The following post will contain full story spoilers for a side quest in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Trigger warning for domestic violence and misogynistic language.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game full of small stories. Between the main quest, side quests, and tiny tales told by reading emails on hacked computers the player learns a lot about the this game’s Detroit and Hengsha. One of these stories is that of Evelyn Carmichael and her boyfriend Lee Hong. Their tale is one of domestic violence, corruption, and what the game calls justice.
When the main character of the game, Adam Jensen, arrives in Hengsha he is attempting to locate a hacker. When Jensen finds this hacker’s location he is stopped by his pilot, Faridah Malik, who gives Adam an optional side quest entitled Shanghai Justice. She explains that she has learned about the death of her friend Evelyn Carmichael. The official report states that Evelyn died from a drunken fall down a flight of stairs but Malik believes that this is a lie and that Evelyn’s boyfriend, Lee Hong, had something to do with the death.
When Jensen agrees to investigate Evelyn’s death the player first receives an autopsy report that contradicts the official police report. Next, Jensen arrives at Lee Hong’s apartment where he finds emails from Lee’s family, the murder weapon (an antique clock), and an answering machine message that lets him know Lee’s current location. From the evidence it becomes clear that Evelyn was not drunk the night of her death, that she was not killed from a fall down the stairs but from being hit repeatedly on the head, and that she was pregnant at the time of her murder. After the murder these facts were hidden because of the substantial amounts of money Lee’s father had invested in various industries in Hengsha. His family’s influence meant that the autopsy was buried and Lee’s version of the incident became the official facts of the case. The player can then go and confront Lee and get him to confess to the murder of his girlfriend.
When Lee is confronted with the evidence he confesses to Jensen, while Malik secretly records the audio of the entire conversation. When you exit the building Jensen says “Lee’s confession is solid. With that and the evidence from the autopsy, there’s no way he can avoid prosecution. Justice will be served.” Malik replies “Oh, justice will be served alright… You might want to stick around for a second. I’ve got one last little surprise for our friend Lee.” At this point the exterior of The Hive bar, which is made up of giant video screens, shows an image of Lee Hong’s ID tag with a red stamp of Murderer over it. There is also an audio clip of his confession that is played on loop.
“I… I don’t — I don’t know! Evelyn… That stupid bitch! She was going to ruin me! I- I didn’t mean to kill her! Okay? Evelyn wouldn’t shut up, about us, about the the baby. So I hit her. I just wanted to make her shut her stupid mouth… but that dumb bitch started freaking out. So I hit her again, until I, until she finally stopped screaming. When I realized what I’d done, I , I panicked. She was barely breathing, so I carried her to the stairs near my apartment and… and dropped her. I had to make it look like an accident… I had no choice! She trapped me! She just wanted my money! I would have been ruined!”
Lee’s confession has a lot of the lines spoken by domestic violence perpetrators. He fully blames the other person for all the violence he inflected on them. If she had only been quiet. If she had only not been pregnant. It was all her fault. He didn’t mean it, the violence was all the other person’s fault. This man is not remorseful, he is justifying his actions. This death was all Evelyn’s fault in his mind.
I had Jensen stand at The Hive at the end of the quest. The first time I heard the confession it felt like sweet revenge on Lee Hong. His confession was out for all of Hengsha to hear. Then, I let Jensen continue to stand there. As the confession repeats I quickly became uncomfortable. What Malik did by airing this man’s confession on loop was give voice to the murderer. His justification was there for all to hear. His hatred and disdain of Evelyn was heard by all, over and over and over again. This was not giving a voice to Evelyn, but instead allowing her killer to speak his mind. She is not honored when he calls her a bitch on the loudspeakers. Her memory is not honored when he gets to yell about how she was trapping him. Lee views the pregnancy as though it was some manipulative plan by Evelyn in which he played no role. Yes, it is the confession of a murderer but it is also the rant of an abusive man that is now on audio loop. While many would see his words as despicable, there could be others that agree with his justifications. It should be Evelyn that is given a voice at the end of this quest, not Lee Hong.
I would argue that the only true justice at the end of the quest would be to give Lee’s confession and pile of evidence to the police. Some public shame of Lee could have been achieved by giving that same information to a newspaper. But when Malik broadcast a loop of the confession on The Hive’s exterior it gave voice to a killer, and that voice drowned out her friend. Since there was no platform for Evelyn to speak, why instead give a platform for her killer? That is not justice. Silencing Evelyn one final time to give Lee a voice is an additional injustice.