Fire Emblem: Fates, Homophobia and Consent

July 6, 2015

So it’s been an interesting couple of days in the gaming community. Interesting meaning dramatic, of course.

So Fire Emblem: Fates was released in Japan and there has since been a ton of controversy over it and a few muddily translated lines of dialogue. As the game has yet to be released outside of Japan there is no official English translation at the moment. Several people who have taken it upon themselves to translate the dialogue for English-speaking fans seem to have come to disagreements over lines relating to a character named Soleil.

Tumblr user andrea-ritsu outlined her problems with the character’s romance arc in a post that quickly went viral. In this post she explains that Soleil is introduced as being only attracted to women yet she is romanceable only by a male player character. This is apparently achieved by magically drugging the woman with what essentially amounts to powdered Conversion Therapy. And, yes, this is done without Soleil’s permission or prior knowledge. Gross.agds

The controversy here comes from the translation, as many people say that the translation that andrea-ritsu used to make her post was incorrect or vague, while others say that it matches the events and intent of the Japanese game extremely well. Soleil’s lesbianism has been called into question as well as the player character’s intent behind the magical drugging. Some say that Soleil never actually said that she was solely attracted to women and only that she was having trouble concentrating on battle when there were so many attractive women around (I assume that if she does actually turn out to be bisexual, it will also be established that every man in the army is just very, very ugly). Some also say that the player character’s actions were done in order to help Soleil get over her problems in battle. By making her see everyone as a woman for a little while. Which honestly just seems like it would make things worse. Maybe it’s like exposure therapy, with boobs.

This Destructoid community blog post provides a rather poor refute to andrea-ritsu’s tumblr post, citing that the game could not possibly be presenting Soleil’s maybe-lesbianism as a weakness because she “is fine around most girls. She’s merely affected by particularly attractive ones”.  Well, I’m not sure about Ckarasu, but I also generally want to have sex more with attractive people than I do unattractive ones.

Ok, so let’s just say that the translation becomes solid in the near future and it is established that Soleil is actually a bisexual who just gets more fluttery around women than she does men. Drugging someone, casting a spell or doing anything else to someone without their consent in order to ‘fix’ them, is pretty damn skeevy. It doesn’t matter if it’s temporary, or if she actually saw through the effects and knew who was a woman and who wasn’t, and it certainly doesn’t matter whether or not the player character had good intentions to help her with her issue. You just don’t give people mind altering substances/magic/whatever without their permission. These games exist against the context of the real world and even though we don’t have magical spell powders in this reality, it’s behavior and administration (which came in the form of putting it in the woman’s drink) are still reminiscent of a real-life drugging.

Fans searching for evidence of Soleil perhaps being bisexual seem to really like looking towards a certain bit of dialogue between Soleil and a feminine looking boy named Foleo. Soleil, thinking that Foleo is female at first, rather aggressively flirts with him. She seems disappointed that he turns out to be a boy but states that she is still attracted to him despite this, making a point to say that she is so because of how much he looks like a girl and stating that men generally don’t have beauty. In the end they date. Or something.

But if this translation is accurate, that is pretty good evidence for a bisexual woman who is attracted to women a lot more than she is men, which would maybe somewhat kinda explain her attraction to the male player character only after seeing him as a woman. But also leaves a great big gaping hole where her attraction to the female player character (who can be said to be the exact equivalent to the female version of the male player character that she fell in love with) should be. It’s just plain strange that a character who is either a lesbian or bisexual but leaning a lot towards women can only be romanced by a male player.

And, again, fiction exists against a context. A woman whose entire character seems to be based around being sexually attracted to women not being able to romanced by a female player wouldn’t be a problem in a vacuum. Maybe she’s just not that into you. A woman who may be bisexual being able to romanced by a male player is also not a problem. But a woman who may be a lesbian or may be bisexual only being able to be romanced by a male character? There’s your problem. There’s no reason for that situation to exist in the game other than than to reinforce the old trope of a man “winning over” a lesbian. Where there challenge in the relationship is that she does not think that she is attracted to your entire gender and you have to convince her that ‘If It’s You It’s Okay’. Without that challenge present, the relationship is not considered interesting enough to exist in the story, which is the only reason I could possibly think of that a female player cannot romance Soleil.

But language is a bitch. Translation is an even bigger bitch, and English and Japanese are two very different languages with entire concepts that don’t translate at all from one to the other. Chances are us English-speakers wont get a good idea on what actually happens in the game concerning Soleil until an official English release, as the developers intentions (which are nigh-unknowable to fan-translators) would probably be taken into account by the translation team. And even then, game developers have been known to change entire parts of the story or character designs when games get translated across regions with different values, so what happens in the Japanese version of the might be completely different from what we get in the North American or European releases.