Anita Sarkeesian

Poison is one of my favorite video characters. She’s complicated and messy. She’s alsoridiculoly cool. The Street Fighter wrestler is tough, buff, and openly struts her stuff. She has quite the domme vibe going on, complete with a black cap, a leather collar, handcuffs latched onto her denim shorts, and a chain for a belt.

Sure, Poison is incredibly objectied, but what trans woman out there doesn’t want to be a buff fighter that can bring the greatest men in the world to their knees? She’s my problematic fave for a reason. I even have a commissioned art piece of her hanging on my bedroom wall.

Capcom Capcom

Poison was originally introduced in Capcom’s 1989 arcade Final Fight as an in- enemy. Concept art from the ’s development describes Poison as a “newhalf,” a derogatory Japanese term for a trans woman. While fans have long debated her trans stat over the years, and Capcom has never given an official stance on the matter, most consider Poison a canon trans character. Street Fighter IV’s producer Yoshinori Ono cemented the idea in 2007, where he claimed Poison “is officially a post-op transsexual” in North , and that “in Japan, she simply tucks her biness away in order to look like a girl,” according to Kotaku. (Four years later, he’d walk back the claim in Electronic Gaming Monthly, saying there’s no canonical stance.) For what it’s worth, Capcom generally treats her with a fair amount of respect, with the series consistently ing her as a woman and characters treating her as such.

But I don’t expect most s critics to understand the strange intersection where Poison sits for trans . But there’s one YouTube channel that could do the job well, that would be Feminist Frequency. At least, that’s my impression after watching the organization’s latest series about queer tropes in video s.


Over half a decade ago, Anita Sarkeesian debuted Feminist Frequency’s “on YouTube. Practically every woman in s journalism remembers the initial backlash against Sarkeesian’s work; for a time, simply mentioning the words “Anita Sarkeesian” would spark outrage on message boards, Facebook walls, and Reddit comment sections. Most criticism levied against Sarkeesian was in bad faith, with tone-deaf responses like “men die in video s too” and “not all damsels in distress are .” It was an awful time to be a woman in s, doubly so for Sarkeesian.

And yet, Sarkeesian’s video series felt like a fresh breath for all of . The videos looked at an enormo series of tropes in video s that female s critics had long noticed but were rarely given the to talk about. One video,“Ms. Male Character,” looked at s where are forced into normative feminine presentations to dferentiate them from men.Another, “ as Background Decoration,” analyzed objectication in and how ’s bodies are ed as sexual window dressing for male players. It’s safe to say the series influenced a generation of in s criticism. I still think about the videos all the time when I write about s.

“Tropes vs in Video s” was informative and fascinating for its time, but the series had its problems, and marginalized feminists, in particular, criticized the series for missing the mark on multiple occasions. Trans issues largely came up as an afterthought, Sarkeesian’s “ as Background Decoration” videos were panned by sex workers for conflating sex work with objectication, and some of the examples ed by the original series were heavy-handed at best. Those first few videos were a good start, but there was a lot of work to do to make truly intersectional and feminist s criticism.

Six years later, Feminist Frequency has done that work. This week, thenot-for-profit organization debuted “Queer Tropes in Video Games,” sharing three videos narrated and co-written byFeminist Frequency’s managing editor Carolyn Petit. In comparison to those original videos published by Feminist Frequency, Petit, Sarkeesian, and co-writerChristopher Persuad aren’t afraid to dive into the nuances behind queer characters in s. Each video tackles a dferent trope by exploring their affirming, negative, and neutral depictions in s, what’s already been accomplished, and where there’s room for growth. There’s a lot going on, and queer viewers are likely to find themselves nodding along throughout all three parts.

During “Press B to Hate Gay People,” Petit breaks downLeisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out!‘s Shablee, a Black trans woman whom the main character, Larry Laffer, meets in the . Petit doesn’t mince words here with Shablee’s characterization, which falls into transmisogynoir, or transmisogyny levied against Black trans .

Electronic Gaming Monthly Feminist Frequency/YouTube

For one, Petit points out how the describes Shablee with incredibly racist language, following a scene in which Shablee reveals herself to be trans through an enormo erection in her dress. This shocks Larry, who pes in front of her. While he’s down on the ground, Shablee subsequently rapes him, which the depicts as humoro. As Petit points out, the scene is incredibly disgting: It mocks male sexual assault victims, it makes cisnormative assumptions about trans bodies, and worst of all, it depicts Black trans as predatory men who secretly want to rape white men. Petit unpacks all of these problems with grace, and she even es it as a segue into a much larger discsion on both transmisogynoir tropes’ impact on Black trans and how theGrand Theft Auto series continues to punch down on trans .

Petit isn’t afraid to point out when a video simultaneoly gets something rightwhile doing something wrong, too.In the same video, Petit discsesThe Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘sVilia, who is coded by the as a trans woman. Link buysfeminine clothes from Vilia, which Petit acknowledges, explaining how many queer and trans fans have ed Link’s outfit in order to headcanonor interpret without canonically evidencethat Link is a trans woman. While this stance is empowering for some, Petit points out thatBreath of the Wildridicules Vilia by showing other characters mis her and exposes her facial hair as a gag. Like Poison, Vilia andBreath of the Wildare messy s, and Petit isn’t afraid to explain why.

That’s becae Petit is an out and open trans woman in s journalism, one with an incredibly lengthy resume that spans fromSpot to Vice’s Waypoint. By putting Petit front and center on Queer Tropes in Video s, Sarkeesian is letting queer and trans folks lead the way with their own discsions on their representation in s. It’s a great message, one that shows Feminist Frequency is listening to feedback and embracing intersectionality as it moves forward.


managing editor Fortunae Virgo/Twitter

When Feminist Frequency first dipped its toe into , the queer and trans indie s scene was jt taking off. Twine, a popular interactive fiction medium, sparked a wave of bedroom queer and trans developers making their own work DIY work. Many of their s weren’t jt heavily narrative-driven, they refed to exist for pleasure or fun. These developers knew s could be sad, painful, affirming, loving, or jt weird art things made for their own sake. While simple and straightforward, their queerness was undeniable, and they filled a void many of longed for but never knew we needed.

That was half a decade ago, and the queer s world looks very dferent in 2019. Twine gave birth to s likeButterfly Soup and Life Is Strange, which explore queer coming-of-age experiences in ways that make their LGBTQ characters’ sexuality and feel center to the story, not adjacent to it. Then there are s like MidBoss’ 2064: Read Only Memories and One Night, Hot Springs, which fundamentally explore queerness through their s; they are literally built for gay and trans players.We even have a booming queer adult s scene now, with works like Christine Love’s queer BDSM visual novelLadykiller in a Bind andFortunae Virgo’sHardcoded, the latter of which combines cyberpunk aesthetics with incredibly affirming (and hot!) trans bodies.

These works aren’t jt sophisticated, they’re inspiring new developers to take up the mantle and share their own queer stories. After playingNadia Nova’s queer trans s, I decided to create my own kinetic erotica Twine featuring a queer trans cult, a trans succub domme, and a subby college trans girl. my initial betareaders’ comments are anything to go off of, the is coming along great. But as an erotica s writer, I stand on the shoulders of giants. I wouldn’t be able to make my Twine it wasn’t for the queer devs who came before me and showed me that queer want to play s about themselves.

When I first discovered Poison, I gravitated to her becae she was one of theonly trans characters around in . But six years later, I don’t need to rely on Poison anymore to feel seen, nor does any other queer or trans person. We’re here, we’re out, and we’re developing the s we want to play. Series like “Queer Tropes in Video s” are only strengthening our voices by fostering the kind of analysis that will inspire others to speak out and create s, too. That’s powerful, and for Feminist Frequency, it’s a sign of good things to come.

Related posts