Blood : The Gay Demon (2056 words)
I’ve just finished the good old game that is Blood and was a bit surprised at my being somewhat interested in the plot of this Build Engine FPS of 1997.
Blood tells the story of Caleb… well, let’s just steal the Wikipedia summary:
The game's main character is a man named Caleb, a merciless gunfighter born in Texas who serves a cult called "The Cabal" that worships the dark god Tchernobog. Caleb joined the cult after meeting Ophelia Price, a woman whose homestead was burned down by the Cabal, killing her husband and baby son. She blamed her spouse for their deaths, because he wanted to rescind his membership. Half-crazy and rambling, Caleb nursed her back to health. It is implied that she later became Caleb's lover, and introduced him to the cult. Together they rose to the highest ranks and became "The Chosen", the four most esteemed generals of Tchernobog's army (the other two being Ishmael and Gabriel).
I didn’t read this before playing the game but the simple fact that the misanthropist psychopath that serves as a “hero” should be in love with a character intrigued me. This I learnt in the introductory cutscene in which we can witness Tchernobog getting rid of his four henchmen for no particular reason.
Ophilia is taken away by a stone Gargoyle, Gabriel by a spider and Ishmael is burnt alive by two Cerberus. And Caleb is sent in a grave… from which he rises at the beginning of the game.
So, I wasn’t too interested in this but at the end of episode one, when Caleb finds Ophilia crucified and he seems to honestly mourn her death, the display of emotions felt incoherent and therefore intriguing. I mean, Duke Nukem is supposed to be a good guy and he is incapable of acknowledging the tiniest feeling. Caleb is a killing machine with no respect for humanity whatsoever, but he seems to be ready to accomplish anything for the woman he loves.
His love for Ophilia felt strange and now that I’ve read the story I wonder if he wasn’t just so much in love with her that he would have done anything to obtain her love in return… that is entering a sadistic cult and killing people. He is the stupid guy who does everything for the crazy woman who will never love him as much as another guy who isn’t there.
Caleb touches the face of dead Ophilia. That's a suprisingly beautiful display of emotions in the middle of all the blood and guts and cynical oneliners.
Now, the second element that had me think is the wonderful line of Tchernobog at the end of the game when Caleb eventually comes back to him:
TCHERNOBOG: I have awaited you.
CALEB: Why did you cast us down? How did we fail you?
TCHERNOBOG: You were always loyal to me. You, most of all, my child.
CALEB: Then why?
TCHERNOBOG: Because I knew you would return. Can you not see? Every life you have taken has made you stronger, and you have returned to me with a greater sacrifice than I ever could have wished. With the power you bring, I shall throw open the door between the worlds and inherit the earth.
CALEB: Hmm... is that so?
TCHERNOBOG: Come to me, my son. Let us embrace at last.
CALEB: Fool, you are already dead!
When I heard “Let us embrace at last” it made me chuckle. Is Tchernobog gay ? Was he waiting for Caleb to return… oh wait, that’s the first thing he says “I have awaited you.” Is he gay ? He killed Caleb's girlfriend. Is there a homosexual subtext to… Blood ?
And yeah, the story can very well be read as a metaphor of a fight for love between several people, including a homosexual Tchernobog.
So, let me tell you a funny story which could be a more realistic version of the plot of the game:
Imagine the cult as a company of which Tchernobog is the boss. Ophilia, Gabriel, Ishmael and Caleb work there, they are the best employees, that which infers that they like their job and care for the company or for their boss. Tchernobog takes it as a compliment to his greatness. He is happy and he slowly becomes attracted to his best guy: Caleb. Problem is, being Caleb’s boss, it’s hard to try something, it would be very humiliating to be rejected by an employee and it would also be humiliating to have to confess his homosexuality. Slowly, frustration takes the best of Tchernobog as he spends his time watching his four best employees enjoy their work together. Caleb is even dating Ophilia. It’s a torture to see them be together… and to know that if he wasn’t heterosexual, Caleb would most certainly turn toward Gabriel who so obviously fancies him too or toward Ishmael who is so attractive.
Tortured by jealousy, Tchernobog takes a tragic step; he fires them all without even giving them a reason why and uses his business relation to impair their career according to how he wants them to suffer.
Hey, now that I think "The Wolf of Wall Street" do have a sexual meaning. Wolf = Sexual predator, tempter.
But to Caleb he leaves a door open, a way to come back, a way to ask: “Why ?” Of course he wants to tell him why !
Tchernobog’s idea is that, if Caleb loves him, he will find a way to reach him again, to become important for his company again. For example by climbing the hierarchy of another company, or even more impressively on his own (no cheating on Tcherny with another company), and once he would be relevant again in the world of business he could reintegrate Tchernobog’s office and demand explanations.
If he would do so, at this precise moment, Caleb would be there either to take revenge -to financially destroy Tchernobog- or to admit his feelings, forget about what happened and to merge his company to the one of Tchernobog, hence transforming everything that he has done to destroy his former boss into something that’ll make their own company even more powerful. His desire for revenge would have fuelled their new relationship.
And so, as he reaches his goal and grieves his friends, Caleb actually seems to show signs of “compatibility” with Tchernobog. He remains as competent, financially aggressive and ruthless as he was before their firing. So maybe, he wasn’t doing all that for them, maybe he loves his job and above all, maybe he loved Tchernobog. The latter even hears a story of Caleb having had sex with a man (It’s not a random element, I’ll explain it). So now, there’s no barrier anymore, the time has come for the final reunion. .
When eventually he enters his former boss’s office, Tchernobog welcomes him, admits his feelings and the motivations behind his heinous acts. Sadly for him, Caleb was only pretending.
TCHERNOBOG: Come to me, my son. Let us embrace at last.
CALEB: Fool, you are already dead!
Caleb refuses a contract with every company involved in Tchernobog’s plan (Shial, Cerberus and Cheogh) and officially announces an OPA on Tchernobog’s.
Tchernobog gives up, nothing matters anymore. He lets Caleb bankrupt him.
But… why didn’t Caleb save his friends from their unsatisfying career when he had become so rich instead and of taking revenge on Tchernobog ? Why going that far into revenge when he could undo the wrong that had been done ?
On his way out of the office, a man asks Caled to sign another contract, he violently refuses. Damn, he really did all this only to take revenge. But the exchange makes him look back…
So now, little story put aside, Tchernobog is their boss and although he kills them, he admits that the only reason he did so was to see Caleb come back even stronger than he already is and “embrace him.” Plus, I’ve been saying that he kills them but it’s not true, he leaves them to his mignons. Caleb only fails to arrive on time to save them. In some sort of way, Tchernobog leaves the door open on that too.
Also, there is a strange evolution in the cutscenes. Caleb mourns every aspect of heterosexuality. First, he burns the body of his beloved beautiful Ophilia, body and soul, love and lust.
Second, he eats the heart of his male friend. So he mourns heterosexual feelings between men.
Then he mourns the heterosexual relationship with the male body, that is an absent male body, a male body that inspires him nothing. Cerberus has already killed Ishmael in the intro and there’s no dead body to be seen in the third boss’ cutscene. Just Caleb having the monster explode after having filled it with dynamite.
I find it quite strange that these three cinematics should be so different. If you look at the cutscenes of Duke Nukem 3d, it’s always a gory “manly” joke about how he gives his enemies the final blow. It’s the exact same pattern each time. In Blood it’s strangely different. Ophilia’s scene is emotional and contains an element of grief. The boss isn’t very important in it. The victim also takes much room in the second cutscene; Shial is just finished with one kick. But in the third cutscene, suddenly we’re watching a pure Duke Nukem 3d boss ending. And when it comes to Tchernobog, he only disappears, no finishing move, and a strange final interaction with a random guy.
So, I believe this strange pattern of Caleb abandoning all the aspects of his heterosexuality is… well I don’t know… I believe it works that’s all.
And now, we’re arriving to the funny third element that made me want to write this article. If you’re making a video game that metaphorically describes the step-by-step evolution of a heterosexual guy towards homosexuality, what is the last step ? What is the last level ? Where does it take place ?
Yes ! In a rectum ! “In the flesh” takes place in a rectum !
You cannot believe me ? Play it ten seconds !
And it should be strongly underlined that it is the sole level to have been given these textures and all the squishy, farty sounds to accompany it. All this work for just one level.
Adding to this, I find the names of the levels of episodes 1 and 4 quite revealing.
Ophilia’s chapter is about the destruction of a train => often a metaphorical penis in films (wrong side of the tracks, phantom express). The destruction of a Carnival (Dark Carnival) => no fun anymore. And about having women become sacred because asexual => hallowed grounds, the great temple.
The first chapter is Caleb seemingly abandoning heterosexuality.
And the last one is a metaphorical perception of homosexuality : The evil carnal desire. “Butchery loves company” explains it all, butchery is the sex act between two men. “Breeding grounds,” I don’t know even though there's an abvious link with coit. “Charnel house,” maison charnelle ? A pun around the French word for "Carnal" and the hellish theme, fire, passion ? Like he is burning with carnal desire ? “Crystal Lake” I don’t know. “Fire and Brimstone” is performing an act that will lead you straight to hell, the religious condemnation of homosexuality/sodomy the “Ganglion Depths” I don’t wanna think about it (balls deep), “In The Flesh” is sodomy, I’m sorry. And “Hall of the Epiphany” well, I’ll let you guess.
The final surprise being that this whole evolution is faked by Caleb in order to reach Tchernobog before slaughtering him. In Duke 3d, after having killed the final boss a woman offers herself to him and he willingly takes her (Women are thus prostitutes until the alpha male has proven himself worthy of them by saving the world and they can admit their sexual urges. No pressure guys). In Blood a man rushes to Caleb talking as if he was meeting his messiah:
MAN: Delivered us from evil, for thine is the kingdom-
And contrary to Duke Nukem, Caleb is really far from taking advantage of the situation. (He shoots him).
Now one more thing about my little story, if I made Caleb look back at Tchernobog, it’s because our hero uses a cane in the last shot of the game, it means he is wounded, he didn’t completely win and in this case, it means his masculinity isn’t intact.
And also, when I ask the question: why going that far into revenge ? I’m talking about the fact that if we take the elements of the game seriously, Caleb could very well try to resurrect Ophilia and his friends. He carries a voodoo doll ! Voodoo is the magic that revolves around life and death. The world of Blood is filled with supernatural stuff and Caleb looks like an unstoppable force, he could most believably decide to go on a quest to find a way to bring Ophilia to life, and thus his obsession with revenge is all the more suspicious.
Anyway. That’s all. I hope you had fun reading this.
“Let us embrace at last.” Seriously.