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Questions, comments, and concerns about the way I play Tenenbaum go here. Please keep it constructive.
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History: Tenenbaum's page on the Bioshock wiki


For Brigid Tenenbaum, science was something pure, truthful, incorruptible. Being a Jew in Auschwitz, Tenenbaum was surrounded by chaos and death everywhere, with who lived and who died seeming arbitrary. Science was logical, it had clearly defined rules, and those were rules that Tenenbaum could cling to, bringing order into the turmoil of life in a concentration camp. Tenenbaum used the logical rules of science as a sort of barrier against this turmoil, seeming indifferent to the holocaust by and large. It was also practical protection: the fact that she was gifted at science meant that she was able to escape from hard labour and the gas chambers, instead helping the Nazi scientists in their experimentations on humans.

This began after Tenenbaum observed some of the experiments and corrected the scientists when they made mistakes; her opinion was that if they were going to do them anyway, then they should do them properly, her offense being at the mistakes as they weren't doing justice to the scientific process, rather than any caring attitude towards the victims, many of whom were her fellow Jews. It is arguable that Tenenbaum disassociated herself with a Jewish identity, in order to see the people she helped experiment on as less than people, looking at them through a purely scientific lens instead of a human one. Tenenbaum's own research was always driven by the need to find the cause of strength and intelligence, and to separate the strong from the weak; something she derided the Nazis for, with their useless categorization such as blue eyes and the shape of the skull. It was just after the war, still on the scientific quest to find what exactly made people strong, that Tenenbaum was contacted by Andrew Ryan, asking her to relocate to Rapture.

For someone like Tenenbaum, Rapture was paradise. As a city where the scientist would not be constrained by petty morality, it meant that she was free to experiment without murky moral arguments to stop her - she could continue to be guided by the pure, unrestrained, logic of science. Her partnership with Frank Fontaine resulted in the creation of plasmids and Tenenbaum was essential in the creation of Jack, purchasing his embryo at the very least, and knowing enough about the mind control to be able to undo a good portion of it. Tenenbaum was unperturbed by the side effects of ADAM, as well as what they were doing to Jack, still far more concerned with the scientific progress being achieved than the human consequences of this progress. However, Tenenbaum's conscience eventually caught up with her.

When tasked to find a suitable host to mass produce ADAM, Tenenbaum discovered that the only suitable hosts were young girls. And despite their mental conditioning, and the horrific task they were instilled with, they still played and acted just like ordinary little girls would. Perhaps it was a combination of seeing someone so completely unbroken by her experiments, the opposite of the reaction that she would expect, that made her stop and think, as well as the innocence and wonder that radiated from the girls, which was in such stark contrast to her bleak youth of the Jewish ghettos in Minsk and then the horrific experience of Auschwitz; this innocence and playfulness could be something that Tenenbaum had been completely unaccustomed to. Regardless, the Little Sisters awoke Tenenbaum's maternal instinct, and she began to realise the full extent of the horror that her love for science had inflicted upon them.

While Tenenbaum does not believe in the sanctity of the scientific process itself any more, she still uses science as a way to atone for her sins, developing a plasmid that can turn a Little Sister back into a normal girl, and striving to find a cure for the ADAM sickness. Tenenbaum herself describes her wrongdoings as sins, still working within a very black and white framework, but dividing how science is used into right and wrong, rather than the process itself being right and its detractors and those who make mistakes in the process as wrong.

She also applies this idea of sin and redemption to others who she comes across. For instance, her judgement of Jack is based entirely around how he interacts with the Little Sisters. Saving them will have her describe him as brave and compassionate, while harvesting them will make Tenenbaum refer to Jack's brutality. Tenenbaum is seemingly uncaring about what else Jack does in the city to survive, for instance killing hundreds of splicers, who were also ultimately victims of Tenenbaum's ADAM research. The difference here is the element of choice, a key theme in the Bioshock series. The citizens of Rapture had the choice of whether to destroy themselves with careless splicing; the girls who became the Little Sisters were robbed of their choices in life by Tenenbaum, and she is working to restore that choice to them. While we never really see Tenenbaum's attitude towards Ryan in the game, as she becomes the partner character after his death, his assertion that the Little Sisters had the ability to control their destiny, that "their little fingers were right there, next to mine" on the Great Chain, would be something that Tenenbaum would find absolutely objectionable.

Tenenbaum has no qualms about using others, such as Jack, in order to help put right the wrongs she has committed. It is arguable that she feels the need to do this; that she needs others to help save the Little Sisters and demonstrate that the world does contain brave, kind people who can do that, as she feels that whatever she does, it will never be enough to wash her own hands clean of her own sins. In saving the Little Sisters, Tenenbaum is able to check off her wrongdoings in an orderly fashion, but still feels the guilt and shame of her actions. However, I would argue that in seeing Jack choose to show them kindness rather than cruelty, she is able to live vicariously through that and almost experience those feelings herself.

In one of Suchong's audio diaries, he makes observations on some of Tenenbaum's mannerisms. The fact that she hardly ever speaks suggests to me that she is introverted, but possibly also that she lacks social skills or misses certain social cues. It could be that she is very confident and impressive when talking about her subject, but lacks the interest to contribute in other subjects, and finds small talk difficult, either because she sees it as irrelevant and beneath her, or because she is taken out of her element and doesn't quite know how to react or what to say a lot of the time - I am going to play her as a mix of these two elements. Suchong's comments on Tenenbaum's appearance suggest to me that she sees this aspect of her as unimportant - something that is corroborated in the Bioshock 2 artbook, the developers explaining that she always has one half of her shirt untucked or buttons missing, both to contrast her to Lamb and to emphasise that she doesn't view how she looks as important, only her work with the Little Sisters and undoing the wrongs she has wrought matter to her. As well as being more focused on her work than her appearance, though, it again suggests that she is possibly unaware of how others may view her based on her appearance, and that she pretty much relies on the fact that she is such a genius at genetics to give her professional credibility, again missing basic social cues. In the Bioshock prequel novel, Tenenbaum is frequently described as not meeting eye contact when talking to others, having a very distant expression, and avoiding small talk when possible.

Abilities: Brigid is a brilliant scientist, a true genius when it comes to genetics, despite having had no formal training. She also probably has some plasmid abilities - I'm going to tentatively give her Winter Blast, Houdini, and Armored Shell, but am happy to change these or remove her plasmids altogether if needed.
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This is Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum. State what you want and I will return the call. No timewasters, bitte.

Text | Voice | Video


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Brigid Tenenbaum

November 2013

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