Are wolves being used too often as villains/evil bad things or is it just me?


#1

This might be just because of me playing/seeing a lot of things recently with wolves/wolf-like monsters as plot-significant bad guys (specifically, Thor Ragnarok, Call of Duty: WWII, The Long Dark, and (horror indie game spoilers) Observer), but does anybody else think that wolves are being used as villains a bit too much in recent years? Obviously there’s a very long and unfortunate precedent for wolves to be evil or symbols of evil for a variety of historical reasons, but it feels like there was a period of time when popular media was cooling off on that which abruptly reversed around the time stuff like The Grey got released. There’s other animals that get this kind of targeting (see sharks whenever there’s a movie or game about the ocean) but it feels like there’s been a surge in stuff about evil wolves over the past few years, with stories being designed in unusual ways to justify stuffing a wolf attack in somewhere, like in The Bourne Legacy or The Day After Tomorrow. Even if there’s an evil canine in media that is not explicitly referred to as a wolf, they’re usually designed in a manner that immediately evokes a wolf, such as the robot dogs in Transformers 4.

For Call of Duty in particular, every other game since Ghosts (so Ghosts, Black Ops 3 and WWII) has had a hostile encounter setpiece/cutscene with a wolf or a pack of wolves that’s given a surprising amount of significance compared to hostile encounters with dogs in the series. It’s as if they’re some kind of primal evil that needs to be dealt with using lots of bullets. In addition, the wolf in CoD WWII has narrative parallels with a Nazi officer at the end of the game that really made me roll my eyes when I saw where things were going.

In Thor Ragnarok, there’s mythological and comics-based reasons to include Fenris, but I feel the movie really stretched things in order to get Fenris in as a villain that was sided against Loki, especially since Hela already had a hound named Garmr that could have been used instead. There was already some significant shuffling around of character relations (Hela’s status as a child of Odin instead of being one of Loki’s children in the myths and the comics), but Fenris has always been more strongly associated with Loki.

Am I looking way too much into all of this, or are we using wolves as evil bad things too much? For example, I don’t see lions being used as villains nearly as often as wolves do, and in the strange situations where lions and wolves are present, the lions are usually presented as the “good” animals, contrasting with the wolves who are apparently every flavor of shitty.

It might be that I’m just not watching/playing the right stuff, I definitely feel I should pick up Okami HD as soon as that comes out.


#2

The biggest counter off the top of my head is maybe Game of Thrones? The direwolves are admired and feared in the north, feature pretty prominently early in the series, and are House Stark’s symbol. The relationship between Arya and her direwolf in particular is kinda interesting. The North as a kingdom is generally more in touch with nature spiritually and I think they use their treatment of the wolves to showcase it.

In games I’m trying to think of prominent depictions of them? Far Cry Primal lets you tame them and help you out which is cool. D-Dog is also kind of a wolf I Iike to think and he carries a knife in his mouth so he’s a friend of the people in my book. I see where you’re coming from though and it’s a shame. I think our positive relationship as a species with dogs gives us a sort of morbid obsession with demonizing their “feral/evil” counterparts and the ones we didn’t tame.


#3

You’re not wrong it’s just a hugely complicated thing that doesn’t really amount to what I would think of as a huge issue of representation. For millennia wolves were on some level kind of a big problem for humans on the whole. Like if you were a human who needed to hunt things and lived somewhere where wolves could get at you they or something very like them were kind of an issue for you and this lead to the sort of inherent fear that is on display here and not for no good reason so it’s not really unfair on a basic level even if it is really overplayed. And there’s other factors here as well like how people freak out if a dog is dying so it’s an easy way to get cheap tears out of an audience and the uber masculine associations we have with wolves thanks to all the nonsense around alphas and betas and blah blah blah mean it’s a quick and easy sort hand for bad thing that is scary. And it’s not like a wolf pack is going to get together and call you racist for it (though I would be down for that) so it’s kind of an easy sell for screenwriters who don’t want to go the terrorist route or what have you. And yeah it’s kinda shitty but not hugely so to my mind, and there’s just so many other things to worry about first that I can not personally say it bothers me much if at all. Though I wouldn’t say it’s just you by any means and I don’t fault you for feeling that way.

This Message Brought To You By The Lobby For Ethical Treatment Of Foxes


#5

Kressler, welcome to Western culture. Wolves are bad except when they’re not. Lions are always good. Birds of prey do double duty as symbols of both freedom and tyranny. People en masse still haven’t realized the intelligence and height of character we should admire in the common crow.

The Grey is such an underrated movie though.

Vulpes, when I was a little boy we used to have foxes in the woods behind our house. Every morning my parents were woken by the resident vixen hopping onto our deck and leading her kits across as they yapped adorably. Those jerks never woke me up for this and only told me about it almost a decade later. I only knew we had foxes because I saw one once dart across the backyard in all its majesty. Then all the foxes went away after some yokel neighbors moved in two houses down with huge dogs that scared them away (and cornered me against a sheer rock wall, seriously fuck these dogs) along with every other wild animal other than the mountain lion because “John Cougar Mellencamp” has a seat on the neighborhood watch and will not be moved. Now we have no foxes and way too many rabbits.

I don’t know why I needed to write that. It just came to my mind after saying to myself that “yeah, foxes are awesome.”


#6

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#7

Vulpes, we can’t just inundate this thread with foxes.

We also wound up with too many ugly ugly wild turkeys. Would’ve loved to have seen foxes feasting on one of those noisy bastards.


#8

Okay let’s get back on topic

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(I’ll stop now so the real conversation can carry on I just remembered this photo and needed to post it)


#9

It is. But also because of that movie, fuck wolves man.

A friend of mine, lives on a farm with his family. They’ve had problems with foxes because they keep chickens. But I think there had be a crackdown on violence against foxes. Then the rabbit population goes out of control, and my friend is spending his Sunday’s shooting rabbits with myxomatosis rather than shooting aliens in Destiny.


#10

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This has always saddened me as well. I have a great love and admiration of wolves and it’s hard to see them demonised in a lot of media. Even though there are barely any wild wolves left here in Norway the government is still debating the subject of raising hunting restrictions, with sadly not a huge opposition.

Anyway, it’s clear why they’ve been such clear villains from old tales and in new media, wolves are huge, intimidating, expert hunters, and unpredictable like any non-domesticated animal; back when people had to protect their livestock they were a more relevant issue, but now we live so separate from them so I guess they have a mythological air of them now.

I’ve always been beaten up about non-human violence in films and games and such though so I’d rather not see Liam Neeson kill a bunch of wolves, or hunt one in The Long Dark or whatever.


#11

Maybe I didn’t get this clear earlier, but fuck that movie. Not only does it use outdated research to describe wolves (there’s actually no such thing as an alpha wolf, the leaders of a wolf pack are the mother and father, with the rest being the children of that breeding pair), it just completely makes shit up about wolves to make them seem scarier, including using a pro wrestler’s growls instead of actual wolf growls. I can’t directly prove this, but I believe that movie definitely harmed wolf conservation efforts in America severely around the time it came out through its marking and the actual movie itself, and it still seems to have an effect on wolf conservation even today if posts similar to yours are any indication. It really bugs me that people were so willing to throw wolves under a bus to make a quick buck, and I still refuse to see anything that was made by the major players in the creation of that farce of a survival story if possible. It deserved less than it got.

I’ve definitely seen and played the recommendations in this thread, but I’m realizing now that I didn’t really appreciate the extra step beyond the “easy” choice those made in not immediately defaulting wolves to evil. I’ll need to revisit them in the near future.


#12

I was actually thinking about this a couple weeks ago. People love dogs, yet somehow wolves are the Nazis of the animal kingdom. (Strictly in the video game sense, obviously.)

I think I understand the “why.” For centuries, wolves were the bane of farmers, killing their livestock, and did kill humans on occasion. It makes sense that they were demonized in stories. Hence Little Red Riding Hood, The Big Bad Wolf, etc. It’s not like a “Jaws” situation where the threat was more or less made up. Wolves killed people in their homes.

And for video games, when a developer wants a non-human mob that brings with it a perception of both cunning and viciousness, wolves are the obvious answer. The only other (European/American) animals that could prey on humans are mountain lions and bears. We see those in games, but usually one at a time. When developers need a group of realistic, non-human enemies, wolves are really the only thing that fits the bill.

But yeah, it sucks. I’m pretty tired of killing wolves in games.

This is a very good sentence.


#13

Is that a dog or a wolf that you free from the bear trap in Resi 4?


#14

The one that helps with a boss later on? Def a wolf. A very good, friendly wolf.


#15

The thing that has baffled me the most in this thread is COD’s obsession with wolves. Like… why? How are wolves so important to the COD experience that they show up in three completely different games?


#16

Sorry, but Leon’s line is “Hey, it’s that dog,” not “Hey, it’s that wolf.” And Leon is never wrong, so…


#17

Just seen this press release from the COD people.

"Look, we put a lot of time and resource into the Alsatian that appeared in COD Ghosts. It was our belief that dogs would be the next big step in the COD franchise - our thinking: murdering other men would be a lot more acceptable if you literally had ‘man’s best friend’ at your side. We were building up to the idea of ‘would the world be better if we were all just dogs instead of people’ that may or may not have explored this idea set in the far future where animals had evolved anthropomorphically, with literal dog soldiers fighting a nightmarish forever war against cat soldiers.

So yeah, we had big plans for Riley the dog, like we had big plans for a whole COD Ghost trilogy in general. Unfortunately, the market did not share our enthusiasm for man and dog fighting all over post apocalyptic US and so the series made the pivot to the ‘not quite as good as Titanfall’ sci-fi route. Which was a massive disappointment to our dog tech team. Out went Riley, in came Kevin Spacey. No, we were not aware of all the stuff that Oscar winning actor had been involved with.

Regardless, we just so happened to have all these dog assets sitting there, so we had to find some way to use them. The dog tech guys have since left the development team but we have this one guy, Mitch, he doesn’t say much but he clearly loves wolves and you know what? We’re not going to stand in the way of Mitch’s passion when those assets are good to go. Mitch’s passion for the most photorealistic wolves in video games honestly is a shining beacon of hope to the entire team as we try to keep on making more and more COD games."

I think that answers your question.


#18

You’re right. But Leon is such a cat. Dogs and wolves are just the same to him. He could probably befriend a wolf by simply approaching it as any normal person would approach a dog.


#19

Without stepping into philosophy discussions about good or evil, the design decisions are simple enough to understand.

Wolves are intelligent, but still read fine as just aggressive. This means basically anything you want them to do, from advanced pack hunting to B-lining to a player and attacking feels fine. They’re pack animals, which means you can throw a number of them at a player, which supports play, and flexibility in encounter design.

There are also a lot of standing traditions of wolf spirits all over the world, and putting a giant sword in ones mouth to do battle is… fine.

They’re the strongest “dog,” if that makes sense. Like - if you want your crests to be animals, the dog, it’s a wolf. The bird, it’s usually some kind of eagle/griffon, unless a raven, which has its own context. There’s not really like… “We’re doberman house!” “We’re dog house?” Because dog is usually reserved for alternative text. (Insert strong counter-examples of proud Dogs of War, in Warhammer, etc. etc. etc.) (Just, speaking in generalities.)

They also aren’t spiders. Relative to a lot of phobias, dogs being as common as they are makes stronger forms of fear of them less common, and they’re least likely to prevent someone from playing a game.

They’re just too flexible in terms of what feels fine to do with them. The only real no-no is… I guess standing on two feet? (Insert many examples of even this being broken.)


#20

Interesting thread but I just kinda want to re-watch Wolf’s Rain now.


#21

I hate having to kill animals in games. Skyrim is the worst for this, even the rats attack you for no reason (other than my guy usually has a bunch of food in his pockets I guess). I need to get a friendly animals mod or something.

In BotW it’s pretty hard to avoid the wolves too. I try to play a vegan, animal friendly Link but the wolves make it pretty tough unless you have Rivali’s Gale ready to escape.