Red Dead Redemption 2
Women Of Red Dead Redemption Made It What It Is Today
GTA, which is played entirely through the lens of satire, Red Dead’s treatment of its characters is uncharacteristically sincere. While it’s still very much a story of men – and John Marston in particular – Red Dead’s women are imbued with an underappreciated – and unexpected – spark, wit, and humanity.
It’s worth revisiting the vital roles women played in Red Dead Redemption, as their considered treatment made the game all the stronger. “You’re worth two of any men I know,” John Marston told Bonnie Macfarlane. In the context of Red Dead’s fiction, he was right.
Luisa Fortuna is full of grand ideals. Described as a “good woman and a teacher,” Luisa is in reality a passionate rebel during the birth of the Mexican Revolution. During John’s first interactions with Luisa she states she is living in history, and she’s not afraid to die.
Luisa talks in a harried manner, as if time is always running out, and for her, it is. The first missions in Red Dead Redemption under her rule are to protect her family from an increasingly predatory army; later she asks you to join her in blowing up a convoy, ‘viva la revolution!’ She’s good with a rifle and she’s unafraid to kill with it; she sees a better future just out of reach.
But Luisa’s idealism is also her downfall. Her blind spot is her faith in others, particularly the leader of the local rebellion, a knockabout womanizer named Abraham. For the most part Rockstar played Abraham’s forgetfulness of Luisa’s name (he calls her Laura) as comedic, but it’s ultimately tragic; when Luisa is killed rushing to save Abraham from execution, he still cannot remember her name. Her bullet-ridden body lies forgotten as Abraham swaggers away, announcing that perhaps he will dedicate a national holiday to ‘Laura’.
Bonnie is perhaps the conclusive ‘Rockstar Games’ woman, by virtue of having the largest starring role of her gender in a game to date. Bonnie is immediately endearing, possessing a blunt – and for John, possibly disarming – wit, and strong self-awareness, something of a curiosity in a Rockstar character.
It’s this quality that keeps Marston from floating too high into caricature. When he uses flowery language, she calls him up on it, She teases out John’s tropes, riffs on the idea of him as an archetypal outlaw, the gruff do-gooder out for revenge due to a misplaced sense of honor.
Bonnie sees her world for what it is. There’s no legend trailing behind her and she has no grand ambitions to speak of. In a period of great unrest, where railway lines snake through the dusty landscape and phone networks are crawling in from the east, she remains stoic, headstrong, and fiercely practical; a woman of the west, but no longer chasing its wild past like so many of her counterparts.
John’s unwavering faithfulness to his wife, never seen but often talked about, I imagined her as a sort of tired ethereal goddess; a ‘prize’ intended to be savored in Red Dead Redemption’s final moments.
Yet when John finally finds her again, instead of the warm hug, the choked whispers of “I love you,” Abigail storms out, fists clenched, her first sentence “you no good hillbilly piece of sh*t!”
Abigail is rough around the edges. She was a prostitute, she rode with Dutch’s gang. She had a kid with John and raised him, mostly, by herself. She can’t read, but she’s fiercely smart: she knows that “the life we led, that doesn’t go away. It’s never over.” She tries hard in the face of bad odds as all Red Dead Redemption’s women do.
It would be all too easy to pepper Red Dead Redemption 2 with a male-only central cast, as Rockstar’s brand name carries with it a seal of quality, no matter the story it’s telling. But six years ago Rockstar steeled up, and tried something quite remarkable in addition to its on-point cultural commentary on masculinity. I hope the studio continues the tradition of rough, tough women in its rough, tough series.