Lady Hawke and Isabella

The opportunity to have a gay or lesbian romance is quite rare in video games, with BioWare's recent RPGs being some of the few in which the opportunity is available. Lady Hawke's relationship with Isabella is my favourite of these opportunities, which will be no surprise to anybody who is aware of my proclivity for pirates. Isabella and my snarky Hawke made the perfect pair: swashbuckling sword sisters who find themselves caught up in something much larger than themselves.

In a regular (non-Rivalry) romance, Isabella slowly begins to take down the walls she's built up because of her difficult past. Her tendency to look out for number one and avoid emotional intimacy is understandable once the player learns that her mother sold her into marital slavery when she refused to convert to the Qun religion. Falling for Hawke helps Isabella to reclaim her natural human vulnerability without losing her strength, determination, and love of freedom. I love the idea of Isabella and my Hawke sailing away from the mess in Kirkwall, taking to the high seas together after the end of the game.

There are problematic aspects to Isabella's "Rivalry" romance with Hawke. In Dragon Age II, Hawke can romance a companion even if that person disagrees with many of Hawke's actions. In the case of Isabella, this happens if Hawke has a habit of intervening in other people's problems, helping them out without asking for a reward. At the end of this version of the romance, Isabella says she'll "try to change" for Hawke. This kind of romantic resolution is too "Taming of the Shrew" for me, especially if Hawke is male, making it the tired old trope of a man reforming a "bad girl." (Yes, it's just as tired and sad if it's a "good girl" changing a "bad boy.")

In a non-rivalry romance, however, Isabella is the perfect companion for a snarky anti-hero type of Hawke. I especially like the romance when it's between Isabella and a female Hawke, because female protagonists are very rarely afforded the opportunity to be anti-heroes or to be involved in lesbian romances. Oh, and did I mention the playful sex scene underscored by buccaneer music? That's just plain awesome, and is much easier to watch than most of BioWare's overly earnest underpants-clad romance cutaways. — Becky Cunningham

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