Saturday, July 15, 2017

Weave Wuz Kangs and Dark Skin Matters

                      

Note: It took me a while to actually get this on the blog due to the hectic nature of E3 week, last month.  Now that I've had a change to actually watch the video, the quality could be better, and there are some things that could possibly be fixed in the video. I might consider re-mastering this at a later point, but for now enjoy both the video and the article included, below.

Last weekend, the Internet was graced by not just one , but two articles trying to turn video game releases into political battlegrounds due to the age old perception that anything taken without context can be easily misconstrued into an assumed attack.

This time it's Black Journalists getting mad about skin tone and hair.


And yes I'm going to call them “Black people”. I refuse to kowtow to using the term “People of color”

One – I detest that term. It's a lazy generalization used to blanket multiple races into a focus group demographic.

Two – It does nothing but remind me of the term “Colored people”. Which is also funny because the NAACP still uses that term in it's acronym.

And three – The Godfather of Soul said it best -

                                         


Our master of clickbait, this time is a website called Mic.com, which seems to be trying it's hardest to be the next Gawker. If we click here, on “Multi player” We have a slew of articles that seems to have problems about everything under the sun. Today, however we'll only be covering two; Nintendo gave a black character “weaponized hair” and Street Fighter 2 brings an old racist trope to Nintendo Switch brown skinned villains.

Let's start with the hair.
When I first saw Twintelle, I couldn't get excited like everyone else. All I could think about was her hair. Specifically, the fact she's a brown, female character with weaponized hair.
The thing is, hair like mine is often weaponized in real life, too. It's been made illegal to wear as it grows, been feared and politicized to the point of having job offers rescinded because the wearer has locs instead of chemically straightened hair, or been checked while going through airport security without a legitimate reason. Games and media seeing my hair differently as a person of color is nothing new.

[citations noted in the quote are from the actual article.]

So you looked at a character in a fighting game and instead of thinking about tactics, or her abilities or combo potential, decided to make this all about yourself.

Granted I'm not surprised, but still...

Also, why is being a “brown female with weaponized hair” any different from the other characters of different ethnicity in games that have in fact benefited from the use of having weaponized hair?



Millia Rage from Guilty Gear is a Russian woman who uses her killer hair to assassinate her targets. Filia From the fighting game Skullgirls, is a schoolgirl who wears a parasite weave that allows her to fight with her hair at the expense of lost memories. Bayonetta is a Umbra Witch who uses her hair to summon creatures and weapons to fight angels. Even then we also have male characters such as Kyoshiro Senyo, Scott O'Connor (Kabuki Quantum Fighter) and Buoh from Power Moves whom all originate from the hair flinging Japanese Kabuki actor archetype. I still haven't even mentioned Shantae, Sindel and Yukako Yamagishi from Jojo's bizarre adventure, also hair wielding characters.

I'm only making an assumption, here but I'm willing to bet that all of these characters are either unknown to you, or skimmed over for the sake of singling out Twintelle to help get your own personal issues out into the open. I get that this article is basically an attempt to take something somewhat topical and formulate a means of talking about issues that are important to you, but that's exactly the point. To everyone else, we're just focused on a new game with new characters who seem fun and interesting.
What's particularly strange here is how this specific fighting method is limited to the only brown character in the game. All the other fighters in Arms have spring-loaded arms for weapons, including the other female fighters we've seen so far. So why does the brown girl have to use her hair as a weapon? Why can't our hair be depicted accurately in video games or included in character customization options? Why do we get so few choices when it comes to being brown in games? And who at Nintendo thought this was actually OK?

The reason why her hair punches, is the same reason why the game features a giant mummy, a girl in a robotic suit and a walking Crime scene remnant. Variety. I'm curious if she did have spring arms like every other character, would you complain that she's just a generic version of Ribbon Girl and proceed to write about why black characters are just Generic characters and have nothing to stand apart from “white designs” . Because as we all know. You can never win when it comes to this type of thinking.

As it stands, currently, there's absolutely no information stating anything about the character's ethnicity. As far as we know, she could be a tanned Japanese woman, of possibly of Brazilian or Indian descent. But as I guessed, earlier this is more about the writer than the character . “Why can't our hair be depicted accurately in video games?” you ask. Well perhaps it's due to the fact that Twin tails or Pigtails as they are more commonly known as are a hair style that isn't limited to just black people. The hairstyle originated in the 1700s and has been featured in many cultures throughout history. Twin tails have been a large part of Japanese culture dating back to the 1960s with popular anime Himitsu no Akko-Chan. The hairstyle is often associated with “innocence” and has gained popularity to the point of fan sites existing solely for the hairstyle itself.


Now if we use a bit of devil's advocate, It could be said that Nintendo's character designers made her as a means to diversify the roster with a character who encompasses traits that would resonate with dark skinned races; A sort of “Catch all” character if you will, Even so if Twintelle is actually an amalgam of such races, It's rather silly to think that there was any malice in the character's creation. These characters are stylized to look a certain way, hence Min Min's Ramen Noodle style hair, Spring man's soft serve styled Egon Spengler do, and Ribbon Girl's one dimensional ponytail. Those hairstyles are made the way they are because they based off of the design of the character , and yet instead of relying on suspension of disbelief, we're assumed to join you in the chorus of raging against fiction in order to spark a forced conversation that in this instance doesn't need to happen.

For the sake of keeping the video short, I'm going to jump ahead here.

Games aren't the only form of media to treat hair as a way to other a nonwhite character, but they are certainly one of the most visible examples due to a lack of diversity in the industry. Roughly 76% of gaming industry employees are white males, according to a 2016 report from the International Game Developers Association. So it's likely that very few Nintendo employees even considered how Twintelle's hair might be perceived.
Above: Schrödinger's Asian

I may not be the smartest kid in the room, but at least I am able to realize that Nintendo of Japan is in fact comprised of majority Japanese people. Oh there are a few round-eyes there, but for the most part NCL's employees are comprised of Glorious Nippon Steel or some variation of such. That's a huge misstep on your part to make such a bad assumption, and kind of proves my other theory that maybe just maybe you have no clue what you're talking about, didn't do the research, or is just using this as a means of creating outrage porn for clicks and giggles. As much as I want to also comment on the finger-wagging ending of this article that bemoans how fans should be critical of the content they consume, I think it's time for us to visit article number two

Now this article starts again with the excitement of a newly releasing game. And it's new featured characters. However, much like the former, it ends it's opening statement with an assumed problem that really isn't a problem.

That should be great news for fighting game fans and Switch owners alike, but here's the problem: In the game, Evil Ryu and Violent Ken are just brainwashed versions of Ryu and Ken, yet their evil alter egos have way darker skin.


Ugh.. This boils my butter.

It really gets to me when people oversimplify characters like this. First and foremost, Evil Ryu has always been the extreme end of Ryu's relationship with the Satsui no Hado, or “Killing intent”. It's the reason why Akuma/Gouki is who he is, and is the main reason why both Akuma and Bison have an interest in Ryu. One basically wants him to reach his full potential for a battle for the ages, and the other wants his take him to the sunken place so he can pilot his body like a mobile suit.

Violent Ken on the other hand is basically brainwashed boosted with psycho power and used as a pawn in order to lure Ryu to Bison for that aforementioned body hijacking

Better than the original

The article barely starts, and here we are with the most laziest means of explaining characters, possible. This may be just a means of getting a foot in the door to establish agenda, but do you know why I know this is lazy? Because in the following paragraphs he goes on to further explain what I just stated.

Violent Ken, on the other hand, is a brainwashed version of Ken. He's first introduced in the second Street Fighter animated movie when he's manipulated by M. Bison. It's worth noting that in the movie, Ken's skin tone doesn't change.

The video game version of brainwashed Ken first appeared in SNK vs. Capcom, a crossover fighting game, where the violent alter ego still had the same light skin. But somewhere along the way, the dark-skinned Violent Ken was born. Some online sources suggest he was introduced via official character art or possibly even created by SNK to troll Capcom.

The official art for SVC Chaos does in fact feature a rather tanned ken with what looks like a white fro and yellow pupil less eyes. Fans of  Mugen will remember that fan made Evil Ken also featured dark skin and red eyes in that version as well. Also going back to the Animated movie, if you compare both the training sequence and the final battle, there are changes made to Ken's skintone. As for the reasons behind the skin color.. I'll get back to that in a moment.

Unsurprisingly, dark-skinned villains are a pretty common trope in video games. In a series like Legend of Zelda, the heroes are white with blonde hair and blue eyes, while the pure embodiment of evil, Ganondorf, is often portrayed with black or dark skin. 
Those dark skinned characters the article fails to represent

The characters are also not even human. Hylians are fictional characters featuring pointy ears and fair skin like Elves which are based in Germanic folklore with additional stories found in English and Norse mythology. Predominantly white countries. Even with that being said, you're still ignoring characters that didn't fit this description, Characters like Midna, Telma, Impa, Darunia. Ruto, and even Zelda's alternate form, Tetra from WindWaker who weren't fair skinned and still helped Link in his mission to rid Hyrule of evil.

While we're on the subject, Gannondorf's skin isn't even really considered black. It's more of a dark blue tone, In the later parts of Ocarina of time his skin tone was closer to a greenish tone than the color of his Gerudo kinfolk. Now you may be asking why exactly was that? To answer this question, we have to actually take a look at Japanese Mythology to a Yokai by the name of the Oni.

The Oni is an ogre like demon which has horns and carries a club. The creature comes in varying colors, but is more commonly known by it's either all red or all blue appearance. Now Ganondorf Dragmire's appearance matches that of a blue Oni, who do you think bears a closer resembelence to a red Oni.. I'll give you a hint..



Akuma's dark skin and demonic appearance was based on an Oni, to the point of even becoming one once he reaches his final form in Street Fighter IV. And strangely enough his skin tone matches up with the Twilight Princess rendition of Ganondorf. Fancy that!

It's not an instance of the Japanese making Negroes into super villains. It's them actually utilizing their culture in order to design characters. Of course that's not going to stop these writers from using ignorance to attribute malice and further rile up people who don't know any better. It's part of the Modus Operendi; People fear what they don't understand and often jump to conclusions instead of figuring out the why and how. That's human nature for you.

Notice that in the article there was no mention of other black characters in the series. No talk about the history of Mike in the original Street Fighter, or  M. Bison who had to be name shifted into Balrog to avoid being associated with Mike Tyson. No talk about Dee Jay whom was the second black character introduced into the series, and styled after Tae Bo martial artist Billy Blanks. No talk about Street Fighter Third Strike and the introduction of Masaai princess, Elena and her use of Capoiera, an Afro Brazilian styled martial art cultivated by slaves, or British boxing sensation, Dudley, based on Jamaican British boxer Chris Eubank Who maintained a five year reign as WBO champion. Or what about the newer members of the Street Fighter roster, like  Sean Matsuda from Street Fighter III or his sister Laura Matsuda from Street Fighter V?

Hell,  if they wanted an easy out, they could have talked about the strangest case of reverse vitiligo in the series – Birdie. Birdie started out as a straight out of the 70s British punk complete with mohawk leather vest and jeans, and was a bit of a one-off character during the time of the first Street Fighter Game. When brought back for Street Fighter Alpha, Birdie was redesigned with dark skin,. A heart shaped tattoo, Chains surrounding his wrists, a mustache that turns into sharp sideburns (curiously resembling Mr. T, mind you) and a more stylized Mohawk that symbolized a bird's beak. The response from the character about this sudden change in color was that during the time of the first Street Fighter game “he was sick”. Now granted, the design change was a bit odd, but the character was interesting. The design popped and actually gave Birdie a bit more personality and depth. Birdie's moveset now a series of brawler style and grapple style attacks that won him over with fans and earned him the 15th spot in ranking of characters fans wanted back for Street Fighter V.


Not to mention that that redesign gives him precedence as the series' first black British character predating Dudley by two years. but there's absolutely no mention of this in lieu of trying to push the agenda that dark skinned characters in the series are making black people look bad for what can be attributed to nothing more than your own personal hangups that may or may not have anything to do with the characters at all.

In reality there are people who seem to actually be excited for these games, and the fighters featured in them, and those people have no problems with the way they are being presented, because there is a clear difference between fantasy and reality. In reality, these characters are not blatantly mocking you, they may not even represent you, They serve merely as avatars to help lead you from point A to point B in the story, and to entertain. If you're holding a fictional character up as the representative of your entire culture, ethnicity and existence, then perhaps you may need to take a step back and actually reassess your life.

The trick is to start asking questions and research the theory behind the design to actually figure out why exactly certain things are the way they are before attempting to force change for the sake of change. Especially if they are based in a culture that you haven't even bothered grasping to understand. 

This is what makes both a well balanced person and also a great character designer and artist.

This is interesting as it also ties into the Confederate statue situation; A bunch of people going off half-cocked basically arguing for erasure of elements of history that shaped the country into what it is, now. Of Course, you can argue the reasons for the Civil War until the cows come home, but the fact of the matter is that Had there been no war, there would have been no Reconstruction era, No emancipation proclamation and the country would have remained both separate and broken. Everything that happened, and the people who were on both sides of the conflict were responsible for helping this country's wounds to attempt to heal Understanding the nature of things, and how it all fits together is necessary in order for us to move forward as a country and as humans. Without that we're just wandering aimlessly throughout the dust.

- I'll see you next Bossfight.

No comments:

Post a Comment