as often as it happens, it’s always jarring to see radlibs and “post-scarcity”/”anti-work” anarchists on here insist that labor somehow isn’t actually necessary for people to live. food, healthcare, housing—that somehow, none of these things require anyone’s time and effort (either because of vague gestures toward Automation, genuinely believing that resources are infinite, or both)
yes, in the imperial core especially, there are bullshit jobs that exist more or less purely for capital to accumulate and not to meet any real social needs (or at least, not to provide anything that would be a social need under communism, even if it is a social need under current conditions.) no, that doesn’t mean real social needs don’t exist, or that labor isn’t required to meet those needs
yes, food is overproduced under capitalism. no, that doesn’t mean labor isn’t necessary for people to be fed. someone labors to produce the food you eat now, and regardless of what the future holds,
(1) people will still need to eat food
(2) that food will have to have been obtained by someone’s labor—it does not and will not magically fall out of the sky ready-to-eat. (Even if it did, someone would have to go gather it! unless it was airdropped directly into hungry people’s open mouths)
some forms of labor are necessary for survival or very basic wellbeing. when someone doesn’t want to acknowledge that, they just want other people to do it for them while not acknowledging those people’s existence
maybe they imagine the future that way because that’s their relation now to the global south and to marginalized people where they live
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i said this in some tags a while back but it just really gets to me how much the structure of cql centers the yunmeng bro relationship in the narrative. not to the exclusion of other relationships, but it is one of the central, driving character pairs of the story. stop me if i'm being obvious but the show opens on the most antagonistic moment of their relationship and then spends a 30-episode flashback showing us them working together as a team, being affectionate & proud of each other, and supporting & valuing each other. so of course that sets up a delicious tension between what we know is to come (or what we think we know is to come) vs. the choices we see them make over and over in the first life to reaffirm their care for each other and their partnership.
this sets us up to be invested in what happens to them! imagine if episode 1 started with the cloud recesses study abroad arc and we worked up to the cliff scene after 30 episodes instead of seeing it at the beginning. though their relationship would still be compelling on its own merits, we wouldn't have as much of a reason to obsess over when the shift is going to happen. but because we saw the cliff scene first, we're sitting there for 30 episodes going, is this going to be the thing that pushes jiang cheng over the edge, oh no wow that wasn't it, okay surely this will do it, nope wrong again, god they really love each other don't they!! like it's that subversion of our expectations, over and over, that heightens our involvement in what happens to them. it's precisely because we expect jiang cheng to stop trusting and prioritizing and valuing wei wuxian that it hits us so hard every time he doesn't do that.
(i'm using "we" here to mean "the portion of the audience for which this was effective" as there are people who watched this show without caring about the yunmeng bro relationship, just go with it)
we see that same cliff scene come around a second time and this time there are subtle changes in the pacing, lighting, acting, etc. that make jiang cheng seem more conflicted, less certain. the scene would hit differently for us anyway because now we have a deeper understanding of just how broken things must be between them to get to this point, but reshooting the scene with these little changes makes it possible to reinforce those perceptions on a subliminal level. this would not have been so powerful if we had only seen the cliff scene once.
and then even once we catch up to the present and don't know what's coming next, we keep getting these tidbits reminding us that things aren't as simple as they seem with these two: the golden core hot potato of it all and how we don't actually get the last piece of information about it until the last episode, and even then, it's a secret we share with jiang cheng, and wei wuxian still doesn't know about it; wei wuxian wishing to return to lotus pier but jiang cheng not hearing him say that; all the great shots we get of jiang cheng's conflicted face at burial mounds 3.0; obviously guanyin temple and the way they're each saying the exact things the other person least needs to hear. the way that guanyin temple has so many extra layers on the rewatch! idk if this is making any sense but. the story just keeps rewarding us for caring about them!!
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The dhampir Laudna theory: A deep dive
Okay okay so I am actually in love with the theory that Laudna is a) a dhampir and b) has an arrangement with Imogen which involves her feeding on her but let's break down the reasons why it makes sense!
Part 1 - Is Laudna a dhampir?
The first and possibly most obvious thing in support of this theory is Laudna's appearance. She looks for the most part like a normal human or elf (interestingly her ear cuffs make it ambiguous as to which one) except with grey skin. She also has purple lips and black nails which could either be natural or achieved through cosmetics.
While this description could fit a few different 5e races, dhampir is (in my opinion) the one that fits best. It's what I immediately thought of when I saw her and obviously it fits the whole spooky vibe she's got going.
That said, given she's playing an Undead Warlock, the grey skin could just as easily be an aesthetic choice to add extra spookiness to a race that doesn't normally look like that.
So let's take a look at the mechanics of dhampir.
First thing to note is that dhampir is technically a lineage, not a race, meaning it works kind of like a one-size-fits-all subrace which you can apply to any race. So if Laudna is a dhampir she'll still have a base race like human or elf and may retain some of those racial features.
I don't have VRGtR myself so take this with a pinch of salt but from what I can find online, dhampir have the following abilities: Darkvision, Spider Climb, Deathless Nature and Vampiric Bite.
As far as I remember, we haven't seen Laudna use any of these but boy do they fit with her whole vibe. If Laudna doesn't use spider climb at some point during this campaign I will be genuinely shocked.
But of course, "vibes" is not really evidence and I'll admit there's not much to glean from racial abilities yet. That said, I do think Laudna's race is being kept intentionally ambiguous, seeing as Matt made a point to clarify that Imogen is human but no one said anything about Laudna's race when she was introduced.
The third reason I think she could be a dhampir ties in with another popular Laudna theory which is that she's a Briarwood.
For those who are unaware, the Briarwoods are characters from Campaign 1 (soon to be depicted in The Legend of Vox Machina TV series). Sylas Briarwood is a vampire and his wife Delilah is a human. They were based in Whitestone (where Laudna said she was from) and Sylas in particular has black hair with a white streak, just like Laudna.
Given they're a human/vampire couple, it's reasonable to assume that any children they would have had would have been dhampir and given Laudna's age is unknown (plus the various life-extending properties of necromancy magic) this theory is perfectly compatible with the CR timeline.
Part 2 - Is Laudna feeding on Imogen?
So one aspect of the dhampir lineage is that they each have a specific hunger. This hunger is traditionally for blood but can also be for flesh, dreams, life force, cerebral spinal fluid (yikes) and - most notably - psychic energy.
Assuming Laudna is a a damphir, we don't have a lot of clues so far as to what her hunger might be HOWEVER given her and Imogen have been travelling alone together, away from civilisation for a while it's reasonable to assume Laudna must have fed on her at some point.
There don't seem to be any specific mechanics relating to dhampir hunger in 5e so it's unclear how often they need to feed or what the consequences are if they don't, but Imogen said they'd been travelling alone together for "a long time" and it feels fitting for their dynamic that Imogen would volunteer to help Laudna slake her thirst.
As many people have pointed out, Imogen wears a yellow scarf which conveniently conceals her neck from view, potentially hiding bite marks.
Again, it's unclear whether feeding always requires biting or whether it's dependant on the specific hunger that person has. So if Imogen's scarf is hiding bite marks, it doesn't necessarily indicate the type of hunger Laudna has.
That said, given Imogen's psychic abilities, it wouldn't be a huge leap to assume Laudna feeds off psychic energy and if this is the case there could be a really interesting, symbiotic nature to the relationship.
It's implied that Imogen isn't always able to control her telepathy (i.e. when she fails a save after using her telepathy feat) and that she finds it draining and overwhelming, so if Laudna is able to siphon some of that power it might actually be beneficial for Imogen.
So that's pretty much all I've got for now but if all this IS true then there's so much interesting story potential here and I am so so excited to watch it all unfold.
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