Empathy games and critiques

Empathy games are a genre of game that enables players to understand and appreciate other people’s feelings or experiences. Supposedly, games are uniquely positioned to cultivate empathy because of the embodied experience of playing. In a game, you can almost literally walk a mile in another person’s shoes. Empathy games also offer a counterpoint to the mainstream viewpoint that video games are all about “fun” or plain bloodlust.

Among my readers, I suspect that many have never heard of the concept of empathy games. And when you first hear about empathy games, you might feel that it’s a great idea. However, in games critic circles, especially among queer critics, it’s often considered passé, or even a discredited trope. Marginalized creators have spoken out about the limitations of empathy, and its commodification. Exploring their perspectives may help us understand pitfalls in media representation of marginalized groups.

[Read more…]

“Love is love”

In an earlier blog post, I facetiously said I would go after the slogan “love is love” next. Well, why not. This should be quick.

“Love is love” is a slogan that is used to legitimize queer love by appealing to the value of love. It brings to bear every cultural narrative of star-crossed lovers torn apart by circumstance or by society, and observes that homophobes are the clear villains of the story. Love is love, and why are you against love? What petty prejudices do you have that motivate you to support one kind of love and oppose another?  Also, if you read it literally, the slogan is tautologous, which is cute.

None of that is wrong exactly. The issue is that for some people, there are in fact substantive differences in how they love, or whether they love at all.

[Read more…]

Slogans, and “Born this way”

Back when I was in college, California passed Proposition 8, which notoriously banned same-sex marriage, after it had been briefly legal. Many queer folks my age describe it as a formative experience, when they realized that progress was not as assured as they had hoped. So you could say that marriage equality was on our minds. And so it was the heyday for all sorts of slogans. “NO H8”, “Love is Love”, or “Born This Way”–Lady Gaga’s single of the same name was hot during the brief window when I was clubbing.

“Love is love” still seems to be fairly common, but I don’t hear “born this way” nearly as much anymore. I’m bracing myself to be proven wrong–within moments of hitting publish, I will see a dozen different people independently referring to “born this way”, and a dozen readers will tell me that they had just taken a break from scrolling through “born this way” memes so they could read this article. But if I trust my personal experience, “born this way” is kind of out of fashion now, isn’t it?

Is that what eventually happens to political slogans? They live on in our memories, but we stop thinking about them? If so, that may be for the best.

[Read more…]

Bros movie review

cn: This review makes no attempt to avoid spoilers

Bros is a 2022 gay romcom described as the first movie of its kind to be made by a major studio. It is most certainly not the first movie of its kind in general. I’ve spent quite some time dare I say dumpster diving for gay movies, so I can tell you that the two most common categories are the high school coming out slash romance, and the adult romance. Bros is an example of the latter, and I pleased to say that the mainstreamification did not really compromise the vision of this particular subgenre. It just got a bigger budget, and the acting and writing got a lot more polish. No, the main problems with Bros are problems that are common to its source subgenre, which makes it a great subject for discussion.

The movie is about a romance is between Bobby an out and proud effeminate gay podcaster and LGBTQ museum curator, and Aaron, a ripped jock.  To illustrate the interests and issues with the movie, I’ll begin by describing one small arc.  At one point, Bobby runs into Aaron giving himself a testosterone injection, apparently to maintain his muscled physique. Bobby questions him, and Aaron says all his friends do it, and it “doesn’t seem to bother you when you’re obsessing over my body”. Bobby says fair enough.
[Read more…]

On liking furries incidentally

cn: Discussion of erotic media but no graphic descriptions. I’d appreciate if commenters follow suit.

I’d define a furry as someone who is interested in or involved in the furry fandom. It isn’t *just* about interest in anthropomorphic animals, it’s about connection to a particular fandom tradition dating back to the 1970s. The furry fandom taps into a cross-cultural tendency to depict animal characters in a variety of forms, but that tendency is not in and of itself the same as being a furry.

There are plenty of popular works with animal characters that do not arise from the furry tradition, such as Redwall or Bojack Horseman. These works might be well-loved within the furry fandom, and if you *really* love them that might indicate that you would appreciate the furry fandom.  But fans of Bojack Horseman are not necessarily or even typically furries.

I’m not here to summarize the history and practices of the furry fandom. I want to talk about my personal experiences and impressions, as an occasional appreciator on the outside. And, I guess, this is a way of processing my own relationship to furries.

[Read more…]

Love, Victor reviewed

After finishing and reviewing the first season of Heartstopper (TV series), we were looking for another show to watch, and landed on Love, Victor, available on Disney+. This is a very different kind of show than Heartstopper, and I daresay I prefer it. Where Heartstopper is a well-done if formulaic series committed to low stakes, Love, Victor is basically a soap opera that had us constantly yelling at the screen.

Love, Victor is a spinoff of the movie Love, Simon (which I have seen but do not remember). Victor is a closeted gay kid at Simon’s old high school, and he writes Simon hate mail because he thinks Simon must have had it so much easier. Simon responds much more kindly than I would have, and serves as a remote mentor for the first season and a half. The show primarily focuses on Victor and his circle of friends, who are seemingly embroiled in an endless series of love triangles.

I wrote a series of reactions/complaints as we watched Love, Victor over the past two months, and I have attempted to organize them into something coherent. I won’t be going through the whole show episode by episode, but I will include incidental spoilers for all three seasons.

[Read more…]

Is queerness wholesome now?

A couple weeks ago, I was following the Summer Games Fest and other video game presentations. And because I’m so interested in queer media, I asked myself, of all these different presentations, which is the queerest of them all? It’s hardly a question, because the answer is so obviously the Wholesome Games Direct.

The next day, I read a story about proud boys creating a disturbance at a Drag Queen Story Hour, and I thought, of course. Of course the queers would be doing something so wholesome as reading stories to children, and of course the edgy fascists would hate that.

Is this a thing? Is queer wholesomeness a thing?

[Read more…]