My sincerest apologies to those of us who have not yet read through the entire Harry Potter series and/or have not heard the news about Albus Dumbledore’s sexual orientation, but spoiler alert: he’s gay.
I will admit that it was quite a surprise to learn that Harry’s wise and venerable mentor was gay (it’s not directly stated in the text but heavily implied through Rowling’s writings of Dumbledore’s childhood). Although in the end it did nothing to alter my opinion of Dumbledore’s character or his interactions with Harry, this discovery did give me pause to reflect on my immediate assumption that a powerful and father-like figure would naturally be heterosexual.
I believe there’s an overwhelming tendency in popular media for significant characters to be staunchly heterosexual. This holds true not just for books or movies but for video games as well: characters such as Link and Mario are always romantically entangled with their respective princesses. This quickly establishes a very hetero-normative role for the main character, which in many ways limits the potential extent of their development.
Pascoe’s chapter on “fag discourse” was particularly interesting to me, even if her field research was somewhat limited by the scope and age range of her interviewees. She states that defining the words gay and fag can be a rather difficult task, as their widespread usage has awarded them a myriad of interpretations depending on the context. Yet still the prevailing tone of those words is undoubtedly negative. Whether gay is being used as a reference to someone who identifies as homosexual or simply as a synonym for stupid or lame, it carries very negative social connotations behind it. Is this why gay characters are so rarely introduced in popular media?
I would argue that Japanese game developer Shin Megami Tensei may be able to turn the tables on the current limited possibilities of a character’s sexual development in-game with his acclaimed series Persona.
Persona 3 is the third installment of a series of unique RPGs, developed by Tensei, in which the strength of the main character depends on how well they build relationships with the other people in the game. These relationships include both male-male plutonic and male-female sexual. If Tensei were to expand the algorithms for communication between the characters, the result might be a dramatic step towards creating a game where the player decides which relationships to strengthen, regardless of the sexual nature behind them. This could open up a wide range of gameplay in which homosexuality can positively advance one’s gaming experience and potentially cast a new light on the meaning of the word.