Trolls

Introductory video

Physical appearance

Size differences between the male and female Trolls follow the game’s other races. Like the Draenei, the male Trolls are quite a bit larger than the females. The males also have a slouching, simian posture, whereas the females stand straight. Both genders have wild, unkempt hair.

Troll female Troll male

Like the Orcs and Undead, the Troll females’ lack of sexiness is one of their most prominent features, as you can see from their jokes:

“Da way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but I go through da ribcage!”

“Strong halitosis be but one of my feminine traits.”

“I feel pretty. Oh so pretty. <spitting sound>.”

“If cannibalism be wrong, I don’t want to be right!”

“I got all this, and personality too.”

The male Trolls’ dance is comprised of various kicks, punches, and sweeps from the Brazilian martial art Capoeira.

The females’ is Shakira’s dance from her video for “Whenever, Wherever.” A Colombian pop singer whose music, dance, and appearance blend Latin, Middle Eastern, and American influences, Shakira almost perfectly embodies the Trolls’ representational gestalt.[9. In a fascinating rhetorical analysis, Adel Iskandar reads Shakira as the center of a revival of Orientalism in the music industry.]

Language

Troll avatars speak Caribbean English.

Architecture

Many Trolls live in grass huts evocative of the Caribbean or South Pacific.

Troll hut

Others live in the ruins of their lost empires’ great cities. The playable Trolls are descended from the tribes of the Gurubashi Empire, whose capital city is Zul’Gurub. That city’s architecture is a blending of many Pre-Columbian architectural styles seen in South and Central America, especially Mesoamerican pyramids with large staircases and small temples atop. However, there are some Middle-Eastern and Indian elements in the ziggurats and Indo-khmerist tower elements, respectively.  (Their homeland, Stranglethorn Vale, looks like the Indian subcontinent.)

Lore

They’re degenerates. The lore states that the Trolls once had massive empires that spanned the entire world, but Night Elves, empowered by magics the Trolls didn’t have, systematically destroyed them. [10. Further proof of Langer’s assertion that the dichotomy between Alliance and Horde isn’t good/bad.]  Now the Trolls are a shadow of their former society, split into disparate and contentious tribes, living in ruins. The playable Trolls, officially the Darkspear Tribe, were almost destroyed by some murlocs – some of the game’s smallest and silliest creatures, which suggests that the poor Trolls were weak indeed – but were rescued by Thrall and his own motley crew of Orcs. Like the Gnomes, the Trolls are refugees; they live amongst the Orcs, to whom they owe allegiance for their salvation.

The theme of living amongst the detritus of an ancient and better world is all over WoW, and it’s a feature of high fantasy in general. Tanya Krzywinska argues that this theme, especially its manifestations in the game’s lore and environments, is essential to WoW‘s “worldness” –  its “spatial coordinates, style, and physics but also… the past events that constitute the current state of affairs within the world and to which the player-character is subject” (386). Krzywinska reads the ruins through Walter Benjamin’s claim that the “cultural use of ruins… cast[s] an aura of mystery and nostalgia” (389).  It’s a compelling claim, especially since it aligns with the nostalgia inherent in high fantasy. But while all ten races have ruins dotting the landscape somewhere, there’s something different about the Trolls. The Dwarves are also less powerful than they once were; but the Dwarves are still portrayed as a proud people with a strong society, whereas the Trolls are portrayed as both physically and culturally weak. Like the Night Elves, they’re ancient; but again, the Night Elves are still considered powerful. The Trolls have historically suffered genocide, like the Draenei; but unlike the Draenei, the Trolls aren’t portrayed as holy people. Overall, there’s a degenerate quality to the Trolls, a sense that their history, sad as it is, has corrupted their essential character. Note, for instance, the ways their introductory video describes them: “vicious,” “barbarous and superstitious,” and “renowned for their cruelty and dark mysticism.” Contrast this against the Humans, described by their introduction as a “resilient breed” that “stand resolute in their charge to maintain the honor and might of humanity in an ever-darkening world.” The best the poor Trolls can do, adjective-wise, is “quick-witted,”  which really isn’t a very positive appellation when paired with those others.

Unfortunately, vis-à-vis racism, the negativity in the Trolls’ representation dovetails with the sense that:

They’re the most Other of all WoW‘s races. Semiotic pastiches of Caribbeans, Mesoamericans, Africans, and Indians, the Trolls exhibit many of the characteristics of primitivism and Orientalism.  Both are artistic movements that arose in the 19th century, at the height of European imperialism; as such, both are implicated in the ideological separation of “West” and “East,” with its notions of Westerners and Easterners’ relative intelligence, civilization, morality, etc. According to Adel Iskandar, the representational mixture of actual cultures is one element of Orientalism: “Even in situations where the occidental appropriates attributes from the orient, the process is a selective one, incomplete and leaves behind much of the cultural logic behind these appropriated characteristics.” While primitivist art often celebrated (or at least fetishized) the non-Western Other, Orientalism tended to level revulsion upon its subjects:  “traditional orientalist depictions showcase an irrational, barbaric, sensual, lazy, static, feminine, backward, primitive, quaint, oriental that lives far away from civilization, close to nature” (Iskandar).  Hence the Trolls.

By the way, primitivist representations of Caribbeans are by no means unique to WoW: take a look at Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake or the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (especially the second movie).

3 comments

  1. […] such as ‘earthy’ and ‘savage’ and ‘exotic’, and presented  as something ‘other’, in contrast to the ‘white’ culture of azerothian humans. At this point it might be […]

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