Aimee Carrero’s Opal is like nothing we’ve ever seen in Exandria before. For those of you who might not know, she is the hexblade warlock brain-daughter of Aimee Carrero (the voice of She-Ra and Elena of Avalor). A princess in her own right, even though she comes from the podunk town of Byroden, Opal is outspoken, well-dressed, and a total Shaun Gilmore simp (because who isn’t?).
Two out of three of these facts are why the “neckbeard” contingent of the Critical Role fandom has decided to hate her guts. Personally, I believe that both the actress, Aimee, and character, Opal, are representations of the “hot nerd girls are nonexistent unicorns” myth that the more toxic men in our community tell themselves, but that is only the surface level of why vitriol is being slung in their direction.
Besides simping for Exandria’s most eligible non-bachelor (#ShaunxDariusForever), Opal is perceived to be everything the nerd community has an internalized hatred for. The “it” or “popular” girl who is unaware of how her actions affect others. In short, the bully. Unwilling to apologize. Over-willing to throw shade. Medium-willing to help others (unless there’s a payday up front). A warlock with her sister for a patron, Opal is unlike any build or archetype we have seen in our emotional support DnD show…. Or is she? All I see in that list is Vex’halia, Countess of the Grey Hunt wrapped in a human warlock with a penchant for pink. That’s not to say Opal isn’t unique or her own character. Because she is that and a whole lot more!
With more sway on the story to date than fellow Exandria freshman, Dorian Storm played by Robbie Daymond, and a knack for testing her limits, Aimee/Opal has become the driver of ExU’s plot. An act of heresy to many when you consider that Liam O’Brien (nee Vax’ildan, Champion of the Raven Queen) is sitting right there as Orym of the Air Ashari, name dropping Keyleth and trying to take the reins.
For the subset of the CR fandom internally (or not so internally) screaming that Aabria Iyengar, a black woman and not another white man, is Exandria’s GM, having Aimee Carrero with her perfectly painted nail extensions, immaculate hair, killer wardrobe, and (let’s be honest) both IRL and in game sex appeal driving the plot is apparently just too much.
Both Opal and Aimee have a brusqueness that is offset by Darion and Robbie’s go with the flow demeanor. Visually, she’s sitting where Keyleth, aka Marisha Ray, became Voice of the Tempest and yelling at the Fire Ashari to get their acts together. Yet without this same directness, much of the plot would be stalled in bad roll purgatory.
So, at the end of the day the “thing” about Opal that is making people lose their minds is her perceived a distaste for classically attractive women in nerd spaces and Aimee’s refusal to metagame and kowtow to fandom nostalgia. This isn’t Critical Role as we know and love it because it is not a group of long-time nerd friends messing around. Instead, it is something more curated and polished than all that. Aimee/Opal’s opulent presence in the cast/party is a symbol of that, and the haters in our fandom need to get over themselves.
We need to consider the strength of character and talent it takes to step into a pre-existing world with beloved characters and create something new. Some of the awkwardness of Opal can be chocked up to Aimee being green to both DnD and televised improvisational roleplaying. However, the greatest amount of it can be chocked up to the brilliance of Aimee’s imagination, her excitement for DnD, and her raw talent. When we flip the attributes mentioned earlier, Opal becomes strong willed, sharp of both wit and tongue, and realistic. In summary, she is a three-dimensional young woman with character traits and clear motivation.
So, the real “thing” about Opal is her unique predisposition for dramatic flair as never before seen from other female cast or party members.
Regardless of predictable toxic/fragile masculinity, Opal along with Ashley Johnson’s Fearne Calloway, now stands beside Keyleth, Vex, Pike, Jester, Nott, Beu, and Yasha in the pantheon of Critical Role’s badass, full time women party members, and I for one cannot wait to see where her adventures take us.