.
This is the part where I’d go “Nooooooo Yoko, stand up for yourself,” except she’s actually a fictitious character informed by the same misogynist outlook as Soma and Julius, so of course she was convinced by that horseshit.
You don’t get to have fun because it makes the menfolk cry.
Ugh, and now she’s happy about it. “Great talk Soma, thanks for putting me in my place.”
I guess this is where I make some point about women in games, but I don’t really have one. Basically, it’s a huge bummer to be playing an awesome game (which Dawn of Sorrow definitely is), and then have a huge bucket of shit dropped on you out of nowhere. So, I decided to share it with you. The shit, that is.