Red dead redemption 2 is a story about Family, loyalty, change and evidently redemption. Its a story that never explicitly tackles environmental issues or discussions but implicitly addresses them in ways that feel more real then other pieces of fiction. The story itself follows Arthur Morgan and company, a band of outlaws who’s luck seems to have run out in a rapidly changing America. The group, admittingly large with 24 members, desperately attempts to find a place for them in a world where the walls are closing in on them. The story takes place in 1899 and picks up again to end in 1907, this time period being towards the tail-end of the industrial revolution in America. The transition from ranch work and agriculture to large factories and imposing oil companies.
How a story like this conveys its environmental themes and message is by skillful use of two things, characters and visuals. These two aspects in conjunction help us connect with the story and understand the point of view its trying to communicate. On the character front, Dutch Van der Linde, the supposed leader of the gang preaches relentlessly on how the big cities slowly building around them are stealing their way of life. That they are destroying how this country once was and the freedom the simple life allowed for. While his charismatic speeches manage to convince the gang, the viewer needs more then just fancy words. This is where visuals come into play and the fictional town of « Saint Denis ». Saint Denis represents the very thing the gang seems to be fighting against, or at the very least running away from. Its « civilized society » with poverty ridden streets, sick employees endlessly working to make ends meet, grotesque factories churning smog into the air and fat cats living the dream in fancy bars and casinos. The city may have been fictional, but similarly to Rachel Carson’s « Silent Spring » its a city that could have existed anywhere. Contrasting this city with the beauty of the world around it is how the visuals leave their mark on the viewer. Seeing the larges ravines, plains that extend forever and majestic mountains only to meet this large city threatening that same beauty is impactful. It helps us empathize with our characters and their struggle to protect this place or at the very least find a new home like it.
Red dead redemption 2, at its core, asks its audience a simple question « Who is more savage, the thieves and murderers of the world or the civilized society who’s crimes are considered acceptable? » The truth it presents us is that neither is more or less savage then the other. The main characters aren’t saints, they are a gang of thieves, con artists and even murderers. Yet, we find it so easy to begin rooting for them and their effort to escape the lawmen on their tail and find a place in the world to live in peace. The only real difference between the gang and these ever growing cities is that the gang’s actions are considered wrong in the eyes of the government while the atrocities created by the city itself are considered perfectly legal. In truth, not one of em is inherently better then the other
You kill, I kill. You rob, I rob…only difference I can see is I choose whom I kill and whom I rob while you destroy everything in your path.Dutch Van der Linde Talking to Leviticus Cornwall
It is because of this that I consider Red dead redemption 2 to be one of, if not the best, story I have ever had the joy of experiencing. Whether it be the endearing characters, impactful scenery or even the themes it manages to address. Everything from the questions it forces the audience to ask to the gut wrenching scenes it makes us witness, all of them are masterful. The soundtrack is magical, the dialogue is witty and it rarely breaks your immersion for even a second. I have only high praise to give and I implore you to experience this story yourself.
Library of Congress. “Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900 : U.S. History Primary Source Timeline : Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress : Library of Congress.” The Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/united-states-history-primary-source-timeline/rise-of-industrial-america-1876-1900/.