A Journey Through Rule of Rose | Monsters of the Week

A Journey Through Rule of Rose | Monsters of the Week

Rule of Rose is one a wonderful example that horror games don’t need excessive graphic violence, jumpscares and visceral brutality to deliver a thoroughly haunting and disturbing experience. On a surface level, this 2006 survival horror title for the PS2 shares a lot of DNA with its genre peers of its time, especially Silent Hill 2 and 3. For instance, its ‘psychological horror’ style of storytelling: a dark and menacing id-machine of the protagonist’s traumatic past and innermost fears, manifested as a surreal dreamscape, populated with Monsters that represent various facets of her repressed memories she’s trying to come to terms with. This type of storytelling, that appears nonsensical and whimsical at first glance, but that lets the observant players unearth unending treasures of hidden meaning, symbolism and narrative depth the deeper they dig – it’s textbook Silent Hill. The similarity between these games also shows on a technical level. Controls, camera angles, pans, inventory handling – Controls, camera angles, pans, inventory handling – even font choices and the style in which environmental hotspots are presented in focus.. and – especially the combat; all of these elements are designed to make Silent Hill veterans feel at home. But – even though it tries, Rule of Rose’s moment-to-moment gameplay, especially its combat was often criticized to be the game’s weakest link. It is often unbalanced and unpolished and through that often painfully frustrating to play. The developers themselves have openly admitted to the frailty of the game’s combat on several occasions; in their own words, because they lacked the time and resources in the final stretches of development to give it the polish and refinement it would have needed. This certainly makes Rule of Rose tedious and sometimes very unwelcoming to approach, especially from a modern player’s point of view. But the fact that despite these shortcomings it managed to acclaim a cult-status among a dedicated fanbase for many years to come is a strong testament to the developers’ main focus:
The story. Rule of Rose features a cast of surprisingly deep and nuanced characters woven into their complex, yet coherent network of relations and backstories, set in an ambiance of mystery, intrigue and beauty. A world that is disturbingly scary and alien, yet at the same time feels personal and relatable. Rule of Rose is a tale of abuse. It highlights and explores the many insidious faces of abusive relationships and how they can arise from all forms of power imbalance. Bullying, coercion, possessive relationships and even sexual misconduct, child abuse and exploitation of parental power… these are only a few of the ways this game showcases and investigates the facets of abuse. It is also, in extention of these themes… a decidedly political game; which is an aspect about its narrative that I rarely see discussed anywhere. But in its depiction of these topics – the game was often deeply misunderstood, especially from authorities, that, at the time of its release, willfully misrepresented its narrative to have it banned from the market. Now, since, because of that, Rule of Rose is notoriously hard and expensive to obtain these days this video essay is structured in a way that, even if you’ve never played the game, you’re still gonna be cued in on what’s going on but be aware, if you want to experience it with a fresh mind, this video will spoil the *entire game*. In this video, I’d like to take Rule of Rose and its convoluted and controversial narrative apart piece by piece to unravel just how well thought-out, how consistent and coherent its narrative is, if you look at it up close and how much understanding and respect … it actually shows for the disturbing themes at the heart of its melancholy tale. I’d like to show you that Rule of Rose is truly an underrated masterpiece of psychological horror storytelling I’d like to show you that Rule of Rose is truly an underrated masterpiece of psychological horror storytelling that never stoops to exploitation of dark topics for mere shock value, but that was written with a message of compassion at heart; a message to survivors, to those who, themselves, might have been mistreated, disenfranchised or ostracized at any point in their lives. A message to all those who can find even a little bit of themselves… in Jennifer. [Melancholic Violin Music] Jennifer’s story begins in the back of a school bus that’s driving through the English countryside… …deep at night. Not quite the time you’d expect a school bus to make its rounds but that’s what we gotta get used to by Rule of Rose: expectations get routinely subverted, and common sense turned upside down… at first. Our protagonist is a 19-year-old girl who travels back to the orphanage where she spent the most tragic years of her childhood in. Drawn to her fate like a moth to a flame. The only other passenger is a young boy who already seems to be expecting her… [Boy] Jennifer, Jennifer! Read the story! [Boy] Please, read the story! [Boy] What happens next? The story-chapters of Rule of Rose are framed in hand-drawn children’s picture books that retell segments from Jennifer’s past in fairy-tale-inspired prose. But at the beginning of each chapter, those booklets are still incomplete; crucial parts of the story are missing. So it is upon us to find the lost pages and… fill in the blanks. It’s a pretty straightforward metaphor for Jennifer’s state of mind, years after the events she’s reliving: She suffers from severe memory repression. Crucial and often troubling details of her time in the Rose Garden Orphanage are lost in oblivion within her traumatized mind. So in order to cope with this traumatic past, she retraces her steps to remember, as unfiltered memories come back to her; chronologically and contextually scrambled and completely out of order, and manifested as a grotesque, nightmarish odyssey through her repressed past. It’s somewhat similar to how the film Memento tells the story of a person suffering anterograde amnesia chronologically backwards to dramatize his inability to establish new long-term memories. In Rule of Rose, the structure of Jennifer’s past is messy and random, with many events feeling like a whimsical amalgamation of hardly related fragments of memories, delusions and fantasies. Jennifer is a textbook unreliable narrator. Not just to us – but to herself at least as much. So, before she can ask the boy what’s going on, he… jumps off the bus and bolts into the woods. So… we follow him… in the middle of the night… on a dimly lit, overgrown path into the thicket. If this sounds like the beginning of a Brothers Grimm tale, that’s no coincidence. Rule of Rose makes many allusions and references to classic European fairy tales. At the end of the path, we reach the eerie old mansion of the Rose Garden Orphanage – but it seems to be occupied by a creepy band of apostate children wearing paper bags over their heads. And through the bars of its jammed front gate, we witness the feral children pummel something lifeless in a cloth bag. As any good horror story should, all our senses urge us to just turn the fuck back where to we came from and get the hell out of there. Wherever we go, the game makes sure we know that the walls have eyes and ears here. And once we enter the mansion, we can already explore a vast majority of all the rooms at this early point in the game. I’ve heard people criticize this, cuz’ there’s not much going on, but truth be told, this is a heaven for the observant player. Because much of what you can access and investigate now, you’ll find reflected in later chapters. And it’s also filled with a plethora of little details that feel really satisfying if you’ve finished the game and come back to revisit this early part of the game. But although we can explore, all the time, we’re being led through the mansion by the mysterious boy, until we end up in the attic, where he awaits us sitting atop a candlelit makeshift throne and asks us again to keep reading the story to him. This is when an announcement is made through the house’s speaker system that a funeral of “a dear friend” is taking place in the courtyard. Jennifer is gripped by a dark hunch, and follows the suddenly appearing, frightened whimpers of a dog… [distant frightened dog cries] storming down into the courtyard and finding a fresh grave and a shovel standing next to it. She begins to dig frantically and unearths a large, wooden coffin and on the inside… [wood creaking, Jennifer gasps] the ominous, bloodied sack of cloth that the children were beating on in front of the entry door. Jennifer, as if crushed by an immense weight, falls to her knees, sensing that what she just found was at the heart of the traumatic events that blanked her memories for many years. But as strongly as the game insinuates what might have happened here; we’re kept in the dark for now. [Diana] Just look at you! The first chapter then concludes with the eerie children surrounding her, insulting and laughing at her… and they pour water over her head in a humiliating gesture of shame. And… [Jennifer screams, followed by thud] Well… this is one of the famous scenes that was used and willfully misrepresented by authorities to effect Rule of Rose’s ban – as it was claimed that the game shows, and I quote: “Children being buried alive”. [inhales] Now first of all, the Jennifer we see here is not a child, she’s 19 years old, which makes her by the laws of every country that banned the game, a legal adult. And although Jennifer is – yeah – being carried away and ceremonially buried in a coffin, what we’re seeing here is not a death sentence, but an initiation rite. Not that it’s not problematic in a thousand other ways, but it’s nothing that would ever warrant a game being banned in a thousand years. It is a quite common practice in academic and aristocratic fraternities, sororities or aristocrat clubs to incorporate activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation as a way of initiating a person into the group. Also colloquially referred to as hazing, ragging or bastardization. This here is Jennifer’s initiation into the so called Red Crayon Aristocrat Club – the children of the orphanage’s attempt to form a society based on their perception and projection of… adult society. When Jennifer comes to, she finds herself at the bottom of the rabbit hole of her repressed memories. (Yes, I’m using a Lewis Carroll metaphor here, don’t judge me, okay? It fits.) Jennifer finds herself on board… of an airship. She wakes up tied to a metal bar in a room with cardboard walls and the coffin in one corner. Dirty laundry in drums and old, disposed furniture… it’s a dark reflection of the laundry room of the orphanage which is also dubbed “The Filth Room”. And for reasons yet unknown, this is going to be her base of operations for the rest of the game. We find a mannequin crafted out of old cleaning utensils who dearly wants to listen to her and have her retell her story. its the game’s way to save and retrieve lost items; and an indicator that Jennifer was excluded and ostracized during her time in the orphanage, forced to live in the dirty laundry room alone with nobody to talk to but inanimate objects. Now, when when we start exploring the airship, we quickly find many of its rooms and compartments to strangely resemble… the rooms of the orphanage. If this seems utterly random at this point then this is very much on purpose. As I mentioned, Rule of Rose loves to make the player feel clueless at first – establishing the curiosity to untangle what’s actually going on. Many things we witness feel like jigsaw pieces from countless different puzzles scrambled together without any sense or direction. But in many ways, the traumatic past that Jennifer digs up makes just as little sense to her in her own mind at that point in time. It is a great way to put the player in her shoes while she’s trying to overcome her retrograde amnesia. If you’re confused what’s going on; that’s exactly how she’s feeling. [startled gasp, door slams] But as nonsensical as things might appear at first, the more time you spend on the airship, the more you can’t stop noticing that there’s a thick red thread spun through this dreamscape. You’ll increasingly notice an overarching coherence that bring everything closer together the further you dive into the story. If you keep your eyes peeled and look curiously under every nook and cranny, you will stumble from one a-ha moment to the next revelation when the puzzle comes gradually together. The rooms, layouts, persons and incidents that we encounter on the airship – not perfectly, but contextually – mirror the rooms, layouts, persons and incidents in the orphanage mansion; and the aristocratic sorority led by Jennifer’s schoolmates gradually unfolds to be a dark reflection of the society the kids created with their sadistic games in the attic of the manor. Another vital aspect and central trigger of Jennifer’s trauma comes in the form of our trusty companion and beloved sidekick throughout the majority of the game: Brown. Pretty early in the first airship chapter, Jennifer discovers the heart-melting Labrador, tied up and hung from his legs in the luggage compartment. She frees him and puts his collar on his neck and from that moment on, the two are joined at the hip. Brown, or more precisely, his fine nose, provides one of the central gameplay mechanics: we can let him take the scent of almost any object in our inventory and let him search for… olfactorily related objects hidden on the airship. olfactorily related objects hidden on the airship. It immensely helps to loosen the gameplay up – and prevents the players from meandering aimlessly in case the location of the current objective is not all too clearly telegraphed. in case the location of the current objective is not all too clearly telegraphed. But aside from just being a gameplay bridge, I always also considered Brown’s good nose to be a metaphoric device as well. Jennifer is on a quest to uncover the truths about her own past that are buried within her mind. Truths that have always been right there, but that she’s incapable to access. It’s the help of the loving, innocent Brown, that ultimately enables her to literally see things that she’s often physically unable to perceive. And in addition to that – he’s just a delight to have around you; the only character in the whole game who is exclusively altruistic in nature and loyal with no other ulterior motive than ‘Being a good fren’! He needs Jennifer just as much as she needs him. The two form a symbiotic bond of mutual selflessness – which also serves as a perfect counterpoint to the game’s main antagonist; we’re gonna get to that later. In fact, the developers themselves stated in interviews that Brown was actually a rather late addition to the game with the intention to give Jennifer – and through that, the players – something positive and wholesome, to balance out the perpetual suffering she’s exposed to throughout the game. And, in my opinion, it was a fantastic choice. Brown adds a big element of uniqueness to the game, and not only gives the tried and true survival horror gameplay a fresh twist – he’s a wonderful emotional anchor that makes it easy to get invested in and care for, and, by proxy, for Jennifer as well. There’s this established storytelling-trope known as the “kick the dog “moment which serves to immediately villainize a character. [Sneer] [Loud kick, dog yelping] [Jonathan] What was that for?! In Rule of Rose, this is employed in even worse ways than just kicking… You might have a hunch. But as I’ve said, Brown comes in more than handy, because for the majority of the game, we pretty much play Fed-Ex for the self-absorbed and ruthless Red Crayon Aristocrat society. Jennifer has no choice but to reluctantly become a new, low-ranking member of the group, and the club’s rules demand that a gift of the ruler’s choosing has to be delivered to their gift box, every day. If we should fail to accomplish this – their law states that we have to be severely punished for it. So to comply with the aristocrat’s self-serving taxation laws, we scavenge the expansive airship in the attempt to turn up the things we hope can appease the whimsical bourgeoisie for a day. But… it quickly becomes apparent that the odds are unfairly stacked against Jennifer. While we explore and interact with the other orphans scattered around the airship, we get scornful comments from all directions, get excluded from groups through perpetual ‘silent treatment’ and overhear bickers and sneers from behind our backs pretty much every step of the way. And whenever we bring a gift – it becomes pretty obvious that the leaders whimsically alter the rules in order to turn against us in every way they want. [Diana] Your gift is worth NOTHING! [Jennifer whimpers] From time to time, we also find ourselves chased and attacked by hordes of disfigured imps that look like Edvard Munch’s The Scream came to life and charged at us with a broom The ghastly little pests swarm Jennifer from all sides and try to batter her down and leap at her throat in their attempt to pull her down into the void. Those imps and most of the enemies in general are projections of how Jennifer remembers her schoolmate’s constant harassment from all sides; and how ugly it made her feel in the midst of it. And in her quest for thuth, she fights tooth and nail to not let them get through to her… to not let her trauma get the better of her. [Jennifer Gasps Loudly] And over time, we realize that the adults that once were in charge of the orphanage – are … obviously not in charge anymore. Life on the airship is a brutal and merciless dog-eat-dog-society disguised as an innocent game of imitating adults. [mockingly] You know… it’s all just a game… it’s all just pretense! [mockingly] We’re all just being ironic… aren’t we? But in reality, what Jennifer faces is a callous authoritarian system led by the children of the orphanage. [Melancholic Violin Music] In most horror media, the sense of menace imposed on the audience is … hypothetical. [Demon screams aggressively] [Frightened scream, monster growls] Traditionally, we get stories where the danger is embodied by all kinds of monsters, ghosts, zombies, demons, aliens, serial killers and the likes. ghosts, zombies, demons, aliens, serial killers and the likes. ghosts, zombies, demons, aliens, serial killers and the likes. And most of them are, at the very least, highly unlikely to ever become a reality for the vast majority of the audience. Meanwhile in Rule of Rose… we face a band of kids playing grown-up games… on the surface, it really feels tame in comparison, doesn’t it? [Thunder outside] But the reason why this game is often considered so intimidating and lastingly haunting – why the Red Crayon Aristocrats, for some players, can be far more terrifying than most traditional horror antagonists – is that the damage they’re inflicting is psychological, grounded in reality and very relatable for many people. Because literally every single person watching this has, at some point in their lives Because literally every single person watching this has, at some point in their lives – be it as a victim, a perpetrator or a bystander – – be it as a victim, a perpetrator or a bystander – come in contact with their means of power: Bullying come in contact with their means of power: Bullying The aristocrat society employs many textbook methods of systematic bullying to establish and maintain their power. Yes, we experience a lot of the physical antagonism in the form of grotesque monsters. But this is merely a distorted projection of Jennifer’s traumatized mind; this is how she experienced the ongoing abuse by her schoolmates and how her mind stored those painful memories. But above all that, Rule of Rose portraits the insidiousness of bullying and social osctracism in surprising detail and depth. Bullying is an imbalance of power, that is often manipulatively created or willfully exploited by an individual or a group over an underpowered individual or group. It can be expressed through mistreatment of any form – including… verbal abuse – like name calling, insulting, yelling and shouting physical aggression – like hitting, pushing, tripping, slapping or.. also theft or destruction of the victim’s property emotional mistreatment – like exclusion, marginalization, silent treatment psychological distress – like blaming a person for problems they did not cause, discounting their integrity or unfavorably comparing or describing a person and spreading rumors and also sexual misconduct in any form. Schools in general, and especially the secluded Rose Garden orphanage serves as a perfect breeding ground for a hierarchy or organized harassment. New schoolmates are, by design, outsiders of the established social order and by enforcing their oppressive “rule of law” on any newcomer as a condition for acceptance, they force their pecking order on everyone. Compliance is mandatory! There is no escape, you either play, or you’ll face scorn and exclusion. You cannot *not* participate in society – even if it treats you, personally, unfairly. In many cases… Bullying bonds those above a certain power-threshold. Humans are social creatures and when facing the choice between avoiding harm and siding with those on the receiving end, most people are too worried about their own skin to speak up on behalf of the victims. Which is a reason, why many initial bystanders end up participating in the abusive spiral. It’s the principle of scapegoatism – the systematic disenfranchisement of a minority to serve as a common foe for the rest to join forces against. In Rule of Rose, all of this is depicted openly and explicitly: the threshold between oppressor and oppressed is visibly indicated by a thick line on the Club’s Social Rank Hierarchy, separating the “members” into Refined and Lower Class; with Jennifer and Amanda at the bottom of the pecking order. The ‘bourgeoisie’ here shares a bond of superiority and comeraderie in crime against Jennifer. Which highlights another important aspect about the insidiousness of bullying: Bullies commonly feel justified in their behavior. The laws of the Aristocrat Club are completely arbitrary and exclusively designed to appease those who hold power over the others. Even if their system is built on open inequality, obviously designed to benefit those in power, It is “The Law” and what’s the law is, right? – because it’s.. “The Law!” It’s the self-justification and circular logic of the “Rule of Law” which is what the game’s title directly alludes to. In real life, it often doesn’t even have to be as explicit: In a social structure that preys upon a scapegoated minority, the judgement call of what is right and wrong is ultimately made by those in power. If a bullied person gets accused of anything, even if it isn’t actually true – it really only needs to be confirmed by some mutuals in power to substantiate the notion that ‘punishing that person below the power threshold is righteous’. It’s a vicious circle that’s very hard to break; just like it’s shown how Jennifer is constantly wrongfully accused of lying, of being dirty, of stealing or breaking things that she didn’t even touch. But when her word stands against that of the self-appointed aristocracy – it always falls flat. Mob-mentality is what promises the reward of ‘not being on the receiving end’, and that’s enough for most accomplices to justify increasing participation in abusive behavior. Often times, that works subconsciously. Deep inside of them, they know that what they’re doing is wrong – but the social pressure is strong enough to serve as a letter of indulgence to tag along on this downward spiral of abuse. Bullying manipulates bystander into complicity! It makes categoric use of the fear of an individual/group’s power. In Rule of Rose, this is especially embodied by Amanda’s transition from a frightened, mistreated victim into a maniacally spiteful aggressor. When Jennifer joins the Aristocrats, she’s assigned the rank of beggar, the rock-bottom of the red crayon’s social ladder. At that time, Amanda has already endured their abuse for an unspecified amount of time and everything about her – her body language, her timid demeanor and, well… the things she utters, underlines how she’s living a life in fear among her peers. But our arrival marks the first time that she’s ever been elevated over someone else. But at the end of day 1, when we deliver our first gift to the bourgeoisie… and the powers that be decided that…. [Diana] You’re a disgrace! [Diana] Your gift is worth nothing! The Rule of Rose states that Punishment must follow and to initiate her new rise from the bottom of the pack, it is Amanda who is instructed to carry out that sentence. She’s visibly appalled by the prospect of torturing Jennifer – but her fear of those in power is ultimately much greater and she … does what she has to. Now… many years ago, when I was doing my mandatory military service, I distinctly remember how a lot of new recruits boasted how they would never bow to anyone shouting orders in their face. [Mockingly] No one’s gonna tell *me* what to do! But every single one of them folded pretty quickly; and it was achieved with a very simple and effective manipulation trick: Whenever someone refused to follow a direct order the drill instructors simply punished the entire platoon. Everyone – except the perpetrator themself. They… just stood around and did nothing, while every single one of their comrades were doing chores, push-ups or some other form of punitive labor. The combined social pressure of 40-50 mutuals directing their scorn towards them quickly made anyone with revolting tendencies fall in line quietly within the first day. The strategy here was to manipulate the soldiers into policing and surveilling *each other*. And yeah, military training employs bullying dynamics to establish a hierarchy of dominance. Always been like that – and it’s not even really a secret. Bullying systematically manipulates people to justify abusive behavior over their empathetic impulses. And that’s exactly what the aristocrats do with Amanda. Because very soon after Jennifer’s punishment, their roles get reversed. When they realize Amanda’s reluctance to be cruel, they instigate a situation in which Amanda gets punished by Jennifer… [Amanda cries out in disgust] and demote her back to rock bottom again. This, of course, was never Jennifer’s intention; she just tried to survive and live be the rules. It’s the bourgeoisie who frame it like Jennifer is the one to blame for Amanda’s predicament. They… scapegoat her. And from that point on, Amanda begins to gradually grow more and more hatred towards Jennifer – until she becomes the sole target of all her frustration and scorn. In her diary, we can read how she slowly dives down a spiral of projected anger until she feels nothing but unfiltered hatred towards the mere idea of Jennifer. [Loud smack, Amanda screams in anger] She starts telling lies about her, scheming behind her back and… eventually becomes a willing evangelist of the aristocrats’ mob-mentality against her. What’s so spine-chilling about the way Rule of Rose depicts these social dynamics is… that this is literally how bullying turns initially well-meaning bystanders, into accomplices and active participants. And that’s not even the most brilliant part about it: the game even pulls the rug from under our feet and uses those same tricks on us – the player. During my research for this video, I’ve asked a handful of people for their impression of Rule of Rose and most of them mentioned how scary Amanda was to them and how they gradually began to despise her more and more towards the end. Even though the game makes it abundantly clear that she is a victim herself. It puts the players through the same spiral of dehumanization and scapegoating and systematic withdrawal of empathy that turned Amanda against Jennifer. To me, this always made Amanda into a so much more effective and intimidating antagonist: not only does she have a believable reason for her manic behavior – the players are also made to walk a mile in her shoes… and it gives ’em blisters. [melancholic violins] I believe by now, it should be clear that the Aristocrats don’t just use their bullying purely out of sadistic pleasure, but that they’ve established a system that preys on the weak for their own benefit. On the surface, it really does appear as if the Aristocrat’s society is just a silly kids game, with terms and expressions blindly copied from adults and tossed around to make the pretense feel fancy. But at times, their laws and hierarchy shows some surprising parallels to exploitative inequality in actual adult society of their time. Yeah, the Red Crayon Aristocrat Society is, if you look closely, an almost on-the-nose imitation of a Marxist view of exploitative societal structures. And if you feel that this is shoehorning politics into a game where you don’t want it to be, you haven’t been paying attention. Rule of Rose is openly political, it’s all there, in the writing, in the design and the world building. And it’s so rarely talked about – so let’s have a look: First of all, Rule of Rose is set in 1930 in the UK, an era in which right wing reactionary demagogues and Socialist movements heavily clashed ideologically. The Aristocrats use Marxist terms to label and designate their feudalistic hierarchy, like separating bourgeoisie and royalty from the “Working Class” – the beggars, the poor… the proletariat. Their system is openly designed around the exploitation of the lower class. Daily gifts – taxes – that have to be delivered to serve the desires of those in power. It requires the Social Class to put in extensive effort for something that is of no inherent value to them except avoiding “legal” punishment for non-compliance. Their labor is being exploited. [sewing machine sounds] The aristocrats also put up the illusion of a utilitarian meritocracy, something that’s often brought up in defense of oppressive systems; the prospect of advancement in social rank for anyone who just ‘puts in enough elbow grease’. Amanda is adequately dubbed “The Rag Princess”, which is a nod to the popular “From Rags to Riches” myth, and that fuels her illusory hopes to, one day, break out from the lower class. But while this is hypothetically within the range of possibilities for individuals, an advancement in social class mandatorily requires the failure or increased poverty of others in the lower class in exchange. A system that distributes large amounts of wealth and power to only the few who thrive, by design, has to keep the vast majority below a threshold, or it won’t be profitable enough for those above the power line anymore. This threshold is portrayed explicitly in Rule of Rose. It’s a visible, thick line; Jennifer and Amanda form the lower class while repeatedly given the prospect of advancement, if they just prove their worth. [Mockinly] How much fairer could it be, huh? But the odds are, of course, always stacked against them. [Bodie] This game is rigged, man. [Bodie] We’re like them little bitches on the chessboard. [McNulty] Pawns. As described before – when Jennifer actually gets promoted in rank – of course within the confines of the lower class – it automatically makes Amanda lose status in the process. None of the members of the refined class, of course, give away any of their status; the struggle happens exclusively below the power threshold. The Rule of Rose redistributes power among the Social Class to incite artificial friction among them. We’ve talked about bullying dynamics, specifically the manipulative coersion into complicity among the weaker and how that’s also deliberately exploited in real life examples. Artificial incitement of animosity among the lower classes, to distract the focus away from those in power who fabricated the system of inequality for their own gain in the first place. Redirecting frustration and alienation onto a fabricated adversary. It’s fearmongering. In adult society, this is the #1 strategy of demagogues to rile people up against a made up threat. And it keeps being so effective because fear and hatred spread so much easier and faster than compassion and empathy. So, if playing by the rules is designed to only lead you in circles then… is there even a way out? Well… Jennifer faces ongoing sadistic abuse from the Aristocrats… but, she takes it. She’s unhappy, but she still keeps following the rules. She suffers, but she still has something… someone.. that makes life bearable. But those that abuse power have the tendency to never get enough; they always want more and more – until one day, they, inevitably go too far There’s always… a breaking point. [Jennifer desparately sobs] [sobbing echoes in quiet] [loud slap, Wendy cries out in shock] This… is Revolution It’s… no coincidence that this pivotal moment of the game, of Jennifer’s violent uprising against the self-anointed royalty – is graded in the blue, white and red of the drapeau tricolore. This… is La Révolution du Peuple. This is the Social Class overthrowing the Bourgeoisie. [loud slaps] Think about it… Every revolution happens because a people’s oppression has reached a crucial breaking point. In the early 20th century for instance, the Russian people under the reign of the tsar had already been exploited In the early 20th century for instance, the Russian people under the reign of the tsar had already been exploited and mistreated in the harshest conditions imaginable for decades. But it needed a catalyst, a breaking point; in this case it was the neckbreaking demand for resources when Russia entered World War 1 that finally tipped the scales and led to open revolution against those in power. Jennifer, as we said, had endured an awful lot of mistreatment over a long period of time – but for her to finally snap, the Aristocrats had to bend her past the breaking point. When the Aristocrats murdered Brown, their hunger for ever more power took the one thing from Jennifer that had made ‘life under oppression’ bearable for her until that point. And her act of open defiance, unlike everything else she tried before, immediately dismantled the Aristocrats in one fell swoop, because She directly went for the ruler, Wendy, the one who was secretly in charge of the aristocrats all along, and by that she disrespects and bypasses their made-up hierarchy. [Jennifer, angry] And as for the rest of you… [Jennifer] How could you believe all those lies?! [Jennifer] Aristocrats! [Jennifer] You’re just the opposite, I hate you! [Jennifer] And I hate you, and you! [Jennifer sobs] [Jennifer] And I hate myself the very most for playing YOUR stupid games [Jennifer] and not having the strength to stand up to you! [Jennifer] It’s all just hideous! [brooch tears off fabric audibly] It’s also no coincidence that, to fill the newly emerged power vacuum, she gets immediately elected as the new leader of the aristocrats. Even though she doesn’t really show any desire to participate in their petty game of power at all. [thunder strikes] [Melancholic Violin Music] One of the most common comparisons drawn when talking about Rule of Rose is William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the Flies, which tells the story of a group of boys stranding on an uninhabited island… and their horrendous attempts of governing themselves. And while the two stories have a lot of themes in common – a group of kids suddenly left on their own without adult supervision that ends up in an abusive, totalitarian society; Rule of Rose delivers something that Lord of the Flies largely omits: It doesn’t just show the how – but the why as well. Dynamics of power abuse can theoretically arise under all kinds of circumstances, but external factors such as social upbringing, family background and pedagogic practices employed by teachers and parental figures have a tremendous impact on the development of social values and behavior of children growing up. In Rule of Rose, there are many different antagonistic figures among the kids; but no matter how misguided and vile any one of those kids turn out – in a greater sense, all of them are victims. If there is one decided root cause for all the developmental disturbances and antisocial tendencies the orphans develop – it’s Mr. Hoffman – the headmaster and teacher of the institution… and the children’s legal guardian. Hoffman is a typical pre-war father figure stereotype: He’s emotionally distant and cold, and he embodies the principle of discipline and “tough love”. He’s accordingly dubbed “The Strict Teacher” by the orphans, and he punishes failure and insufficiencies swiftly and mercilessly – and he makes unbridled use of both physical and verbal abuse. Jennifer repeatedly gets directly insulted and degraded by him throughout the game, not just vis-a-vis but also in front of other schoolmates – and he’s known to regularly scold the children with his wooden chalkboard pointer; a disgustingly common, traditional “educational practice” of that era. Strictness in and of itself can be very valuable for establishing a sense of direction in children growing up but that’s only the case if it’s exercised in a benevolent and fair manner. But Hoffman is the polar opposite of that: he openly enacts in favoritism for some children, without attempting to disguise his disdain for others. Whenever he speaks to the orphans over the mansion’s speaker-system he reads the names of the children in the order of his preference. And not surprisingly, it is directly analogue to the hierarchy of the aristocrat club. And Jennifer is *always* at the bottom of his list. His perpetual unbridled disdain, and his verbal and physical harassment of Jennifer – carried out openly in front of everyone to witness – directly empowers the aristocrats and, to them, serves as a justification for their bullying behavior. Now, there is one person Hoffman always lists as his favorite girl: Diana. Now, when I was in high school, we had a gym teacher – boys and girls were separated for PE in my school – and this guy would exclusively teach the girls classes. He always arranged his students in 4-5 groups, ostensibly sorted by performance. If you performed well enough for a while, you’d rise up to a better group until you’ve reached the ace team. Now one day, he accidentally forgot his ledger in the sports hall and some students found it and read through it, and it came to light that it contained his ‘mental notes’ for every single one of his students. With detailed descriptions of their outer appearances in disturbing detail. We’re talking about how “good- or cute looking” a student was, their hair color and cut, body shape, height, skin complexion, legs, breast size and literally a rating of their looks on a numbered scale. And what a surprise, his hot-or-not meter was pretty much identical with the class’ performance groups. If your teacher didn’t find you fuckable enough, you’d never get an A in gym class. This was brought to the school administration, and you probably think the teacher was fired effective immediately, right? [inhales audibly] But no – the school irrelevantly pointed out shit like his past as a distinguished athlete and how he’d been a model teacher for such a long time and they pretty much brushed the whole affair under the carpet. They directly protected an ephebophile late-50s man who verifiably rated his female underage students by how attracted he felt to them and he faced… zero consequences. Rule of Rose’s Hoffman is basically what happens when you take such a pedophile / hebephile and make him the supervisor of a remote orphanage full of forsaken children and made him their legal guardian. His attraction for underage girls is the main motivation behind his favoritism. And there are at least two cases, where it’s aggressively hinted at that Hoffman exploited his guardianship and parental trust to sexually abuse children in his care. Clara is the most visibly depicted case of Hoffman’s sexual misconduct in Rule of Rose. She’s around 15-16 years old and, at the time, before Diana reaches adolescence, she was known to be Hoffman’s “favorite”. The game strongly implies that Hoffman raped and/or sexually abused her repeatedly over an extended period of time. She is commonly found in the sick-room, sitting on the examination cot, with Hoffman right next to her in the room. Her body language conveys insecurity, fear and shame when talked to and when Jennifer attempts to open the drawers in that room, she stops her in panic – quite likely hiding evidence of Hoffman’s mistreatment of her. Hoffman himself just nods and hums in silent agreement. [Hoffman hums agreement] In a later chapter, we find Hoffman leading her into a secluded room with a bed hunched over and, sluggishly shuffling her feet as if she’s suffering from abdominal pain. At that point in the game we face “The Mermaid Princess” boss which is a grotesque manifestation of how Jennifer’s young mind made sense of Clara’s sexual misconduct that she witnessed. One of the main attacks of Clara’s mermaid form is an acidic vomit, hinting at heavy morning sickness and vomiting as a symptom of an unwanted pregnancy. We can also find a large scar on her lower abdomen, pointing to an abortion through c-section. Her fish tail is actually the tail of Hoffman’s Koi, which Jennifer comments on as floating freely but never able to escape. The koi is a recurring symbol of the kids wishing to flee the orphanage and be free of their imprisonment. There are more indications for Clara’s pregnancy and Hoffman’s inappropriate affection for her: We see her scrubbing the floor with the headmaster looming over her, gazing at her body and instructing her in a disgusting, sexually suggestive tone… or when we find her being forced to clean the examination cot right in the crotch region – suggesting that this is where the C-Section took place and that she was made to clean it up herself. During that chapter, we also repeatedly hear loud music being played over the speaker system – since Hoffman and Clara are in the same room the entire time, this is likely meant to be an acoustic distraction to cover up any troubling noises caused by his misconduct. Clara is said to have… disappeared at some point in time… and several details, such as the gills on the Mermaid Princess’ character model – not just on the body but also on her wrist – hint at the possibility that Clara might have enacted in self-harming behavior or even taken her own life. She saw no way out… of her situation. I’ve always regarded her role in the game as open and direct proof for Hoffman being a sexual predator and hebephile. And… when she reaches adolescence, Hoffman’s eyes eventually fall on Diana. Hoffman’s sexual abuse of Diana is never displayed as explicitly as with Clara, but it’s strongly implied that he followed a similar coercive pattern with her. Aside from repeatedly listing her as his #1 student in front of all, touting his infatuation for her out for all to witness, he’s seen on multiple occasions to caress her, touching her in a manner that vehemently crosses the line for a teacher-student relationship. Diana’s body language reflects that: she shows confusion, fear and repulsion at his inappropriate physical intimacy. She’s also commonly shown to have her thigh wrapped in bandages – insinuating bruises or other bodily violations that might have occurred by Hoffman imposing himself on her. Diana, while coming of age and facing her already confusing sexual development, felt her sense of right and wrong aggressively violated by the only father figure in her life, who abused her parental dependency on him, in order to satisfy his personal desires. These experiences, along with the already existant possible trauma of being orphaned in the first place, triggered a deep-set, lingering disdain for adults in Diana and an abhorrent fear of growing up, herself: witnessing how she inexorably turns into the very thing she despises terrifies her to the core. Her process of becoming a woman elicits a raging conflict in her; On the one hand, her evolving physical appeal is what caused Hoffman’s sexual interest in her and made her to end up in this hellish situation at the mercy of a sexually abusive teacher and mentor. But on the other hand, her maturity grants her power over the other kids of the orphanage; and in her alienation, confusion and angst, she begins to abuse that power for herself to establish a sense of belonging and purpse in her life. She shows signs of grave developmental disorders because of that. Diana emits strong tendencies toward sociopathic personality disorder: impaired empathy, manipulative and antisocial behavior – and, a very classic tell – enacting in animal cruelty and murder. For instance, she killed the bird of her friend Eleanor, simply to bet on how she reacts to it … and, of course, she directly captains the kidnapping and murder of Brown. And if you’re wondering why nobody ever called the police or did anything against Hoffman’s behavior… well, who ever believes the victim, hm? Survivors of abuse and sexual misconduct in any way speaking up and accusing their perpetrators face the problem that it’s a case brought up by a less powerful against a more powerful party. And in many cases, those who abuse power have little to no effort in covering their tracks enough for any accusation to fall flat. The game even addresses the issue of police neglect when we read through letters written by Martha Carol, the orphanage’s housekeeper and cook, who attempted to inform the police about her suspecting child mistreatment in a different case with the police, despite continuous pleading, showing zero interest in looking into the affair. In this case, the saying is true – the bully really *is* the victim. Hoffman is the seed that fostered and grew into what eventually became the dysfunctional Red Crayon Aristocrat Society. [Melancholic Violin Music] We’ve talked about a band of bullies and about the effect their actions have on their victims. We’ve talked about the blatant parallels between a social hierarchy of organized harassment and real-world politics. And we’ve talked about the impact of child neglect and exploited parental power on the children of the Rose Garden orphanage – and all of this without even tackling what could be seen as the game’s “central” antagonist. I’m talking about Wendy. Jennifer’s savior, best friend and supposed love interest, in big air quotes who’s eventually revealed be the ringleader of the Red Crayon Aristocrats, bearing the rank of ‘Princess of the Red Rose’. She was the one who orchestrated all the wrongdoings Jennifer has been subjected to during her year in the orphanage. And… she embodies another type of abusive relationship Rule of Rose addresses in its narrative. But to understand her role in the story, it’s vital to … untangle the scrambled past of Jennifer. So let’s see what really happened to her during her time in the Rose Garden Orphanage; without the filter of delusion through which her story is presented throughout the game. Jennifer’s tale begins in 1929, a few months before she entered the orphanage. At the time, she was traveling with her parents on board of a luxury airship.. on a flight from Cardington to India. But… due to… technical malfunctions, the airship crashed. This disaster was inspired by the R101, a real-life experimental long-distance airship that crashed in France in the same year and killed nearly all of its passengers. In Rule of Rose’s case – Jennifer was the sole survivor of the catastrophe that made her an orphan, and this tragic event is the reason why the hazy recollections of her childhood conflate the year she spent in the orphanage with her memory on board of the ill-fated airship. Before salvage and rescue teams arrived, Jennifer’s unconscious body was found by a poor pea farmer named Gregory Wilson. He brought her to his little farmhouse where he lived in solitude, some time after his son, Joshua, had passed away for reasons unspecified. Gregory took care of the injured Jennifer, nurtured her to health and .. gave her a new home. But his son’s recent passing had made him… unstable. In the wake of Joshua’s death, Gregory had turned to alcohol and developed strong suicidal tendencies and… he gradually developed something like a “replacement complex” through Jennifer. He began addressing her with his late son’s name, cut her hair short like he used to wear it and dressed her in his old clothes until he started believing that that Jennifer, in fact, was Joshua and that his son had never died after all… He became increasingly overprotective and eventually permanently locked Jennifer in the basement… to make sure he would never lose his son, ever again. Jennifer grew increasingly afraid and repeatedly tried to escape, but she was not able to on her own. But one fine day… a young girl, who lived in an orphanage not too far from Gregory’s house, discovered her through the dirty basement window. Because of the clothes she was wearing, the girl – Wendy – mistook her for a boy and from that point on dubbed her ‘her Prince’. The 2 began exchanging letters in secret and quickly became infatuated with each other, longing to be together. And then one day, Wendy took up the courage and broke Jennifer out from her imprisonment. A nd they escaped to the Rose Garden orphanage, where she was reluctantly adopted by headmaster Hoffman. In the beginning of her time in the orphanage, Jennifer and Wendy were inseparable friends. Wendy introduced her to the Red Crayon Aristocrat Club and, being group’s founder and leader, she made her a member. Even though Jennifer never agreed with their games from the start and only played along because it made her friend happy. But over time, Wendy’s affection for Jennifer grew increasingly obsessive. Reading through their letters that can be found in the Gingerbread House and in the Epilogue chapter of the game, we can observe how her language becomes gradually more manic and possessive, even if, at the time, things still appeared to be fine from an outside perspective. But as long as Wendy got what she wanted – that is having Jennifer all to herself – she was appeased. But as it is common with abusers, it usually needs a catalyst that tips the scales from simply being a caring friend into her turning into the obsessive control freak that would turn Jennifer’s life into an everyday hell. For Wendy, this catalyst was Brown. One day, Jennifer, wandering out and about, discovered a lonely, hungry and helpless puppy, abandoned in a dilapidated shed near the orphanage. She couldn’t leave the poor thing to starve, so, driven by compassion and love for the little baby boy she took him in, nursed him to health and the two, very quickly, became inseparable friends. Jennifer’s fondness for Brown immediately stirred jealousy in Wendy: she repeatedly expressed her dislike of dogs, called Jennifer’s friend filthy, dirty and made it clear that she wants to… have her all for herself. But Jennifer, of course, didn’t wanna part with her friend, and frankly, she didn’t see a problem. And despite her attempts to befriend Wendy and Brown, over time, Wendy’s jealousy turned into spite. Which, in turn, made Jennifer recede more and more, and favor Brown’s company over hers. A cycle of power imbalance. The more Wendy pulled, the more it made Jennifer want to distance herself. And at some point, Wendy…. snapped. Around that time, Hoffmann, alongside housekeeper Martha Carol and Clara had disappeared from the orphanage, leaving the remote orphanage without adult supervision. Even though it was technically only meant to be a game, in this leaderless vacuum of power, the Red Crayon Aristocrat Society stepped in to seize the power over the children that were left behind. They become the de facto leadership of the forsaken Rose Garden orphanage. Wendy increasingly abused her power to rile the Aristocrats up against Jennifer, and inciting the group to harass and bully her. In her own mind, she always acted in Jennifer’s best interest, coercing her into giving up her friend and committing to their ‘love and friendship’ – a very common justification used by abusers: “I love you so much and my love with you is so righteous “that your suffering is necessary and deserved, if you’re unable to see the truth. “My truth! “I’m only mistreating you because that’s what you make me do.” The spiral of abuse by the hand of the aristocrats is depicted in many of the game’s chapters; and it eventually culminates when Wendy declared “Filthy Brown” as the gift of the day. The aristocrats trapped Jennifer’s friend, tied him up and stuffed him in a bag and… beat him to death. This is the bottom of the abusive spiral of Wendy’s attempts to coerce Jennifer into… coming back to her. And this is where things ultimately went too far for Jennifer. Witnessing the murder of her dear friend made Jennifer finally stand up against Wendy’s bullying. [Jennifer] My friend! Give me back my friend! [slap, Wendy cries out] [paper rattling, Wendy thumps to the floor] As we’ve said before – the aristocrats immediately dethrone her and declare Jennifer their new leader. Now, after that, things turn a little bit… over-spectacular if you ask me. Wendy runs away from the orphanage after this incident, and pretty much immediately plots her revenge. From much of the information the game presents during the Gingerbread House chapter and the final encounter plus the epilogue chapter, Wendy goes on to exploit Gregory, the lone pea farmer’s weak mental state and his obsession with his deceased son Joshua by dressing up as a young boy and impersonating him. During the game’s big reveal at the end, it turns out that the boy who had been leading Jennifer and the player around throughout most of the game.. – it was a crossdressing Wendy all along. Wendy systematically manipulated the gullible Gregory and trained him like an animal. Among the kids, he became “The Legend of Stray Dog”. A bogey man story the children of the orphanage whispered about, fearing Stray Dog would come and eat them one night. And, well, what can I say… turns out they were right… one night in December –
Wendy actually brings Gregory to the orphanage and orders him to … massacre everybody. Yeah, I guess she went a bit far there didn’t she? This is the final boss fight of the game and depending on how we deal with him, we reach the good or the bad ending. In the bad ending, Jennifer outright kills him in combat and loses her memory for good. While in the good ending, she hands him his revolver and Gregory ends up taking his own life; following through the suicidal urge he had ever since he lost his son. Jennifer leaves the orphanage – once again being the only survivor of a mass-tragedy and subsequently represses all memories of this tormented period of her life. Until… she returns at age 19 to revisit and come to terms with this troubled past. Full circle. Now…. let’s talk about Jennifer and Wendy’s relationship… Now, especially in the context of the game’s ban, it’s often been suggested that their relationship is… an underage lesbian romance. And if you judge by the language they use in their letters and by their body language in some of the cutscenes, well, I won’t deny that the game definitely heavily plays with this notion. But the truth is… it really doesn’t matter; the entire purpose of Wendy x Jennifer in the narrative of Rule of Rose is that it is another type of abusive relationship the game addresses. One that is based on unhealthy entitlement and possession. And for this, the type of relationship is completely irrelevant. Romantic partners, friends, parents over their children possessiveness in relationships is a common cause for emerging abuse patterns in … any relationship, no matter the nature. The way the game portraits Wendy is comparable to Amanda. In her case, players get to witness the abuse she’s suspected to from her social circles first hand; making the players empathize with her situation and form a bond through mutual suffering with her. Only to flip her so drastically that she becomes a threat that forces the players into fearing and despising her in the same way she did with Jennifer. In Wendy’s case the game uses the trick of leaving the players in the dark that she’s been the one behind all the sadistic mistreatment of Jennifer, all along. Until her real nature is revealed to us, every encounter with her is, amicable. Among the large cast of characters that act pretty much unanimously vitriolically towards Jennifer, all the time interactions with Wendy in contrast, always feels like a fresh breeze, a quantum of solace. She’s gentle, kind and caring. Her character is deliberately set up to feel like a relief in a world of bullies. This is how Wendy’s affection for Jennifer felt to her.. after she lost her parents… and after being locked in a basement by a frightening madman for months. Just as it was for Jennifer, it takes us a long time to understand that her affection was guided by deep personal issues, low self-esteem and jealousy and that she’s the root cause behind all Jennifer had to suffer. Wendy is, like all the other kids in Rose Garden, an orphan (duh) and although we never learn about her exact personal circumstances and how she ended up in the orphanage she, at some point in her life, lost her parents. The lack of a parental figure; plus the already established complete failure of the headmaster in being one, and in addition to that, her frail health that doomed her to stay inside, alone in bed for days at a time it makes Wendy’s intense fear of abandonment more than plausible. Jennifer’s friendship managed to suppress this constant feeling of loneliness and abandonment in her in the beginning, possibly for the first time since she was orphaned. And it… made her feel more complete. Which is, in and of itself, a wonderful thing. Possessiveness, in early stages, in our culture, is very often interpreted as something inherently positive it’s read as a sign of affection and fondness. But as soon as it becomes a persistent and negative trait; as soon as one person bases their entire happiness and self-esteem on the compliance of the desired, and as soon they develop a sense of entitlement over the desired person; possessiveness quickly reveals its toxic nature. It’s comparable to the behavior of an addict: as soon as the desired person shifts their attention away from the possessive person, it invokes fears of abandonment, suspicions of betrayal and – mostly irrational – jealousy. Jealousy is inherently tied to the idea that a person, in some capacity, belongs to you. And this notion can very easily spiral into abusive behavioral patterns; as is the case with Wendy, once Jennifer adopts Brown. Possessive relationships are, unlike our society often likes to frame it… not about love but primarily about entitlement, control, and power. A pet, in Jennifer’s case for instance, is never a competitor for a friend. Any healthy relationship is built on the desire for the happiness of the other, which necessarily requires to allow space and freedom for both persons. A healthy relationship of any kind, is built on trust and altruism. In possessive relationships on the other hand, one party regards the other primarily as a means to their own happiness, with little or no regard for that person’s boundaries and individual freedom. There are many subtle and not-so-subtle ways possessive people attempt to control relationship partners as a means to calm their own emotions. Yet, feeling connected to someone never means you are entitled, or allowed to exert power over them. Wendy goes down that spiral where genuine affection turns into a chain reaction of possession and domination; where the happiness of the person of interest becomes irrelevant, while the desire to control overtakes her thoughts and actions. We can see her increasingly controlling behavior towards Jennifer symbolized by the growing amounts of rope the airship gets wrapped up in over the course of the story. With increasing jealousy, Wendy’s destructive path becomes equally more intense: She systematically isolates Jennifer socially; by having the aristocrats demote her to the lowest rank, by spreading lies about her… not just to the other kids but even to the effect that the adults perpetuate the notion that Jennifer constantly lies and that she.. reeks. In turn, the more Jennifer feels alone and abandoned, the more she seeks solace in her friendship with Brown and in response, the more Wendy doubles down in her destructive behavior. Rule of Rose portraits how possessiveness in relationships eventually, always, damages everyone involved and inexorably takes over everything. Devoid of freedom, trust and tranquility, everybody ends up suffocated by the erratic, controlling behavior… of an abuser. After months of suffering through the bullying of pretty much every person in Jennifer’s small world and after feeling how her actions have only driven Jennifer further and further away from her, Wendy finally resolves to take the one thing that brings Jennifer solace, away from her. It’s the moment when Jennifer finally can’t defend her abuser anymore. and at the same time the ultimate symbol for how possessive behavior ultimately damages… everyone. As with Amanda, once the game reveals Wendy’s true face, it tears the facade of love down and exposes it for the toxic entitlement it really is. And always has been. Every previous interaction with her suddenly becomes tainted, so much so that playing through the game a second time puts her superficially kind and caring demeanor in a far darker light. Wendy acted like every abuser: she never backed down, never second guessed selfish motivations and always felt justified in her hurtful behavior Because she was convinced that the end to her means was ultimately good. That her acting was… righteous. [Gloomy piano music; rainfall] For this video, I’ve now literally spent *months* with Rule of Rose. Playing, Researching, Writing, Re-Playing, Rewriting, Recording, Editing, More Research, playing again and so on… and you’d think that by now I really can’t stand to look at the game anymore, right? But it’s the opposite, really. The more I dig into this game’s incredibly deep and multifaceted characters and lore, the more I analyze it and take it apart into its atoms, the more I try to connect dots and decipher its symbolism… the more I adore the authors for what they achieved with Rule of Rose. It is, at its heart, a tale of power imbalance. A story that rejects the traditional, simplistic depiction of pure good vs. pure evil but that instead showcases many different forms of abuse and how they can arise from all kinds of circumstances. It constantly plays on your perception of wrong and right. And the deeper you venture into its rabbit hole, the more you find that… everybody in here’s been through some shit… really And I think that’s what I ultimately respect the game the most for. That it goes to the lengths to explain the “why” behind all the horrible stuff if makes its characters go through. without ever telling you [mockingly] ‘and here is how you should feel about it’. That it doesn’t serve its lessons on a silver platter, but that it makes you work for it. Effort Justification. And the better you understand its characters, the harder the game makes it to… cast the first stone. If anything… it hammers home that things are always more complicated than they seem at face value. Rule of Rose shows how, in most cases, those who abuse often don’t even realize what exactly they’re doing… how in their own way, they … are convinced that what they’re doing is the right thing and how they’re often utterly unaware of the power imbalances they profit from. Wendy for instance, just like every person who becomes increasingly possessive in a relationship they feel is slipping away from them, in her own way, acts because she believes that manipulatively taking Jennifer’s freedom away is in Jennifer’s best interest. That she.. just doesn’t know what’s good for her. This is the methodology of abuse. When Jennifer revolts against the Aristocrats… that is the moment when the power imbalance is shattered and it shows how often social structures like these only work… if we allow them to. If there is one thing to take away from Rule of Rose, it is the importance of learning to recognize power imbalance. And that’s if you’re on the receiving end – or if you end up in a position of power over someone; a power that comes with responsibility. Because abusers.. always… believe that they’re in the right out a twisted sense of righteousness they all believe that their ends justify their harmful means. Because nobody else can see the picture as clearly as them. This is something … to teach our kids. To recognize power imbalance, and the responsibility that comes with it. Because Rule of Rose shows what happens… when they don’t… Thank you so much for watching this long journey through Rule of Rose and for your patience waiting for it! This video took, all in all, several months of work and the reason why I can keep making these kinds of videos – essays that give games with darker, mature topics the deep treatment I believe they deserve, without censoring myself for advertisers – are my Patreon-supporters. So if you’d like to help me out in doing this, please consider supporting my channel with a dollar or two as well.. it make a tremendous difference and is highly appreciated. So thank you all my Patrons, and thank you to http://www.patreon.com/RagnarRoxShow/ Until next time… ta ta!

100 thoughts on “A Journey Through Rule of Rose | Monsters of the Week

  1. I had hoped to get around it, but this video got demonetized by YouTube (not advertiser friendly) right after it was released.

  2. I'm an older and come from a different time than most gamers, but this compelling analysis of an obscure video game was worth every minute of the length. I really enjoy layered stories as found in good books or great cinema, such as films by Stanley Kubrik, but never noticed any depth in video games. Your analysis was spot-on about the many complex tentacles of society and social strata shown in Rule of Rose, but it took you walking us (me) through it to realize the depth of the dynamic. I went to boarding school in the mid 1970s and really related to the favoritism, bullying and dysfunction shown in this game. I'm thinking that this would be great fuel for a full-length gothic psychological horror movie. Great work!

  3. i can't even describe how much i love this. this is my favorite game of all time & i'm so happy to see someone else really enjoy it and delve into the themes. thanks so much for putting so much time & care into talking about a truly remarkable game. 🙂

  4. Don’t worry you haven’t ruined my want to be taken on this truly dark if I can say fairy tale. I hope this game will soon be revamped so I can appreciate it among many other people who want to see the story play out on their screens 🙂

  5. Rule of Rose reminds me of a movie called "The Little Princess" of 1995. It's a wonderful film, with a happy ending (Thank God ^^)

    Rule of Rose is my favorite game.

    Thanks for this wonderful review :3

    I could watch watching the subtitles in Portuguese, which was amazing ^^

    Sorry for my English and Hello from Brazil ^^

    May God bless you and your work.

  6. The time-traveling/alternate reality whatever part of this game bugs me, but overall it seems great to watch, maybe not to play though.

  7. Thank you for covering this game. It touches me emotionally in ways Silent Hill never quite hit. I've had a Wendy in my life, as well as a survivor of sexual and other types of abuse. The fact that this game touches on these themes in such a respectful way helps me cope.

  8. Imma tell you, it's only been a drunk playthrough of this game for me, because I figured the game just didn't make sense

  9. i remember being put off this while i was collecting horror games on ps2 because of the reviews. i wish I'd got it now – purely based on the fact its worth over £250

  10. Thank you so much for making this video, Rule of Rose was one of my favorite games during my childhood, and even after having read lots of interpretations, you made it so easy to understand and appreciate. I love how you cover all of the important themes, and now I personally could see myself and my abuser in the Wendy x Jennifer situation, which inspired me to write a bit about it. Thank you, and im loving your videos <3

  11. An amazing labor of love. As a RoR fan I really appreciate this. Yhis is an incredible piece of work. Also incredibly insightful.

  12. The political message could also be shown through the symbol of a rose. A red rose is often the symbol for socialism and social democracy since the 1880s.

  13. I watched a playthrough before (a few years ago) and easily got the concepts of memory repression, bullying, and abuse, but for some reason (probably because I was in 8th/9th grade) I missed the political side of it… despite the kids using literal terms in their society.

    Wow. Excellent deductive skills there, me. Maybe I thought it was only a part of their "game." So thanks for the refresher! Seeing something old in a new way is usually cool.

  14. I own this game and love it dearly! ❤️ I’m happy you covered Wendy and Jennifer’s relationship in-depth! Very well done!

  15. Definitely love this analysis vid! Been watching your videos for a good while and they are well-made!
    I also definitely agree that a lot of these themes of abuse/balances of power is definitely something that should be taught more, as well as how to be assertive to prevent abusive and/or toxic relationships from taking over.
    Now I feel like re-watching some Rule of Rose walkthrough videos next! 🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓

  16. Amanda IS the scariest kid because:
    1) She may be a victim, but she doesn't mind it as long as she feel welcome to the people that show "affection" towards her
    2) It doesn't matter if they lie to her, she's willing to do EVERYTHING to be included in the other kids' play
    3) Not only being the ugliest kid, but she clearly have some sort of mental disorder, as the higher ranked kids in the aristrocracy will use this fact as an advantage of manipulation
    4) Amanda is aware of this, she knows that, if she wants to be part of them, she must allow them to do everything they want with her
    5) Finally, her mental health is always decreasing because, in fact, she doesn't understand WHY or HOW. Amanda is like a baby that the other kids will use as a broken toy or weapon, to satisfy themselves and, therefore, lie to her, saying they are all playing and laughing together, and Amanda accepts it because it's all that she will ever know

  17. This video is a work of art. I have watched 5 times this week. You perfectly executed the meaning rule of rose!

  18. Brown is the best character best boy
    I dislike almost all the children except Jennifer she needs a lot hugs

  19. Rule of Rose is one of my favorite games at least story wise because I connected to it so much. I didn't go to the extreme levels of abuse Jennifer has but being on the bottom of some group/social shunning and exploitiation is such a familiar thing to me that it really developed aggressive views onto people (like ill immediately assume everyone is out against me even if I dont know them).

  20. One of the best videos regarding video games I have seen.
    You gained a subscriber.
    Edit: And also a patreon.

  21. I hate how we talk about sociopaths as if they were human beings. Just another aspect of humanity. If you remove the sociopaths out of Rule of Rose, there would be no conflict.

  22. "Love" "Entitlement" "Right"

    Pretty words. False words.

    You can be friends with someone or you can be honest with them.

    "Love" is a justification for the use of power. If you want someone to "love" you, you want them to submit in a chemical induced haze.

    Love creates fools, makes the strong weak and dependant.

    Love. Wealth. Knowledge.

    You get to pick 2. No one has all 3.

  23. After listening to Love Suicide on Rule of Rose's soundtrack, the various themes of abuse and possessiveness seem to be spot-on (the lyrics sound like they describe Wendy's character and what her friendship/"relationship" with Jennifer was really like)…

  24. Im so pissed i didnt buy this game when i saw at Gamestop for $40, back when they still sold ps2 games, but now its watch online, or break the bank for a copy

  25. This video is absolutely the best breakdown of Rule of Rose I've ever watched. Your work and passion in this really show. I have watched this several times over because of how insightful it is. Excellent job!!!

  26. I couldn't agree more with this review! I wanted so bad to get through it but the combat was SO frustrating that I ended up giving up! I really wanted to like the game because of the story. A bunch of bratty girls that basically took over the orphanage. The Victorian style and classical music were it's highlights. Exploring the airship was something new too. But..I kept ' buyin' it', to the point of throwing my controller across the room! Once I developed hypertension, it was time to quit! Now, I wish I still had it, as I have become more patient over the years..

  27. I wish they would re-release this game D: I only got so far as to the fish enemies of the game, missed up by using an item that I needed and my save was after making the mistake (I wasn't one for keeping multiple saves back then).

  28. Lord of the flies meets the beginning of Jane Eyre. Also noticed a reference towards 1984 during the rat scene. I wonder what other references there are.

  29. Amazing video. I tried watching someone play this game before but it left me too unsettled and disturbed in many ways that I couldn't finish it. Probably because of what you said, that it depicts reality in a sense. Also I had a feeling something bad was going to happen to poor Brown. But I've always been curious about the deeper story of it all so I'm really thankful this video popped up in my recommendations. It was so thoroughly and beautifully curated, I was completely drawn in the entire time! Thank you for making this, I'll be subscribing for sure!

  30. This is clearly the best analysis of this game I ever seen. It was very well explained and narrated. Just wow 😮 . Keep going.

  31. Beautiful analysis. I had seen a game play of this game years ago by cryotic but this video made me look at the game in a complete different light. All the symbolism and way they portrayed abuse and how you broke it down in explanations was outstanding. Had me cry a little bit because of it. This is truly one of those hidden gem type of games. Greatly done video.

  32. This is just incredible. I'm relatively new to your channel and have been bingeing your videos, and this video in particular hit me in a way I haven't felt before. Congratulation on such a brilliant video, and to the many more to come.

  33. You know it's the real horror when a dog is killed in game. I hope these themes aren't abused since I can't take it anymore seeing dog died in horror game.

  34. Great video.. This game is a mess and has interesting themes, and due to poor timing on release makes it a pain to get… but lets be real, this game isn't worth $300 CIB. Not worth getting for ones collection. Just emulate it.

  35. This sounds exactly like whats happening in america right now with the left. Twitter mobs, cancel culture, and anything else related to those things.

  36. So as much as I like your video and your thoughts you completely missed the ball on the ending. The sort of ghost like final minutes where Jen meets Brown and Wendy and they all become friends in a way. I feel like the idea is that they are all dead, Jen included. This was like the journey Jen goes on to get to the after life, she works through the trauma of her life and then moves onto the after life with Wendy and Brown as real friends free of possessive behavior.

  37. I think the game implies they are all dead, Jennifer is living and reminding memories she had repressed, in the end she literally walks into the light with Brown, who we know was dead. The image of her in the rain is Jennifer finding Brown again in the afterlife. The zeppelin is a limbo where the dead kids remain and only she escapes.

  38. Que wen video por la xuxa. He visto varios videos de Rule of Rose y este ha sido el que más me ha enganchado. Espero tu trabajo de meses haya rendido frutos.

  39. I've watched this video three times and it just hit me that this game is literally Lord of the Flies but with girls. Somehow that makes it even more terrifying than the actual Lord of the Flies novel.

  40. This video is a masterpiece, i loved this game so much and i was young back at the time when i played it.
    I would like you to make a video just like this one but for the game "Haunting Ground" please.

  41. I just have no words. What a breathtaking video and what a fucking masterpiece of a game. The only thing I don't love about this game is playing it because it's fucking unnerving. That combat made me rage quit a little.

  42. The amount of edgelords that literally wanted the death of physically, sexually and emotionally abused children because they kill the dog….. -_-

  43. Wow! This was fascinating to watch and shed so much light on this game. It's one that I have to be really emotionally ready for before watching LPs due to how deep it is.

    If I wasn't so sure you'd get demonitized for it, I'd love if you did a similar kind of thing for Haunting Ground. Another pretty out there game with a female protag and a brave dog friend.

  44. One little nitpick- in the game it was a gift every month, not every day, and every time you finished a chapter, your save file would change to the next month. Not really a big deal, but it always made me feel so utterly trapped in the game, to watch the months go by as you struggle to appease the Aristocrats.

  45. Omg…i played thi s when I was younger… N cldnt remember the name…ill have to play thi s again….its different n I like different.

  46. This is the third time I've watched this video and I'll probably watch again, it's a treasure to say the least you did an incredible work.

  47. thank you so much for making this!! i have always been really interested in the story of this game but not so much in the gameplay itself, this video is a blessing

  48. I always thought Jennifer looked older because she considered herself as being more mature and wise than the other children

  49. Is no one going to mention this guy's genius use of background music? A good example is when he starts talking about the farmer's son, Joshua. A piece from the Silent Hill homecoming soundtrack called "Witchcraft" begins to play. Anyone who has played that game knows about the plot about the dead children…one of which is named Joshua as well. Just saying, Ragnarox, your admirable attention to detail does not go unnoticed

  50. This video made me legit uncomfortable …
    Never heard of this game but if just a video of it can give me nausea i cant believe how well made the game is

    Thanks for showing it to me

  51. Wow…Never thought about that game like that. Also, it shines a light on the kind of friendship I had with my exfriends and now I'm not so unhappy that they called it off. I'm a little unhappy still but now I can see what everyone else saw.

  52. I wish I knew someone I could borrow this from. I learned about this game like two years ago and ever since I've wanted to play.

  53. My ex-wife was a huge horror game fan, and I bought a pristine copy of this for her. She of course took it with her when we split. This video very much makes me want to obtain another copy for myself. I did play it through and man was it good, yes the combat was awkward, but not unplayable, the story though and the music.

  54. This is a really great video, but I'm concerned about the messaging of it. It feels like you're saying that because abusers/bullies have suffered from abuse themselves, that the victims should feel sorry for their abusers (and possibly not hold that against them), which I find a demonstrably dangerous message. As someone who has dealt with abuse, from my mother, from my peers growing up, to romantic relationships with men, I have always been told– be it through the media I consume, other adults, or friends of the bullies, that because my abusers had difficult lives, I shouldn't hold it against them when they treated me lower than dirt. "Be the bigger person", "Just ignore them and they'll get bored and stop", "Violence only begets more violence", "Forgive them for your own sake". Honestly that's all a crock of shit. Regardless of how they were treated in their lives, a victim does not owe it to their abuser to "feel bad"/"pity them", not hate them, or even forgiveness. Forgiveness is something that is granted, and it's incredibly selfish to tell a victim that it's something need to do as part of the healing process.

  55. Honestly, just by watching this video, I already feel terrified enough to not touch the game. Not that I hate it, I think the game is fantastic, it's just the horror that this game present is just so terrifying due to the possibility of it being true, granted that the story isn't really that plausible, but the probability that someone out there experience one or all the abuse that exist in this game is just so terrifying.

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