The latest entry in the Mortal Kombat franchise is weirdly progressive. For one, nearly all the female fighters actually dress like they’re here for a battle, not mud wrestling for the titillation of the boys. Even Mileena, our piranha-mouthed sexpot doesn’t look like she forgot how clothes work for the first time in ages.
The game also introduces the first openly gay fighter in the Mortal Kombat universe, Kung Jin. An archer attached to Cassie Cage’s Special Forces Squad, Jin is from the same legendary line as Kung Lao. He is also a repentant thief who Raiden takes under his wing when Jin tries to steal an artifact from the Shaolin. Raiden encourages Jin to join with the Shaolin, declaring that the order cares for what’s in a person’s heart, not who their heart desires. That this was an explicit reference to Jin being homosexual was later confirmed by NetherRealm studios.
It’s kind of a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment, but it’s there. Kung Jin is arguably the first openly gay playable character in a fighting game ever (Street Fighter’s Poison is inconsistently portrayed as a transwoman and Venom of Guilty Gear is implied to in love with his male mentor. Both predate Kung Jin). Nothing more is said about it. Jin doesn’t have a romantic subplot or anything in the game.
Still, some gamers freakin’ hate it that this particular door has been broken down. What with the recent Supreme Court decision involving marriage equality and Pride weekend, I thought I’d go look up some of the most terrific butthurt examples.
See, in homophobe land gay people are only allowed to be real characters if nobody ever calls them gay and they never ever do anything to call attention to themselves as gay. Once someone acknowledges the gayness YOU CAN’T UNSEE IT! They are no longer a regular person; they are a gay person and you always have to take that into consideration. I find comments like this amusing because it is soooooo close to a social breakthrough.
Dorian by the way, refers to the openly gay character from Dragon Age: Inquisition, the game that has set the bar on gender and sexual orientation diversity in the industry.
Here’s another baffling point of view. It seems like there needs to be a reason for a character to be gay; they can’t just be gay. Why does Kung Jin have to be gay? What impact does it have on preventing eShinnock from destroying the universe? I don’t, what does Johnny Cags and Sonya Blade’s divorce have to do with it? What does the symbiotic relationship between Ferra and Torr have to do with it? It all goes back to that notion that gay is part of an agenda instead of a part of everyday life.
You know what a cancer in gaming right now is? Releasing crappy, unfinished products and expecting us to act like waiting for patches to fix them is acceptable. When you see every step forward in representational diversity as a serious disease you’re pretty much just outing yourself as a social carcinogen.
I’m always amazed that some gamers think that certain demographics simply don’t play the games that they enjoy. Like, they look at Mortal Kombat and say, “nope, nothing for gays here” and go off to play whatever titles are in the approved Homophobic Gamer Handbook. All I can say to them is, “Do you have any idea how much Scorpion/Sub-Zero pornographic art is out there?” It’s not a small number, and someone has to be making it.
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And finally, my favorite type of obliviousness; the idea that including a gay character in bowing to political correctness. First of all, it’s important to note that despite all its accomplishments the Mortal Kombat franchise did not open up some new door of edgy gameplay. Splatterhouse, predates it, as does Chiller, and both of them challenged censorship more than Mortal Kombat. Time Killers came out the next year and was far gorier. The only envelope that Mortal Kombat pushed was eventually getting Nintendo to loosen up on their blood ban in games, something that became irrelevant once the Playstation came out.
Adding a gay character, a solid, non-stereotypical gay character, to a beloved franchise is actually pushing the envelope. It’s changing something. It’s trying something new. Coming up with more and more ways to eviscerate people is fun, but it’s hardly edgy or groundbreaking. Pushing the boundaries of what is socially acceptable doesn’t always mean seeing how much blood and nudity you can get away with. Sometimes it means, can the people who make games get you to enjoy a gay character and be OK with that. In this case they most certainly could, and the fact that so many players can turn their noses up at it while applauding new graphics for old fatalities pretty much proves those players don’t have any clue what pushing a boundary even means any more.