God of War Ragnarok: great dad game, hell mom game

[Ed. note: The following contains full spoilers for God of War (2018) and God of War Ragnarök (2022).]

At the end of God of War (2018), an important character undergoing a major transformation. I’m talking about Freya, whose eyeliner became two streaks of tears running down her grieving face. As if intending to make her sadness as obvious as possible, Freya never wiped away these tears, so those dark streaks remained on her face throughout part of the time. first three. God of War Ragnarok (2022). Her eyeliner is not only a shorthand for her pain but also for her instability, her trauma, and her abuse at the hands of Odin. That’s why those black streaks disappeared, like magic, after Freya lifted the curse Odin had placed on her.

The Beginning Ragnarok, Freya attacks Kratos and Atreus, following the oath she made at the end of the previous game. She swore to avenge them for killing her son Baldur and more importantly not to allow Baldur to kill her – a death she was willing to accept on condition that Baldur would eventually forgive her for a spell. guard that she had placed on him. The spell not only protected Baldur from pain but also made him inability to feel anything at all — the ultimate symbol of how a mother’s love can become stifling, even abusive.

After killing his own father, Kratos protected Freya’s life, hoping to break what he saw as a cycle of violence by preventing Baldur from killing his biological mother. As a result, neither Baldur nor Freya ever ended the abuse Freya inflicted on him – the abuse began with an attempt to help, but gradually turned into its own toxic cycle. . Like Kratos, I agree that Baldur killing Freya doesn’t seem like the best possible way for them to reach any end. But I also don’t understand why the only option is to kill Baldur or let Baldur kill Freya. This is what haunts me when I see Freya’s eyeliner, the persistent visual symbol of her lack of self-control.

Freya, an eyeliner-free and newly determined face, tells her brother Freyr about breaking Odin's curse:

Immediately after breaking Odin’s curse, Freya’s eyeliner faded, as shown in the following scene with Freyr’s brother.
Image: SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment via GameClip/YouTube

Freya’s eyeliner, especially its appearance and disappearance, also serves as a simple visual shorthand for her entire character arc. She suffered, and that suffering was evident on her face – literally. Her marriage to Odin and Baldur’s motherhood resulted in nothing but suffering and abuse. It was also an abuse of magic, which took the form of a curse. And though they’re not her family or even her friends, Kratos and Atreus are the ones who help break both curses.

The moment Odin’s curse was broken, Freya’s eyeliner began to fade on her cheeks, revealing itself as magical as the source of her trauma. Her mind also miraculously changed. From that point on, Freya became more polite and easygoing with Kratos and Atreus, assisting them in side quests and enduring their constant arguments over whether to attack Odin or not. . And while Freya makes these compromises, Odin continues to manipulate and use her, because he has secretly brought himself back into her life by disguising himself as Týr, his trusted confidant . In this disguise, Odin lives in the same house as Freya, talking to her daily and listening to her secrets, as well as those of her allies. Freya’s new family clone is tainted by the presence of her abuser, a man so powerful that he can always find some new way to torture her if he chooses.

Unlike its predecessor, Ragnarok offers quite a bit of dialogue with Freya, and even introduces flashbacks of Faye, Atreus’ deceased mother. But this is not their story. This is a game about fatherhood in particular and masculinity in general — valuable topics that the game finally deals with carefully. But as a result, the game’s female characters primarily exist to act as counterweights to the male characters; they are willing to listen, a cautionary tale or a prophetic tidbit that a male character can then use to advance the main plot.

After a heated discussion about when and how to attack Odin at Asgard, Kratos tells Freya and Týr,

Kratos refuses Freya’s request to attack Odin and Asgard, even as Odin stands behind him, disguised as Týr and maneuvering the two against the attack.
Image: SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Ragnarok and its predecessor describe a conspicuously simple, binary view of motherhood, regardless of God of War (2018) focuses on fulfilling the last wish of Atreus’ deceased mother Faye — and RagnarokFaye’s constant flashbacks. While Freya is portrayed as an abusive mother and also abused by her husband, Faye is presented as the other side of the mother coin – a gentle, sweet side who also lacks self-determination but very successful. Unlike Freya, who yearns for death and is robbed of it, Faye knows of her impending death and the power to influence the approach of her surviving husband and son to her death. he is sad. Freya does not receive the same respect from Baldur or Odin, both of whom died at the hands of others rather than her own. After all, that’s not her story.

Freya’s smudged eyeliner suddenly reappears during the climactic battle in Asgard. It occurs shortly after Sindri destroys Asgard’s dwarven weapons, resulting in the deaths of several Midgardian refugees that Odin purposely placed before the siege of the heroes. Atreus tries to “close” [his] heart” to the despair he felt in this wartime sacrifice, but Kratos surprised his son by saying that it was really bad to bury his feelings: “I was wrong, Atreus. I’m wrong. Please open your heart. Be open to their suffering. That’s your mother’s wish, and mine too. Today, son. Today, we will be better.”

At this moment, Freya with her glossy black eyeliner on her cheeks appeared at the scene. As the way her eyeliner suggests, she’s drowning in gratuitous rage as she yells at them: “Why did you stop? Ragnarok is here. We finally have Odin right where we are—”

An angry Freya and a calmer Kratos exchanged during the final climactic siege of Asgard, Kratos reassured Freya,

Image: Image: SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment via GameClip/YouTube

Kratos interrupts her, explaining that he and Atreus have to go do some of the heroic protagonist’s work first. Before they leave, Kratos promises Freya, “Odin won’t run away.” She replies, “If he does, then help me—” and Kratos says, “I know.” But what is her final sentence? What will Freya do if Odin escapes again? Implicit, thanks to eyeliner, is that her murderous, irrational rage will return to full force.

The next time we see her, Freya’s eyeliner will drift again. It was during the final duel against Odin, in which Freya seemed to enjoy torturing her husband, but in the end she chose to spare his life when given the chance. It was Sindri who dealt the final blow because he was so upset with Brok. His grief is described as similar to a change in image; After Brok’s death, the whites of Sindri’s eyes remained bloodshot endlessly, and his skin paled to ash gray. Perhaps the best comparison would be Kratos’ cursed white skin, covered with the unwashable ashes of his first wife and child.

Freya’s eyeliner has the ability to be powerful and effective as an icon, but unlike Kratos and Sindri, her emotional spectrum never really ends. Kratos’ personal journey deals with his past abuses. Similarly, the sign Sindri in Ragnarok is about his debilitating fear of death – specifically the death of his brother. Sindri is the most celebrated supporting character in the story, as he delivers the finishing blow to Odin, as well as a post-credits scene – Brok’s funeral – that serves as the final epilogue for the entire game. Freya is not treated like that, with her eyeliner briefly resurrecting showing her heartbreak is still there, still unresolved and still manifesting as a terrifying expression of Uncontrollable violent emotions in times of high stress.

Freya, in the foreground, looks away from her brother Freyr in the back, who is frustrated by her refusal to continue her role as queen.

Image: SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

In RagnarokAccording to his story, men can learn and grow after being mistreated or angry for no reason – especially towards their children – but women may never recover. Father characters have a chance to take responsibility and be forgiven; although Odin denies this, blaming it until his last breath, Thor and Kratos are both atone for, or at least forgiven for, their past abuses. At the end of Ragnarok, Kratos even saw a prophecy about people in the future who would worship him. Meanwhile, the image of the mother Faye and Freya has died or is haunted forever. (And Thor’s wife, Sif, played only a small role.) As my friend and former colleague Gita Jackson wrote for Kotaku is back God of War (2018), “the characters’ lives change and revolve around their children, and that theme is consistent and coherent throughout the game. I got it. What’s frustrating is why Kratos is gradually emotionally liberated from being a father, while Freya’s motherhood is a dead end of despair and isolation.”

Freya’s inability to wipe her own tears could be a sign of trauma she must overcome, or stubborn strength she must embrace—but her arc is too stunted and unsatisfying. to determine that. She hardly has a better fate than Faye, whose perfect maternal love remains intact after death, or Angrboda, who steals every scene she’s in but still hides the fact that, according to prophecy tri, she wasn’t meant to play a big role in Ragnarok. She captures the relevance though, showing up in the final battle to get some good results, even though her own trauma is never resolved — nor the abuse she suffered. she experienced at the hands of her grandmother, Grýla, who, like Freya, is consumed by grief that manifests as intense anger. That’s the whole point of the plot being introduced and then left behind, as it has nothing to do with Atreus or Kratos’ personal development. In RagnarokMen are given the narrative space to fully process their emotions, while women process them offscreen (like Faye and Angrboda) or are instead dominated by their emotions (like Freya and Grýla). ).

However, the end of Ragnarok shows that this is not the only path for female characters in this world. Despite the prophecy, Angrboda has made a place for himself in a new story — and that’s a lot more interesting, in terms of prophecy-challenging moments, than Kratos surviving the accounts. Credit. The women in these games deserve to navigate and process their past hurts just like Kratos, Atreus, and Sindri did—and to reach the end, they’ve been rejected over and over again this time. to other times so far.


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