Anders (Dragon Age)

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Character
Name: Anders
Occupation: Healer, Revolutionary
Relationships: Varies
Fandom: Dragon Age
Other: voiced by Greg Ellis in Awakening
voiced by Adam Howden in Dragon Age II

Anders tarot card by Ioana-Muresan
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Anders is a character in Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening and Dragon Age II. In Awakening, he can be made a Grey Warden and become one of the Warden-Commander's companions. In Dragon Age II, Anders—having merged with a Fade spirit he met during Awakening—is a changed man. He is a passionate advocate for mage rights, and becomes a force of vengeance when confronted with the brutality and injustice his fellow mages face. Anders is one of four possible love interests for a male and female Hawke.

Fandom

Pairings

Character Ship
Dorian Pavus Dorian/Anders
Fenris Anders/Fenris
Hawke Anders/Hawke
Nathaniel Howe Anders/Nathaniel
Isabela Anders/Isabela
Karl Thekla Anders/Karl
The Warden Anders/Warden

Tropes in Fanworks

  • Bodysharing: Some fics focus on Anders' relationship with the Fade spirit Justice, for whom he acts as a willing host.
  • Cat Person: Anders is canonically fond of cats. His only companion during the year he spent in solitary confinement after attempting to escape the Circle for the sixth time was a cat called Mr. Wiggums. In Awakening, The Warden can give him a kitten, which he dubs Ser-Pounce-A-Lot. Fanart of Anders often depicts him with one or more cats. Anders-centric fics also often feature him adopting and/or bonding with a cat.
  • Draco in Leather Pants/Ron the Death Eater: Anders' status as a polarizing character in Dragon Age fandom has lead to sharply divergent characterizations in many fanworks. Less sympathetic portrayals cast him as a violent and unstable extremist, while more sympathetic portrayals cast him as a righteous rebel and victim. Other fanworks treat Anders as a complex and ambiguous character.
  • "The Electricity Trick": Some explicit fanworks feature Anders using his magic in sexual situations. The trope has its own tag on Archive of Our Own. It is based on party banter in DA2 in which Isabela fondly remembers Anders as the "runaway mage" who did "that electricity thing" she encountered at a brothel in Denerim sometime before the events of the game.[1]
  • Mental Health: Some fics focus on Anders' mental health struggles as they are presented in the Dragon Age series or headcanoned by fans. See the portrayal of mental illness section for further discussion.
  • Redemption: Post-DA2 fanworks sometimes explore scenarios in which Anders tries to atone for his destruction of the Kirkwall Chantry.

Terminology

  • Anderfeels: Feels fans have for Anders.
  • Bird Mage/Birb Mage/Feathermage: Fan nicknames for Anders based on the feathered mantle on his jacket in both his DA2 outfits.
  • Chantry Boom: Fan nickname for the magical bombing of the Chantry in Kirkwall carried out by Anders during the climax of Act 3 of Dragon Age II.
  • Justanders: Fan-coined portmanteau name used to collectively refer to Anders/Justice as a single entity.

Views on The Kirkwall Chantry

Ends vs. Means

Anders became a divisive character in Dragon Age fandom after the release of Dragon Age II. Although some fans dislike him solely on the basis of his characterization, much of the discourse over him centres on the ethics of his actions in the third act of the game, where he blows up the Chantry in Kirkwall, killing hundreds, in the hope of inciting a revolution that will topple the Circle of Magi system and bring freedom to mages. This has lead to many within the Dragon Age fandom falling into the sharply divided camps of viewing Anders either as a righteous revolutionary or as a murderous terrorist.[2]

Fans who view Anders' destruction of the Chantry as morally justified or at least necessary argue it was a desperate last resort in the face of systemic injustice and the dire situation in Kirkwall.

Anders had a problem with the entire institution, not just Meredith. And the Templars get their authority from the chantry. Anders wanted open war for the mages because he felt all attempts to negotiate or compromise had failed the mages and they'd fare better in open conflict. Plus it's symbolic. The templar order has power seen as divinely derived from the chantry and the maker. Show that the chantry consists of fallible mortals, and maybe the things it sanctioned can be openly questioned in a way they couldn’t otherwise.

I feel like people don't always pay attention to just how much time and how many ways Anders tried to change things without blowing up a chantry. He tried just running himself, but couldn't abide the others still locked up. He tried to secret them away. They got caught and punished. He tried interfering in corrupt Templar plots and exposing them, including to the grand cleric. They were shrugged off as individuals behaving badly instead of institutional issues. He wrote his manifesto. And Orsino tried to knock Meredith out of power in the "right" way by exposing her crimes to the nobles, and was ushered away by Elthina who will admit behind the scenes in Seb's DLC she will always side with the templars.

If Anders just killed Meredith nothing would have changed institutionally and the fate of the mages would have been decided by whoever happened to step in to power. Only by showing that the mages were powerful enough and willing to attack the heart of the institution that oppressed them and starting the war did he set the stage for possible lasting change. What he did wasn’t "good," but that's about morality and ideas of being willing to have casualties to the cause, not intelligence. Anders was not, in fact, an idiot.
virtue_summer[3]
At the very beginning of Act 3 we are told that Meredith has requested the Right of Annulment by Karras, if he survives. And is she allowed to [do] this, to go above Elthina's head like this? Yes, she can. We already know from DA:O that the right can be granted through mere letters on the basis of the Knight-Commander's word alone. It's a system that has already been abused, too, using it to cover up a mass murder that already took place. Meredith could have also just as easily gone this route. Meredith was going to have every single mage in the Gallows killed. And because they were all locked up, they would have had no time or way to prepare for this or defend themselves. There is a picture for this, too:

Of tranquil told to stand still as the swords are run through them. Of mages locked in their cells hearing the cries of those down the hall before the doors of their own swing open and are cut apart. Of children as young as four crying over the dead bodies of their instructors before getting beheaded and gutted themselves. This is a picture that did not happen because in blowing up the Chantry, Anders changed the situation and gave the mages a way to flee and fight back. There are mage survivors because of what Anders did.

[...]

Innocent people were going to die no matter what. All Anders did was change the numbers. (Numbers of which we have gotten varying accounts of, too.)

Theoretically he might have been able to cave in the Chantry with blood magic and help, but Anders hates blood magic and didn't want anyone else involved. And if he did that, then we would be hearing about how people were sucked into the earth opening up beneath them. There is no way BioWare would ever write a situation where people weren't hurt in the Chantry's destruction. It is supposed to make you uncomfortable. It is supposed to make you realize there were no good options left. That's why it's [the chapter] called The Last Straw.

So do I, me, myself, think Anders was right to reduce the loss of life, destroy a building of an oppressive religious political militaristic regime, spark a rebellion against said regime, and do it all willingly submitting himself to whatever consequences he would face for it? And even believing that the consequences should be death, as foreshadowed in banter with Isabela?

Yes, I think Anders was right.
dalishious[4]
As we've seen in previous installments of this series, the mages had been oppressed, ripped away from their families, imprisoned, beaten, made illegally Tranquil, raped, and murdered. The worst was happening in Kirkwall, and it was continuously getting worse. Anders tried for over 6 years to peacefully protest in between running a free clinic for those not helped by the Chantry, helping the Mage Underground, and running around with Hawke. Meredith had asked to kill all the mages. Elthina stood idly by. And Anders knew he could either let every mage die or act.

Fighting back against a genocidal organization for the betterment of an oppressed people is admirable and justifiable.

When our own governments or selfless citizens step in against horrors existing in our world, we applaud them. As much as we wish casualties didn’t happen, logic dictates that it can and will happen. It is a horrible moral dilemma that no one wishes to be placed in. No one wants to decide "do I save these many people if it costs a few lives”. It’s unfathomable to even put yourself in a mental place to think about making that sort of decision.

But for the people who have to make those decisions, we don’t mark them as terrorists. We look back on them realize they were revolutionaries. They fought civil and world wars to free people who couldn't free themselves. They did what they did to help people, and not for their own personal gain.

Anders is a freedom fighter. He's an insurrectionist.

He makes this horribly difficult decision when he sees no viable alternative, and he knows he will be hated for it. He expects to be killed for it. But his motives, whether one agrees with the decision or not, are good and for the good of the mages.
archer-and-anders[5]
What do you suggest he should have done?

Honestly, I'm sure if Anders could have saved the mages and seen them walk free without any violence at all he would have. Anders wrote a manifesto to peacefully protest and try to raise awareness. He’s a healer, healing people in need of him for nothing and the guy who worked with the mage underground to rescue mages out of the circle for years until Meredith destroyed it. Elthina couldn't have cared less about the injustices happening to the mages within the circle. She supported Meredith and didn’t believe in helping the mages when you try that route. Both Elthina and the Chantry were the real symbols of oppression against the mages in Kirkwall since she had power over Meredith.

I honestly don't even know what else Anders could have done when facing Meredith trying to murder the entire circle for no reason. Coming up with other plausible solutions for Anders is more difficult than trying to find non-mage characters that honestly cared about what was happening to mages in DA2.
arcanefeathers[6]

Those who see Anders' destruction of the Chantry as morally indefensible argue that targetting civilians is never justified or that it was a selfish and short-sighted move that only further endangered mages.

I agree violence was probably the only solution and agree about the role violent action plays with non-violent action.

But Anders is still wrong imo. He was one man taking unilateral action. It was a declaration of war, made on behalf of people who were not his allies but would have to live with his decision. The fact that it turned out to not be a terrible outcome for his goals seems mostly based on things outside of his control and which he likely could not have anticipated.

He is a very tragic, interesting and sometimes sympathetic character but ultimately he did something big and world-changing on the stated behalf of others instead of with others. There is a selfishness and an arrogance there. Resistance, revolution, change...that is a group effort, not one man's burden. I suppose he's not that different from Solas in a way, although we know much less of Solas's efforts...there are some definite parallels.

I suppose I would say blowing up the Chantry was the only way Anders at that point could make changes, but maybe he shouldn't have assumed that he (especially alone) was the one to do it.

Maybe he achieved the best outcome, I don't know. It's hard to argue a counterfactual! But either way I'm not utilitarian enough I guess to say he was right.
ParagonDagna[7]
Short answer: no.

Longer answer: as a measure taken to attain a result, it was not just ineffective, but actively destructive to his goals. It was also an extremely selfish and arrogant act, which he undertook on behalf and in the name of a group of people who definitely did not want it.

Longest answer: Anders claims that he did what he did to force a change in how mages are treated by the Chantry and the Circles. I suppose 'murdered en masse' counts as a change.

The people in the Gallows weren't ready to defend themselves or fight for their lives. They didn't ask for Anders to do that in the name of their freedom - nor did mages in any of the other circles. Anders tipped the dominoes on all of them would any warning. He made the choice, but everyone else suffered for it.
Trilobyte141[8]
The problem here is the method used. Violence may lead to freedom, but its a temporary freedom and only leads to oppression and tighter control later on, example, just about every revolution in history which operated under the pretext of "freeing" people. It either failed and retaliation and retribution often leaves the situation worse off than it was before. To quote Gandhi: "I object to violence because when it appears to do good the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent", meaning that the violent means cannot be justified to change the world. It leaves a scar in the minds of everyone, and as we all know, scars don't heal, they might fade, but they don't heal. What Anders did is unforgivable and unforgettable. He murdered (and thats what he did, no matter how you try to spin it), one of, if not the most important person in Eastern Thedas in a highly visible manner. That act was no longer about showing the oppression of the Chantry, but the opening salvo in a war that is going to hurt the mages far more than its going to help and the revelation of a true abomination.
Madasamadthing[2]
Insane terrorist: he deliberately murdered innocents to force an issue. If he'd held rallies, published some pamphlets, organized a legit mage underground, and maybe led some vandalism or saboteur raids against the templars (destroying weapons or lyrium caches), then he'd be a rebel. But once he blew up a chantry? Evil nutjob. And, in Anders's case, he went from whiny malcontent to terrorist. He just skipped right over the righteous indignation stage.
HELO[2]

Anders as an Anti-Hero

Some fans take less polarized stances on Anders, viewing him as an anti-hero whose character arc is marked both by his pathos and relatability and by his deep, complex flaws.

I've taken up far too many words at this point, so more in Part 2, in the future, but I just want to note that there is a reason Anders is the person he is in Dragon Age II. He was honed, sharpened, created, by the very system that mages ultimately rebel against as we begin Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Think of a cage, a prison. You are ripped from your family because a talent manifests. You are taken away in chains in childhood with only what you can grab as you are hauled off. You are allowed no further contact. No visits. No correspondence. You are watched every hour of every day by warriors in armor with power over you and all your compatriots, and for YEARS; by those who view you with antagonism, fear, suspicion, or lust. Sometimes they act upon those impulses when they think nobody's watching, and you witness this. Sometimes the worst of them then follow up by making sure the minds of their victims (or witnesses) are wiped via magical lobotomy, to keep their crimes safe, in the Rite of Tranquility, clearing them for future sexual crimes without possibility of refusal or punishment, or simply as punishment and loss of consciousness.

Or sometimes they simply send your lover away against his will, to serve someone else. Because your lives are not your own.

Again: Your life is not your own. As a mage, you are dragged from home, caged, watched, victimized, and then told what to do and where to do it.

It's grotesque.

So many people ask, "Why, Anders?" I understand this, as someone who would have fought his agenda in the end (and who in fact did not get the romance trophy because I refused to help him and even tried to warn Elphina). However, in spite of that, and in a fictional universe? I admit that, going through everything he and the other Circle Mages suffered... I've had moments where I asked, not "Why, Anders?" but, rather: "What took you so long?"

Is what he does right? No. Is it acceptable? No. Is it appropriate? Absolutely not.

But is it surprising? No. It's incredibly sad to admit. But... no.
Angela D. Mitchell[9]
As for Anders, even if you personally don't regard him as a villain, he is still essentially an anti-hero. His actions were manipulative of Hawke, a person who is either a dear friend or lover, and were altogether selfish; not all Mages wished to lose their Circle, and Anders made that decision for them with no right to do so. He instigated not only the events that destroyed Kirkwall, yet also a War that cost thousands of lives. Was the war required? Possibly, yet there's also a chance events could have played out more peacefully, and thanks to Anders, we will never know. Also, though he technically destroyed a religious icon, the building obviously had more than just Grand Cleric Elthina inside; other Sisters, and even common citizens, were likely in those halls, and were all murdered heartlessly because they stood in Anders way.

The character Varric Tethras lays out the shift in Anders' portrayal quite beautifully. In DA2, Varric was Anders' friend, even gifting him the playful nickname 'Blondie', and the two spent quite a bit of time together swapping stories and jokes. However, as time passes and Anders becomes more and more aggressive (you'll notice his change in personality gradually over the Acts), Varric's banters with Anders turn to contentious, and even at one point Vengeance confronts Varric angrily. After the events of the Final Straw, and into DAI, we meet a Varric who is not only weary, yet also displays a sincere anger towards Anders. Here is a man, once his friend, who selfishly destroyed one of the few things Varric passionately loves: Kirkwall. Anders betrayed not only Hawke with his lies, yet many others, and Varric serves to display this, regardless of whether or not Hawke agreed with Anders.

I adore Anders, and slot him as my number one favorite fictional character. He is always two sides of one coin. He is Awakening and DA2, he is hero and villain, he is generous and selfish, he is kind and aggressive, he is reason and he is insanity, he is a man and he is a demon. He is wonderfully complex and tragic, and his entire tale is enthralling. Many people despise him, yet when a character can inspire emotions from you, does that not make them an excellent character?
FusRoDoodles[10]
Anders is... complicated. In Awakening, he is relatively carefree and doesn't really give a shit about the other mages until he meets Justice. Then in DA2, we slowly see him become more and more extreme in his hatred of templars and belief the mages should be free. I mean, the guy writes a fucking manifesto for crying out loud... Oh yeah, and blew up the Chantry. Anders is tragic. Yeah, he may be an asshole and a fucking idiot, but he always acts with the best intentions. Even the destruction of the Chantry was a good thing to his twisted abomination logic. He's a tragic figure. He wanted to help the mages and Justice, and that ends up being his downfall. In the end, I pity him. I hate the things he has done, but I can see why he did it. I support mages and I let him live, but we are no longer friends. I don't let him live because I like him, I let him live as a punishment. I want him to live knowing that he caused all those deaths. It's not mercy letting him live. He was my friend and he betrayed me, even making me help him make the bomb. You shouldn't like Anders in DA2, you should pity him. Play Awakening and see what he and Justice were like. Feel the pity.
M1Maul[11]
And now, Anders. The companion that made me consider the story of the entire game in this light in the first place. I did say I saved the best for last, didn't I? This man has NOTHING happy in his life. When I say NOTHING, I mean truly fucking NOTHING. He loses his Warden friends back in Ferelden, he's forced to give up Ser Pounce-A-Lot, and when things are sort of beginning to look up for him, he merges with the spirit of Justice, essentially becoming an abomination, before slaughtering his Warden comrades and the templars who were after him. In Kirkwall, he tries his best to wrestle his personal want to help people, help the mages, and Justice's lust for vengeance. As the story progresses, he is becoming more and desperate, both an effect of Meredith and Justice, who is more and more morphing into Vengeance. In the end he does the unthinkable. He blows up either the entire Kirkwall Chantry, taking the Grand Cleric with it, showering Kirkwall in destruction. And his end isn't any better. He is either completely without remorse, ready to die for his cause, sure in his belief that he and Justice are one being. Or, he is a broken man, terrified of the thing he has become and the hold Vengeance has on him. He begs Hawke for death, because he can no longer trust himself.
Trilobyte141[12]

The Role of Hawke

Fans have expressed reservations about how DAII handles the events leading up to the destruction of the Chantry. Anders enlists player character Hawke to gather ingredients for his magical bomb without disclosing their intended use. The only way to get Anders to discuss his plan in advance is by confronting him in a rival relationship. Players who maintain a friendly relationship with Anders cannot confront him. Some fans wish that the game had given players the ability to actively work with or oppose Anders as Hawke before he acted on his plan. Other fans are troubled by Anders' deception of Hawke, and see problematic implications in the inability to communicate with him while on friendly terms, especially in the context of a romance.

But yeah, one of my major criticisms of him in DA2 is that emotional blackmail/manipulation thing he does to Hawke in his Act 3 "Justice" quest — not just because he kept his plan a secret, but because he roped Hawke into helping him with it in the early stages while refusing to tell them what was happening. His intention was to protect them from the consequences, but it was still manipulative and unfair to involve them without informing them of what they were actually doing. I know my Hawke had a long talk with him after the fact about how manipulative and wrong it was for him to do that.

Anyway, though — this is actually one of the things that frustrates me the most about how he was written in the game, too. I hate that you can't talk to him and urge him to communicate with you unless you're a rival. Because his rivalry route is blatantly abusive, and it just… always feels to me like it sends this message that you can't achieve honesty and communication in a healthy relationship/friendship — that you have to basically abuse him and dehumanize him and invalidate him to the point where he is literally dissociating by Act 3 in order to have a conversation with him about what's troubling him. It's plain on either route that he's about to do something big, that he's on the edge of suicidal, that he's in crisis and he's in turmoil and he's feeling incredibly unsafe and hopeless. I hate that there's no way on a friendship route to urge him to talk about it, to reaffirm that you support him and you want to know what's on his mind, that he’s not alone.

Because his Act 3 downward spiral is characterized by isolation and withdrawal, and I think that he and Justice are their own echo chamber at that point. Anders shuts everyone out, even Hawke to an extent, bc he wants to face the consequences alone (both in terms of how others punish him and how he punishes himself — I have a feeling he sees no point in weighing down anyone else's conscience if he can take it all on alone). But for a Hawke who cares as much about mage rights as he does (still frustrating the game doesn't let us be more radical about supporting mages), who's patient and validating and takes an active interest in his fight— maybe he would feel more able to trust and open up, and more than that, maybe he would be more willing to collaborate, to brainstorm alternatives, or to at least not take it all on alone. As it stands, in the game itself, he shuts down and turns inward. He's desperate, he's despairing, he literally has run out of options, but the worst part is, he thinks he's alone — or that he has to be alone.
bubonickitten[13]
Anders may love Hawke, but he remains untransformed by that love. In order for the romance to work out in the end, Hawke will have to give up everything and become a rebel, in hiding with Anders after he blows up the Chantry. Hawke will also have to accept wholesale the glorious manifesto and revolution Anders is selling, because Anders becomes very belligerent, pouty and guilt-trippy when questioned or doubted in any way. As Anders earlier expresses a bit of envy and competitiveness towards Hawke's glorious role as champion, Hawke also has to accept the subservient role Anders demands. Frankly, I couldn't take it – I just killed him. But it is entirely possible to play out a happily ever after scenario in the game romantically, provided that Hawke buckles under.

Anders does not compromise with his partner at all, but expects total compromise, total devotion, and blind devotion at that, since he lies to Hawke repeatedly about his intentions when gathering ingredients and otherwise plotting to blow up the Revered Mother.

This is the Outlaw Couple romance trajectory. Bonnie and Clyde seem to be the most famous outlaw couple. Outlaw couples aren't always bad: Robin Hood and Maid Marian can be considered an outlaw couple as well. In an outlaw couple, there is usually one dominant partner whose goals and agenda sublimate whatever desires the other previously had. This is the case in a completed romance between Anders and Hawke.
Sumiko Saulson[14]
I think that the fan reaction is partly because Anders takes the situation out of your hands. He makes a decision that removes the option of pure diplomacy, and you spend the rest of the game trying to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. And I remember being initially terrified at what had happened, too— before recognizing that all he did was take the silent genocide and make it a public one.
mloreley[6]

Some see the inability to prevent the Chantry's destruction as a design choice that forces the player, as Hawke, to reckon with systemic injustice within the game – and, by extension, the real world – instead of remaining a passive or indifferent bystander.

BioWare uses Anders to ask, "What led up to this? Why did he do it?" The player takes a position of privilege in comparison to the other Mages in the game, since they are open about their Mage identity and don’t face the danger of finding themselves stuck in the Circle. It's simple for the player to assume a "be patient, one day it'll all get better" attitude that inactive sympathizers really do adopt when speaking to groups like the LGBT community.

Hawke is more of a witness to social change than a catalyst, and despite choosing to support the Templars or the Mages, it's too little and too late for Anders. From his point of view, there is only blood on his hands. Does he murder by his own volition or with apathy?

From Anders's perspective, if every day without equal rights is a day too long, every Mage murdered before he executes his plans to free them is on him. The player encounters many situations in which Mages are forced to submit, turn to blood magic, or die. Additionally, there remains the personal anguish of constantly remaining in hiding and being told by a culture that something is wrong with him. It is no coincidence, then, that the "demons" that he deals with are named Justice and Vengeance, literally an embodiment of rational anger towards society.

Dragon Age II offers no solution to the problem that the Mages face except for what Anders does, and it questions the lengths that need to be gone to in order for social justice to be accomplished in reality. Most gamers find themselves in a position of privilege concerning LGBT rights, passively witnessing the community achieving social rights. They only occasionally lend their voice to this cause, despite the many discriminatory murders and overall culture of oppression that devalues these lives. The player's relationship to both this viewpoint on social issues and Anders's actions is based on whether they can actually blame him for his actions.

Deciding whether what he did was right or wrong is only the most superficial analysis. Instead, the game forces the player to consider if blowing up the Chantry is what's necessary for the oppression to end. Anders wants to ask players that call him a terrorist if they could live with themselves if everything stayed the same.
Mattie Brice[15]
BioWare was keen on a few things when coming to the finale of Dragon Age II. The first, and arguably most controversial, was the lack of agency by the player regarding its overall outcome. Ultimately, despite the best efforts of Hawke and even other individuals in the game, the fight is inevitable as the extremes of both sides come to a head. It is a bleak outcome; one that takes away all the power the player had not because of they weren’t proactive in the conflict, but because they were incapable of stopping it.

[...]

Much like the politics of yesterday and today, we see extremities of both sides, the futility of moderates trying to control them, and how individuals such as Anders are transformed into a messianic figure or a demonic pariah. A real-world example would be the abolitionist John Brown, a devout Christian who took up arms, murdered at least a dozen men in a four-year period, and tried to take over a fort to force an armed slave rebellion in 1859. The North saw Brown as a hero, a champion of rights and a martyr for their cause, the South, a radical terrorist, using fear and death to push his agenda.

As a role-playing game, we see the good and bad of the arguments between the mages and templars. We have companions who represent their respected beliefs, and characters whispering into the ear of the player based upon the choices they make throughout the game to this moment. Players are given two major choices during the endgame: which side to choose and how to deal with Anders. Does the player see Anders as a militant freedom fighter, finally committing himself to a just cause despite the consequences of his actions? Is he a terrorist, deeply radicalized like the rest of the city, who pushed things too far to the brink of destruction for his beliefs? Do you execute Anders for what he did, losing a party member in the final stretch of the game, or do you let him go, much to the chagrin of others in your group? Every decision you made in the game leads to these moments here, and the choices made can literally tear your companions apart.

For Anders, though, it is the final arc for his character. It is clever how BioWare plays the moment, leaving the choice of Anders' fate in the hands of the player, and for the player to react to his act as the character of Hawke—a true role-playing moment, perhaps even one of the best conceived for an RPG. In many ways, this highlights the true problem when trying to analyze a character such as Anders: how you view him, his actions, depends on how sympathetic you are to his cause. Like Brown, perceptions vary and lead us to both character and personal soul-searching based upon the choices we need to make in the moment.
Robert Grosso[16]

Justice/Vengeance

Some fans have commented that assessments of Anders' actions are complicated by the difficulty of separating Anders' own feelings and agency from the influence of Justice/Vengeance.

You know who I loved, who I felt didn't get great character development in DA2? Justice. Like, I liked Anders fine in Awakening, but I loved Justice. I had the HUGEST soft spot for Justice. He was so alien, and so unique, and it was so interesting to perceive the world through his (rotting, heh, too soon) eyes. And while I feel (and think canon supports) that Anders' emotions eventually corrupted Justice, and that Vengeance-corrupted Anders acted more extremely than un-spiritified-Anders might have, I just... I am so sorry that Justice died, you know? That Justice became so mutated he was no longer what he was. And that there was no grieving for that because Hawke doesn't know what the player knows. Hawke never knew Justice, after all, not like the player did (back in the Warden years), so Hawke has no context for the change.

I think so much of what Justice/Anders is (and becomes) was a huge, huge narrative risk (like so much of poor, poor much-maligned DA2, which I really do love even with its rushed act 3), and I can appreciate it on that level: pushing the boundaries, living extremes, seeing stark black and white (because such is the way of spirits and demons, and Anders can't escape that). But I also think that, at its heart, I’m not sure Anders can have what might be called a traditional redemption arc because the presence of the Justice/Vengeance spirit has an effect that can’t be mitigated or scaled back or undone. Anders and the spirit within him fuel each other. There can be no compromise, right? And... life with no compromise is pretty tough.

To me, Anders is a character whose arc is rather destined for tragedy, even if that isn’t at Hawke's hand. I think I may disagree with you a little: I think Anders does have remarkable character development in DA2, but that his character develops toward a place that makes me uncomfortable, unhappy, and distressed, all without vast plot holes or huge narrative leaps, and also without Hawke being privy to all of it (narrative risk!). His anger, frustration, reclusiveness, paranoia... they're all growing from seeds that are pretty much present from the first conversation you have with him. The extreme action he takes at the end of the game actually is foreshadowed pretty carefully throughout. But Hawke--and the player--are helpless to influence it (HUGE NARRATIVE RISK).
tarysande[17]
I'll start by saying I love Anders' character, both in Awakening and DA2, but it's important to understand that Anders is actually two characters in DA2, original Anders plus Justice/Vengeance. Based on what we saw in Awakening, most of Anders' Templar-hate in DA2 was actually Justice talking, not Anders: when Anders it taken to meet Wynne he's completely against the idea of the Circle separating from the Chantry, despite the fact the Templars had already threatened to kill him earlier in the expansion. That's why I find Anders to be such a good character in DA2 - his differences from Awakening highlght what possession can do.
Garahel[18]

Portrayal of Mental Illness

The portrayal of Anders' mental health in the Dragon Age series has provoked discourse and controversy. Some fans interpret Anders as having PTSD and/or bipolar disorder. The bipolar interpretation has such strong support both textually (a codex entry in DAII describes Anders as alternating between periods of "deep melancholy and manic determination") and through creator Word of God that many fans regard it as canon.[19][20]

Jennifer Hepler, the writer who handled Anders in DAII, has stated that she intended the Anders romance to represent loving someone with the bipolar disorder:

Obviously, in a fantasy setting the real world metaphors will never be exact, but I certainly always thought of Anders as being essentially bipolar and I tried to use as much real world psychology as I could (giving away of personal possessions before planning to commit suicide, etc.). I think his romance captures a lot of the joy and pain of dating someone bipolar – he feels everything in a big way, so his love is huge and all-encompassing, as are his hates, including his self-loathing. It takes work to maintain a relationship with him, and ultimately, Hawke has to decide if it’s worth it, knowing that these are burdens that will always haunt them. As far as friendship and rivalry, to me, the friendship path is about supporting Anders in his decisions, both to merge with Justice and everything that stems from that. Therefore, he is generally happier (more manic), and more convinced of his delusions, but is arguably a worse person (more willing to do bad things). The rivalry path is about making him see the error of his ways, so he ends up suffering more and tending more to the depressive side, but is arguably a better person who wants to make up for what he’s done. Which is the "right" way is very much up to the individual player.
Jennifer Hepler, c. 2011 on the BioWare forums[20]
Anders in Dragon Age II was about the difference between the "heal him with your love" fantasy and the actual caregiver experience of loving someone with mental illness.
Jennifer Hepler, 2019 on Twitter[19][20][21]

These statements have been criticized by fans who perceive them as perpetuating ableist and stigmatizing ideas about mentally ill and neurodivergent people.

.

so yeah, it's canon. but also, there was a lot of gross ableism in how it was conveyed. Hepler honestly had no business writing a mentally ill character. in that quote I linked to above, she says stigmatizing things about bipolar disorder in particular, and she engaged in some fucked up abuse apologism, saying that the rivalry route (which is abusive af to Anders) is "better" for Anders and makes him a "better" person, even though she admits it also makes him more depressed (which is saying something, because even on the friendship route, he experiences significant depressive symptoms). he's a mentally ill abuse survivor and to suggest that abusing him further is "better" for him is quite honestly disgusting. and she also referred to him as a "bipolar terrorist" at least once, as if those words go hand-in-hand.

but even though it was a stigmatizing and ableist representation of mental illness, it's still canon, and people need to acknowledge that so that we can talk about why that's a problem and hold his writer(s) responsible for it. most media portrayals of mental illness are stigmatizing, ableist, and disrespectful, but that doesn't make those characters not mentally ill, and it doesn't change the fact that most of the audience will still see those characters as mentally ill, regardless of accuracy or authorial intent – and that's part of what's so dangerous, is that for a lot of people, all they know about mental illness is what they see in the media, and if media is full of ableist and stigmatizing tropes, then… well, that's what people internalize. saying "oh but that character isn't actually mentally ill" erases all of that.
bubonickitten[22]
The way she talks about him is incredibly ableist, talking about him like loving him is work, like it's a burden, like it's not worth it for Hawke.

[quote snipped]

She's talking about the rivalmance, where Hawke is abusive to him. Where you gaslight him and insult him and tear him down at every turn, and she thinks that's better for him. This is the path she thinks is best for Anders, not love. Because he’s Wrong and Broken and Hawke obviously has to Fix him somehow, and the best way to do that is these abusive tactics, obviously. (sarcasm)

[quote snipped]

In this tweet she says his romance "was about the difference between the "heal him with your love" fantasy and the actual caregiver experience of loving someone with mental illness." Again, talking about how burdensome and awful dating mentally ill people is, and implying that he's something that you should want to "fix". And saying that showing that you can’t "fix" people like him and that trying will only hurt you in the end was her goal. (Maybe that’s just my interpretation of this, but I can’t see how setting out to show how hard :( :( it is to date mentally ill people wasn't meant to discourage people from doing it.)
teyrnacousland[23]
That's exactly the problem. His writer tried writing it so that Justice was Anders' mental illness and it just…well it fucked up.

His writer said that she saw him and Justice as a bipolar disorder, using as she said "a magical metaphor for real world problems".

What more she wanted to use this, simply for the story of Hawke having to love and live with someone who has a mental disorder. Again this isn't about Anders, how Anders feels, or how he wants to get better. This is about Hawke having to live with it, how they want Anders to be, and how they are going to fix him. Hence the Friendmance where you let him give into his delusions and lose him or the Rivalmance where you discredit his delusions (pretty aggressively) and he sees Justice as responsible for what he did. She wanted both paths to be a discussion about treatment of the mentally ill and was actually upset when people didn't interpret it that way.

Not to mention a Rivaled Anders who is forced to help the Templars in the end talks about suicide and there is no reaction to it, as it is an ambient banter.
ageofdragon[24]

Sexuality and Romance Arc

Fanart by maXKennedy of Anders with a male Hawke. Anders is canonically bisexual, and can be romanced by either Hawke.

Canonical Portrayal

Anders is canonically bisexual. In Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, some of Anders' dialogue reveals his attraction to women, such as his declaration that he wants a "pretty girl."[25] In Dragon Age II, he can be courted by both male and female Hawke, and will actively flirt with Hawke before the player chooses romantic dialogue options. Declining these advances will not upset Anders,[26] but it does cause the player to earn rivalry points.[27] Anders expresses jealousy toward Fenris[28] and Merrill[29] in party banter if Hawke romances either of them. In an early quest, Hawke meets Karl Thekla, a male ex-lover of Anders. However, Anders only reveals they were once involved romantically to male Hawke, presenting Karl as simply a dear friend to female Hawke. Party banter suggests that Anders may have previously had a fling with Isabela.[1]

Male Hawke Romance

Some players reacted negatively to Anders' proactive advances toward male Hawke. In an infamous incident in March 2011, a user on the now-defunct official BioWare forum made a lengthy post complaining about Anders' advances and accusing the developer of "neglect[ing] their main demographic: The Straight Male Gamer", prompting lead writer David Gaider to respond that DA2's romances were for "everyone."[30][31][32] One gaymer also took issue with Anders' overtures toward male Hawke soon after DA2's release, starting a petition to get Gaider fired for stereotyping gay men as "think[ing] of nothing [but] sex."[26][33][34] Jessica Hylton, in an academic analysis of queer representation in the Dragon Age series, commented that Anders' flirtations "inadvertently played into the predatory gay trope."[35]

While some have praised the Anders/Karl backstory, others have criticized it as an example of the bury your gays trope, given the tragic fate that Karl meets in the game.[36] When attempting to free Karl from the Circle, Anders and Hawke find that Karl has been made Tranquil. In a brief moment of lucidity, Karl asks Anders to mercy kill him, and Anders reluctantly complies.

Female Hawke Romance

See also: Anders/Karl#Omission from Female Hawke Script

Fans have also highlighed the differences between the male Hawke and female Hawke versions of the Anders romance.[35] The omission of any mention of Karl Thekla for female Hawke in particular has drawn criticism.[35][37] David Gaider explained that writer Jennifer Hepler "didn't think [Anders] would" reveal his history with Karl to a female Hawke and wanted to enable "a player who prefers to think of Anders as straight" to do so.[38] Many fans see this as not only biphobic and heteronormative, but as undercutting an important, meaningful aspect of Anders' arc for female Hawke players.[39][40]

Fanworks

Fanart

Fanfic

Cosplay

Gallery

Fanart

Cosplay

Resources and Links

References

  1. ^ a b "Dragon Age 2: Party Banter: Anders & Isabela [complete]" on YouTube
  2. ^ a b c "Anders: Righteous Rebel or Insane Terrorist?" thread on the Dragon Age Wiki forum
  3. ^ "[DA2 Spoilers] Anders is a fucking idiot" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  4. ^ Meta by dalishious on Tumblr
  5. ^ "Revolution, Terrorism, & Anders" by archer-and-anders on Tumblr
  6. ^ a b Reblog chain on Tumblr
  7. ^ "[Spoilers: All] An unpopular take on Anders & his actions" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  8. ^ "[DA2 Spoilers] Lets opens this can of worms again: Do you think Anders was right?" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  9. ^ "Why Mages are Feared: The Creation of Anders" by Angela D. Mitchell
  10. ^ "[DA2 Spoilers] Where is Anders and why is there so much hate?" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  11. ^ "[DA2 Spoilers] Can someone explain to me Anders' appeal?" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  12. ^ "[Spoilers All] Why the Dragon Age II narrative is my favorite" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  13. ^ Meta by bubonickitten
  14. ^ "Killing Anders: The Fallen Hero Archetype" by Sumiko Saulson
  15. ^ Mattie Brice, "How Could He?: Exploring Social Issues Through 'Dragon Age II'", PopMatters
  16. ^ Robert Grosso, "Character Select: Justifying the Means - Anders", TechRaptor
  17. ^ Meta by tarysande on Tumblr
  18. ^ "Opinions on Anders?" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  19. ^ a b Tumblr post from dalishious collecting quotes by Jennifer Hepler
  20. ^ a b c Tumblr post from dalishious collecting quotes by Jennifer Hepler
  21. ^ Tweet by @jbhepler (Jennifer Hepler) on Twitter
  22. ^ Meta by bubonickitten on Tumblr
  23. ^ Meta by teyrnacousland on Tumblr
  24. ^ Ask response by ageofdragon on Tumblr
  25. ^ "Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening - Anders, Pretty Girl Right Here" on YouTube
  26. ^ a b VorpalBunny, "Not All Gay Gamers Think Alike", GayGamer.net, March 26, 2011 (Internet Archive copy)
  27. ^ Kris Ligman, "Take Your Damn Rivalry Points Like A Man: The Non-Dialectic Of 'Dragon Age II', PopMatters, March 29 2011
  28. ^ "Fenris Romance [Party Banter] | Dragon Age 2" on YouTube
  29. ^ "Dragon Age 2: Party Banter: Anders & Merrill [complete]" on YouTube
  30. ^ Archived copy of the original post and David Gaider's response on the NeoGAF forums.
  31. ^ Logan Westbrook, "Dragon Age 2 Lead Writer Blasts Homophobic Fan", The Escapist, March 24, 2011
  32. ^ John Walker, "Dragon Age Writer On Characters' Bisexuality", Rock Paper Shotgun, March 25, 2011
  33. ^ JD, "Dragon Age 2 Lets Players Go Gay, But Is It Making Us Look Like Sex Predators?", Queerty, March 30, 2011
  34. ^ "Fire David Gaider for Stereotyping Gays" (Internet Archive copy)
  35. ^ a b c Jessica Hylton, "LGBTQIA Inclusion in Dragon Age: Inquisition: Burning Down Stereotypes and Modding for Representation", in Women and Video Game Modding: Essays on Gender and the Digital Community
  36. ^ Heather Alexandra, "Let Queer Characters Be Happy", Kotaku Australia, June 27, 2018
  37. ^ "From Embracing Eternity to Riding the Bull: Representations of Homosexuality and Gender in the Video Game Series Mass Effect and Dragon Age" by Kim Johansen Østby
  38. ^ Lara Crigger, "Putting the Gay in Games: The Industry's Evolving Attitudes Toward Sexuality", GameSpy, July 8, 2011
  39. ^ Meta by geeky-jez on Tumblr
  40. ^ Meta by actualhawke on Tumblr (reblog by hipsterhanzo-blog)