submitted 2 weeks ago* (last edited 2 weeks ago) by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

NOTE The guys I did not respond to; https://libreddit.kavin.rocks/r/fallacy/comments/mq7a6s/about_the_theremian_argument/

Bro is saying "Uhh, The witcher is either racist because it depicts racism, or it's not racist because there were no black people in fantasy poland" which is just the most honk-enraged example of how chuds have no idea what is actually being critiqued when people talk about racism and represenation in media. rant follows;

The Witcher isn't racist because the author uses the story to explore racism as a system of violence and a hierarchy of power. Geralt, himself a minority subject to bigotry and violence from a hateful majority, stands in for the player as he encounters numerous people; Squirrels, dwarves, various "monsters" who are subject to the systemic violence of a fearful and ignorant majority.

Geralt himself has strong ideals that demonstrate his awareness of racism as a concept and his refusal of it; He won't hunt anyone who is intelligent without a good reason. A fat purse and fearful peasants aren't sufficient for him to turn his sword against a person whose only crime is being different.

The Witcher provides an example of a story where the author does not hide behind the Thermian Argument.

Likewise, the Elder Scrolls has always critically engaged with racism and imperialism. It's never hidden behind "the lore" or "That's what the characters would do".

Dunmer culture was notorious xenophobic, insular, and contemptuous of other peoples. Even after the armistice some Dunmer continued to enslave Betmer, and the non-Dunmer residents of Morrowind were treated with contempt. Even Dunmer born outside of Morrowind were considered outsiders and not true Dunmer.

And the story critically engages with this. It openly questions where Hlalu's enthusiasm towards emancipation is based on any principles, or simply a desire to take advantage of integration in to the Septim Empire. The Redoran grudgingly go along with the Hlalu king, not out of any concern or compassion for enslaved people, but because they view their loyalty to the King as more important than adherence to custom, but only barely. Dres continue to raid for slaves an employ slave labor.

Meanwhile, the Twin Lamps organization is clandestinely fighting against the remaining slaver holdouts.

The story doesn't say "There's slavery because that's just how things are in the story". It creates a complex interplay of different factions with different beliefs and attitudes towards slavery. Some oppose slavery for utilitarian reasons, others out of principle. Slavery is officially illegal, but Dres slavery is ignored and no one is stupid enough to anger the Telvanni by interrupting their studies to tell them they have to free their slaves.

This continues in all subsequent entries. The Knights of the Nine is premised on the return of an genocidal Ayleidoon demigod seeking revenge for the crimes of the ancient Alysseian Empire. The story is very clear that Umaril the Unfeathered is a total monster, a murderous bastard. But at the same time, the player has to mantle Pelinel Whitestrake to defeat Umaril. And when you learn about Pelinel you find out that he was an equally monstrous genocidal maniac (and an unstoppable war-cyborg from the distant future but that's more of a /r/teslore thing). And, to further complicate things, extent history books in the game tell that while Umaril and Peninel represent absolutist genocidal extremes, the reality of the Nedic revolt against the Ayleids was much more complicated, with Ayelids and Nedes alike changing allegiances for both utilitarian and moral reasons. The conflict between the Ayleids and the Nedes is not presented as an inevitable clash of civilizations or a fascist race war, but rather a violent political struggle where individual people and factions chose their sides for political and moral reasons rather than race essentialism.

Moving on to Skyrim, the story depicts the brutal aftermath of the Red Year. Many Dunmer are forced in to exile in Skyrim by the cataclysmic destruction of Vvardenfell. They find shelter with their historic racial enemies, the Nords. And not just any Nords, but with Ulfric's Nord Supremacist Stormcloaks. The Stormcloaks are willing to extend refuge to the Dunmer in their time of extreme need. But they're still racist; They hold great prejudice against the Dunmer and largely confine them to ghettos. Their position reveals the complexity of racism and humanity; They maintain their bigotry, but their specific system of racism does not extend to exterminating or enslaving an ethnic group they hate. The Dunmer are treated as second class citizens, but the Stormcloaks aren't Nazis or even Americans. They're a complex, real society, and their contradictory stance on the Dunmer reflects the often contradictory and complex nature of systems of racism in real life. The Stormcloaks aren't just racist because of the story says so, they offer an exploration of the complexities of racism, of the status of refugees, of ethnonationalist movements.

Likewise, we've got the Thalmor. The nearest direct real world equivalent of the Thamlor would be genocidal ethnonationalists if they also wanted to unmake reality and plunge everything and everyone back in to primordial chaos. The Thalmor represent an extremely powerful mythofascist nation that claims to be a unified Merish ethnostate. But TES doesn't just reduce this to a race war, nor does it indulge in race essentialism. The Thalmor in no way represent all Mer, or even all Altmer. Their claim to racial unity is bogus. They display open bigotry towards Mer they consider "lesser". They're opposed by Men and Mer of all types, demonstrating that ethnonationalism is always built on shallow myths that aren't reflective of actual people.

And all of this is placed in contrast with the Mede Empire. The Mede Empire is a failing quasi-imperial state. The sad remnent of the once might Septim Empire, the Mede Empire is struggling to maintain control and legitimacy in the face of a disastrous military and mythopoeic defeat by the Thalmor. The Empire engage in imperialism and colonialism, but it is also a multi-ethnic and egalitarian state that rejects both racism and slavery as counter to it's goals of a united Tamriel. nontheless, it uses war and military occupation to achieve it's goals. In telling this story TES engages with the contradictory beliefs and actions of real-world Western imperialism; The Stormcloaks are bigoted ethnonationalists, but their national struggle to be free of an imperialist state has merit. The imperialist state opposes bigotry and slavery, but uses violence to impose it's will on others. The Thalmor are an openly and brutallity ethnonationalist state that engages in both ruthless imperialism and bigotry, and has the secret goal of killing everyone in the world and then killing the world. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? The Stormcloaks and Imperials are shown to be complex groups with justifiable goals and serious flaws. They're each contrasted with the Thalmor that represent an existential threat; The presence of the Thalmor motivates the Empire to invade Skyrim to retain control and prevent what is left of the Empire from fragmenting. The Stormcloaks desire for national liberation is justified in the face of Imperial occupation. The Thalmor are secretly manipulating the Stormcloaks in a plot to weaken the Empire.

None of this is shallowly justified by saying "that's just how the story is". The TES writers built a complex world of competing factions with competing goals. They created a war of brother against brother, of scheming nobility and shifting alliances, where two powerful factions are each fighting to achieve goals that cannot simply be dismissed as wrong or evil. The story does not give the player the luxury of picking a good guy and a bad guy. Whatever side of the conflict they choose to support there will be world shaking consequences where some will gain and others will suffer. And, further complicating matters, it seems that no matter what action the player takes or how the civil war in Skyrim ends, the greater scope villain of the Thalmor will be strengthened.

None of this is reductive "It's just this way because that's how the story is". All of these plotlines are structured not just to be consistent within the story, but also to investigate the nature of racism, power, violence, and empire. The Elder Scrolls is worthy of serious critique and consideration because it's stories are intended to give the player a space to explore, challenge, and justify their personal beliefs.

The storytellers openly invite the player to question and critique their story. They've created a space where important questions can be asked and wisdom can be nurtured. There's no need to say "That's just what happens in teh story" because they have consciously and deliberately refused the Thermian Argument. They're well aware that all stories are stories about ourselves, about humanity, about what we believe and why we believe it. They know that the story reflects the nature of the storyteller and the culture of which they are apart. They know that no one exists outside culture, and that no story exists alone, outside of history or culture and immune to critique.

That is why both The Witcher and TES are stories that engage with, discuss, and challenge racism.

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[-] [email protected] 23 points 2 weeks ago

They know that no one exists outside culture, and that no story exists alone, outside of history or culture and immune to critique.

Todd Howard didn't just fall out of a coconut tree!

[-] [email protected] 21 points 2 weeks ago* (last edited 2 weeks ago)

This is the problem with these kinds of smug "Aha! You fallacied! Which means I win!" kind of smuglords. They rely solely on their own lack of reading comprehension, if they even bother to read what you're saying at all. Their entire argument hinges on them refusing to understand things fully so they can just declare victory through ignorance.

EDIT: Also the Witcher thing is interesting. I think a lot of Americans think that "racism" always needs to involve different skin colours. They can't imagine an ethnic group that, to their American eyes, looks identical to the group they are persecuting. Racism needs to be really loud and in your face and obvious for a casual American to notice it.

[-] [email protected] 18 points 2 weeks ago

I keep joking that Europeans have terminator vision for race. "Whiteness" only matters inasmuch as ostracising black and brown people, but the rest of the time, you will get funny looks from some people for being "not of the place". I overheard a french guy complain about how a doodle on a shopping bag was "not a proper french girl, but obviously italian", unironically. Eastern Europeans barely count as human on a good day, and heaven forfend you have a Polish name. Heaven forfend you're slavic, in general. It's not lost on me the original author of the books is Polish, and I think that plays no small part in its portrayal of racism in the story, not to say that it's meant as an allegory for anti-slavic sentiment, just that there's cultural understanding you don't have to look that different to be discriminated against.

[-] [email protected] 16 points 2 weeks ago

Skyrim belongs to the Dorks!

[-] [email protected] 13 points 2 weeks ago

this and the trans posting is why i come here cat-trans good shit, comrade

[-] [email protected] 13 points 2 weeks ago

To address the original question of the source, it serves the "side" of the baby brain that thought they were a debate genious after seeing that fallacy infographic floating around the internet circa 2010. I only now noticed that this was posted to /r/fallacy so indeed, that is the stated goal, how can I use the thought terminating cliche to tell people they're wrong.

And pursuant to your well thought out explanation, I know it's wasted on most thermian-brained people, because they simply apply second and then nth degree thermianism: "Yeah, the slavers aren't the good guys because the story says so, but then again why did someone write a story where siding with the slavers isn't that bad. You can't say it's a result of the complex interplay of the story, because via thermianism, the writer wrote that too! In fact they also wrote the base structure of the world that led to that complex interplay, so yes, actually, the writers stance on slavery is problematic precisely because it's not universally condemned."

I've had some flavour of the above conversation five times this year ALONE. I'm trying to talk people into the idea that liking a problematic character doesn't make you into a real life abuser. I know chuds think media literacy is the "new" rhetorical weapon fashioned against them, but I don't waste time talking with chuds, most of the people I know are ok, and talking about media criticism is so bad it's depressing.

[-] [email protected] 11 points 2 weeks ago

Thermian Argument

I'm pissed that I had to go look up what this means when we already have Watsonsian and Doylist. Totally pointless and redundant term.

[-] [email protected] 11 points 2 weeks ago* (last edited 2 weeks ago)

Edit: how is this;

  • a Watsonian reading analyzes a story from the perspective of the characters based on information available to the characters.

  • the Thermian Argument claims that Watsonian context is sufficient to divert critique of the story, and that critics should not examine the author, authorial intent, or the story's relation to the real world when critiquing elements and themes within the story.

  • Diegetic Essentialists believe that the only way a story can be engaged with is via the Watsonian perspective, and that no other reading or analysis is valid, with some apparently unable to even recognize a Doyleist reading and critique is possible.

Does that sound like an accurate and/or useful breakdown of how the three concepts relate and differ?

Orginal comment follows;

I think Thermian argument differs in that it refers to the spurious notion that a Watsonian reading is the only reading possible and the only valid way of interacting with a text, rather than the Watsonian perspective itself. But I do take your point, something like "Watsonian Essentialism" or "Watsonian Reductionism" might have been, idk, more clear?

[-] [email protected] 4 points 2 weeks ago

I guess. It's just like, the term Watsonsian is a reference to a literal-minded character and refers to in-universe interpretations of why things happen, and the Thermian argument refers to more obscure literal-minded characters and refers to in-universe interpretations of why things happen, with negative connotations. It's annoying how much it's reinventing the wheel. Don't mean to criticize you for using it since it was used in the post you were responding to but it's just a bit of a tangent rant on my part.

[-] [email protected] 3 points 2 weeks ago

No, yeah, totally fair. Defining and labelling concepts is very important for any kind of analysis.

[-] [email protected] 10 points 2 weeks ago

You forgot one of the best parts of The Witcher III: when the narrator (framed as a character in the story retelling it all later) basically says "racism is bad, and the real monsters are cruel and intolerant men."

this post was submitted on 02 Apr 2024
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