The (Mis)Representation of LGBTQ+ in Persona 5
Hello everyone and welcome to our place!
Today I want to look into a detail of one of my favorite games of all time. In fact, Persona 5 is sitting in third place in my Top 10 favorite games! This way, you know that I love the game and this is not a post of hate or something like that. However, this topic should be discussed…
I know there are other games that will present themselves way similar regarding LGBTQ+ as Persona 5. However, since Persona has a place so close to my heart, I’ll be addressing this issue in this game. In conclusion, what I want to say is – I know there are other games out there that have this problem!
– (Mis)Representation of LGBTQ+ Community –
Let’s start with what I want to say by adding that (Mis) in there. Persona 5 does not really represent many of the LGBTQ+ different groups. Actually, it only represents three of them (in my opinion), transgender, homosexuality and asexuality.
I’m going to start with Lala Escargot since I want to start in a positive note. Lala is a minor character that seems to be a good representation of a male transgender/Drag Queen who is the bartender from the bar where you develop Ohya’s social link.
Basically, there is no reference what they are, (Not going to use gender because I don’t know how Lala would prefer to be treated) if transgender or a Drag Queen. Nevertheless, I think the developers went really well with this one. Why should they reference what Lala is? That does not matter at all, you can see they are the bartender and the voice of reason of Ohya. I like that approach of not making a big deal about it, Lala is a nice character, with a good conscience, empathetic and respectful. Clearly, the developers did a great job with Lala’s character.
To continue in a good mood I’m going to continue with asexuality. Here, we have a main character (whooohooo) – Yusuke Kitagawa. As with Lala, there is no direct reference stating that he is asexual and, to be honest, I prefer it like that!
In fact, you don’t really need a direct reference. From the beginning you can clearly see that Yusuke is fixated in Ann’s body in an artistic way and not a sexual one. When you develop the relationship with him, you can see that he’s main focus is art and does not really care about sex at all. To me, Yusuke is a great representation of someone who is asexual. Of course an assexual person would be able to make a better assumption here than me though.
Now, in the other hand… Let’s talk about the two guys that appear in Shinjuku and harass Ryuji. It’s a caricature of gay men, there’s no other way around it. It is done for the comedic factor and that’s it. Does it have good taste, though? Well, that will depend on you.
For me, it was lazy and really didn’t add much at all. However, I think they could have pulled it off better if they had a “normal” homosexual in the plot. This way it wouldn’t seem that they had a bunch of gay guys just to make a laugh about it.
Here, the two guys appear with heavy make-up, really girlish and start harassing a minor. Are there gay guys like these ones? Yes, of course there are! Probably not as much when it comes to harass minors, but I’ve seen a lot of girlish gay guys who use make-up. Nevertheless, I don’t think those guys would feel represented at all with these characters. But, again, I think it would be completely ok if they had also another character with a more serious approach to homosexuality. One example you could think of is Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4.
So, here we can find that they could have done way more things in this regard. With so many girls in the game (taking into account social links) how isn’t there at least one lesbian? Or a girl who is more boyish? Heck, you could even throw a bisexual in there…
– Lack of Gay Relationships –
How the hell you put a game in 2018 with the possibility to have different relationships without gay romance? I mean, you are the protagonist, you choose his name, you decide what he answers, but you can’t choose his sexual orientation?
I’m not saying that every character in gaming should become bisexual just so you can romance everyone you want! I mean, that’s not what happens in real life. But let’s say, you could have made Ryuji gay and a romance possibility while making Tae Takemi, the doctor, a lesbian and, therefore, with no possibility to romance her.
For a good example, just go with what Dragon Age does with their characters. You have all sort of sexualities there. Depending which gender/race you choose you will have different romance possibilities. In my opinion, that’s how you represent sexuality the best way in gaming. I mean, of course not everyone is straight, but that is also true for homosexuality and bisexuality.
– Why is It Important? –
I’m not going to talk about gaming in general. I think that one is easy to understand why it is important and western games have been more aware of it, even trying to add more LGBTQ+ characters. What I want to focus is in Japan and Japanese games.
Clearly, MoeGamer would be a better person to comment on this. My experience with Japanese gaming is way more into mainstream JRPGs than anything else. Nevertheless I’ll try to give my 2 cents about this.
Why Japan? Because, contrary to us who end up consuming games from Japan and western countries alike, Japanese people tend to play what they already have in Japan. I mean, why shouldn’t they? They are the country of Anime and Gaming! So, before explaining the importance of adding more LGBTQ+ content in Japanese gaming, let me talk a little bit about Japanese culture.
I love Japan! I love Japanese culture and story! However, as any country, Japan also has its problems. When it comes to open mind, well… Let’s say that Japan does not have much of that. Japanese culture is also known for a darker side they have. It’s a racist, homophobic and misogyny culture. I’m sorry, but there is no other way to put it. Yes, it’s true they won’t talk about it since they have a culture of not putting themselves too much in others lives (which for me is gold). However, just because they don’t talk it doesn’t mean they don’t think about it.
Of course that a country’s culture does not turn like that just because of nothing. Probably the best way I could explain their lack of open mind would be the result of a closed economy and World War 2.
With a close economy it’s normal that Japanese people won’t have much from the Western Country. In fact, only a few years ago I started to see news about Japanese getting completely crazy with western (American mostly) products. Also, Only in the last few years was when I could clearly see Japanese going nuts with Taylor Swift and other pop singers. This sort of things has a huge impact on society making the younger people to be more open-minded! However, since the younger people are taught that the older people are always right (who are traditional), it will take time until things start to change.
World War 2 brought the Americans to Japan. For the good and the bad. If, in one hand, with loosing WW2 made Japan to enter in touch with USA in a closer way than ever before, opening Japanese eyes to a different culture. In the other hand it also created a lot of problems. I mean, think about it. American soldiers entering Japan and doing their lives like their were in USA with no respect towards Japanese culture whatsoever… Wouldn’t that make you a little angry and racist?
Now, the thing I don’t understand is the eyes they have regarding LGBTQ+ community. Let’s look at Japanese past culture for a bit. First you have Kabuki theatre. Yes, it’s a little Misogyny, but you have guys, dressed as girls, for a living! I mean, isn’t that like almost feudal Drag Queen?
Then you have the time when Japan was at war – samurai era. Here, the guys were encouraged to have sex with each other. The idea was simple, not bringing diseases from the other villages which they were attacking. Not only gay sex was ok, but it was also encouraged. However, this ended up changing in the Meiji era. You can read all about that here.
Now, fast forward to 2018 and LGBTQ+ is still not really that accepted in Japan. Since it’s a closed culture which will take time until getting more tendencies from the West, I think it’s the utmost importance to incorporate in their media this kind of communities. It’s important to start opening minds and it’s also important to give that possibility to the Japanese belonging to this wide community in order for them not to feel so alone! And, of course, the best way to do it is by using media! Since the consumption of gaming is so high in Japan, then Japanese developers should be more alerted to this and help to shift their society mindset to a more accepting one.
– Conclusion –
Is Persona 5 a bad game? No, not at all! Should it have more possibilities for us in the LGBTQ+ community to feel included? Yes, absolutely!
What about you, what do you think about the representation of LGBTQ+ community in Persona 5, or gaming in general? Comment down below! 😀