Saturday, December 27, 2008

Where Have My Manners Gone?

Emilly Orr posted a most interesting journal entry, which generated several thoughtful replies, which in turn generated a lengthy reaction from Miss Orr. Read part one
here and part two here .

A short recap: on the occasion of the last ball in Loch Avie, Miss Orr notes the departure of three of the Caledon peerages from the land, and she (correctly) sees this as weakening our fair land. Dr. Mason notes that the departures are generally to other Victorian or Steampunk-themed lands, and that the interplay between Caledon and other, similar lands means that the departed are not lost to us. Furthermore, newcomers tend to arrive to supplement the old guard. Mr. Dagger and Lord Argylle are less sanguine about the influence of newcomers, noting the loss of manners relative to an earlier (and smaller) Caledon. (As an aside: Mr. Pearse, you have all the luck: I'm never on ISC chat to hear about semi-naked men shackled in dungeons. Agreed, that is highly out of place. But still...entertaining.)

On a related note, Miss Ranma Tardis posted a message on the Forums on why she left Caledon. Some reasons were personal, some were related to the rudeness the Mr. Pearse and Mr. Dagger mentioned, but one was that "I am not now and never was a Victorian! I am a modern person and the thought of wearing such clothing is silly at best." A reasonable enough observation - why anyone ever thought enormous bustles or bows on one's hind quarters looked good is beyond me, though I must say the men's clothing is a vast improvement over the sloppy mishmash of fabric one sees today, especially on the young gentlemen - as far as it goes.

All these observations made me think about two things: first, to what extent does my behavior offend the Caledon "ethic" so grossly as to diminish the pleasure of others? And, second, what principles seem reasonable for people who are part of our happy band?

I thought of four principles by which I try to operate:
  1. Be polite. It doesn't hurt, and it's the first adjective in Des's phrase "polite Victorian roleplay."
  2. The larger the gathering, the more in character one should be. Walking down the streets of Caledon Downs, I feel no shame in being dressed more provocatively than at a party. At a formal ball, I make every effort to look the part. (Well, the hair is non-negotiable. Beyond that, though...)
  3. Do not provoke merely to be provocative. This one involves a fine line. Much joking goes on, particularly on ISC chat. I like to joke, so this is a marriage made in...well, somewhere good. I tease, and I expect to be teased back. On occasion, I have felt as though I went a little far, and I have apologized to the victim. I never say anything completely scandalous. At the same time, I realize others may draw the line a little further toward the decorous. I'm happy to go with whatever are the community norms.
  4. Be yourself. In the end, Miss Tardis is correct: we are not living in the Victorian age, much as that may come as a shock to some people. We are here to enjoy ourselves, and if that involves laughing a great deal, so be it.

On the other side of the ledger, here are some principles I'd like everyone to follow:

  1. Be tolerant. For example, arguing about what Steampunk is really about, or reminding ladies that showing one's ankles is shocking, does not foster community.
  2. If one does not care for polite Victorian roleplay, feel free to go elsewhere. That sounds cold, and I don't mean it to sound cold. But really, what's the point of being in a Victorian-themed sim if you don't like Victoriana?
  3. Have fun. If it's not fun, why bother? (Ignore this one if you are making money hand over fist. I've run the numbers, and I'm willing to bet that only a handful are making a net profit, and no one is getting rich, from Caledon or related sims.)

In the final analysis, I agree with Mr. Pearse and Mr. Dagger that I would enjoy a little more politeness and a little more Victoriana. I suspect that they would like even more of it than I would, and thus I am part of the problem from their perspective. (A minor part of the problem, I grant you.) Having a community code of standards (suggestions? ideas?) might help to some degree - if I know what others expect, I'm usually willing to try to be accommodating. No, it won't solve all the problems of bad manners, and some people will not be willing to try, but it can't hurt. No one really wants to be a scold, so no one wants the job of calling out offenders on ISC chat. However, many people may actually appreciate a private IM explaining the offense. Well, I know I would, at any rate.

Finally, the Guv's description of Caledon in his profile runs as follows: "An isle of civility in a tempestuous world, a quick smile, a friendly hello and a bit of a respite from the metaverse at large. Regardless if you are joining us for tea, just popping over for a bit of shopping, or preparing your evil monologue for world domination, welcome! No dress codes, no restrictions, naturally - who you are is good enough for us." For the most part, that's what I get when I am in Caledon, and I try to act accordingly. It seems easy enough to do.


Fogwoman Gray said...

Thank you for the wonderful post Miss Jameson, this subject certainly is an oft occurring one - since time immemorial. Things were always simpler, more polite etc back in the good old days. Certainly with a larger community and more total people there is much more opportunity to offend in myriad ways, and some folks have that chip rather precariously balanced from the start. As to the days of eld, I would say "shirtless o'clock, Duchess Sandwich".
For current folks, along with the Polite (most important) I would add emphasis on the LIGHT portion of the Victorian rolepay. Taking over state chat with your wargames, BDSM, graphic anything is not polite. Take it to private IM as a courtesy to the many who may not be actively participating but who have chat constantly scrolling when inworld. I know some people think that Caledon "needs" shocking behaviour because everyone is an old fuddy duddy. I would respond that we probably have a lot more experience with things that would curl your hair - but chose to be here as a vacation from our exciting and scandalous real lives!

Rhianon Jameson said...

I agree wholeheartedly, Miss Gray. Well, except for the suggestion that I have any experience with things that can curl hair - I lead a most dull existence away from the keyboard, with nothing scandalous to provide excitement. (Just once I'd like to be at a wedding where there is a show-stopping announcement just before the vows, or a fight between two old girlfriends breaks out at the reception!)

However, you make me a little wistful that I missed the days of yore, as I keep hearing about the famed Duchess sandwich, and yet...

In fact, I spent some time looking for the *cough* sex shop that Miss Tardis mentioned as one reason for her departure from the debauched shores of Caledon, and failed in that effort. I make a lousy journalist.

Ah well. I am certain there will be enough excitement in the coming year.

Eladrienne Laval said...

A good post Miss Jameson.

I think both you and Miss Gray hit upon the fact that there is a time and place for certain types of behavior. You would have possibly enjoyed the era of "shirtless o'clock", if anything, for its levity. *laughs* But the thing to remember is that would have been an event, not a constant running commentary to hundreds.

I could sit and gripe about it all, and I'm sure I have at this point...but I'm done and the question to be asked now is "What to do about it, if something can be done?"

Emilly Orr said...

I miss the era of the Caledon Raves, I do. I admit it. "Shirtless O'Clock", while I think that started in Steelhead, then moved to Caledon...had its place as well. (And there are few more invigorating things than a handful of gentlemen in your company suddenly divest themselves of everything but their kilts, and dance on. Scandalous? Yes. Fun? Most definitely.)

I don't want to be painted--or expected to be--the next Charity Dogsbody. But by the same extension, I don't think it's so very much to ask that we keep to certain guidelines, as much as possible--and you've outlined them very well. I truly don't believe this puts undue pressure on anyone to be polite, to be tolerant, to understand when one can, to be friendly when one can. These are not edicts of the Hitler Jurgen, these are simple...basic...courtesies...that we all should follow.

Why is this so hard?