Too Gay for the U.S.A.

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Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Wizard CaT » Thu Oct 08, 2009 5:47 pm

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/article ... -the-U-S-A

Andrew Webster wrote:It started out innocently enough. A bipedal lizard that shot eggs out of his mouth wanted nothing more than to be a girl, so he wore a bow on top of his head.

According to the instruction book for Super Mario Bros. 2, released in 1988, the mini-boss Birdo "thinks he is a girl and spits eggs from his mouth. He'd rather be called 'Birdetta.'" It seems like a harmless distinction, but this simple act of cross-dressing was soon erased from the history books. In all subsequent Mario releases, Birdo is referred to as a female, completely ignoring his gender confused roots.
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Birdo isn't alone, though. He's just one of a long line of Japanese videogame characters forced to hide their true sexual identity when their games are localized for a North American audience. While Japanese gamers have been exposed to characters of various sexual orientations, the practice is only just starting to catch on in the West. In the past, games have been changed or censored if they contained such content. Some were never released in America at all.

That's largely due to the way the two different cultures view sexuality. North American viewers tend to be bombarded with violent imagery, while depictions of sexuality - especially involving lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people - raises more eyebrows than anything else. A poll conducted by family gaming site What They Play in April 2008 offers further evidence of this aversion to homosexuality in media: When shown a series of provocative pictures, respondents were more offended by the image of two men kissing then that of a severed head.

Meanwhile, in Japan, many of these taboo issues are commonplace in popular media. In fact, there's an entire sub-genre of anime and manga called "yaoi" that focuses on homoerotic male relationships. These books and shows, also commonly referred to as "boy's love," are generally created by female authors for female readers, while "bara," or "men's love," is written by gay men for a gay audience. While many Americans would rather witness a decapitation than see boys kissing, Japanese bookshelves are full of this sort of material.

So it shouldn't be all that surprising that early games like SMB2 were subject to such censorship. If parents in North America felt squeamish about homosexuality in 2008, imagine what it was like two decades earlier. Publishers had no qualms changing characters, halting games from release and generally doing as much as they could to keep the American youth from witnessing any girl-on-girl or boy-on-boy action.

Take, for instance, the character Ash from Streets of Rage 3, which hit the Sega Genesis back in 1994. You may not remember this flamboyant mini-boss, and that's understandable - after all, he was never actually featured in the North American version of the game. Instead, Ash - who was clad in purple and green, pranced about the screen effeminately and wore a gold chain with the female symbol around his neck - was cut from the game entirely, only available to Europeans or those in the U.S. who were crafty enough with a Game Genie to unlock him as a playable character.
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Probably the most infamous example of homoeroticism in games, however, is the Cho Aniki series. Debuting in 1992 and spawning numerous sequels, Cho Aniki is not entirely unlike most 2-D, side-scrolling shooters: You control one of several different characters and fly around the environment blasting enemies and collecting power-ups. Screen-filling bosses punctuate each stage, and a semblance of a plot holds everything together. What has garnered this series such a cult-following, though, is that it is absolutely inundated with homosexual imagery.

The Cho Aniki series fits very neatly into the "bara" category of Japanese entertainment. All of the male characters are oiled, buff and wearing next to nothing, while phallic imagery is plentiful. But while the series has been around for quite some time, having seen entries on the PC, Super Famicom, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and Wonderswan, the games aren't all that good. In fact, they are often lumped into the category known in Japanese culture as "kuso-ge," which literally means "shitty game."

When you combine the fact that the Cho Aniki series is made up of titles that feature oiled up men fighting penis monsters with the games' generally low quality, it's not surprising that publishers aren't lining up to localize them for Western tastes. Even in an age when ESRB ratings help to shield children from such sexually explicit content, not everything is going to appeal to American gamers.

But despite the diligence of localization teams, some rare gems have slipped through the censors and continue to live on in internet infamy. Guilty Gear's Bridget may have both the name and the look of a female, but is in fact a young cross-dressing boy. The same goes for Poison from the Final Fight series, who is actually a transvestite rather than the beautiful lady he appears to be. These facts aren't made explicit by the developers, but they're well known within certain circles of hardcore gamers.

Unfortunately, the few Japanese games with LGBT characters that actually make it to Western shores rarely explore them in a meaningful way. Their sexual orientation is either a secret that doesn't really affect the game (as with Bridget and Poison) or an elaborate joke that exploits the issue purely for comedic value (as in Cho Aniki). This is even visible in the revered roleplaying epic Final Fantasy VII. Though protagonist Cloud is clearly heterosexual - given that he's stuck in a love triangle with the two female leads - he's forced at one point in the game to dress in drag in order to infiltrate a brothel, seduce a pimp and rescue his friend.

The scene elicits giggles from a number of characters and provides the basis for quite a few awkward and questionable scenes. While looking for a wig to complete his disguise, Cloud is told "You know the gym? You'll find a lot of people like you there. Go talk to them." Cloud must then acquire a blonde wig from a group of weightlifters who ask if he's the one who "wants to look cute." Aside from a near kiss with a mob boss, Final Fantasy VII contains no actual homosexual activity, but the message is pretty clear: Men who dress up like women - and men who like men - are more than a little ridiculous.
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More recent titles have treated the subject with greater respect, most notably the PlayStation 2 RPG Persona 4. Unlike most depictions of homosexuality in games, we don't immediately know that Kanji Tatsumi, one of the game's main characters, is gay. He's a bad-ass, take-nothing-from-nobody kind of guy, far from the stereotype of the effeminate gay man. This approach is refreshing in its honesty: Kanji isn't just some boy-crazy kid who is laughed at by all the other students, and he doesn't necessarily come to grips with his feelings right away. Instead, his realization of his sexuality is messy and difficult, which is a much more nuanced depiction of homosexuality than, say, a pair of near-nude muscle men fighting a giant penis-shaped monster.

But this sort of look at the issue is exceedingly rare, especially in the realm of videogames. And while it's nice to think that things will continue to improve and that one day LGBT references won't have to be removed or edited from Japanese games localized for other markets, it doesn't seem like it will happen any day soon. After all, Persona 4 is a fairly niche title, and just one title in a sea of games that are content to paint homosexuality in broad strokes or whitewash the subject altogether.

Meanwhile, nearly two decades after Birdo first tried to pass as a woman, Nintendo is still up to its old tricks. In 2006 it released a spin-off of The Legend of Zelda series starring everyone's favorite fairy wannabe, Tingle. But while Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland only features a few campy sequences that imply he might be gay - such as a brawny construction worker whistling as he passes - Nintendo still deemed it unfit for North American release. Tingle may be out in Europe and Japan, but it seems America would rather gay videogame characters stay in the closet.

Andrew Webster is still holding out hope that one day Cho Aniki will be localized for an English audience. Find more of his work at http://www.awebster.wordpress.com.
~Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life: bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky.~ The Creation of Éa
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Alfador » Thu Oct 08, 2009 7:01 pm

And this is why the manual for Okami states that Amaterasu is "a gender neutral god for the purposes of this game" even though everyone in the game knows she's a mother goddess... for one scene where Amaterasu is quite obviously smitten by Rao's boobs.

Because apparently America is just too full of drooling idiots to be ready for lesbian goddesses.
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby draque » Fri Oct 09, 2009 7:40 am

Interesting article, although it does make one mistake. Birdo is listed as "gender indeterminate" on the Super Smash Bros. Brawl, making reference to her original story. ^^
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Plasman » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:33 am

The weird part?
In most cases (especially in SMB2), the gender preference doesn't even have any bearing on the game! WHO CARES if Birdo wants to be a girl? Good on her! Just please tell her to stop pelting us with eggs!!! :sweatbead:

By the way, I'm pretty sure there's something going on ;] between the S-block and the L-block... I mean, just LOOK at them. It's freakin' obscene!
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Relee » Sat Oct 10, 2009 7:06 am

Birdo is also in Captain Rainbow and the subject of her gender is important to the game.

Birdo (Catherine) - From Super Mario Bros. 2, Birdo's reason to come to Mimin Island is to become popular with all the boys, but is arrested by Mappo after walking in the women's restroom, uncertain of Birdo's gender. Birdo claims that Nick is his/her boyfriend after Nick "proves" he is "female" and releases him/her from prison. Birdo lives in the "Cute House" on a separated part of the Island. The interior consists of mostly pink colored furniture, ribbons, and eggs. The game continues the recurring controversy around Birdo's gender, where she claims to be female and that Nick is her boyfriend but she has a male voice. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Rainbow
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Plasman » Sat Oct 10, 2009 8:32 am

Okay, yeah, I forgot about that one. Wouldn't mind playing that game, myself... :mrgreen:
I doubt that the developers of SMB2 were planning on introducing a trans character as a political statement ("hey! let's make this lizard thing a tranny, what the hell!"), but it's funny how so many people have taken her to heart! Myself included; Mario Kart DD ain't the same without a Birdo/Yoshi combo!

But like I said, in most cases, and just like in real life... gender preference doesn't really make a difference overall. How people react to the issue of preference is the real problem. People cracking up about some non-essential game content speaks more about the complainers than about the game itself.
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Relee » Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:13 am

I wonder what the story was in Doki Doki Panic before they turned it into SMB2? Birdo was a character in both I think.
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby draque » Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:31 am

Relee wrote:I wonder what the story was in Doki Doki Panic before they turned it into SMB2? Birdo was a character in both I think.


The original story had her as a girl, and it was a very late decision to make Birdo TG. The concern was that there would be concern at The main character hitting a girl, but they had already finished the graphics and overall game coding... so a quick edit in the manual gave rise to the modern day Birdo in the original Doki Doki Panic. :3

Edit:

Nintendo Code that all NES games were required to confom to wrote:A game sold on a Nintendo system could not display or make reference to illicit drugs, tobacco and alcohol, violence against women*, blood and graphic violence, profanity, nudity, religious symbols, political advocacy, or "sexually suggestive or explicit content."
*emphasis added
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Wizard CaT » Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:47 pm

Wait what the fuck, is the Princess sporting a dick under there? "Violence against women" seems to be violated if you pick her the character.
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Alfador » Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:50 pm

Wizard CaT wrote:Wait what the fuck, is the Princess sporting a dick under there? "Violence against women" seems to be violated if you pick her the character.


I don't think they conform to that code any more. The bit against blood and graphic violence would be violated in spades by No More Heroes, and I think Manhunt is available for the Wii too.
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Wic » Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:36 am

Wizard CaT wrote:Wait what the fuck, is the Princess sporting a dick under there? "Violence against women" seems to be violated if you pick her the character.


She comes from Japan, so if she doesn't have a dick, she can grow it.
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Wizard CaT » Mon Oct 12, 2009 4:40 pm

Alfador wrote:
Wizard CaT wrote:Wait what the fuck, is the Princess sporting a dick under there? "Violence against women" seems to be violated if you pick her the character.


I don't think they conform to that code any more. The bit against blood and graphic violence would be violated in spades by No More Heroes, and I think Manhunt is available for the Wii too.


No I mean in THAT GAME! If Birdo had to be a dude just for that Code, then what the fuck about the Princess?

Also: Samus.
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby draque » Tue Oct 13, 2009 6:22 am

Wizard CaT wrote:
Alfador wrote:
Wizard CaT wrote:Wait what the fuck, is the Princess sporting a dick under there? "Violence against women" seems to be violated if you pick her the character.


I don't think they conform to that code any more. The bit against blood and graphic violence would be violated in spades by No More Heroes, and I think Manhunt is available for the Wii too.


No I mean in THAT GAME! If Birdo had to be a dude just for that Code, then what the fuck about the Princess?

Also: Samus.


Huh, you've got a point there... maybe protagonists get a free pass, since they are player controlled? I was just throwing out info that I've found, I'm not sure about their actual justifications.
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Alfador » Tue Oct 13, 2009 9:32 pm

Wizard CaT wrote:
Alfador wrote:
Wizard CaT wrote:Wait what the fuck, is the Princess sporting a dick under there? "Violence against women" seems to be violated if you pick her the character.


I don't think they conform to that code any more. The bit against blood and graphic violence would be violated in spades by No More Heroes, and I think Manhunt is available for the Wii too.


No I mean in THAT GAME! If Birdo had to be a dude just for that Code, then what the fuck about the Princess?

Also: Samus.


OH. For some reason I was thinking of SSBB. :P Color me reddish.

Then again, maybe violence against women only "counted" if it was performed BY THE PLAYER. I have no idea what f-ed up logic the moralizers use.
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Plasman » Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:48 am

And that's assuming it was the Nintendo Code of Practice that forced the change.

I stick to my theory:
During the conversion of Doki Doki Panic, someone thought it would be funny to make the pink lizard thing "gender confused"; it made it to the first manual; someone saw it in the manual and freaked out about Birdo "corrupting youth", or something, and ordered for it to be changed; Birdo became an oddly-aggressive female (which could be on account of her sexual frustration, maybe?); truth was uncovered a little while later; Birdo becomes a TG mascot; Birdo meets Yoshi; they get married; everyone is happy! :lol:

...end wild speculation on my behalf. Actually, I have no idea either. I just wanted to "ship" the Birdo/Yoshi coupling, because you know damn well they were MEANT TO BE. 8)
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Re: Too Gay for the U.S.A.

Postby Alfador » Wed Oct 14, 2009 6:26 pm

Of course Yoshi and Birdo were meant to be together. Yoshi's a hermaphrodite. Yoshi's most often portrayed as male or gender-neutral, yet he can lay eggs. That's good enough for me. //]
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