Monday, June 8, 2015

The possiblity of physical dichotomy being used to explore non-cis narratives in sci-fi or fantasy (and idea Splatoon gave me)

Ok, so, there's the game called "Splatoon" (appears to be a portmanteau of splat and platoon) that has taken the idea of shooting and used it to create an entirely new genre of video games that no one has really come up with a good name for yet and most people are trying to cram into the existing "shooter" pigeon hole.

There's a lot to talk about in regard to innovation, formalism in game design, and a willingness to try new things.

For example, some people have described it as paintball where the characters can turn into squids (I was sold then and there), but it's not paintball because the idea is not to shoot the enemy but instead to color as much territory as you can in your own color.  Shooting the enemy can help (they have to wait to re-spawn if you "kill" them) but that's not the point.  I heard one guy who wasn't yet a professional game developer (he is now) suggest something with a similar dynamic as a joke, but as far as I know no one has ever come up with a game like this before.

That's amazing and worthy of great discussion because to create something new is always impressive, more so when you didn't need new things to do it (you just needed to use the old things in a new way.)

That's not what I'm going to talk about.

This is:

Recent years have seen a revolution in the field of combining toys with video games (see: Skylanders) and now it seems like everyone's doing it.  Disney has Infinity.  Nintendo has Amiibo.

These are the inklings.  Orange girl, green squid form.  Blue boy.  These are not, remotely, the only inklings.  There's a nice high resolution render of a team of inkling boys in pink because they're not color coded by gender.  Boys and girls come in all the same colors.  These are simply the examples used to make the Amiibo figures.

They don't have hair.  What looks like hair is the part of them that stays the most squidy.  When they transform four tentacles become their human limbs, four become very small in the back, and two (squid have ten, remember) stay reasonably large.

But note that the girl and boy tentacles are different.  the girl ones are long.  The boy ones are short (and bound in an elastic band or three.)

As squid they all look the same, the only difference is color.  An orange boy and an orange girl look exactly the same.  But then they transform and there's a massive sexual dichotomy.  (Unless it's keeping the tentacles in the elastic band that causes them to remain short in which case there's a massive physical dichotomy based on gender norms.)

And this strikes me as something that could be used (fan-fiction writers get on this) to explore how complicated gender really is.

There's nothing to indicate that the length of the tentacles is a matter of choice, all girls have them the same (long) length as do all boys (for the short length.)

They also express in a different way, the girls' go forward, the boys' go backward.

It is, in many ways, what cis-bigots want: a situation where male and female are clearly and unmistakably identifiable at a glance.

Which means that it's also a situation where non-cis people are forced to hide or stand out.  A trans-boy will presumably have long tentacles, he can pull them back and tie them like a cis-boy, but they'll still be long.

An agender person has to decide what to do when there is this clear gender identifier.  Do you do whatever isn't traditional for your body (wear them loose if you have short tentacles, wear them bound if you have long ones) do you tuck them in your clothing so your tentacles aren't visible?

Someone who is genderqueer has similar concerns.  Someone who is genderfluid probably wants to go back and forth.

And whatever is going on with all of this, it is all in stark contrast to the time as a squid where everyone looks exactly the same so their bodies can't be disagreeing with their identity on anything because whatever your gender or lack thereof, your body fits it since the squid body is the same for all possible gender related things.

All of this, to me, suggests the possibility for using the setting to explore the complexity of gender and the difficulty of living in a place where you're expected to fall into a strict cis dichotomy.

But it would have to be fan fiction or some such because the game is about painting the town in a literal fashion.


Sci-fi and fantasy have traditionally been able to explore social issues by making things that take things to extremes.  "ALL OF MY PEOPLE ARE WHITE ON THE RIGHT SIDE!" works so well (in a way the rest of the episode really doesn't) because it takes certain things to extremes, two things really.

One thing is that it makes it really fucking clear that racism is absurd.

Something that's focused on less is that it takes visual difference to an extreme.  The half faced people never have difficulty knowing which slot to put someone in.  They are literal black on one side and literal white on the other.  There are no shades of grey and thus no space for confusion.  It's a racist's paradise where you never have to be worried that you accidentally thought one of THEM was really one of US.

It's a setting where there's no "passing".

The episode never explored that, the moment everyone focuses on is the only strong part of the episode.  The rest of it is either weak, mired in false equivalence, or both.

Not having passing be an option is a useful device because the fact of the matter is that a world where passing is necessary, or even a thing at all, is one where things are still fucked up.

People can and should have their own ideas on how they want to look and there's nothing wrong with a trans man wanting to look like certain cis men do or a trans woman wanting to look like certain cis women do.  But that's not what passing is.

Passing is when the only way for a trans man to be accepted as a man is when he's mistaken for a cis man and when a trans woman can only be accepted as a woman when she's mistaken for a cis woman and that's fucking bullshit.  Trans men shouldn't have to pass as men because they are men, trans women shouldn't have to pass as women because they are women.

And, moreover, passing eliminates everyone who isn't binary to begin with.

In a setting where passing as cis is impossible people are forced to either accept people or be bigots, because there's no way to have the real world bullshit standard of, "It's ok to be trans so long as I don't know you are."

Trans used without the "*" because here I'm only talking about people who are firmly in the gender binary.  Like I said, the idea of passing erases everyone else entirely.


So, again, the clear dichotomy made me think about how a setting with such a thing could be used to explore how gender isn't nearly as simple as a dichotomy.

Very short version: a setting where non-cis people can't pass as cis is a setting where it's possible to explore how very much diversity there is in non-cis people and throw (some of) the problems they face into sharp, easy to understand relief.  (Or, show a world as it should be and have a fun setting where no one in it even considers thinking the things that lead to the problems.)

1 comment:

  1. ...that's a really good description of why passing is bullshit.

    And I'd like to see something made in a setting like you describe.