For Inclusivity and Representations Sake
The year 2014 has been a pretty crucial year for representation in popular media. There have been a lot of highs and very many lows but the most important thing is that the conversation is being had and results are starting to show or will begin to reveal themselves soon. Its no secret that I am an outspoken feminist, I have shied away from the label in the past for fear of being placed into a category that is not necessarily well understood by the masses quite yet. The extent of my ‘activism’ has also grown exponentially over the past year almost without me knowing and without me really trying but almost being forced to, but I’ll get to that later.
This article is meant to highlight what had become my motto for atleast ¾ of the year and that was “For Inclusivity and Representations Sake.” It all started right after I saw Disney’s Frozen for the first time. The film received some criticism for its final act in which the sisters rely on each others true love to save themselves and the Kingdom at large. This twist ruffled some conservative feathers who believed that it was lesbian propaganda targeted at children. The sentiment was obviously ridiculous but it really highlighted how engrained the cultural idea that a female can not be a hero in her own story is, even in Western society. Couple that with the fact that seeing two females have a functional relationship that does not include a man at all was so inconceivable, really made me realise just how backwards the representation cause was in popular media.
That was just the beginning. However, like an annoying little brat a lot of titles in movies, anime and video games strove to break down these barriers almost as a direct response to the backlash and some of the personal highlights for me were;
The Rest of the article will be filled with some Spoilers so do read with caution!
Tim Schafer’s Double Fine self funded adventure game Broken Age has one of the best characterisations in video games this year. The main female protagonist Vella is a daughter of the towns baker and is forced to be sacrificed to a beast that comes by every year to literally eat the towns girls. The sacrifice is portrayed as a great honour for the chosen girl and everyone is excited to be part of it. Vella ofcourse see’s past all of this and decides to have none of it and saves herself from the sacrifice and the ritual altogether. This ofcourse is a taboo and she may very well be an outcast to the village for not obeying and going by the hard and fast laws of the society and culture.
I personally drew a lot of parallels to the idea of a woman becoming independent and making a life for herself, even at the expense of ‘dishonoring the family traditions’ by doing so. It is also worth noting that Vella is one of the very few black female video game leads that is actually well written and is not sexualised.
Wake Up, Girls!
I am a pretty devout follower of director Yutaka “Yamakan” Yamamoto (Lucky Star, Fractale). So I was excited to find out he would be directing the idol anime Wake Up, Girls! The show is your standard fare young girls trying to become idols but this one has a bit of a twist, the portrayal of the characters and the entire idol business is fairly realistic, slightly exaggerated but still more realistic than say idolm@ster. This meant that the cutthroat atmosphere of the industry was well on display here and the girls had to be emotionally prepared and tested for the trials that awaited them.
It wasn’t only the idols whose presentation impressed me, their Producer or Boss Junko who is a middle aged woman simply trying to make a living by molding these girls into a hit attraction was really interesting to watch as well. Just like all good characters her motives are square but her means are questionable, she does anything possible to achieve her goals and that includes manipulating these teenage girls. The relationships that these women have is really enlightening and empowering to watch.
Maleficent shares many similarities to Frozen but the reason it struck a chord with me was the maternal relationship that Maleficent had with Aurora. The relationship starts off as a prickly affair (hehe) but slowly turns into a genuine bond of maternal love. In this Disney reimagining of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty we get to see the other side of the villainess and it portrays her as more than just an evil cackling witch with bad intentions.
It really showed that relationships are a lot more complex than we assume they are and most importantly that true love does not necessarily always have to come from the opposite sex.
Child of Light
Child of Light is a great segway because just like Maleficent it too is a reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. Child of Light was created by most of the team that developed Far Cry 3 and I always find that fact amusing. Child of Light is a basic coming of age story about a little girl who is about to lose her father to a chronic illness. Aurora faces her darkest fears in the mystical land of Lemuria and we see her character grow into a confident, strong and responsible young adult by the end of the game. Her interactions with the varied and colorful cast of characters is really the highlight of the game, Aurora is faced with many different personalities and situations all of which help her become the woman she is meant to be.
Unlike most coming of age stories centred on girls, Aurora’s main focus is not based on a career forced upon her by society or her parents, she isn’t focused on getting with the boy of her dreams and despite being the little girl she isn’t forced to take the backseat but is actually the leader of the motley crew.
There are quite honestly a good number of other examples such as the 12 year old Clementine from The Walking Dead Season 2 being portrayed as a self thinking, intelligent badass, The mixed race Aveline from Assassins Creed Revelations trying to resolve the fact that she is caught between two races and factions in a time of turmoil, Newly assigned Chief Inspector Akane Tsunemori from Psycho Pass season 2 who is constantly battling with morality and the hot topic of police brutality, The bold and self sacrificing attitude of Amanda Ripley in Alien: Isolation, Red’s quest to save her world from reconstruction or deconstruction in Transistor, the ever popular Katniss Everdeen just doing her part to save her man in The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 and the beautiful emotional growth and discovery of Korra in The Legend of Korra.
Amidst all the negativity and toxic behaviour that may have come up this year especially in the video game fandom with Devs being driven out of homes for fear of their lives and such, there really has been a lot of strides taken to include and represent the minorities in this dear world of ours in popular media. It also helps that celebrities such as Emma Watson are publicly taking the discussion to an international and mainstream level. Hopefully this continues upto the point where an article like this is rendered meaningless, I am hopeful and I am thankful for all the creators who tried this year, kudos to you.