Truth, Propoganda, and the Power of People in Beyond Good and Evil

*Spoiler Warnings*

Throughout Beyond Good and Evil we are treated the cycling propaganda messages, news reports for either the Alpha Sections or the Iris Network. Each group purports the others to be the villains not working for the interest of the people of Hillys. Being that it must be one or the other the goal of the game is to search for the truth. Early on you are approached by the Iris Network to investigate the Alpha Sections and the imagery from their propaganda is much more denoting of villains. While there are two conflicting groups the game is directing you towards a single answer and the revelation of what it is.

The main goal and objectives of the game are centered on investigating and taking photographic evidence to reveal the truth. So while the question of ‘what is the truth’ and ‘what is going on’ are prevalent it is obvious to the player. The saw tooth face of the Alpha Sections commander and the incessant domineering control they seem to have over the planet leads the player to see them as an opposing force to a decent life for Jade and her family. In a meta sense we have the idea of the player conditioned to play as the lone hero. Given the circumstances of the story this role takes the form of an investigative photojournalist.

 

Though the argument can be made for that this one sided view could be Ancel’s commentary on the nature of viewpoint and subjective truth as it pertains to world view, but I feel that this is not corroborated by several facts of the game. You take control of Jade for the entire game and her entourage are solely made up of members of the Iris Network, including her uncle Pey’j. You could say this naturally colors her view point sociologically, or the fact that she is an entity that the Domz are after and that obviously opposes them that that could color her perception of the relative positions of right and wrong. I find that inconclusive and a little beyond the scope of what the game is presenting.

Beyond Good and Evil takes a simple art style and direction meant to enhance certain tonal qualities of the game. The areas result from a basic color pallet and the characters are set in certain representational color schemes meant to denote symbolic representation and association. Much like the color schemes of superheroes, to simplify the perception and make them instantly recognizable. From this point of view Jade has more in common with the Domz than she does the other members of the Iris Network of Pey’j. She is represented by green, yellow and white like the Domz, while many of the Iris Network have the colors yellow, blue and brown the same as Pey’j. Given the later revelation that she has a deep connection with the Domz, which isn’t completely explained, but seems to be symbiotic in nature, would denote any natural viewpoint from her to be naturally attributed subjectively to the Domz. Instead she works to uncover their plot and reveal the truth the Hillys population.

Furthermore, speaking of character viewpoint it makes sense to examine player viewpoint, which is decidedly in third person. The only time we actually look through Jade’s eyes is in fact when she is looking through the objective lens of her camera. At all other times we view the world from a rotating third person angle. Jade’s camera is the key to objectivity in Beyond Good and Evil. It can capture the moment as it was, not as we think it was. It is the item that captures the evidence and is your primary tool throughout the game. Being a tool of objectivity makes objectivity a primary goal of the plot.

 

A major theme of the game is objective truth, not subjective truth. The title Beyond Good and Evil when explored means it is representative of something not to be considered within the realm of the two terms themselves. Good and evil are opposites on a spectrum and the title is asking to look beyond them. Good and evil, however, are subjective terms, they have meanings, but what values that they constitute are not set in stone. In asking to look beyond subjective terms we are not asked to make a declaration or take one side or the other, but to look at what is there regardless what it is.

The animals you are asked to photograph are not good or evil. Your actions in taking their pictures may be beneficial, but it is an example of seeing what is there. There is no judgment only what is there. Another part of the world that exemplifies the objective truth of the world is the volcano. Near the beginning of the game you are told a rumor about a cache of pearls at the top of the volcano. This area is only reachable at the end. It starts only as a rumor, an unsubstantiated claim. Jade goes there, however, and turns it from a subjective belief into an objective reality. There is a cavern and there is a cache of pearls to be found. That is all well and good, but I think the two opposing groups represent the real meaning behind the title of the game best. The Alpha Sections and the Iris Network both have their own propaganda reels delivered to the people of Hillys. As is obvious to the player for one reason and another, the Alpha Sections are the evil and the Iris Network is supposed to represent the good. From both groups, however, comes some pretty hard to digest propaganda that is really in you face and difficult to take seriously. The Iris Network issues really make one cringe, because you know they are right, but their delivery makes them sound like insane conspiracy theorists. It’s only at the end in a final plea to the Hillys people themselves does everything change. No one is screaming or pointing fingers. There is no more fear mongering from either side; it comes down to a heartfelt plea and listing of the facts to the people. In a way this is Jade and company’s last stand.

 

Here it transcends the good and evil squabbles of the two groups and both groups’ attempts to win the hearts and minds of the people. Instead we have a few investigators telling the truth and showing the evidence of what has been happening. They have moved beyond both the Alpha Sections and the Iris Network in this move. It is by far the most important report made. The others may have gotten gradual support, but this is the one that caused the people to wake up and rise up in their own defense.

It is rather a hopeful message that the power of the people is all that it takes to drive off evil. What Ancel believes in here, is when presented with the truth and being a dangerous and horrendous truth, the people will do something about it. Whatever reasons a person may have for acting, be it self interest, survival, revenge, justice or any number of other motives the people will rise to right a wrong. It may seem not like much, but as I’ve said before it takes the power of the people to start things off. With their approval the governor can send the Hillys forces to defend their world.

Truth is a difficult thing to nail down and differing voices make it hard to see everything objectively. We have to fight for it against all odds for it is the right thing to do and truth like it did quite literally to the people of Hillys, will set you free.

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