Thursday, June 21, 2012

Throwing a Blanket Over will NOT Solve Prejudice

Yesterday in my Twitter, I said that Amaterasu, the main character in the Okami videogame, was the perfect female character who cannot be sexualized in any way. Because she is a wolf. Not a wolf-girl, but a wolf-wolf with god-like powers. Of course, it is pretty hard to sexualize a wolf. But also, it made me think how this is not a solution for the prejudice problem.

Of course, if you make a character who don't have a gender, a race, a religion, a nationality or any other characteristic that is used as justification for prejudice, you will have a polemic free character. But also, you will have a character who is impossible to develop. To avoid any prejudice, this character need to be devoid of any form and substance, because any other way will give people a chance to be prejudicial.

I said in a prior article how I believe that Samus Aran, despite being one of the first female characters and be considered by many a great female character, is not relevant due to her gender. In the first games, it is irrelevant that she is female, because all you see is the robotic suit around, only to discover who is inside the suit is a girl. Even her name is dubious, it does not give a single clue of her gender.

This is a bad solution for the problem of sexism, for example. By removing the sexual identity of Samus, it does not matter she is a girl. She could be a man, a dog, a robot or a grey blob. Her gender was not relevant in anyway. Gamers weren't playing with a female character, but with a robotic suit who happened to have a girl inside, and that showed up to be irrelevant.

The same goes for Master Chief. I never and I believe no one have saw his face. He could be any kind of person we want him to be. Black, white, asian, gay, robot. Anything we can input on him. While it is great because players can be Master Chief, it does not make great things in combating prejudice through a media.

Making a cool character who belongs to a group victim of prejudice can be a great way to combat prejudice, but only if the character can be identified as member of such group. If we make a great female character who both genders want to play and recognize that women can be as cool as men, without de-sexualizing is a way more effective way to combat sexism than just throwing a blanket over the character and removing her identity as a female.

The same goes for race. How we can have a cool black character, for example, if we cannot identify him as black until we pull the 'blanket' off him? By hiding his identity, we just are denying the existence of the problem and saying that we don't have the courage to deliver a character who can be cool and a member of a group many people have prejudices against.

Some said that using character generators would help solve the problem. in part, it would, as it would give more opportunities to people who aren't white males to have a character they can easily project themselves into. But then we have again a character whose gender, race and other thinks barely have any importance. Again is someone with a blanket over themselves. While I love the opportunity to create a character the way I want, it don't solve the problem.

We would still have to deal with all the NPCs who may fall into a stereotype trap, while the players would not have the opportunity to see how someone who is different from them can be as good and cool as any other characters. It also a missed opportunity because this attitude don't allow the players to be put in the shoes of people different then themselves.

By putting themselves in the place of women, men can learn their troubles, their weak and strong points. If you are put in an ethnic group different then your own, you can learn about its culture, its strong and weak points. by being put in the shoes of someone different from you, you can learn that you are not that different and that what is different is not reason to hate, but to understanding.

In real life we cannot just force everyone to hide who they really are by forcing them to use grey blankets all the time. This not generate acceptance and get rid of discrimination and prejudice. This just hide the problem, instead of fighting it. That is why I praise any developer, writer and director who have the courage to not make their characters a formless thing that you could as well change with a plank. The people who have the courage to choose a character who is not a member of a majority group or that don't make it irrelevant the character gender, race, religion, sexuality and such.

It is not hiding the problem that we will solve it. it is by facing it and being willing to solve it.


  1. Games need to try harder atleast with offering more variety in their protagonists. Good read!


Please leave a comment.