It’s been almost 16 years since Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance was released. Why raise this topic now? Soren used to be my favorite character, not only from this game, but out of any video game franchise. I absolutely adored his cynicism and his blunt way of speaking. Oftentimes, he was the only character who would bring up points that made the most sense. Characters that are overly optimistic “do-gooders” bother the hell out of me, so Soren was a breath of fresh air. Not to mention, if you train him up a bit, he becomes a pretty badass sage.
It’s true that he has some deep-rooted racism towards the Laguz (of which he refers to as “sub-humans”), but I first wrote this off as “every character has flaws,” followed by “it makes sense because of his history.” I’ve also seen this stance repeated across fan forums for the game. After replaying Path of Radiance recently, I am here to tell you that Soren’s history explains but does not justify his racist behavior.
For some context (or as a reminder), Soren was born as “Branded,” which is the name given to those who were conceived between a Beorc (human, though the term “human” is offensive in this game) and a Laguz. But since a union between Beorc and Laguz is “forbidden by the goddess,” Soren’s mother lost her ability to transform into a dragon, and thus entirely lost the interest of her partner, Soren’s father. Soren’s father kept Soren until he could lure another dragon onto his side, and then abandoned Soren for dead once his use was fulfilled.
Things did not improve for Soren when he survived and was reluctantly taken in by a woman who didn’t really want him. He remembers her saying “why me?” and “stay away from me, child!” Eventually, he was purchased from this woman by a sage, which is how he ended up learning magic. When the sage died, Soren was on his own. He traveled around and was constantly bullied and ostracized by the Beorc, because they could tell he was Branded, due to the mark on his forehead that appears on any child born from a Laguz and Beorc pairing.
This most certainly explains the bitterness that Soren carries with him. Considering he almost certainly suffers from PTSD after these life experiences, it’s to be expected that not directly dealing with his issues would then manifest in his behaviors. Throughout Path of Radiance, Soren is quoted calling the Laguz “filthy sub-humans,” and does not shy away from showing that he thinks of them as “lesser” beings. The game makes it clear that it does not condone racism, given that its main theme is uniting all people and overcoming differences, and no one in the game responds to Soren’s behavior in a positive manner. But when Soren eventually opens up and explains why he holds the views that he does in the A level support conversation with Ike, he is met only with compassion and pity for his previous life, and nothing is said then or in a future conversation about how these experiences are not indicative of all Laguz and do not justify Soren’s behavior.
The problem is that there is a difference between someone’s behaviors being explained versus being justified. Though it’s clear where Soren’s bitter feelings originate from, this is not a justification for him to project these feelings onto other Laguz who weren’t involved with his past trauma. I realized that the first few times I played through the game when I was younger, I wrote off Soren’s behavior as excusable. You can find many fans mirroring the same rhetoric across fan forums, and this is likely because there were parts of Soren’s personality that were appealing. They didn’t want his character as a whole to be tarnished by a single flaw, but overlooking and excusing this is simply justifying Soren’s racist behavior.
We see this reflected in real-life occurrences as well, where people provide explanations or excuses as justification for terrible behavior and views, because they don’t want to see their favorite game developer in a bad light, or they don’t want to believe a celebrity they’ve looked up to could be a bad person at the end of the day.
This type of mindset needs to be abolished, as it indirectly promotes racism or other harmful views. There are obviously much larger-scale examples than a random character in a video game, but to start changing mindsets, we need to start analyzing these issues on a smaller scale like this. Soren eventually begins to grow out of this ingrained racism, but that doesn’t change the fact that so many people, including me, accepted him before that happened.
If we were to say that people are justified to be sexist, racist, or homophobic based on their upbringing—whether that includes indoctrination or past traumas—everyone’s behavior would be justified—for everything. Not only do a few negative experiences with a limited number of members from a much larger group of people not exemplify the entirety of those people, but we also all need to be held accountable for our views and our actions independently from our upbringing. In order to make this a reality in the world outside of sitting down for brief philosophical discussions, this must be applied to games, movies, TV, and other media. This is how we will ultimately start implementing a necessary, massive mindset shift.
Next: 10 Best Thieves In Fire Emblem History
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Stephanie is an Editor at TheGamer, solidly aligned chaotic neutral. Though her favorite game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, she vows to do everything in her power to one day see a Legend of Dragoon remake. Absolutely nothing can top her immense love for The Lord of the Rings.
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