Aldrich is one of the Lords of Cinder, a group of people that have ascended to God status due to their powers, and are tasked with keeping the Age of Fire alive. Killing him and delivering his soul to Firelink Shrine is a requirement to finish Dark Souls III. He gained his powers from literally devouring the bodies of others, to the point of becoming a shapeless blob. Your quest to even find him in the first place will take through several locations, ending in the moldy ruins of what was once Anor Londo.
When you finally fight Aldrich, you’ll notice his arsenal and attacks are more or less a Best of Dark Souls compilation, who is only a “Praise The Sun!” away from becoming a walking internet meme. He uses the sword of Gravelord Nito, and his body also contains many skeletons. The room you fight him in is the same one where you had that iconic battle against Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smaugh.
What’s most important, though, is the top half of his body. It’s Gwyndolin, or what’s left of her. Only now her features and anatomy are grossly elongated, and her white dress turned pitch black. He also uses the same sorcery and Moonlight arrows she was known for. His theme song is even stolen from her, though it’s far more intense and evil compared to the original.
At some point, Aldrich travels to Anor Londo, defeating and consuming Gwyndolin. As he’s now a formless blob, he uses her remains to fight you.
I wrote in my zine/book/thing (sorry for the cheap plug) that, in the world of media at least, cis people love to steal from trans creators. A lot of things we’ve made have been co-opted as brand building exercises and money-making opportunities, while we continue to deal with the hate, the bigotry, and the exclusion.
You’re probably familiar with The Matrix. A trilogy of sci-fi films that also served as an allegory for the Wachowskis transition, with The Red Pill serving as the key item.
You’re probably also familiar with The Other Red Pill: Angry, bigoted men who need something to blame once they realize that they are not owed a woman’s company, despite what society and advertising have told them. Their Red Pill is not a representation of transition, but of a twisted sense of enlightenment that men are superior to women. A film that should be celebrated as an important piece of trans media is now overshadowed by Men’s Rights Activism; misogynist witch hunts and radicalizing confused teenagers.
In the world of music, trans artists at one point in time were closely associated with the sub-genre of “Vaporwave,” itself part of a genre pioneered by a trans woman. It uses imagery of shopping malls, 80’s fashion, Japanese animation and video games to critique Capitalism and the current hellscape that it’s created. It’s constant use of pastel colors and overly-feminine fashion can be seen as a critique of how ridiculous the concept of “passing” really is.
Now, though, the sub-genre is overrun by white supremacists. The advent of things like “Fashwave” and “Trumpwave,” where what was once trans-feminine irony is now status-quo chest thumping by MAGA hat wearing chuds who think that the Holocaust is a lie.
In video games, there are many, many, many programmers, artists, designers, and critics (hello!) who are trans women. We create the games you like, we write the thinkpieces you love, our jokes and our memes keep you entertained.
We also need to beg the internet to help keep us from homelessness. We don’t even think of seeing a doctor if our following isn’t big enough. Cis men, though, have built their followings, made a living, or even created a media empire based off things we’ve made or done. Cis men can literally raise a family off the work of someone who can barely afford to live. All this, while being constantly targeted by transphobes on both ends of the political spectrum.
Let’s go back to Aldrich. Talking to the Crestfallen Warrior in Firelink Shrine, you get a little more background info:
Simply put, for his title and for all his mystique, Aldrich is only a Lord of Cinder not because of any skill or talents he has, but simply because he’s just a very big guy. The closes thing to an original ability in combat is that Gwyndolin’s sorceries now use the Dark element. It was an element introduced in Dark Souls II, an entry that most people, myself included, consider to be the weakest in the series. His only real ability is to consume. To take from others.
Speaking to other trans artists, there’s a not insignificant number of them who feel the need to be “real” behind closed doors. Locked blogs and Twitters to express themselves, so as not to be looked at as “weird.” The four most dangerous words on the internet: Not Safe For Work. You need to be acceptable. You need to be Safe For Work.
Safe For Consumption.
Put another way, Aldrich is a mediocre cis man with mediocre magic from a mediocre game literally using a caricatured trans woman’s body like a puppet to meet his goals. Aldrich is Men’s Right Activism. Aldrich is Fashwave. Aldrich is Alternative Games Culture. Aldrich is everything that you loved, only now it’s twisted and covered in slimy, murky shit. Literally.
Fighting him was aggravating, not because of the challenge involved, but because he is a representation of every asshole we’ve been held down and used by. Every asshole we have to live in fear of. Fighting him is aggravating, but killing him is cathartic.
When you kill Aldrich, and gain his soul, you can see underneath the darkness, the pale white of Gwyndolin. A trans woman sits at the core of his very being. He is nothing without us, much like how so many cis men are nothing without us.