Saturday, August 14, 2010

The tough women of the wild west and Deadwood expectations

Me in my Calamity Jane Inspired Outfit 

We have female avatars (I cannot swear they are all run by female typists)  who come through Deadwood, wanting to play bad guys or lawmen in Deadwood, most always dressed in sexy tight fitting black pants,  breasts bursting out of low cut blouse or vest,  large guns strapped around curving hips, long locks flowing down from a cowgirl hat tilting over a pretty, very well made up face.   Most of the admins sigh when seeing this, as we know we're about to embark on a familiar debate.

Now, the Deadwood owners are willing to stretch history enough to allow women more roles than we would have had back in 1876 - we've had a couple of female mayors, a female sheriff, many female doctors.  But when it comes to historical dress, there is a limit.

Calamity in Baggy Pants - red long johns underneath

We've had to explain - often over and over - that women can't wear tight sexy pants, revealing low cut tops and run around being fetching 21st century style while they shoot up bad guys or are themselves bad guys.    Yeah yeah yeah, back in the 19th century a few bold and desperate women wore pants -- ugly pants -- and while they may have had a rich life complete with male and female lovers,  to pull that off as a role play would require something more than what 90% of the players seem willing to give.

This drives off some, not all.  Some want to know "what to wear".  So,  I felt inspired to make an outfit that a tough woman might have worn - inspired a bit by Calamity Jane (who was an alcoholic and had a truly tough life, if you read up on her) and a few more rugged women. The outfit is for sale on XStreet as well as in  Deadwood and a couple of places - comes with a rifle, long johns and a bunch of other stuff.    

Top L - R       Bella Starr     Pearl Hart      Calamity Jane

Bottom L-R Charley Parkhurst   Margaret Borland Etta Place

Meanwhile -- I can tell I'm turning into a crotchety old crone by my level of irritability in dealing with whatever's happened to the memory of the history, and the feminine movement in said history, over the past couple a hundred years as reflected by some activities in Deadwood in Second Life. 

(This is where I stand on my soap box, waving my hands, my voice all cranky)

Maybe I have misread history - maybe I'm making too much of it.  Let it go, I tell myself.  What does it matter - history is yesterday, today is today!    Let's just forget the past and move on with the present.  We're in Second Life to have fun -- historical role play is too much like work if you have to stick to annoying things like reality.   So, let's pretend it was common for women to be doctors and play out that any man or woman who thought it was odd and refused to go to a female doctor is some sort of  idiot.

Let's not even try to think about what life must have been like for a woman whose sexual orientation led her away from the demands of the times.   Instead of trying to create a character who had to struggle with her homosexuality by hiding it from family and friends, perhaps while marrying, let's take the freedoms of Second Life into Deadwood and have her be fully out and accepted by all the community - a lipstick lesbian in tight pants, low cut top, carrying guns and dancing with her sweetheart at all the social functions.

Let's make-believe a woman who dressed like a man would not have been treated like some sort of social outcast.    In our attempt at historical accuracy, let's forget that women had to do chores inside with no air conditioning and outside in the sun wearing layers and layers of clothing - let's  suppose instead they wore cut offs and tube tops.  Victorian proper women can gather in the whorehouses, whores can roam the streets wearing what would amount to nothing today - because it's the 21st century, this is Second Life - we're here to have fun!

I may not step down from the soap box.... I haven't even touched on the matter of Native Americans (historically present but not in the town area of Deadwood) and prejudices (evidently in 1876 Deadwood, the majority of residents were liberals who had nothing against Native Americans or anyone else except those who were prejudiced). 

Some days, after trying to explain that -"No,  we (the admins, the owners or myself) are not prejudiced against (Indians, lesbians, women in pants, fill in your name here) but that yes, back in 1876 a lot of people were" - I begin to think that  maybe Second Life isn't the place to run a historical role playing sim - where too many players come through either unaware or uninterested in playing the tough parts of history, which some of us find an exciting opportunity to look at ourselves back in history - how we might have been, or to explore what it might have been to be someone totally different.
A lot of people, I think, see role play as fun without the need to delve into characters.   I get that - and there are places to do that.   But I get a lot of fun out of what most do in Deadwood.   That's where the fun is to me - fun in exploring a character, in trying to be someone else.   No doubt why I have so many alts!

In Real Life, I rarely laugh as hard and as long as I do over the antics of fellow role players in Deadwood --  Daisy Stratten, Addison Leigh, Badger Bagley, Wyatt Alderton, Rod Eun, C.T. Kungler, J.F. Kanto, Malrik Rajesh, Leonel Sparta,  Dio Kuhn and many more, some of whom have just passed through too briefly - are some of the most gifted and funnest folks I've had the pleasure to not meet.

One of the things I like about all of the Deadwood players is that most take their characters seriously, giving thought to who they are and how they'd react.  It's the history - so maybe the younger crowd has had enough of that from their recent high school - college days and sees no use of history in current life (so my youngest says - and I think I recall saying the same when I was his age) Though it isn't always the young who leave or the older who stay. 
 From my peculiar perspective it seems we have a lot of players - mostly short lived, who come in wanting a different kind of fun not involving any kind of history (even googled history) and expecting a rather sanitized, more comfortable presentation of characters in Deadwood -  which feels kind of one dimensional to me.

Most often what they find lacking in Deadwood's role play  is 21st century standards of equality and justice (ones we can't even live up to in Real Life) - women and people of color (we haven't had any Muslims yet) having equal rights and treatment.   Objections are made if whores and housewives can't sit down together in the saloons and have whiskey or tea together.  There's disappointment that you can't just come in and shoot up the town, or become a powerful and important figure in the town. 

Most of us do our best to play nice with each other, no mean feat considering that we all - in any of our lives - see ourselves as the prime player and others as supporting roles.   As we mature a bit, we come to the humiliating realization that we are usually backdrop in the lives of everyone else.   Once we settle with that,  it can make life - real and Second - pretty interesting to view.

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