Culture Check: Moira – Overwatch’s David Bowie banshee
This weekend at BlizzCon, among many things, Blizzard announced the new Overwatch hero Moira—a support healer who has no ethical boundaries when it comes to her work.
She’s a deadly mix of DPS and healing. One hand can hold enemies with a violet beam that drains their lifeforce, while her left can provide long-range healing to her allies. Her two-toned look is doubly evident when you check out her backstory and notice her heterochromia, which is just another homage to the Irish music icon she’s obviously been fashioned after: David Bowie.
The devil is in the concept art
During the panel that revealed the dark-sided scientist Moira O’Deorain, designers showed off some concept art created during the development of this new hero. One skin design entitled “Glam” was a very clear nod to Bowie. The star, the hair, the eye-covering said it all.
Originally, it looked as if concept designers weren’t quite dedicated to the yellow and purple combination to emphasize Moira’s duality between damage and healing. Moira could have wound up being a hunched 2000 X-men movie Toad, or a white-haired femme fatale with a killer, Sombra-esque manicure. Moira’s eventual final form was somewhere in between, but a few details from earlier development stuck. For one thing, Moira is the Talon equivalent of Mercy and like Mercy, she sports some headgear.
But unlike Mercy, Moira’s halo appears broken, suggesting horns.
The second detail that persisted is the focus on her arms, one with a healing touch, the other destructive. Her current form is not as uneven as the concept art, but the withering of her deadly right hand is still there. Which brings us to the other Irish inspiration behind her design: banshees.
The creation of a banshee
Moira is an Irish name, originally from the Greek given name connected to the Fates—the three women who could cut the strings of fate and end the life of any one young hero, if you remember your Greek lore or Disney’s Hercules. O’Deorain is likely derived from the Gaelic word deorahd, which can mean stranger or exile, which is what Moira calls herself in her backstory video that Blizzard released this weekend.
O’Deorain had a brilliant, but controversial start to her career. She is fully dedicated to science, and therefore pushed past ethical boundaries in studying the cutting edge of genetic engineering. Ever ambitious, she published a paper on the possible creation of genetic programing that could edit DNA to eradicate disease and maximize human potential. Her peers, and the public at large, perhaps detecting hints of eugenics, reacted negatively. Most of all, this reminded people (and especially Overwatch) of the unchecked scientific advancements that gave way to the tragedies of the Omnic Crisis.
It’s not clear precisely how, but O’Deorain’s work was stifled, her lab emptied, and reputation ruined. She had, however, piqued the interest of Overwatch’s covert ops division, Blackwatch. This is apparently how Gabriel Reyes became Reaper—his cells able to regenerate and decay at a super-human rate, which apparently comes with the bonus of creepy black tendrils, but more on that later.
Located on the Oasis map, one of her concept skins and documents entitled “Draft: Repairing Degenerative Genetic Structures” hints that, once Overwatch was disbanded, she was part of the scientific community behind the founding of the city.
It was clear that during this time she kept ties to Talon and eventually earned herself a seat on it’s inner council according to her backstory video.
All this is detailed out in the freshly made Overwatch Wiki page on the newest hero, but what is not elaborated on is her decrepit right hand. In fact, the trivia section of the page is frustratingly mysterious; it simply says “there is a story there.”
What could this story be? Likely it has something to lend to her Irish origins, as some have theorized.
Her killer nails and gnarled palm look a lot like death’s touch—which they just might be. While her face says “Bowie” Moira’s hands say “banshee.”
Banshees aren’t just X-Men protagonists who don’t get enough credit, their lore goes hundreds of years back, the earliest known reference being in 1380. Banshees originate in the Irish and Scottish tradition of the keening woman, who were an essential part of the mourning process. The name is fairly self-explanatory, the keening woman would lament and cry at funerals and wakes.
In Irish folklore, there is a supernatural keening woman known as a banshee who would appear, wailing and sobbing, as an omen that someone was about to die. The typical depiction of a banshee is the hag, who’s hands match Moira’s.
However, modern media has skewed the banshee’s appearance almost exclusively to this wild-haired, shrieking horror floating through Ireland’s moors. Older tales tell of banshees as young and perhaps beautiful women, sometimes quietly crying as they wash bloodied rags, their hair red or orange and “shimmering like wildfire”.
Moira has a ginger coif, like Bowie did, and death’s touch, like the legend of the banshee does.
Moira’s cinematic and abilities similar to Reaper’s Wraith Form debunk the popular theory that Mercy was the one to give Reyes’ his new form. Closing this gap in the lore, fans are all the more excited to play the newest hero. While there is not yet any release date from the Irish geneticist gone mad, Moira has been called “a healer for people who hate playing healers” among other things.
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