The Overwatch Character We Need

Like a lot (and I mean a LOT) of people, I really love Overwatch. The major reason being the diverse and unique array of characters. Some of my faves include Symmetra (no surprise there), D.Va, Sombra, Widowmaker, Zarya, Lucio, Junkrat and Roadhog. I also have a soft spot for the Shimada brothers (I don’t really like Hanzo but I hope he and Genji get to reconcile) and Pharah.

Overwatch’s ever expanding lore takes the time to include more characters, with recent additions including Sombra, Ana (Pharah’s mother), and Orisa, and it looks like Doomfist is going to be next in line.

But I feel like there’s a major character who really needs to be introduced, both as a playable character and a significant member of the lore. Who would that be?

Pharah’s father.

When the game first came out, Pharah, an Egyptian character, had some Legendary Skins clearly inspired by the First Nations people of Canada’s Pacific Northwest:

File:Pharah Skin Raindancer.png

File:Pharah Skin Thunderbird.png

Cultural appropriation? A lot of people certainly thought so, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

According to THIS post from someone who is actually a Native Canadian from the Pacific Northwest (Eyak to be precise), it is actually not a bad idea at all to appropriate this particular culture. Why? Because Eyak and other Native cultures in that area are in extreme danger of dying off. What better way to keep the culture alive than by featuring it in such a popular game?

Nevertheless, there was enough of an uproar for Blizzard to try to rectify this situation. So they revealed Pharah’s father…sort of. We don’t know his name, his relationship with her or Ana, or how he fits into the Overwatch lore, but we do know that he is Native Canadian, making Pharah Métis.

Related image (note the Canadian flag on the TV screen in the background)

Image result for pharah's father

Now, I think it’s really cool that Pharah is mixed race with Canadian heritage! As a Canadian myself, I was so happy to hear that! However, it can be easy to see how making her father Native without actually including him can be seen as a get out of jail free card, especially since Pharah’s native heritage isn’t always explored and we only know about Ana, who is full-blooded Egyptian as far as we know.

So, why not make him part of the game and give him a bigger role in the lore? Let’s see him interact with the other characters. Let’s see how he feels about Ana being MIA for so long. Let’s see him bond with his daughter more. Let’s see what his relationship with Gabriel, Jack, and Reinhardt is like. You could definitely delve into some truly interesting and compelling lore of how Pharah, her father, and Ana are connected.

And of course, let’s give more visibility to Canada’s First Nations people. Recently, Canada just celebrated its 150 anniversary as a united sovereign country, but a lot of our Indigenous community called attention to the cultural and literal genocide they have faced in those years (just look up residential schools and the 60’s scoop to get a general, horrible idea). You can see how a Native Canadian character can do some good, especially when you consider the positive impact of Pharah’s skins on some people.

Overwatch is not going away any time soon, so there’s plenty of time for him to show up. When (hopefully not if) he shows up, I will be very excited to see his impact on the world of Overwatch and Native Canadian cultures.

 

Advertisements

How Megamind Can Help Us With Pride

A lot of animated family movies teach the message of “Be yourself and proud of who you are”. For a lot of kids of any age, they need to be reminded not to let bullies or peer pressure get to them. But for some kids who are attracted to the same gender or present themselves outside of the masculine/feminine binary, simple “be proud of who you are” messages aren’t enough.

In 2013, Frozen came out and for a lot of people, “Let It Go” became a coming out anthem. But while the movie (mainly Elsa) does resonate with the LGBT community, it was actually meant to be about mental illness. Is there an animated family film that can be read explicitly as one for LGBT youth?

I think there might be. And that movie is none other than DreamWorks’ 2010 film Megamind.

Image result for megamind

This movie wasn’t a huge hit (Disney’s Tangled, which also came out that year, made more money) but it does have a following. It’s a superhero movie with a twist: what if the villain won? And once the villain does win, what happens next? In Megamind’s case, he becomes bored and lonely. He doesn’t really want power, he just wants people to appreciate and acknowledge him. Eventually he becomes a real hero and gets the girl. But I think a queer narrative plays a huge role in that story as well.

For starters, I think you can tell from the poster that he’s queer-coded like a lot of villains tend to be. Skintight, spiky, over-the-top outfits (and some makeup!) and a thin, waifish built. He also has some, ahem, foppish mannerisms, lives with a male best friend who wears a pink apron and raises robot children, can be really emotionally expressive (but not macho or manly), and gazes longingly at Metro Man (the male opponent) just as he does with Roxanne (the female love interest).

And you know what? He’s never demonized for any of this. He isn’t made to be the butt of a joke or gross, that’s just how he is. He’s FABULOUS, and isn’t forced to change, even after he becomes a hero.

What makes me think this is a queer narrative, beyond just how Megamind presents himself, is how his story of discrimination is eerily reminiscent of LGBT youth.

His parents had to send him away, and he spent his childhood growing up (raised by other men) in a prison. When he goes to school he is immediately seen othered by the teacher and the other children, getting no gold stars, put in the corner, and not picked to be on teams. So he has to be independent. Eventually, he decides “if they think I’m a villain, I guess that’s what I’ll be!”

That definitely sounds like a kid from a marginalized identity facing prejudice, and internalizing it. There are unfortunately cases of young kids with internalized homophobia who become aggressive and unhappy. This is a definite parallel to Megamind leading a life of villainy, but eventually realizing that it is depressing and meaningless.

After donning a disguise of a white straight man, Megamind gets closer to Roxanne. He falls in love with her (but still shows a yearning for Metro Man) and even ends up kissing her. When his disguise fades, everyone stops and stares at them with shock and horror. That can definitely be reminiscent of how LGBT couples expressing affection in public are viewed and treated.

Frustrated, Megamind tries to return to being a villain by battling Hal aka Tighten, a ‘hero’ he created. But it turns out the ubermasculine Hal is the real villain, who takes delight in hurting others and is creepily obsessed with Roxanne, feeling entitled to her. Megamind, in all his FABULOUS glory, defeats him and saves the day, becoming the new city hero and Roxanne’s boyfriend.

I think it’s pretty obvious that the blue alien Megamind is meant to be a metaphor for a person of a marginalized identity taking pride in who they are and becoming loved for it. And given his mannerisms, attire, his contrast to the villain, and how he idolizes a male AND a female character, I think it’s safe to say that a bisexual, gender-noncomforming Megamind fits very well. And he can still find love, he can still be a hero, that he doesn’t have to conform, and that he is AWESOME. I think this is something that all LGBT youth can remember when they feel like the world is getting them down.

Happy Pride Month!

 

 

 

Thoughts on Overwatch’s New Hero

A few weeks ago the Overwatch team began posting pictures and information on a new character, an 11 year old African technology prodigy named Efi Oladele. People were curious what this was leading up to, since it was unlikely she’d be a playable character (there are laws in other countries prohibiting child characters in violent fighting games).

Well, today it was revealed that Efi was the creator of Overwatch’s newest tank hero, the robot Orisa!

What I like right away about this character is that it’s a female coded robot (fembot) that ISN’T sexualized or a maid. In a lot of media robots are mostly gender neutral (but still meant to be read as male) whereas the more gendered robots are highly feminized and often put into sexual or subservient roles. So, to see a female-aligned robot being big and bulky and as a fighter/protector is a real refreshing turn of events. It’s also nice seeing more bulky women (human or not) in the game, Zarya was looking kind of lonely there.

What we know about the character so far is that she is concerned about protecting people and keeping them safe, but still has a lot of work to do. It would be really neat if we could see her interact with Bastion and Zenyatta and what their dynamics would be like.

People are already drawing parallels between Orisa and Efi and Hiro and Baymax and I think that’s adorable. I think we need more stories of robots being helpful and caring (rather than just mindless drones or usurpers). Overall, definitely looking forward to this character and what role she has in the overall lore.

The Lego Batman Movie Review

Spoiler Warning.

Image result for the lego batman movie

So I got to see The Lego Batman movie today and oh my god, it was absolutely incredible. I loved almost every minute of it.This movie is action packed, funny, has a lot of clever homages to past Batman incarnations (mainly the campy 6o’s series) and even has a good amount of heart to it! But the characters are probably the best part.

Batman of course is great. In addition to being hilarious (Will Arnett does a tremendous job voicing him), he’s also just the right amount of brooding. At the beginning he’s kind of an asshole (mainly because he doesn’t want to get close to people after what happened to his parents) but as the film progresses he goes through a lot of character development. Ultimately, the movie takes the notion that superheroes (especially Batman) need to be all alone an angsty and goes “fuck that shit”. Robin is absolutely adorable and compliments Batman perfectly. They’re a very cute father/son team, and the family dynamic between Batman, Robin, Barbara and Alfred is adorable.

I really loved this movie’s depiction of Barbara Gordon and Harley Quinn. Barbara is now Latina (with her dark skin and having a Latina voice actress; Jim Gordon is also dark-skinned with a Latino voice actor so you know this was intentional) AND the commissioner (not just his daughter). She is smart, quick-witted, determined, is able to call Batman out on his shit, is very heroic, and not shoehorned into unnecessary romances or brutalized. She’s a well-defined character in her own right. Harley Quinn is not sexualized whatsoever, and her relationship with the Joker is portrayed as partners in crime, rather than a creepy/unhealthy romantic relationship.

Alfred is also a really great character, playing a huge role in the story and even being able to kick some ass. He was able to actually be a superhero himself, and since you don’t see a lot of old people as superheroes, this was pretty refreshing.

One thing I liked about this movie was how it was able to use all sorts of villains (including characters from other WB property, such as King Kong, Sauron, and Lord Voldemort). It raised the stakes of the film significantly, and makes the action a lot cooler. The villains from Batman’s rouges gallery are of course a treat.

I don’t want to really spoil too much about the film (I really liked the climax and ending but I would have to spoil a lot of it in order to explain why), so go see it for yourself! You’ll have a blast. If you hated DC’s previous movies for being too dark and gritty or overstuffed or any other reason, this movie should restore your faith in the company’s ability to make good movies with their classic characters.

I Kind of Want An Overwatch Doll

The Overwatch game is rated T for Teen, but the rest of the franchise is actually pretty kid friendly. Which is probably why I can’t stop thinking about how Overwatch would make for some really awesome toys.

The merch available is pretty generic. They’ve got shirts, Funko Pops, stationary, mugs, plushies of Winston, posters, other clothes, and the like. But mostly shirts. Not much else.I mean, come on, think of all the action figures you can make of the characters. What kid wouldn’t want to play with these characters? If a kid is interested in Overwatch but is too young to play the game, I think making toys of the characters is a great alternative.

And I know it’s unlikely to happen, but I would love to see dolls of the female characters. I know dolls for Zarya, Mei, and Ana might be a little harder to make, but I still think all the women would make beautiful dolls.

Now, there’s a market for adults that sells collectible dolls. Those with a lot of detail and care put into them. I wouldn’t be too surprised if there are some Overwatch fans who wouldn’t mind having them to collect.

But also, I feel like they could be great for little girls too, even if they aren’t interested in the rest of the franchise. The women of Overwatch are all diversely beautiful. I can totally imagine a little girl looking at a doll of one of them, getting excited, and wanting to have it. I can especially imagine a brown and/or amputee girl (yes they exist, look up the War Amps) loving a Symmetra doll.

At any rate, there’s a goldmine of opportunity released by this game. I do hope we get a better variety of merch soon, even if they’re not toys, because the current slate is kind of underwhelming. I’m hoping eventually we’ll get an animated TV series of movie, and when that comes, they’re definitely going to need a better quantity of merchandise to market the film and make it a success.

But more than anything, I want a Symmetra doll.

 

Tracer Comes Out and Proud, Korra and Asami Remain Stable

img_0045

Image result for korrasami

Short post because it’s been a long day (I’m starting my Christmas vacation) but I needed to talk about this now. This has been a big week for queer women.

December 19th marked the two year anniversary of the series finale of Legend of Korra, where it was revealed that Korra and Asami are bisexual and in love with each other, and will go on to be happy together. The fact that people have been celebrating this on social media proves just how major this was, and how many lives it touched.

And just a day later, Overwatch (which never fails to impress me), as a warm Christmas gift, released a comic confirming that Tracer, the face of the hit franchise, is gay and in a happy, healthy, explicit relationship. Tracer was the first announced gay character from Blizzard (they had teased that at least one of their characters was gay), and hopefully this will pave the way for further LGBT characters in the franchise and for others.

This is huge. Two significant series that have given representation to the LGBT community. Not minor characters. Not offscreen relationships. Nothing that ended in death or misery. But main characters in loving relationships.

In a world where LGBT representation (especially for women) is rare and not well developed, it’s wonderful knowing that we’re getting closer and closer to showing happy, living characters together in mainstream media. And in our current troubled climate, lots of young LGBT fans will take comfort in knowing someone cares.

Merry Christmas, my wlw friends. You are valid and you are loved.

 

Sombra is here!

 

After lots and lots and lots of teasing, Blizzard Entertainment finally unveiled their newest major character, Sombra!

I love how we already know so much about Sombra and how much of a complex character she is. She’s definitely youthful (and a bit of a troll) and spunky but also a genius who is very diabolical. She works with the main villains of the game but goes behind their backs to get their target to work for her. This is clearly a confident and powerful woman who knows how to get people to do what she wants (and of course, her design is excellent, reflecting her personality and skills very well).

It was a lot of waiting, but it looks like the reveal was worth it, because we know Sombra plays an integral part in the worldbuilding of the game. I’m totally invested in this character now and want to see where she takes us!