I’ve had a beaten-up copy of The Shattered Court lying around my apartment for some time now, and I finally decided it was time to give it a read. The book is the opener to a series, and introduces a Britain-based country with its own unique magical system. However, my interest in the book quickly turned to frustration and disappointment as I learned more about how the magic worked. While the series attempted to say some challenging things about gender and magic, it fell down harder and harder every time it tried.
All people who play video games must make a choice: there’s no possible way we can invest ourselves in every game franchise that hits the market, so we pick a certain set of titles to get into, to watch more closely than others. I think I’ve gotten the biggest response from people, however, when I tell them which series I never got into. Yes, people seem strangely shocked that I really could not care less about the Final Fantasy series. The games are okay, and I understand why people like them, but I don’t exactly give a shit when a new one is announced. As such, when people began relaying news of Final Fantasy XV and how it played, it didn’t catch my attention as much as, say, news on the new Tales of game. Still, these new forays into the Final Fantasy series have been garnering attention on a level I can’t just blissfully ignore. No, there’s some bullshit going on that’s indicative of the societal standard in gaming that only serves to cater to the boy’s club mentality.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: “why does this character have to be gay? It’s so distracting!” Or what about this: “we thought about making this character queer, but we thought it would be a distraction”. It seems like I’ve been seeing this sort of thing a lot lately—I see authors insisting that they’re open-minded and love their “gay fans”, but making characters queer would divert attention away from the story; on the other hand, I see fans complaining that the existing queer characters are distracting. But all I, a queer person, can hear from this is “for me to accept and portray you as a person, I need to ignore a piece of your person; can we pretend it doesn’t exist?” and “no one wants to see you as you are”.
It seems that a lot of creators think that it’s enough representation if they have ‘hidden’ LGBTQ+ characters—only revealing it with a throwaway punchline at the end of a movie (see: Mitch in ParaNorman), or even worse, only mentioning it outside the work itself (see: J.K. Rowling’s “I always thought of Dumbledore as gay”). Many fans cheer when this happens, because, see, you can write gay characters who don’t distract from the story. On one hand, this helps to normalize queer characters; it makes them seem just like heterosexual characters, so straight viewers don’t think of them as ‘other’, but as people just like them. And this is important. But on the other hand, really, what sort of representation is it if the audience has no idea the character is queer for mostof the work? Invisible representation is not representation. It also sends the message to queer audience members that they’re only equal to straight people when they’re indistinguishable from them, when they’re exactly the same; that to be accepted you have to follow the heteronormative rules. If you’re in any way different, you draw attention and it’s annoying and disgusting and the need for you to be this way is constantly questioned.
As a woman it is sometimes difficult to deal with all of the judgements you receive on a daily basis, especially when it comes to your sexuality. And geek culture isn’t always helpful when it comes to those issues. Woman must deal with being considered prudes if they aren’t sexually active, and if they are sexually active then they are considered “sluts.” Women are judged for their sexual activities or perceived sexual activities based on how they dress and act. These ideals that are forced on women are reinforced in attitudes that can be found in geek culture.