Tag Archives: Twitter

Who Did It Better? Coming Out with J.K. Rowling and Overwatch Lead Writer Michael Chu

It’s the Year of Our Lord 2019 and storytelling is still important. In some cases the stories are the same, like the age-old tale of good triumphing over evil, but they’re being delivered in increasingly more novel ways. Comics are drawn and fan fiction is written and YouTube sketches are filmed, and sometimes the collaborators aren’t even in the same city, let alone country. In other cases the stories, while nothing new, are finally being given the opportunity to be told. The idea of finding yourself isn’t an original one, but the narrative of coming out as gay or lesbian or transgender or any other identity has only recently found a foothold in popular media.

rowlingchuStorytelling and identity are crucial building blocks to our culture, and both are heavily intertwined (as are all things, these days) with the internet (it would be remiss of me not to mention that I chose to do so in a podcast I co-hosted). This is certainly as true for a multi-award-winning online first-person shooter as it is for a series of books that wrapped up a dozen years ago. The Overwatch and Harry Potter universes are like ours in that they are populated by a myriad of different characters, some straight and some LGBT+, but I want to delve into how the similarities, and ultimately the differences, of their respective coming out stories (in both cases the term “coming out” feels accurate, as none of the characters discussed were initially introduced as being anything other than straight).

“Yer a Gay Man, Dumbledore”

Before touching on her approach to revealing one of her characters’ sexual orientations, it’s worth making note of how the billionaire author has reentered our collective conversation. Two years ago a BuzzFeed writer was one of the first to report on a shocking revelation found on Pottermore, a site Rowling created for her legion of fans to learn more about the Wizarding World. Most people online will have come across this by now, but the page in question was about the Chamber of Secrets, and explained that wizards once vanished their excrement in lieu of using toilets. It resulted in one of my favourite Tumblr posts:

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The user has since deleted their blog, so no direct link, sorry!

This caused a minor hubbub and then faded away, as all news does. Fast-forward to exactly a week ago, when the Pottermore Twitter page decided to unearth this particular trivia tidbit to an internet that had somehow managed to survive the hellscape that 2018 wrought.

Among the many, many “Tweetus Deletus” gifs was one response that both roasts this (very bad) piece of worldbuilding and helps set us back on topic:

Van Arendonk is clearly addressing the stomach-turning topic at hand, but this was far from the first time that the author had chosen to elaborate on her universe after the Harry Potter series had wrapped up. A decade before the original “Chamber Pot of Secrets” debacle Rowling announced during a Q&A at Carnegie Hall that she “always thought Dumbledore was gay.” She went on to explain that the character had fallen in love with wizard Hitler-stand-in Grindelwald, which turned out about as well as you would expect. At the time of this writing that remains the full extent of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore’s coming out.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been opportunities to depict him as having been actively romantically involved with other men. Last November’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald featured both the genocidal sorcerer and school headmaster as young (by comparison) men, with many fans assuming this was the time period that Rowling had been referring to.

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Dumbledore and Grindelwald as (actually) young men.

The screenshot above is from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, not from the aforementioned Fantastic Beasts sequel. As many fans have noted, the two wizards actually share no scenes with one another. If only they had taken Jude Law, the actor portraying him, at face value when he said several months prior to the film’s release that: “(they’re) not going to reveal everything all at once.” Potterheads would discover that this meant no references, explicit or otherwise, to his being attracted to men. Currently the film series’ is slated for release on November 20, 2020.

“We’re All LGBT+ Now”

This past Monday lore-starved Overwatch fans were surprised by the delivery of “Bastet”, a short story penned by lead writer Michael Chu that progressed the game’s treacle-slow narrative, the kind of rare occasion that results in the generation of dozens of “i owe you my life” memes. Although it focused on 60-year-old Egyptian sniper Ana Amari, what really set the internet ablaze was a conversation she has with her fellow vigilante-in-hiding Jack Morrison, AKA Soldier: 76.

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Illustration by Arnold Tsang.

After finding a photograph that he’s been keeping all of these years, she brings up the young man he has his arm around, asking about what could have been.

“Vincent deserved a happier life than the one I could give him.” Jack sighed. “We both knew that I could never put anything above my duty. Everything I fought for was to protect people like him… That’s the sacrifice I made.”

“Relationships don’t work out so well for us, do they?” Ana said, unconsciously running her thumb over where her wedding ring used to be.

Given an earlier passage that highlights his inability to convince Ana that he’s pleased about Vincent’s present marital status (happily married), it doesn’t take much to arrive at the conclusion that he’s gay, or at the very least was romantically involved with a man. Some might read them as simply being very good friends, which, I mean, c’mon.

While this may seem like the dictionary definition of storytelling, this falls more in line with Rowling’s approach when Chu, after waiting a few hours for people to have read the story, took to Twitter to respond to what is very likely a deluge of tweets demanding confirmation:

Faithful readers (I’m “back”, did you miss me?) will remember when I briefly mentioned a similar coming out story in December 2016, touching on an Overwatch comic called “Reflections” which featured face-of-the-game Tracer kissing another woman named Emily. As he did earlier this week Chu once again came forward on Twitter to clarify for fans who might have been confused about their relationship.

In addition to that, a Blizzard representative provided a statement to IGN, which has to at least be on par with comments made on the head writer’s personal (his bio says: “Opinions are my own. Unreliable narrator.”) Twitter account.

“Tracer is a lesbian on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. As in real life, having variety in our characters and their identities and backgrounds helps create a richer and deeper overall fictional universe. From the beginning, we’ve wanted the universe of Overwatch to feel welcoming and inclusive, and to reflect the diversity of our players around the world. As with any aspect of our characters’ backgrounds, their sexuality is just one part of what makes our heroes who they are.”

The narrative of Overwatch deserves a multi-part series of blog posts in and of itself given the varying opinions on the rate, method, and quality of its delivery, but all I’ll say right now is that there is no readily apparent progressing story within the game itself. Gameplay consists primarily of six-player teams going head-to-head to (violently) accomplish objectives, and both heroes and villains can be chosen regardless of whether or not they would ever canonically team up. There is a seasonal event which thus far has provided a way of playing through past missions, but as far as “current events” that take place in Overwatch‘s present nothing currently exists.

That said, there are details within the game that provide evidence of both Soldier: 76 and Tracer’s respective same-sex relationships.

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The Soldier: 76 spray “Jack and Vincent” and the Tracer spray “Emily”

As seen above, there are sprays unique to each character which depict significant others, both past and present. When playing on the King’s Row (London, where “Reflections” partially takes place) map Tracer has the chance to utter one of several voice lines, one in particular being “Wonder if I have time to visit Emily? … No, better stay focused…” Another has her responding to an invitation from another character asking about her and her girlfriend.

It’s a far cry from seeing these relationships play out in-game, or have any kind of significant impact, but these acknowledgements are there.

When Did It Happen? (And a Lot More How)

Without having seen any evidence to the contrary, both J.K. Rowling and Michael Chu are straight, as both have spouses of the opposite sex (the latter was married just last October). To be clear, I firmly believe that anyone can write for any character (the time and effort and sensitivity needed varies). It does bear mentioning, however, that their personal orientations mean that neither are writing their respective stories from a place of personal experience. I should also state that I’m choosing to think the best of them.

In other words, I have no intention of entertaining the idea that either writer, to use a few buzzwords, lazily shoehorned in LGBT+ characters into their work in order to pander to the SJWs (my thoughts on that last word here). The alternative is to consider their intentions to be pure, which begs the question of what their intentions were, exactly.

A straightforward response would be that they’re simply providing backstory, fleshing out characters that their respective fanbases already know and love. The differences to highlight would be the way that Harry Potter and Overwatch told, and continues to tell, their stories, as well as when these characters came out relative to their creation.

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Dumbledore, as portrayed by Richard Harris in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Albus Dumbledore was first introduced in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) over 20 years ago in 1997. The film adaptation of that book was released in 2001, with sequels and corresponding movies dropping in subsequent years. With Pottermore still a twinkle in Rowling’s eye (limited registration began in 2011), books and film were the author’s primary means of crafting her universe.

To simplify things, Dumbledore was “born” in 1997 and “came out” in 2007. This event also took place 91 days after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in the septilogy, was published. At that point there were still three films left to be made, with the seventh being split into two parts, though none followed up on the knowledge that Rowling had shared.

As far as its timeline is concerned, the Overwatch beta, open to a limited few in order to test the game before its wide release, began on October 27, 2015. The game was officially released on May 24, 2016. Tracer “came out” in December 2016 and Soldier: 76 did the same just this month (January 2019).

As mentioned, and for better or for worse, there is no currently existing, consistent, effective in-game storytelling in Overwatch. That said, the game’s narrative has, since its announcement at Blizzcon 2014, taken the form of cinematics (as seen below), comics, and most recently, with “Bastet”, short stories.

Overwatch also launched with a website that provides for each hero, in addition to their abilities and difficulty level, a short bio (here’s Symmetra’s, one of my personal favourites). From the beginning the team behind the first-person shooter has taken a multimedia approach to worldbuilding, though admittedly not on a schedule that many appreciate. As an online game Overwatch also continues to be patched with content (typically in the form of new maps and heroes) and as such has no easily discernible “end date.” This is a story that continues to be told.


Both Harry Potter and Overwatch are reigning champions in their own right, having amassed awards, accolades, and millions of faithful fans. A number of those fans identify as being LGBT+, or haven’t yet. They have family members or loved ones who are members of the LGBT+ community, or who don’t yet know any at all, possibly even as a personal choice. The point is that queer stories matter and have always mattered. The fact that these two fanbases are able to see gay characters in beloved media is a very special thing.

How those characters come to be, however, is another matter entirely. In Rowling’s Wizarding World coming out is magical. Words are spoken and changes occur, but not all of them can be perceived by the eyes of the untrained and ordinary. In Overwatch coming out is the future. It’s both imminent and right now and, to paraphrase a scientist cautioning a young genetically enhanced gorilla, not accepting people at face value and daring to see yourselves reflected in them.

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Hey Conservatives – Could We Talk Real Quick?

Let’s get right to business here, folks.

I’m sure most of you are aware that, last Monday, Late Show host Stephen Colbert joked about Trump’s mouth being Vladimir Putin’s “cock holster.”

This prompted outrage among many conservatives, and lead to the Twitter hashtag #fireColbert, along with calls to boycott CBS advertisers. Today, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission, for our non-American readers) announced it was starting an investigation into Colbert’s joke, “following up on complaints” of obscenity/indecency/profanity. As much as that sucks, it’s not the FCC I want to call up to the dock today. It’s the folks who got them involved.

Conservatives (who might accidentally stumble across this blog) – let me address y’all directly:

wthbs

Many of you have cited that the joke was homophobic:

I gotta ask ya, Conservatives –

– since when do you give a **** about homophobia?

A sizeable chunk of the past twenty years has been dedicated to the battle to stop gay marriage, which was – to hear you talk at least – the breaking of the seventh seal. I mean seriously, we have had millions and millions of dollars and countless work-hours poured into this battle. Gays were, as you once claimed, destroying the moral fabric of the nation with the indecent and immoral behavior. To sanction it as a nation was to spit in the face of God!

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Unlike rejecting refugees, widows, orphans, and the poor, of whom the Bible makes absolutely no mention.

Continue reading

For Your Consideration: Adam Prosser Interviews Warcraft Director Duncan Jones

Similar to the last time I did this in March, this feature is meant to provide a brief look at what’s been happening on the internet this week [but without the typical commentary and criticism you’ll find around here].

A few short days ago BBC journalist Adam Rosser interviewed director Duncan Jones about his film Warcraft, which premiered in North America one week ago today. The interview was for Rosser’s show Let’s Talk About Tech for BBC 5Live, and given that he works as a freelancer he uploaded it to his personal YouTube account. A copy of the video can be seen below:

The original version has since been taken down due to it being shared on the Battle.net forums for the game the film is based on. That forum post has in turn also been removed as the negative reaction to the interview unsurprisingly, and it’s depressing that it’s an expected response, spawned death threats. Rosser himself comments that:

While many fans [which I’ll remind you is short for “fanatic”] will always react viscerally to the criticism of that which they hold dear, there’s also something to be said for the way in which Rosser actually conducted the interview. Continue reading

The Power of Twitter Showcased at the Oscars: #OscarsSoWhite, #YesAllWomen, and #AskHerMore

Twitter has changed the way news is reported. The Black Lives Matter movement has been particularly successful in raising awareness for cases of police brutality that generally would have been overlooked by mainstream news channels.

Arguably the second most important aspect of Twitter is its ability to connect celebrities to their fan base. With the prevalence of these two features, it’s hardly surprising that celebrities and celebrity events have become more politicized.

This year’s Academy Awards are a prime example of this overlap between the celebrity world and political struggles that have been highlighted via Twitter. Below, I’ve included a few notable examples of Twitter flexing its muscles at the Oscars

#OscarsSoWhite

I’m not going to dwell too much on the circumstances of the #OscarsSoWhite boycott, since Gordon and Evan have already thoroughly explained its context. However, I do want to talk a bit about how the controversy was handled by the Oscars host, Chris Rock.

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Overall, I thought Rock did a great job calling out the Academy without reducing his monologue to a humourless lecture. However, in his article for Salon, Arthur Chu points out that,

Acting like caring about day-to-day violence in the streets and the impact media and culture have on that violence are somehow mutually exclusive — a common, frustrating, tired argument anyone who talks about racism in media will inevitably see dozens of times in the comments section — ignores history.

It ignores the many, many arguments that have been made about how the excuses made for the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown frequently come verbatim from untrue stereotypes out of TV and movies, how the only way Darren Wilson’s description of Brown as a “demon” who was “bulking up to get through the bullets” could possibly make sense to anyone is after a lifetime of media portrayals of the scary superhuman black man. It ignores Martin Luther King going out of his way to call Nichelle Nichols and tell her not to quit “Star Trek” because having a black woman on TV who wasn’t a domestic servant mattered. It ignores the ongoing civil rights protests around the Oscars back in the 1960s and ’70s, including Marlon Brando making history as the first and only best actor winner to boycott the ceremony, sending American Indian Movement activist Sacheen Littlefeather to accept the award in his place.

Similarly, several activists have since pointed out the one-dimensionality of calling for more black representation only to appeal to Asian-American stereotypes for a laugh. Continue reading

Trump Temptation: The Billionaire & The Bellboy: A Book Review

trumptemptationsIn spite of my nationality there’s very little I’ve been able to do to avoid news about the presidential nominees in our neighbour to the south. While Donald Trump hasn’t yet risen to the absurd heights of celebrity that Obama did shortly after his inauguration, it’s more than fair to say that he’s been creating an indelible mark on pop culture for far longer, for better or for worse.

Given his general notoriety, especially of late, it’s not particularly surprising that comedian Elijah Daniel was compelled to pen what I’m going to generously dub a novella about the businessman. While he was originally inspired by a Huffington Post article surmising that Trump had paid off a secret gay lover [unavailable at the time of this writing], the truth is that there are sex scandals announced all of the time. No, there’s something particularly special about Donald John Trump. Something special enough to skyrocket Daniel’s ten page tale to the top of a handful of Amazon charts.

Now I don’t want to go too deeply into exactly how Trump Temptation was written, especially when you can see for yourself by checking out the author’s very own explanation on Twitter. Feel free to check that out before coming back to this review, because I’m about to dive headfirst into some LGBT erotica. Continue reading

In Defence of the Dress Code

There are so many things I hate about dress codes. I hate that they usually target girls and their sexuality, implying that a) if girls don’t cover their bodies boys will have no choice but to “lust” after them and b) a girl’s sexuality is something to fear. I hate that they imply that a woman’s character is based on her level of purity.

I hate that they become an opportunity for grown men to ogle young girls in order to better police what those young girls should wearI hate that they project gender roles onto young people. I hate that they go hand in hand with body- shaming young girls just when their bodies have started to change and they are still learning how to deal with those changes.

In contrast, I love seeing young women standing up for themselves on social media with hashtags like #IAmNotAnObject, #MyBodyMyBusiness, and #MoreThanADistraction. I love seeing them reclaim their bodies as their own, rather than some grown (or young) man’s fantasy. I love seeing them call out our education systems for continuing to prioritize boys over girls. I love seeing them call out the innate sexism at the centre of most dress codes Continue reading

Safe Spaces and Echo Chambers – Finding The Middle Ground

Today the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Right now my Facebook feed is blowing up, with the vast majority of my online acquaintances rejoicing that a ruling that’s been a long time coming has finally passed. To sum it up in only eight short words:

abouttime

On the other side of things, though very few and far between, there is a sentiment in direct opposition. There weren’t many for me, but I think most people will find at least one status that falls roughly along these same lines:

turneditsback

The internet is never silent on the most innocuous of issues, and when it comes to an event as groundbreaking as this one there isn’t a person who can keep from putting in their two cents. As Kat observed last year the words we post online are made subject to scrutiny, with one of the tamest consequences being that someone will voice their disagreement. As another Facebook very wisely tacked on to the end of their status: “*If you do not support gay marriage, please do not respond to this post. This is a genuinely wonderful occasion for many that I love.”

This all connects back to a topic I’ve been meaning to cover for a while, which is the idea of “safe spaces”. It goes beyond simply wanting others to leave a Facebook status as a forum for positivity instead of debate to having a place where we can rest assured we won’t be outright attacked.  Continue reading