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View Full Version : Evie's Final Speech Shows How Assassin's Creed's Writers are Ignorant of History.



Pr0metheus 1962
11-03-2015, 02:30 PM
In the early AC games, the writers showed a laudable knowledge of the historical settings. But with every new game, it seems the writers get lazier and lazier and more and more ignorant, to the point where the games now seem to be based purely on commonly held ignorant modern notions of past eras rather than on careful research.

Evie's final request to Queen Victoria (in the final Victoria side quest) is a great example: it shows that AC's writers understand neither the Victorian mindset, nor the state of the world in 1868, nor the British system of government.

No Briton at that time viewed the Empire as a bad thing - it was universally considered a force for good, and for its time, in many ways it was, bringing liberal ideas, culture and advanced technology to areas of the world that were beset by tyranny, religious fanaticism, poverty and ignorance (q.v. suttee, thuggee, the African slave trade, etc., etc., etc.). Certainly, the British Empire had some serious problems, but the solutions to those problems were by no means obvious to the people of the time, and moving away from Empire (as Evie urges) was by no means a reasonable solution, or even a realistic option, at that time.

More damning is the fact that Evie seems to think the Queen has the power to stop expanding the Empire. The writers seem to think Britain in 1868 was an absolute monarchy - something that Britain (and earlier England) hadn't seen in over 650 years! This represents a stunning level of ignorance. Evie would certainly know that Britain was a parliamentary democracy with the monarch as merely a titular head of state, so Queen Victoria had very little say over the expansion of her empire: The British Empire was run by parliament, not by the Queen.

Evie's request is that of a person who is wholly ignorant of the realities of the time period, but who somehow seems to know of, and advocate for, ideas based in 21st Century style liberalism and universal suffrage - things that simply did not exist in 1868 (not even in New Zealand, which became the first nation to make suffrage universal in 1893). As such, Evie's request is both laughably anachronistic and ignorant.

Many players may not care: it is, after all, just a game. However, the developers used to have loftier ideals, and I think it's really a shame that a series that used to present a nuanced and intelligent view of history has become so dumbed down in this respect. Certainly, Syndicate is not the worst offender (that dubious honor probably goes to Unity, or maybe AC3), but we're a long way from the attention to historical detail and accuracy we got in AC1 and 2.

cawatrooper9
11-03-2015, 03:13 PM
No Briton at that time viewed the Empire as a bad thing - it was universally considered a force for good, and for its time, in many ways it was, bringing liberal ideas, culture and advanced technology to areas of the world that were beset by tyranny, religious fanaticism, poverty and ignorance (q.v. suttee, thuggee, the African slave trade, etc., etc., etc.). Certainly, the British Empire had some serious problems, but the solutions to those problems were by no means obvious to the people of the time, and moving away from Empire (as Evie urges) was by no means a reasonable solution, or even a realistic option, at that time.



I haven't gotten to this part yet, so this may be presumptuous of me, but you have to remember that Evie is an Assassin. She's be far less enthralled by notions of patriotism, as her loyalties lie first with the Brotherhood- and, given her connection to Henry, I'd imagine that she's at least heard of some of the less savory effects of British colonialism.


As for the Queen's power here... well, you make a good point. However, perhaps Evie is merely trying to score a powerful friend in the fight against Imperialism rather than make the finishing moves (again, I can't say for certain since I haven't gotten there yet).

RaggedTyper
11-03-2015, 03:22 PM
I haven't gotten to this part yet, so this may be presumptuous of me, but you have to remember that Evie is an Assassin. She's be far less enthralled by notions of patriotism, as her loyalties lie first with the Brotherhood- and, given her connection to Henry, I'd imagine that she's at least heard of some of the less savory effects of British colonialism.


As for the Queen's power here... well, you make a good point. However, perhaps Evie is merely trying to score a powerful friend in the fight against Imperialism rather than make the finishing moves (again, I can't say for certain since I haven't gotten there yet).

This. All of this.

Pr0metheus 1962
11-03-2015, 03:39 PM
Evie isn't arguing against patriotism - she's asking a person who has no control over the expansion of empire to stop it. It's like asking today's US president to force congress to give independence to Hawaii, Texas and Alaska. It's just not possible - the president does not have that power, nor would independence necessarily help those states, or be desired by the people living there.

The English Civil War ended all thoughts of absolute monarchy in England. That was over 200 years before 1868. If Queen Victoria had even suggested that she might exert the sort of power that Evie seems to be requesting, her already limited powers would have undoubtedly been even further reduced by parliament.

As for Evie getting a powerful friend in the fight against imperialism, again, the friend is nowhere near that powerful and British imperialism at that time was about the single most forward-thinking political institution there was in existence. Remember, we're talking of the British Empire of 1868, not that of 1947. To fight against the British imperialism of 1868 was to fight against something that could not possibly be viewed as a bad thing - all the other viable or foreseeable options were worse. Even the USA, which we now consider to have a more modern liberal and democratic system of government, was heavily invested in a genocidal imperial expansion at that time (and American Indians were fleeing north to Canada, in the hopes of coming under the protection of the British Empire, which they regarded as at the very least, their best option to stay alive). So what would Evie have suggested as a replacement for the Empire? There was nothing better at the time.

As for Henry, as an Indian, he would certainly know of the very serious problems that India had before the Raj, and while he might be conflicted about the Empire, he would surely not want to see a return to the hugely more harmful despotism and religious and social terrors (suttee, thuggee) of the systems the Empire supplanted.

Now admittedly, Henry would have known that the old Sikh Empire of Ranjit Singh was probably better for Indians than the British Empire, so as an intelligent man of liberal ideals, he may have wanted an independent Punjab with Ranjit's son Duleep as ruler, but the Punjab was not all of India, the Sikh Empire was (before it was supplanted by British rule) beset by internal strife and political mismanagement, and the relative liberalism of Sikh secularism was not something that other regions espoused. So yes, certain areas might have been better outside of British rule, but the vast majority of people had more freedom under the British Empire than they could have hoped for outside of it.

Again, we're looking at the issue from the standpoint of the 21st Century, but the people involved could not possibly do that.

VestigialLlama4
11-03-2015, 08:16 PM
Evie's final request to Queen Victoria (in the final Victoria side quest) is a great example...

I personally thought it was generally quite silly and audacious. I liked that sequence because it showed Queen Victoria as slightly villainous (and I generally get behind any depiction that does that). Hence my fondness for Alan Moore's From Hell.


No Briton at that time viewed the Empire as a bad thing...

No some people did. Charles Bradlaugh was one as was Annie Besant. It's not for nothing that the young Gandhi attended Bradlaugh's funeral in England.


More damning is the fact that Evie seems to think the Queen has the power to stop expanding the Empire...The British Empire was run by parliament, not by the Queen.

That is true but Queen Victoria played a major role in the advancement of the Empire, she and Disraeli entered into a partnership that made royalty the imprimatur of her rule over the colonies. She was the Empress of India and she was by no means reluctant at all. The game does show the might and power of Parliament repeatedly and in the final scene you have Disraeli standing behind her so it's obviously their joint show.

In any case, Syndicate doesn't deal with the Empire a great deal, that final scene was the only moment where they addressed it, and it's mainly there for a--covering. Because within the game, the Assassins support Disraeli and Victoria, nonsensically and they needed to put across something that showed, "The Assassins aren't imperialists".


Evie's request is that of a person who is wholly ignorant of the realities of the time period, but who somehow seems to know of, and advocate for, ideas based in 21st Century style liberalism and universal suffrage....

That's what the Assassins are there for. They advocate ideas and feelings anachronistic to their time. In the Crusades, Altair preaches secular humanism to Richard the Lionheart, in AC2, Ezio preaches Existentialism to people who are barely resisting the Catholic Church, in AC3, Connor invents the American Dream. As for 21st Century style liberalism...the fact is that the British Empire always did have critics. When the Mutiny broke out in India, one journalist in London supported them, even when news of their atrocities started spreading. His name was Karl Marx.

The fact of the matter is that there's no way the Assassins can support the British Empire on any level, it makes about as much sense as...as supporting the Royalists in UNITY come to think of it. This was the age of the Irish Potato Famine, the Opium Wars (where the British Empire became the world's biggest drug cartel), the scramble of Africa and general exploitation, the "Drain of India".

This is basically the general problem with a Victorian London setting. Logically and historically, if the Assassins support outsiders and oppressed, they would lose and lose badly in this time period, but they wanted to give the Assassins a "win" even if it made zero sense. So they have their "cake" and eat it too.

BananaBlighter
11-03-2015, 08:39 PM
I personally thought it was generally quite silly and audacious. I liked that sequence because it showed Queen Victoria as slightly villainous (and I generally get behind any depiction that does that). Hence my fondness for Alan Moore's From Hell.



No some people did. Charles Bradlaugh was one as was Annie Besant. It's not for nothing that the young Gandhi attended Bradlaugh's funeral in England.



That is true but Queen Victoria played a major role in the advancement of the Empire, she and Disraeli entered into a partnership that made royalty the imprimatur of her rule over the colonies. She was the Empress of India and she was by no means reluctant at all. The game does show the might and power of Parliament repeatedly and in the final scene you have Disraeli standing behind her so it's obviously their joint show.

In any case, Syndicate doesn't deal with the Empire a great deal, that final scene was the only moment where they addressed it, and it's mainly there for a--covering. Because within the game, the Assassins support Disraeli and Victoria, nonsensically and they needed to put across something that showed, "The Assassins aren't imperialists".



That's what the Assassins are there for. They advocate ideas and feelings anachronistic to their time. In the Crusades, Altair preaches secular humanism to Richard the Lionheart, in AC2, Ezio preaches Existentialism to people who are barely resisting the Catholic Church, in AC3, Connor invents the American Dream. As for 21st Century style liberalism...the fact is that the British Empire always did have critics. When the Mutiny broke out in India, one journalist in London supported them, even when news of their atrocities started spreading. His name was Karl Marx.

The fact of the matter is that there's no way the Assassins can support the British Empire on any level, it makes about as much sense as...as supporting the Royalists in UNITY come to think of it. This was the age of the Irish Potato Famine, the Opium Wars (where the British Empire became the world's biggest drug cartel), the scramble of Africa and general exploitation, the "Drain of India".

This is basically the general problem with a Victorian London setting. Logically and historically, if the Assassins support outsiders and oppressed, they would lose and lose badly in this time period, but they wanted to give the Assassins a "win" even if it made zero sense. So they have their "cake" and eat it too.

Exactly my thoughts.

VestigialLlama4
11-03-2015, 08:40 PM
Evie isn't arguing against patriotism - she's asking a person who has no control over the expansion of empire to stop it. It's like asking today's US president to force congress to give independence to Hawaii, Texas and Alaska. It's just not possible - the president does not have that power, nor would independence necessarily help those states, or be desired by the people living there.

Again I agree, but it's a joke. She's kind of asking the Queen in a school-girl manner to "be a dear and let the people go, won't you?", she's not being serious. And you can argue that if Queen Victoria said she didn't want to rule people anymore, it might have made an effect assuming of course that she did want to (which obviously she did not). Obviously if Victoria did say stuff like that Parliament will get another monarch to take place since they want to get rid of the Empire as much as they want to become a Republic.


If Queen Victoria had even suggested that she might exert the sort of power that Evie seems to be requesting, her already limited powers would have undoubtedly been even further reduced by parliament.

So the Queen is either an imperialist by default (i.e. she believes in the Empire, which she absolutely did in real-life) or she's a coward (afraid to do anything lest Parliament takes her privileges away). In real-life Victoria accepted the Empress of India title and other favors from Disraeli because it extended the privileges and pomp of the Crown.


Remember, we're talking of the British Empire of 1868, not that of 1947.

Well remember when Ezio palled around with the Ottoman Empire in 1512 when it was a pretty forward thinking place to be. It didn't fly that well with many people when Revelations came out because the Ottoman Empire are generally seen as bad guys (mostly because they're Muslims and the Ottomans didn't pay enough on propaganda as the English undoubtedly did). The reason is that Assassins if they exist in these games as these kind of historical agents or superheroes, should be siding with the oppressed and not with the Empires. In Revelations, they did some late-act cover-the-a-- move where the new Sultan kicks Ezio out of Turkey and gives an Evil Laugh. They do the exact same thing here with Queen Victoria, showing that in the end as chummy as they were in the main game, the Assassins don't actually suppor the British Empire.


Again, we're looking at the issue from the standpoint of the 21st Century, but the people involved could not possibly do that.

The point is the Assassin's Creed games never gave a free-pass of "that was a different time" to anyone before on any issue (except for Unity). In AC3, they went after George Washington and the founding fathers, in Black Flag, they said that the Pirates were the true good guys in that era of New World colonialism built on slavery. In Revelations, as romanticized as the Ottoman Empire was (and fittingly since that era and culture is often overly demonized), they did point out how dangerous the Janissaries was and how Turkey is expanding and trampling on other minorities (recruited by the Templars) by conquest. Queen Victoria and the Empire gets the same treatment, from a 21st Century viewpoint, coming after decolonization and the two world wars, that imperialism is just plainly unacceptable.

The only reason it tends to be accepted and defended to this day is propaganda and you know maybe people would start talking about the good things the English did less ambiguously once defenders agree that it was in the final analysis a bad thing. I mean Communism has some defenders for some of the good things it did do in the 20th Century (supporting Nelson Mandela, black neighborhoods in America during the 30s) but everyone agrees that it's generally a bad thing.

Pr0metheus 1962
11-03-2015, 08:50 PM
Sure, there were a few critics of what the Empire was doing, but they were a tiny minority, and I'm sure many of them wanted to reform it rather than tear it down. And Bradlaugh began more as a secularist than a political reformer, while Besant wasn't active at all in 1868. Ideas critical of empire were barely forming in the 1860s. At the time the game is set, there was so little criticism of the Empire that it may as well have been nonexistent.

I just wish, when the Assassins advocate ideas and feelings anachronistic to their time, they would do it in ways that could be seen as reasonable to the people they're speaking to. Evie comes off as a complete raving lunatic. As for Victoria's partnership with Disraeli, certainly they had empire as a goal, but she could hardly have said "Okay Dizzy, on the advice of this Assassin woman, I've decided to dismantle the Empire, so let's begin." Disraeli would have had her safely locked away at Balmoral for the rest of her reign, because it would be a clear indication that she had gone completely insane.

It would be like Queen Elizabeth II demanding that today's Commonwealth of Nations be dismantled. It's about the most insane thing that the Queen could do, other than start frothing at the mouth and walking around Buckingham Palace wearing only a tea cosy on her head.

I have no problem with Evie planting a seed of doubt in Victoria's mind, for example by merely suggesting that maybe the Empire might not be the altogether good thing people assumed it to be, and perhaps by expressing the hope that Victoria would work to make it not only a great empire, but also one that worked for the greatest good of all its people. However, in urging her not to expand what the Queen must have seen as a beneficial institution - I dunno - it just seems ridiculous to me.

Yet Evie seems to see it as a perfectly reasonable request - and I think it's clear why - because the writer of Syndicate is an American who probably has no historical schooling whatsoever and who probably actually thinks the British are governed by an absolute monarchy to this day.

And Evie had a much closer avenue to get reforms passed - she could have talked with Disraeli or his wife in person. Why go to the Queen when she effectively has access (through Jacob's friendship with Mrs. Disraeli) to the guy who's really in charge?

Again, the answer is clear, at least to me: the writer of the game's script has no idea how the British government works.

VestigialLlama4
11-03-2015, 09:13 PM
I just wish, when the Assassins advocate ideas and feelings anachronistic to their time, they would do it in ways that could be seen as reasonable.

Well, that would take away from the charm of it. Is Altair and Richard the Lionheart debating inter-faith dialogue after the Siege of Arsuf reasonable? After killing Savonarola and letting his body burn anyway, Ezio decides to preach to the Angry Mob that courageously turned against a corrupt leader...yeah sure. Ezio is saying you don't need the Medici...even if they gave us the Renaissance, and whose patronage built my family fortune and who gave me this "License to Kill" cape...sure "Truth to Power" baby. It's like "Life of Brian", the whole what did the Romans do for us...(which is actually kind of false since the Judeans built a pretty good civilization before the Romans).

Likewise, George Washington is expected to feel guilty about sacking a Native village when they rise up in arms against the colonies and he's leading a revolution that would lead to certain death for him should they lose? And for that matter he's expected to take blame for burning Connor's village when he was young, when he was technically retired at the time and Haytham provides zero evidence aside from his word that Charles Lee didn't do it. Okay, game do this over-the-top cover-your-a__ thing that explains that even if the Hero supports the American Revolution, he really doesn't support the American Revolution. The same way, even if Ezio supports the Ottoman Empire, he doesn't really support the Ottoman Empire, even if Arno supports Royalists and Napoleon, he doesn't support Royalists and Napoleon and in Syndicate, they support Victoria and Empire but don't support Victoria and the Empire.

Politically and logically, the Assassins should probably ally with the Borgia against the Medici (the Borgia were more socially progressive than other feudal families of this time), Connor should probably support the Loyalists or the Iroquois or at least be friends with Charles Lee and maybe Aaron Burr. And most definitely, they should have supported the Jacobins during the French Revolution, but the reasons they don't is from a pop culture perspective, the Borgia, the Jacobins and Charles Lee are bad guys while Richard the Lionheart, and Washington are "good guys". Occassionally the Assassins dip their toes into revisioning (showing the Ottomans, the Asasiyun and Pirates as good guys), but they never go the full distance because they are afraid of being truly controversial. Syndicate, showing Victoria as slightly cold and proudly imperialist (which recent portrayals don't deal, they show her as this nice grandmother figure), is as far as it goes.


And sure, there were a few critics of what the Empire was doing, but they were a tiny minority,

The Assassins are the voice of the minority aren't they? The point of the games is that stuff we take as normal and universal today are fairly recent. For most of human history, evils like sexism, anti-semitism, bigotry and the like was normal and common. The people saying these are bad things at a time when it was rampant were seen as cranks and were minority figures.


At the time the game is set, there was so little criticism of the Empire that it may as well have been nonexistent.

There was hardly any drastic shift between 1868 and the 1870s-80s in Empire policy. Syndicate borrows ideas from different decades of the Victorian era anyway. You have a putative class war in a time when those tensions had dropped down considerably, you have child labour form the early 1800s transplanted to 1868 when it was far better regulated and improved. The game doesn't deal with imperialism when that was a big debate at that time, you also had Fenians as well and Ireland.

BananaBlighter
11-03-2015, 09:13 PM
In that scene it is intended that Evie seems to be going a bit too far. Just look at the way Jacob reacts!

VestigialLlama4
11-03-2015, 09:24 PM
In that scene it is intended that Evie seems to be going a bit too far. Just look at the way Jacob reacts!

Well yeah. Evie is young, naive and well-intentioned. For all that she chides Jacob for being reckless she thinks with her heart on her sleeve with total sincerity. Jacob's reaction is extreme because in the Victorian Era, what Evie said is as good as "punching the pope in the face", you don't talk smack to the Queen and certainly not to her face. Even the Sex Pistols ran into trouble when they called the Queen "the fascist regime".

That's why I thought it was audacious. The only other time you had an artist go after Queen Victoria is Alan Moore in FROM HELL, where he has Queen Victoria ordering the Jack the Ripper murders...historically dubious (absolutely), audacious and liberating (most certainly). Within England they have a complicated relationship with royalty since the aristocrats and later the middle classes have moved heaven and earth to keep the lower classes from taking power and England has been fairly successful in that regard.

Farlander1991
11-03-2015, 09:33 PM
Honestly, I think this thread overcomplicates the little dialogue that took place. There's no critique of the Empire, there's no mention or implication that Queen Victoria alone can change everything, there's no 'listen, you gotta dissolve the Empire', or ignoring that Empire is ran not just by the queen (it's not like the Assassins don't know that, they've dealt with Parlament themselves). I mean, yeah, you can find it there because the context allows it, but then again, if it would be about any of those topics, the conversation would be actually structured and written differently. This is what happened in the conversation, essentially:

Queen: You guys are awesome, let's continue working together and make the Empire bigger and mightier.
Assassins: Miss, we work for the good of the people and not the empire, so unless you (as in personally) change your views and shift your focus, we're kinda done with our association together.

And yes, Assassin viewpoint is anachronistic, but it's always been that way. But still, this last conversation is about three people who worked together and then parted ways because of their differing views and goals rather than about urging to restructure the whole society.

Pr0metheus 1962
11-03-2015, 09:35 PM
In that scene it is intended that Evie seems to be going a bit too far. Just look at the way Jacob reacts!

And it's the only thing that partially saves the scene. But it's not convincing because Jacob, until that point, has shown himself to be almost a complete boob. Coming from him, it's not likely to be taken seriously.

And yeah, to us Evie seems to be going a "bit" too far. But I think in 1868, what she's suggesting would be considered tantamount to sedition.

BananaBlighter
11-03-2015, 09:36 PM
It was just a little comment to add to the humourous tone of Syndicate and nothing else. Evie was certainly being a bit too hopeful.

VestigialLlama4
11-03-2015, 09:38 PM
And it's the only thing that partially saves the scene. But it's not convincing because Jacob, until that point, has shown himself to be almost a complete boob. Coming from him, it's not likely to be taken seriously.

And yeah, to us Evie seems to be going a "bit" too far. But I think in 1868, what she's suggesting would be considered tantamount to sedition.

And that's why people like her. She's like that naive girl who wrote to the USSR Premier to abandon nuclear weapons, which the USSR Premier actually responded back as well.


Honestly, I think this thread overcomplicates the little dialogue that took place. There's no critique of the Empire, there's no mention or implication that Queen Victoria alone can change everything, there's no 'listen, you gotta dissolve the Empire', or ignoring that Empire is ran not just by the queen (it's not like the Assassins don't know that, they've dealt with Parlament themselves). I mean, yeah, you can find it there because the context allows it, but then again, if it would be about any of those topics, the conversation would be actually structured and written differently. This is what happened in the conversation, essentially:

Queen: You guys are awesome, let's continue working together and make the Empire bigger and mightier.
Assassins: Miss, we work for the good of the people and not the empire, so unless you (as in personally) change your views and shift your focus, we're kinda done with our association together.

And yes, Assassin viewpoint is anachronistic, but it's always been that way. But still, this last conversation is about three people who worked together and then parted ways because of their differing views and goals rather than about urging to restructure the whole society.

Exactly.

cawatrooper9
11-03-2015, 09:50 PM
I mean, if everyone behaved predictably all the time, that wouldn't be fun. That would basically just be AC Unity...