I’ll take “Titles I Never Thought I’d Use” for $500, Alex.
I was all ready to chalk Grand Theft Auto V up as a failure in representation. In all fairness, I didn’t expect to ever see a Grand Theft Auto game actually stop taking potshots at the LGBTQ+ community. Since I started playing GTA games with Grand Theft Auto 3, there was always that one character created as a stereotype of a gay male, complete with an effeminate voice, color-coordination, and neckerchief. The game developers over at Rockstar North aren’t all that subtle.
That’s Bernie from Grand Theft Auto IV. He is a former soldier who came out sometime after the fictional war he fought in. That’s great, but the way protagonist Niko describes Bernie’s soldier ways compared to today gives the audience a not-so-subliminal message that, because Bernie is gay, he is automatically different.
While it’s not always the case, I don’t know of any cases in real life where someone coming out changes
the essence of who they are as a person.
Fast forward to Grand Theft Auto V, which just came out Tuesday, where I have noticed some subtle changes to the GTA universe that hint that Rockstar is moving away from stereotyping LGBTQ+ characters. In one of the first missions, protagonist Franklin gets into a discussion with a bigoted paparazzi member, Beverly, concerning in-game gay rapper Clay “PG” Jackson.
Man, who gives a fuck if he’s gay or not, man? The man is not married. It’s his business. Leave motherfuckers alone… why do you care, man?
I found this to be a drastic change from previous GTA games. Instead of the protagonist staying neutral, like Niko did frequently in cut scenes, Franklin makes a logical statement concerning Jackson. Beverly’s statements, in comparison, seem about as ridiculous as they are. Franklin makes sense. Beverly is a dick.
While this is the only reference to the LGBTQ+ I have run into yet, Rockstar North has
been taking steps away from relying solely on stereotypes. In 2009, Rockstar North released Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony. The focus of the game centered on Gay Tony, a nightclub owner in the fictionalized Liberty City.
Gamers can see the development of Rockstar North’s thought process in The Ballad of Gay Tony. The character still holds traits that could be considered stereotypes. His voice is slightly effeminate and his nickname itself is a label. But the focus on the character analyzes his humanity, not his sexual preference. The fact that Tony is gay doesn’t really matter to the development of the story arc.
Now, I’m only halfway through the game as of Friday morning. The end scene could have a character that uses and abuses every LGBTQ+ stereotype in record time and if so, I will definitely write about that. But I’m finally getting the feeling that Rockstar is realizing that compelling story-telling trumps malicious stereotypes any day, and it’s making me look forward to the potential addition of an LGBTQ+ character in the game’s DLC packs.