Looking for the "Us" in Media

The Rogue from Diablo.
When I was a child growing up in my father's house, I quickly noticed his little habit of looking for "the African" in every TV show, film, or video/computer game.  Like, if we watched Lord of the Dance with Michael Flatley - an Irish production with no POC whatsoever - then he deemed the evil temptress with the long, wavy black hair as the African, and would complain that once more the darkest person was branded the villain.

It became a habit of mine as well, I noticed.  If the only POC was Asian, Maori, Native American, Latino, or what have you, I noticed that like my father, I found myself thinking of that person as the African, i.e., the person most like me.  And I very quickly noticed how often such people were always portrayed as the minority, reduced to secondary roles, were denied romance, and were often quickly killed off for the stupidest reasons.

Interestingly enough, I noticed my thinking changed somewhat when I played games like Diablo, and for those of you who do not wish to reveal your ages, I recommend refraining from voicing nostalgia.

But anyhoo, the lil sis and I LOVED playing Diablo, and we always picked the only female in the game, the bow and arrow-wielding Rogue.  Initially we chose her by instinct, but we stuck with her because of strategy.  Her weapon had range and she was built - more so than the other characters - to wield it efficiently.  She had bows and arrows, and we weren't trying to get up close and brawl it out with the demons.  The lil sis and I had an understanding: if it moved, it was gettin' shot - end of story.

But because she was a white woman, the Rogue evoked our father's ire.

Jade
Now, there was a time, if you recall, when females in video and computer games were quite rare.  There'd be a cast of 8-10 characters, and only one would be female.  So when I played Street Fighter II, I always chose Chun Li.  When Midway unleashed Mortal Kombat, I was Sonya Blade, until the dark-haired twins Mileena and Kitana were unveiled.  I had to wait a loooooong time for black female characters Jade and Tanya, and much to my distaste, Tanya was written as a back-stabbing villain (I think fans must have complained, because she got upgraded to bad-ass villain*).

My father did not and would not understand where I was coming from (probably because I was still a kid and unable to fully express myself).  He believed that if a black character was available, I should play that character every time, even if the character was male (this was also around the time I was a devoted fan of Xena, another thing which my father disliked).

Bad-Ass Villain
It was hard to explain to him the feeling a young girl gets when she sees her first warrior woman knocking a man upside the head, or shooting arrows into demons, or going on some long dangerous quest.  The woman's skintone is disregarded for a moment because simply seeing a woman in such a role makes us stop for a minute and marvel (and yes...Zula counts).  It doesn't even matter whether or not she's a villain.  As long as she ain't weepy, whiny, or a weakling, she evokes our awe.

So to all my female gamers out there (don't be shy), talk to me.  Who was your first love when you started gaming?  Or who was your first onscreen warrior woman?  Or both?  How did your parents react to your fangirling?

Guys, you can play too.

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*I'm just sayin'...go hard or go home.  If you're going to have a black female villain, then fuck...her story damn well better end with her conquering the whole universe.  Shit, I'd play that bitch in a movie.  *sniff* I've got ninja stealth.

Comments

  1. I was a Tomb Raider-Lara Croft fan. I don't think they minded.

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  2. @ Y

    I can't believe I forgot about her! I LOVED that game! And no...daddy wasn't too happy about that either.

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  3. 1. Ms. Pac-Man
    2. Sonya Blade
    3. Lara Croft

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  4. I was always Chun Li in street fighter too. I loved her kick. Since I have too many games I love I will just list them and put my most loved female character

    Diddy Kong Racing- Pipsi
    Mortal Kombat- Tanya, Jade, Ashra
    Tekken - Christie
    Final Fantasy XII- Fran
    Lara Croft

    There is such a long list for me lol I think I should do a blog post. My parents really didn't care about what games I played so long as my homework and chores were done.

    When I was younger and would watch a lot of cartoons and live action TV if there was "a black one" in the group I was her. So when playing with my friends at school I would always be the black one and force my friends to be the white characters (even though most of my friends were Black and Asian)

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  5. When it came to fighting games, I was more concerned about winning than how my character looked like (especially since I lost A LOT). I stuck to the characters I knew how to play, but Chun-Li, Sonya Blade, Blaze (Streets of Rage 2 and 3), Kitana, Mileena were some of my favorites. However, it wasn't until Eternal Champions: Challenges of the Dark Side (I think that was the name of it) that I saw a black woman in a fighting game. Her name was Raven Gindar and while her character was a little stereotypical (http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/1066/ravenetc.png) she could control the flow of time and she was pretty smart and ruthless too.
    For another female character from a lesser known fighting game, I loved playing as Vertigo from Primal Rage. Yeah, she was a dinosaur, but she was a awesome looking one with nasty combos.

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  6. Her name was Raven Gindar and while her character was a little stereotypical (http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/1066/ravenetc.png) she could control the flow of time and she was pretty smart and ruthless too.

    I'd never heard of her before.

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  7. Peppermintstix3/20/11, 5:47 AM

    Oh god yes this is true! I always played as the woman no matter her race. Especially Chun-li. Cammy got the side eye because her booty cheeks were showing. I remember the first time I thought I saw a black woman in a fighting game who was the "main" character and that was orchid in killer Instinct. I was amazed! I didn't like what she was wearing but I was convinced that she was black. I think she turned out to be asian but I didn't care because she was so brown

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  8. I was also an avid Tomb Raider fan,I had the Zena Game, and when I played street fighter was I was usually Cammy or Chun Li! I miss gaming now lol

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  9. @ Peppermintstix

    OMG - I loved Orchid! She was the only reason I even cared about Killer Instinct!!!

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  10. I think my parents were more worried about how much money they were spending on video games! ;-p I usually gravitate toward characters of color in games. If the game has a female playable character then I choose that character like 80% of the time. At one time I became totally addicted to early WWE video games because it featured many female wrestlers and the option to customize your player color, physical features, and clothing choices. From the MK series, I heart Queen Sindel ( c'mon, how sexy does that name sound?) and the ultimate blaq goddess, Sheeva. Lara Croft is smart and adventurous, my fave shero. I still have all the Tomb Raider games. And I absolutely love Aya Brea from the Parasite Eve series. I can talk all day long about video games. :-)

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  11. I sadly rarely liked any female video game characters. I spent most of my childhood being pretty gender-confused because I'm a lifelong cartoonist and gamer, so female representation was a HUGE issue for me. I thought I must be a boy, and rebelled against all things female. My mother doesn't know how to articulate the thought, but I'm pretty sure she's amazed I'm a straight cis woman as an adult. Fucked up.

    Speaking of representation in video games, though, I've been meaning to call this to your attention, if it hasn't been already: the new Pokemon game has two black female gym leaders. I've only faced the first one, a grown woman, with a (presumably Japanese) husband, with whom she runs a research laboratory. The other is a young girl that I don't know much about.

    If you don't follow pokemon, gym leaders are basically like "bosses" you have to challenge-- they aren't evil or bad guys, they are just the expert battlers in each town you visit.

    These webpages are gonna be crazy slow due to tons of fans trying to access information on the new games, but here's some info:

    http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Lenora
    http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Iris

    This is the first after, like, 5 Pokemon games that have included people who are dark-skinned. Took them long enough!

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  12. Ah man. What did AOL do? This is AnotherPupil. Yeah, the game I'm talking about is rather obscure (it was on the Sega CD a.k.a the add-on most people could not afford) but it's a nice game. If you like using emulators, you should check it out. It's hard, but it's like a cooler version of Mortal Kombat. I just wish Sega wouldn't have killed the series in favor of promoting Virtua Fighter where the one black woman in the game (Vanessa) is limited to being a bodyguard for the Bryants and had her features "lightened" up in VF5.

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  13. @ Yssa

    I was a huge fan of Sindel in junior high. "Sindel" was a nickname of mine for a minute. I can't believe I forgot about her!

    Now I really do miss gaming!

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  14. Fuck Yeah Kitana. And Chun Li. And Xena.

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  15. Mine first true love was Samus Aran. The protagonist of the Metroid series. I flipped when I found out the character of that game was a woman. This was trailblazing in itself because this was in a time (with the exception of Ms. Pac-Man) where female characters were reduced to the damsels in distress that you spent the entire game rescuing or the villainess.

    Chun-Li like others mentioned.

    But my first true love: Tifa Lockheart, the true star of Final Fantasy 7. The writers dropped the ball with her storyline but she still kicked more ass than Cloud did.

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  16. When it came to Street Fighter, which I played on my game boy advanced, I always played as either Chun-Li or Cammy. The few guys that I did play always felt too heavy for me to move. I think Vega was the only male character I enjoyed using.

    I play some flash games online. Adultswim has Candy Mountain Massacre 2 and in that game they have a presumably black female avatar. I'm hoping that when they get around to the third installment they offer more options for avatars. I feel like the designs really cater to a (white) male heterosexual fantasy since the avatars are scantily clad. But I don't really care. I love that game and I love my avatar of choice. :)

    Although I never played FF7 I really gravitate towards Tifa Lockheart. Aeris never did much for me. FF8, Selphie and Kiros were two of my favorites who I could see myself in. Kiros, b/c he's one of the few dark characters in the FF universe that is portrayed in an unstereotypical manner. And he's intelligent, funny and very gorgeous. Selphie is just kick-ass. She's a happy-go-lucky chick who loves explosives. I didn't like her special ability all that much but I loved her character nonetheless. FF9, I really like Freya. You get a warrior who has a somewhat tragic romance but she's about the business. She and Eiko were my two favorite female characters. I even like Garnet/Dagger. But Freya was my favorite. Even the side character/villain Lani was pretty cool. She had relatively dark skin and her battle stance was the business. Beatrix was also done rather nicely.

    Whenever I play Marvel vs. Capcom I always make an all-female team. Characters like Sakura from Street Fighter, Storm from X-men, Rogue from X-men, and Felicia from Darkstalkers are usually among my teams.

    And one of my all-time favorite N64 games, Perfect Dark, has a female protagonist. That's my favorite shooting game! 007 eat your heart out!

    Super Mario Smash Brothers, I always use Zelda/Sheik, Peach (b/c there's no Daisy), Giggly Puff (girl is tough!), and Samus.

    Mario Party, I preferred Daisy when she became an option in later installments. She's more of a tomboy and at least she and I have the same hair color.

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  17. PlusSizedWomanist3/25/11, 3:17 AM

    Man, it's been so long. Back when I would play on my older cousin's N64, I would play Army Men, and I would ALWAYS pick the girl. ALWAYS. As I got older, I searched for video games to which I could play a woman in some way or form. Now, I usually buy games that allow me to customize my character to play a black woman.

    I also just started to play D&D, and I have noticed that there are quite a few black characters in the manuals, such as the Paladin in Pathfinder.

    Just wondering, what do you think of what they did to Isabella in Dragon Age 2? She is darker skinned in the game, but in the advertising, they whitewashed her.

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  18. what do you think of what they did to Isabella in Dragon Age 2?

    Not familiar, unfortunately.

    My, my...in addition to strolling down memory lane here, I'm getting a bit of an education.

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