Dragon’s Dogma Doesn’t Do Its Female Characters Justice

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Dragon's Dogma, now streaming on Netflix.

Netflix's Dragon's Dogma was always going to focus on Ethan, the Arisen soldier, who despite having his heart ripped out, embarks on a mission the slay the dragon that killed his family. It was a pleasant surprise initially, though, to see the series giving the Pawn, Hannah, more of a personality than her just being a mere helper, as per the video games.

Unfortunately, the series doesn't just waste Hannah -- it also does an immense injustice to the rest of the female characters involved over the first seven episodes.

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Hannah from Dragon's Dogma
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For some reason, Season 1 doesn't treat its women like characters, but more like props that are just meant to enhance Ethan's story and help him fulfill his destiny. Sure, he's the main character but it shouldn't come at the expense of others. The biggest travesty comes with Hannah, who resurrects him and then is reduced to being just a weapon to be deployed in subsequent battles as he journeys to the dragon. The show teases they'll have a deeper, emotive and more personal relationship, especially as he names her, but it stops there. We don't get any insight into her background, what motivates her or how she wrestles with humanity and the mage inside. She's basically a woman of duty, predestined to help male warriors kill dragons, and that just comes off as being more style than substance.

This problem can also be seen with Ethan's wife, Olivia, relegated to being a woman who ran Ethan down to cure his PTSD after his parents' death, and ultimately transforms into a housewife/caregiver that gets fridged when the dragon incinerates their town. We never learn more about her or her aspirations as a mother, and in so doing, it's hard to eke out an emotional connection to someone who's merely a plot device. Then there's Elisabeth, a maiden with a traveling party that constantly tries to seduce Ethan, as she thinks he's a man of lust. When goblins attack her, the anime has them strip her clothes off as if to assault her, almost as "punishment" for this trait. What makes it worse is even after Ethan saves her and finds out her husband, Theo, is part of the party, we discover Elisabeth just wants a man's man as Theo's a coward.

Using her as a mere sex object -- as she keeping trying to get it on with Ethan -- devalues her. Eventually, after another monster attack, a jealous Theo kills her and then himself as he wanted her to be his and his alone for all of time. It's psychotic and toxic, and hearing Elisabeth say with her last breath that seeing him slay goblins was enough to keep her as his beloved truly makes her feel robotic. Apart from the Succubus they encounter later on, there's just no reason for Elisabeth to be written this way.

Unfortunately, this treatment of women doesn't let up because we see them being offered as sacrifices to the Cyclops, as well as raiding the mayor's castle in greed after Ethan saves the town, painting them as characters without real identities beyond base-level desires. One of the mothers showed a little bit of independent thought as she described oppressive behavior in the town, so to see them acting so crazed doesn't really make sense as it's counterintuitive to what the show scripted before.


Even with Lennie, the woman whose village is attacked by the Hydra, there's a big disconnect when she finds her husband, Yang, having sex with other women, but chalks it up to a fungus they're smoking. This drug apparently makes bad men even worse, yet Lennie keeps working the fields to make money and support his deadbeat habits, especially his cheating. It's a stark contrast to the powerful depiction of the mage, Sypha, in Castlevania, that really felt like a progressive warrior who was an equal footing with her partner, Trevor Belmont.

Sadly, here, Dragon's Dogma patterns women as damsels in distress who clamor for men to make them whole; who need men to constantly protect them, or worse yet, who are mindless sexual objects that are fine being subjugated in what feels like a very tunnel-vision version of the male gaze.

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