Objections have been posted to parts of my article, but one that I believe merits discussion has not been mentioned. I’m somewhat disappointed. Fine. I’ll bring it up myself.
In the article I say, “Oko sees himself as an agent of truth, and if that truth upsets people so much the better.” This implies Oko indulges in sadism, something not spelled out in the Wildered Quest or his official backstory. In Kelman’s interview on Forbes we learn Oko isn’t above: “Ruining a wedding day, stealing the spotlight at someone’s lifetime moment of triumph, fooling a mother into believing her child has returned from a conflict — these are all great shapeshifting jokes to Oko who sees nothing as sacred.” The stated motivation here is not cruelty for its own sake but to expose hypocrisy and topple authority.
That said, if it walks like a goose and honks like a goose, it’s a goose. And a sadist. People’s perception of Oko’s actions as sadistic may be why no one objected when I made that implication. But that’s not why I wrote it. The interview by Kelman led me to believe Oko was part Black, and not only because of his behavior. “This illustration gives us a clue to his mana colors.”
In Magic, the color purple is most often associated with Black. I assumed Oko was a sultry Sulti. Maybe his character was designed with Black in mind. That’s the color most often associated with sadism, with a full eight cards with Sadist in the name, most recently Sadistic Obsession.
Other colors in Magic never quite spell out sadism, but they flirt with it. Nim, the Pain Artist sure sounds like a sadist, but even if she truly has other motivations, Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded definitely is one, and he’s Red. We see hints of it in White and their desire for justice. In Green cards such as Curse of Predation, we find something that smells like it in, “Hunters feed on the fear of their prey.” Just as emotions aren’t exclusive to Red, the desire to hurt others isn’t exclusive to Black, especially if it’s not a primary motivation. I don’t think Oko’s main goal is to cause others pain, but I do think it’s something that brings him pleasure.
Why do I believe that? Because I feel as if I’ve met Oko dozens of times over the last few years on the street. One guy gleefully told me I was a hypocrite because I was against racism but for affirmative action. Another said he only voted for Trump to shake things up.
Shaking things up and upending societal structure is Oko’s primary motivation. On Arena he says something close to, “I will make kings grovel and lift up worms.” This may all be in good fun to him, a shapeshifting Planeswalker. Unlike thousands of people in the Realm and the Wilds who will go to war and suffer over his meddling, Oko will experience no consequences. He will simply Planeswalk away. He’s privileged.
The overprivileged guys who confront me on the street all hope to cause pain. They’ll even lie to do it. They’ll say, “I’m not a Trump supporter, but….” Or, “I’m not a racist, but….” (Sorry for repeating myself there.) One screamed, “SJW!” thinking that would shame me. Another chuckled involuntarily when he saw me turn away, in apparent hurt. In their privilege and their motivations, these sadists remind me of Oko, but that’s not the only parallel I see.
Some men don’t concern themselves with consent. Neither does Oko. He didn’t care when he shapeshifted the king against his will, or when he did the same to Syr Elowen in the Wildered Quest. And when he stripped Garruk of his volition, made him a slave, and called him Dog, Oko didn’t feel any remorse. Later in the book, when he said he was tortured by past authority figures, that’s when I realized I don’t believe anything he says. I call bullshit on his backstory. His behavior had grown indistinguishable from a second type of man all too common in real life, an abuser.
Oko is an abuser. He views himself as entitled to control others. He doesn’t consider consent. He doesn’t mind causing pain and may even enjoy it, and he lies to slough off responsibility. Abusers will often say things like, “My past girlfriend abused me.” They do this in part to excuse their current inexcusable actions. You can and should read more about the personalities of abusers in the book Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.
I view Oko as sadistic because he aligns with people I’ve met who seek to cause pain. People with different life experiences may well view Oko differently. To some, for instance, this faerie appears to flaunt a collection of gay tropes. That said, it’s not the responsibility of writers to anticipate every reaction people will have to their characters.
It is their responsibly, however, to anticipate the most common responses. We live in a nation dominated by men so privileged their actions appear psychopathic: devoid of human empathy and injurious to the less privileged. To myself and likely many others, this is the type of person they identify with Oko. His actions aren’t pranks; they’re calculated cruelties. Seven years ago I may have seen him as a trickster, but not today.
Oko is a monster.