♫Don’t go changing my art! If you do I may just cry♫
*WARNING: This post contains controversial subject matters, please take the time to read through and not jump to conclusions.*
We live in a day and age where my favorite Saturday morning cartoons are gracing the Silver Screen, drawing in millions of dollars in revenue. Where the graphics of video games make the ones I played on my gameboy look like they were developed by a 12 year old on his mom’s iMAC. Where the entire contents of my childhood video game library can be loaded onto a 2 GB thumbdrive and still have plenty of room for concept art and entire soundtracks. And where the skin color or gender of a character can spark internet fights that make the arguments in the Continental Congress look like a school yard fight. I watch as friends of mine have wished the worst on each other, as people have lost their careers, and others have rode the wave to fat pockets. So I sat and I thought deeply about how the whole thing makes me feel, trying my hardest to not jump to extremes without trying to objectively look at the opinions out there. But first, a little allegory.
Your friend here PieRatKing is a mutt. My father is half German, half Cajun and my mother’s family is of Mexican decent. I grew up on military bases until I was in Junior High living in Germany, and Japan. After graduating High School I joined the army and was stationed in Germany. At last count I have visited over 40 countries, 3 continents, and 28 states. I have lived in Arizona, Virginia, and Texas. I consider myself a man of the world and have seen humanity at its worst – watching a pre-teen have to pickpocket to feed herself and her friend – and at its best – watching the city of Houston band together to help each other in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. I have grown up believing something my father taught me a long time ago, “Don’t judge a person on their characteristics, judge the character of the person.”
There was a time, I would wake up early on Saturday, turn on the television, sit down and watch my favorite super heroes fight evil. The X-men and Spiderman, G.I. Joe and He-Man, Batman and the Ninja Turtles. Man it was a great time for kids TV. One of my favorite characters was Kurt Wagner (Alias Nightcrawler), a German mutant who could teleport anywhere as long as he could picture it in his mind. His blue skin, and blue hair led to his being ostracized by the world. His agility and athleticism made him a wonder, and his kindness and love for other people made him more human than most. In the “Golden Age” of comics the superheroes were white and mostly male. Superman (1938)1, Batman (1939), Captain Marvel (1939), Captain America (1941), Aquaman (1941) – with a few ladies sprinkled in – Wonder Woman (1941) being the most well known. It wasn’t until the 70’s that a huge influx of black superheroes appeared including Black Lightning (1977), Black Vulcan (1977) John Stewart Green Lantern (1971) and Blade (1973). Continuing through out the 80’s and 90’s with the likes of Jet (1987), Spawn (1992), Bishop (1991) and Steel (1993). As for the Latino flavor like myself, in the comic book world it is a newer occurrence very limited representation prior to the 90’s – and even then maybe only Vibe (1984) is known by anyone outside of hardcore comic book fans. I am not a hardcore comic book fan, and have gotten most of my superhero influence from the cartoon shows [pauses for judgement] but while I always thought there could be more Latino representation, I have never been put off by the genre because of the lack of characters “like me.”
I bring all of this up because lately there has been an influx of race and gender bending in the superhero world. Lady Thor, Michael B Jordan playing the Human Torch, all female Ghostbusters and more have taken the limelight and have sparked a ton of conversation, mostly abrasive and extreme, from both sides of the aisle. Personally I am not a fan of this, I see it more as a cash grab than actually promoting diversity in a white dominated genre. Now hear me out, as a Latino, I do not want a brown Captain America. What I want is the alter ego of José Fuentes2 as the Jaguar Warrior cleaning up the streets of San Antonio. I want Victorìa Ochoa 2 as La Llorna striking fear in criminal’s hearts. I want an original character with his/her own back story. Why change a popular character that I have grown up seeing and not just give me someone new? The Black Panther (1966) was an original character with his own back story. He is a household name, especially after his stand alone movie. We see it can work. I am sure the superhero fans of the world can get behind a new superhero as long as he is an interesting character. That way we get the diversity we all want to see, we avoid retcon, and we can avoid changing someone’s nostalgia.
When it comes to video games we see a very similar culture clash. As with superheros and comics, the video game community for years has been dominated by the nerdy white kids (with a few of us with higher melanin content sprinkled in like a nerdy chocolate chip cookie). For the past decade, video games have become so immensely popular that it’s gone from the few of us sitting at our high school lunch table discussing tactics for Total War: Shogun into Fortnite Battle Royale dances being performed at professional sporting events and celebrations. The internet has become filled with toxicity between “Social Justice Warriors” and the “Gamers.”3
“We don’t see any (insert character trait here) in your game! WHY NOT?!” and “NOT IN MY GAMES!” are examples I have seen from all parties. Two stories come to mind just this year of what I feel is an overreaction; Kingdom Come: Deliverance and Battlefield V. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a historical role playing game created by an indie developer. Battlefield V is the next installment of a very popular first person shooter title published by Electronic Arts (everyone’s favorite publishing DEVIL)4.
These two games couldn’t be more different, except they share one thing in common: The internet has crucified both for choices they made in character creation. In Kingdom Come’s case, Warhorse Studios (a Czech developer) wanted to make an RPG placed in Bohemia during the medieval era. They wanted to properly represent that area during that time period in the most historically accurate way. They were criticized for the lack of people of color in the game to which they responded there has been no written evidence of non-whites (minus the mercenary group of Cumans who were Turks).
When it was brought up about the Moors being a prominent European civilization, albeit mostly located on the Iberian peninsula, it was dismissed by Warhorse once again, stating there was no historic evidence of Moors being in Bohemia during the time period. This led to outspoken denunciation of the game by journalists and internet personalities, while also bringing out the trolls. As someone who has played Kingdom Come: Deliverance, who ignored all the controversy as of this writing, it is my Game of the Year. It is a fantastically challenging game that can be unforgiving at times – but that is for another article.
As for Battlefield V, that game stirred up the “other side” quite a bit. Its trailer debuted back in May (right before E3) and I can tell you it was not well received. “Why is there a disabled woman on the front lines..?” and the like were had in the comment section of their YouTube channel. Many focusing on the female character highlighted in the trailer stating “historical accuracy.” So much backlash happened that it led to a DICE Exec attacking the fans, calling them uneducated and saying “If they don’t like it, don’t buy it.” Historically speaking, women were often in the front lines whether they were members of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive, Russia’s sniper corps, or the French Maquis. Mind you most of those who fought and died on the front-lines of the war were men, and most of the women who participated in the military branches were nurses, cooks and Rear Echelon, but there were definitely women who fought during WWII.
Being a Battlefield fan, the only thing that bothered me about the trailer was the prosthetics. Knowing veterans who have lost body parts in combat, there are very few that – with the use of prosthetic limbs – can maintain military readiness (those that do use a lower extremity prosthetic), and those are modern day prosthetic limbs with the advancements that we have made in the last almost 80 years. But you know what, I am still getting the game, and I will give an honest review on it after playing it for a few days. Where has all this vitriol towards each other gotten us though? Separating a group that the rest of the world continues to see as the “weirdos” and “basement dwellers” even as it is still gaining popularity, breaking into the mainstream and has the potential to become more than just a hobby.
In the end, what I hope you take away from this wall of text is that even if I don’t agree with your opinion, even if I think that your intent is noble but your actions are going about it the wrong way, and even if you lambaste me as something I am not, I will respect what you have to say, but always jumping to extremes leaves no room for growth or to wiggle. Even an octopus will run out of space.
Love and Tentacles;
1. dates in parenthesis are the year said character’s first appearance in a comic book
2. Character names and alter egos I just came up with on my own writing this article.
3. I use both these terms in quotations because I believe personal beliefs shouldn’t label someone one way or another and we too quickly label each other with such terms to “spot” the enemy in the conversation.
4. Sarcasm is implied