Royce’s America: The Camerata, Trump/Pence, and “Great Again”
Spoiler Alert: This article contains heavy discussion of the plot and characters of Supergiant Games’ Transistor.
I should state now, as a white person who can pass very easily (despite wishing I didn’t) as a straight woman, I have a lot of privilege. I had a lot of privilege before the election and I still have a lot of it now. So long as I keep my mouth shut about the queer stuff, maybe change what I wear to conform to standards of “female” clothing, maybe grow my hair out? Stop trying to lower my voice? Give up binding? Closet myself?
I can hide.
I sure as hell don’t want to. For my sake and others, I have to use my privilege to protect those who can’t hide.
Despite this, I was one of many who woke up the morning of November 9th feeling fear and dread. Who contemplated taking the rainbow flag down from my front porch and flinched as every loud group of people or pickup truck with a confederate flag in the window went by. I was one of many who spent the day in a haze of anxiety. Despite seeing all the signs and knowing the harsh reality of it all, I hadn’t mentally prepared for it.
I was afraid for myself, sure. But more afraid for those I love and care about.
As I sat in my car, willing myself to go to work where I should be (relatively) safe, Old Friends from the Transistor original soundtrack popped on the stereo. I tried to take comfort in the song, in the theme, in the idea of resistance, as words floated into my head. The first line of the game, said (when you start) by the Transistor. But, for me, at that moment, it was said by Royce Bracket.
“Hey Red, we are not gonna get away with this are we?”
Cloudbank exists in what seems to be an ideal democracy. Everyone gets a vote and popular vote wins. Votes are cast for every major decision of the city, from the architecture and the entertainment to the weather and the color of the sky.
“The sky is blue because we want it to be.”
For this reason, Cloudbank is always changing, always re-arranging at the whim of the people. The official government is a group of people who take in the petitions, put them up for a vote, tally the votes, and change things accordingly.
The Camerata, effectively, is the secret organization wishing people didn’t want to change so damn much. Wouldn’t it be nice for something to be stable for once? While they all had different motivations–Royce wanted stability and predictability; Grant wanted ‘What’s best’; Sybil wanted to meet people; and Asher wanted things to make sense in history– they all seemed to agree on one thing:
“When everything changes, nothing changes.”
The more I thought about it, and the more I discussed it with my partner, the more I decided that Royce doesn’t remind me too much of the president-elect or his hellish vice president.
That being said, the The Camerata, Royce’s organization, does remind me of all that. Grant Kendrell, the de facto leader, most of all.
Royce more reminds me of all the folks who have been saying “I voted for him but I didn’t agree with his racist/sexist/xenophobic etc talk” or “I voted for him to protect you” (wait what?) or “I voted for him because I hated Hillary/wanted to protest vote/prove the system was broken.”
Royce wanted to make things stable, and ultimately fell into the idea that too much choice meant people weren’t stable. People didn’t know what they wanted, but he could figure it out.
The Camerata, which he formed, took on another head. While he stayed in the background, toiling away with his precious Transistor and his Process, the rest of the Camerata had a great idea for how to influence people’s voices. By absorbing the values and talents of individuals the public liked in order to gain a better understanding of what inspired them and their preferences.
In America, right now, the preferred technique of influence is fear.
The Camerata’s solution to everyone’s constantly shifting ideas, was to “integrate” people of high influence, creative or otherwise, into the Transistor. They did this in hopes of creating something new, exciting, but constant. They wanted to keep people believing they had a say, but ultimately regulate how much of that say was really used. They would already know what the people wanted, even if people didn’t yet.
Maybe it’s not quite “make America great again,” but instead “Make Cloudbank Great. Forever. Period.” but the concept seems the same.It’s where we have to move past just thinking about Royce and move to thinking about The Camerata’s motivations as a whole.Asher Kendrell and Sybil Reisz present interesting problems. After all, both are friends of the people, so to speak. Asher is the current events and culture writer for the OVC, the system in which people input ideas. His job is to listen, to synthesize, and, as his file in the Transistor says, he was “someone who could speak directly to the hearts and minds of the population, and truly understand their needs. That way, they [The Camerata] could conduct their work in service of the people.”
Sybil, on the other hand, is an event planner. She’s the person who lives for other people (Her quote in her datafile is “I love people!”). Her job was to connect with people. And connect to people. Which is why her job in The Camerata was to pick targets.
Asher and Sybil may actually be a good personification of the people you think are allies, but truly aren’t. I can’t say they aren’t listening to what people want –it is their job–but I don’t think they know what people need. Fair weather allies, perhaps?
Grant and Royce are the other side. The instigators. Royce’s motivations were discussed earlier, but he is the one who ultimately provides the how. Grant seems to be the why. He was someone who had fought for “every social view” despite his own views. Views that Royce and the Transistor helped come to fruition.
Maybe this is where a big difference between The Camerata and Trump/Pence and their supporters come in. Trump and Pence are the type to tell people what the problem is, tell them what it is they want, incite fear and distrust. It’s an overt, loud operation.
The Camerata are different in methodology. They know what the problem is, they “know” what people want. But the seek the change from behind the scenes and sure as shit don’t tell anyone. They, in fact, remove the people who find out.
But ultimately, they both want to make their respective worlds “great.”
My question always falls back to For Whom?
We really are led to believe that The Camerata mean well for everyone. If that is honestly the case, who really knows. We’re not privy to the information of the general populace because they’re all evacuating by the time we get into the game.
I do not honestly believe that the president elect and his vice president have the best in mind for all people. There seems to be a very specific demographic that they speak to. And if you don’t fall into that demographic, it presents a very dangerous reality. Just as Royce gave Grant the weapon in which to carry out his views, this has allowed those who have been “hidden” racists, homophobes, etc to move forward without too much fear. They were always there, of course. Like The Camerata, those bigots were moving in more covert ways, setting systems in place like the School to Prison pipeline and the “War on Drugs” and “Traditional Marriage.” They were always the “I’m not racists/sexist/bigoted but…”
But now they feel justified, energized. Now they move out of the shadows.
Now, like the Process taking over Cloudbank, there’s no way anyone can ignore this problem.
I feel like I also need to point out that Hillary wasn’t the answer to anything, honestly. She was the maintaining of the shitty status quo. A career politician that does what career politicians do. Sure, there were some who were very excited to vote for her, believed she was the Change they wanted to see, but I didn’t see that. Neither did a lot of people I know who voted for her.
But shitty status quo is sometimes easier to deal with than a state of fear. At least I think so.
I’m also nervous, because I feel like Red, and not in a good way. She was someone who inspired controversy through her music, and thus inspired change. But she said she never wanted to cause trouble, or do anything but really sing.
Red didn’t take action, despite knowing what her songs inspired, despite being (at least a little aware) that people were vanishing all over the city, until the fight became personal. She ultimately didn’t get involved until The Camerata came for her and it resulted in the death–sorry, the “integration”– of someone she loved.
Red, is in essence, is the White Feminist. The Liberal. The “there are problems but they ultimately don’t affect me yet.” They’re people who want change, but don’t see the problems right in front of their faces, pointed out by the disenfranchised populations constantly being used for their good-feelings porn.
They’re people like me, who’s privilege can protect them from a lot of the downfall.
Or, as Red sings it, “And I won’t save you.”
I fear that people who say they want change, say they support those who do not have the same privilege as them, will ultimately take no action until it gets personal. And it by then it may be too late.
Red does have a line, in the song We All Become that says “You tell yourself that you’re lucky/
Lying down never struck me/As something fun, oh, any fun.” And that’s something I’m holding on to. Red may have not wanted to incite change. And The Camerata may think that change means no progress. But ultimately, we have to change to make the world a better place.
And we don’t have to be nice about it. I’m not going to “wait and see” how this president-elect and his compatriots run the country, because they ran on a platform of hate, bias, and fear. They’ve inspired hatred and bigotry, and I’m aware that this whole thing is a lot more layered than a video game, as real life always is.
The first time through the game, that line, “Hey Red, we are not gonna get away with this are we?”, is said by the Transistor. It comes out as a worried statement, going towards the fact that Red and the data of her lover have, in their possession now, The Camerata’s form of control. But, in Recurrence, that line is delivered by Royce Bracket, and it changes the context completely.
“We’re not gonna get away with this, are we?” We. The Camerata. Trump, Pence, and the bigots.
Yeah. Like hell you are.