Last Take of The Year
Tracer is gay, which is cute, though I tend to react immediately with a kind of strident point of view about representation, and that’s because I think it is important that we control our own stories. This sentiments are very important to me or I wouldn’t keep writing about them, but I also don’t think it’s weird or wrong or basic for queer people to get emotional and excited about explicit queerness. That’s a good thing that rules even when I’m not feeling it much, or at all. I’ve been trying lately to examine where my immediate reactions come from because, for example, I’m a highly intellectualizing person who was taught feelings are less valuable than rhetoric and it’s okay to dismiss them rather than validate or understand them.
Of course that’s not to say that it’s always prudent to hold your tongue, and you can’t never say something that might make others insecure and hurt, but that if you’re critiquing for the sake of a community you should really consider that community’s feelings broadly. Maybe it’s possible to do both? When you’re warming up a take it’s always important to think about the place your reaction is coming from, and who it’s for and why it’s needed. Feeling left out for not meeting the emotional baseline your friend group seems to be at from the slices of them you see on twitter (whether that baseline is effusively emotional or punishingly critical) is probably not a great reason; this is how you end up with takes that are theoretically correct but still wrong.
In the Wokeness Olympics, the quest for the hottest take is never the one for the most comprehensive point of view, taking in and weighing as many subtleties as possible, but who can take a single obscure analysis so far that everyone else feels ashamed for not sharing it. Like, literally no one is unaware Blizzard is a huge corporation, so takes that amount to simply pointing that fact out that kind of have the effect of making it sound like anyone who’s happy is just too dumb to understand this. And what did I just say about being better aware of the ways in which we lean towards invalidating people for visibly having emotions? It’s a failure both as a cultural critique for not accounting lived experiences and maybe even actively reinforces hierarchies, intellectual or otherwise. Someone on twitter who was not a queer woman was saying that it was impossible to have a conversation about depictions of queer women in media with living actual queer women and this is why. It’s something you have to think about to yourself though, it’s not work that can be done for you. Alternate titles for this essay could have been “maybe shutting the fuck up is good actually: a guide to staying in your lane.” And even in your own lane, you gotta remember you’re not the only one in it.
The worst take I keep seeing is that because Tracer looks exactly like the sort of person you’d expect to be a lesbian that it’s actually stereotyping for her to be lesbian. I feel this is kind of weird to me just because it’s not actually woke as fuck to look straight? Like you know what defies stereotypes: anyone being gay ever at all. I lent my friend Fern my PS4 over the holidays and she’s reported to me that all the women in Overwatch are gay, her girlfriend, and smoke weed. That’s the attitude I’d really like to see, not fighting over if it would be woker to have a more marginalized body be tokenized.
It’s a balance of course; I strongly do believe there’s an overemphasis on a certain definable picture of representation that feels like a press release, that subtle and authentic depictions of queer life are not valid if they don’t come with a certificate of authenticity. This is stressful and toxic for sincere and authentic creators and easy for PR machines, and makes for bad community as well—I just think of the way I’ve seen gay creators working on heavily on queer shows have been treated. We’re all desperate which makes everything more painful and dire than it should or has to be. That’s what it’s like when your life is more painful and dire than it has to be.
Anyways for an apocryphal reveal in a short promotional comic it’s not surprising Tracer has a rando normie girlfriend, but I’m too used to fandom shipping which is about chemistry and what would be hot and interesting and not about announcing that someone is gay. However as announcing someone is gay goes a quiet Christmas with her gf and best friend is a tenderly normal way to play a reveal and kind of excitingly bland? It is not super brilliant or anything but de-sensationalizing kind of does reveal a good intention by making her relationship feel just normal. Like, corporations literally will just pander to whatever of course, there’s no person alive who doesn’t know that intellectually, but it’s nice to see a modest and non-embarassing pandering because that isn’t so common.
Which is actually why my first reaction to this announcement was so ambivalent and fraught. Because the pandering just makes me think about how easily things could change if the wind blew in another direction. Because the straight people trying to look cool by talking over queers about queer issues obviously really do hate us and are they going to realize it and decide it’s time to join the other side? Is it a temporary whim we’re living on—should I be afraid of making them upset? Before they get mad enough at us for standing up for ourselves to side with the actual fascists. At the end of 2017, will it feel like the momentum’s shifted?
That’s my fear. But I’m just not confident enough, and I’m scared, and I’m confusing effect for cause. We didn’t gain ground because milquetoast twitter personalities who audited an intro to cinema class once temporarily decided we were people. We’re the ones who made it unfashionable to treat us like shit. It’s hard to remember your own power is affecting the world when others still have so much more, and the privilege of acting like they invented all of it. None of it was granted because we were quiet and unobjectionable for a long enough time.
I also think about Gamergate and other reactionary movements burning hot and gaining temporary success and how ultimately powerless they were to reverse culture despite the damage they did to so many people’s lives. From the start they were comically ineffective at anything else. So much power to harm, but not all-powerful. Despair eats at me when I forget our own power. It’s important to remember our own power. And not let them forget, either.