The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
Recently I've been digging back into Red Dead Redemption, and making an attempt at reminding myself of why it's so celebrated. To be honest, the experience is even more gripping, and awe-inspiring than my initial play through. Bonnie is as awesome as ever, the guns pack a bigger punch than what I remember, and the music is still one of the most beautifully composed works of art this generation. One thing has changed though, and that'd be my perception of the games beloved protagonist, John Marston, as you've probably gathered from the title of this blog.
During my first play through of Red Dead, he was a breath of fresh air when it comes to protagonists. In a medium crowded with silent heroes, and spiky haired teenagers, John Marston was this beacon of hope. Rockstar crafted a sympathetic character that we all could relate to...or that we were all supposed to relate to.
My current journey through the western has left me with a disturbingly different point of view on the titular character, as I don't see him as I used to. Before he was this good guy with a bad history, but now I see him as a good guy, who feels entitled to avoid the punishment for his past actions, that all of his old running mates were forced to face. Before you march on my dwelling with pitch forks, and socks loaded down with bars of soap, let me make my case.
Red Dead puts a lot of focus on the fact that John Marston is trying to get back home to his family, and that he craves a life of peace. He's loyal to his wife, as he puts even Bonnie Mcfarlane (arguably the best character in the game) out of mind as a romantic interest. Even on his quest to hunt down his former brothers of crime, he gives them the opportunity to give themselves up, and come quietly. Realistically, yes, John Marston is a guy with good intentions on the surface.
Why, then, is he hunting down his former buddies? Aside from the obvious answer - the Government is holding his family hostage and he was tasked with bringing his old crew in, so that he could live that life of peace - he has to believe that what he's doing is the right thing, in some way. Throughout the duration of the story, he expresses multiple times the problems that he has with bringing in his old friends, yet he feels they should be killed, or at least brought in.
What about John? If he really feels like those guys are really bad men, then why doesn't he hang up the hat, and extend his wrists for a pair of cuffs? "Because he's changed!", you say? Here's something: those men could wake up one day - just like Marston did - and decide that the life of crime, is no life for them anymore. What happens if they want to settle down? John is being given that chance...or he thinks he is at least. John Marston's argument for his own freedom, is that he's a "changed man" and that he "made mistakes" but he's trying to forget all that noise. I wish John could tell that to the banks he's robbed, and to the family's of the men he's killed.
If John feels that he can get away with all the stuff that he's done, then how could he in good conscience bring those guys in? If he believes that he's entitled to an out, then why aren't they? "He doesn't feel entitled, he feels regret!", you say. If that were true, then he wouldn't be able to justify the quest that's set before him like he does. Yes, the men he's hunting down are still doing evil work, but John was doing that very same evil work mere years ago.
If a man today were to rob a hundred banks, and then retire from it all because he "want's to give that life up", he'd be in jail in a heartbeat once the authorities found him, no matter the age, or level of regret. The fact that John feels he can live the life he's looking for, while all of his old gun buddies suffer for the exact same crimes that he committed, makes John Marston a hypocrite. No one wants to be punished, but if John had realized that he's as guilty of his crimes as anyone else who did them, and gave himself up he might have avoided a few plot developments down the road, if you know what I mean.
Even though I've come to this realization during this play through, I find myself loving the character even more than I did before. Rockstar crafted one of the most flawed, and all around human characters that I've ever seen in a video game - or any other medium of entertainment for that matter - whose personality and actions can easily be debated on. The fact that John Marston is the way he is, stands as a testament to the progression of story telling in a time that's deemed "creatively dry".
Whether or not you agree with me and my point of view, matters not. What does matter is that there is a character on that level of complexity that we can debate upon from a philosophical standpoint. Some people say that this generation lacks creativity, but I say that we're just getting warmed up. Here's to you and your hypocrisy, John Marston.