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Youtube discussing Kian's orientation


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#41 multimediator

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 15:55

I think Ragnar did put all the needed references for us in the 3 games. Right now I'm extremely busy so I can't do the "Gandal in Minas Tirith's Library" thing...but soon I'll dive into it (soon will probably be during fall :P).

 

I adore the LOTR reference--thank you.  :D


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#42 multimediator

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 17:58

I just finished playing Book 5 last night--it's hard to believe the journey after all these years is over, at least until TLJ Home is made.

I appreciate all the conversation here about the YouTube video. As a player who strongly identifies as a gay man in my real life, I understood the concerns and frustrations raised about gay men's representation in the TLJ/DF series. However, I find there is much to applaud--and what there is to applaud far outweighs my criticism. Overall, I think the series was ground-breaking in the way it represented same-sex attraction and queer sexualities.

First, agirlnamedbob (love her!) is spot on that no one character can (or should) shoulder the burden of representing an entire population. It's reductive, condescending, and preachy at best, and it doesn't make for good storytelling. Too often, it results in a character who is an archetype/stereotype than a richly nuanced, interesting and flawed character. Kian cannot be a stand-in for all gay men's stories and experiences. The answer lies not in trying to develop the one "perfect" representative queer, female, or non-white character but to provide a wide variety of characters who happen to be queer, female, and racially/culturally diverse with significant roles to play in the story (and not just thrown in the background for local color).

And where the series succeeds is in the richness of its female characters. This is a universe where women have serious power and agency. There are three(!) female protagonists you get to play for the majority of the series (April, Zoe, Saga), on top of which you get female political leaders (The Six, Lea Uminska), research scientists (Helena Chang, Sister Alessandra), and software engineers/hackers (Mira, Olivia). (And I haven't even mentioned the magical females such as Enu, Shepherd, and Bandu-Ma-Seri.) There is even room for powerful women to be evil (Mother Utana, Sister Alessandra, Helena Chang) without anyone (I hope) jumping to the conclusion that all women politicians and scientists are hell-bent on bringing about genocide and the downfall of civilization. Meanwhile, I never saw tired sexist tropes like women hanging around waiting to be rescued by men (in fact, it's Saga who rescues Kian), or trading on their sexual attractiveness to get ahead (April's few attempts to do that are comically disastrous), or being derailed from accomplishing their goals by male love interests.

From its earliest days, TLJ/DF has included sympathetic queer characters and references to queer sexuality, and I give them a huge amount of credit for it. For example:
  • Fiona and Mickey
  • The Eye Officer April attempts to flirt with
  • The gay bar in Marcuria known as "The Salty Seaman"
  • Hanna and Abby
  • Azadi acceptance of same-sex relationships
  • Kian
  • Likho
And guess what? Not a single character in either world ever has a crisis about being LGBT, is harassed or killed because of it, or "cured" to live happily ever after in a socially sanctioned heterosexual relationship. Moreover, I LOVED playing a powerful, badass, sexy gay guy (that beard--swoon!) who is out there with a crew of really awesome women saving the world. What a gift to have a gay protagonist who was completely non-stereotypical.

Where the series fell short *for me* in the queer storytelling arena:
  • I would have liked Kian to be a little more realized as a gay man through the inclusion of a few subtle details, for example, an appreciative comment or two about the attractiveness of a male human or magical, a humorous flirtation attempt like April had in TLJ, or a mention of a past lover. It felt like his gayness was limited to pronouncements about his identity. (That said, I never understood all the hand-wringing about "my Kian kissed Anna and now he's gay; you lied to me!" or "it's so unfair, my Kian didn't kiss Anna and now you made him gay; how was I to know?"--like a single two-second kiss is going to determine anyone's sexual orientation? Because we know *no one* ever kisses people they're not attracted to.)
  • Per the video, it would have been nice to see a little more same-sex affection/couples in the environments here and there.
  • There were no trans characters and there was a lost opportunity to depict magical races that were not gender binary--for example, single-gender, hemaphroditic, or tri-gender. Or how about a race that can change genders? (That's pretty magical!)
  • I would have liked to see more human/magical couples. I feel like we heard about them at least once (April and her fierce Dolmari lover), but did we ever meet any?
  • By far, the hugest disappointment for me was the Likho and Kian did not, in fact, become partners and lovers when everything seemed so beautifully set up for it. I was expecting in that intimate, vulnerable moment on the airship to Ge'en that there might have been a kiss--here were two lonely embattled men risking death and completely reliant on each other for survival. And at the end, I would have loved nothing more than to see the "bloodless king" and his husband ascend to the Azadi throne with their adopted daughter Saga Alvane, which would have been an amazing and unprecedented way to showcase a non-traditional, multi-racial family of choice within the gaming world. Yes, there is the awkward fact that Kian murdered Likho's father, but by the end of the story, they are clearly bonded and choosing to spend their lives together. It may be that they have become lovers in the "five years later" glimpse (that is left to our imagination) but the "brother" conversation felt like a cop-out.
Some people have rightly said that sexual relationships do not play a big role in the series, and for the women characters, I think it is ground-breaking and empowering not to show them as subservient to men or distracted by men or only acting on behalf of men's interests. But for gay characters, one of the key issues around representation is showing that we have attractions, relationships, and families, and I wish the Kian/Likho storyline had ended differently.

That said, there's much to love overall, and I hope TLJ/DF has opened the door to our seeing ever more interesting queer characters and relationships on our screens. I am deeply grateful to Ragnar and his team!
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#43 the red of the kin

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 18:19

That said, there's much to love overall, and I hope TLJ/DF has opened the door to our seeing ever more interesting queer characters and relationships on our screens. I am deeply grateful to Ragnar and his team!

 

*thumbs up*

After book 5 has sedimented and my experience of Dreamfall: The longest journey  and Dreamfall Chapters has concluded I think I can honestly say that to me Kian's sexuality was a good addition to the gaming world, but in the end I couldn't care less about it. I'm glad that it existed and at the same time I never really cared about Kian's character. He is definitely clumsy and atypical (edit: meaning he's interesting!) but his story is not very interesting to me.


Edited by the red of the kin, 01 July 2016 - 18:20.

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#44 multimediator

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 18:32

I think it's really nice that RTG acknowledges the fact that if two dudes are gay and are friends, it doesn't automatically mean they're doing it.

 

Great point! I happen to be in the camp that *really* wanted Kian and Likho to get together, so I was sorely disappointed that no kiss happened on the airship or declaration of love/wedding at the end when Kian asks Likho to go with him to Sadir. I think this another reason (as agirlnamedbob has stated so articulately) that there need to be more queer characters and storylines so that no one storyline has to encapsulate "the gay experience" (whatever that is).


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#45 Vainamoinen

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 18:47

I would have liked Kian to be a little more realized as a gay man through the inclusion of a few subtle details, for example, an appreciative comment or two about the attractiveness of a male human or magical, a humorous flirtation attempt like April had in TLJ, or a mention of a past lover.


Good ideas for fleshing out his character, and I can imagine all of these things to occur in Kian's deadpan-to-emotionless tone of voice. The kiss, that's another thing. :)

 

First, agirlnamedbob (love her!)


THAT is actually a forum participation requirement. We very recently found someone who didn't. No match, had to go. :P


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#46 agirlnamedbob

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 19:02

Yeah, I've actually been mulling over the whole "good to acknowledge that gay/bi men can be 'just' friends" thing... ...And I do think that's a good point and something that often isn't acknowledged enough in media. But yeah, I think it's more than possible to appreciate that dimension to their relationship while still being a bit disappointed if you "ship" it. :P

 

I think that's actually why I was more fine with RTG leaving it basically open to interpretation and then was a little miffed when they clarified the relationship on Steam or whatever. It can be left that way in the canon and then fans can fill in whatever blanks they want, but then when the creator steps in and clarifies... ...Though I suppose one is still free to disregard that and/or acknowledge it and still choose to believe that their relationship may eventually take that turn. I feel like I've been bringing it up a lot lately, but there's a pretty great Idea Channel episode about fan fiction and queer representation in media I should dig up... 

 

THAT is actually a forum participation requirement. We very recently found someone who didn't. No match, had to go. :P

 

Hush, you. 

 

:P


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#47 multimediator

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 19:02

The video made good points. Though I personally really cringed at the "I'm gay!" line he had in the last book. It's just comical. So would it be if it were "I'm straight!" People just proclaiming things like that is just a bit strange. I think that's why the word "gay" isn't used in other games. It can come across as pejorative if other characters use it, and forced if the main character uses it. Who knows, I'm sure it would sound fine in a serious conversation but an exclamation is just hilarious and weird.


It's complex, isn't it? At this point in my life (and I've been out for 30 years), I prefer not to make an identity pronouncement as is but simply not censor myself with regards to my interests, attractions, and relationships (as appropriate, of course) when speaking with others, assuming that if they don't know yet, they'll figure it out pretty quickly. At the same time, I think Kian's response made a lot of sense in context--Crow was in "clueless straight male" mode and so saying things like "I'm gay" and "I don't mate with women" would be both a fast and honest way to shut that line of questioning down. I've done the same under such circumstances.

(Note: I find it telling that Crow responds to Kian's declaration with an "I don't have a problem with that" kind of statement but doesn't go on to ask Kian which *men* he's attracted to or, for that matter, "mated" with.)

One of the issues this question raises for me is homophobia vs. heteronormativity. In many liberal countries of the world, much of the legal architecture of homophobia (such as housing, employment, and relationship discrimination) has been dismantled and people's attitudes have grown more accepting. Far harder to dismantle in my opinion (it may even be impossible) is heteronormativity--the assumption that everyone is straight until proven gay (or bi, etc.). This is because gay people are a minority population and their "difference" is not visible in the same way, say, skin color is. So while others may know gay people exist and not feel threatened by that, nor wish to harm or discriminate in any way against gay people, it still leaves us in the position of having to declare ourselves when others wrongfully assume we are straight. To put it another way, some people (witness the Kian conversations elsewhere) will just not see us as gay until we make a forceful and pointed declaration of identity. I feel like the game is touching on this issue in this episode.
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#48 Starseeker

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 19:12

It can be left that way in the canon and then fans can fill in whatever blanks they want, but then when the creator steps in and clarifies...

 

The last thing Ragnar said about it on twitter was:

"This is just my take on their relationship; I saw it as former enemies finding common ground. But I may be wrong!"

https://twitter.com/...508854914916353

 

So I think it's still up to the fans ^_^


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#49 agirlnamedbob

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 19:17

The last thing Ragnar said about it on twitter was:

"This is just my take on their relationship; I saw it as former enemies finding common ground. But I may be wrong!"

https://twitter.com/...508854914916353

 

So I think it's still up to the fans ^_^

 

I missed that tweet. I should stalk his replies more closely, apparently. :P

 

I mean, I'd say the argument can be made that it's up to the fans regardless, but yeah. Glad to see that. ;) Hmm...


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#50 multimediator

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 19:20

...I'm still trying to sort out how I feel about Kian and Likho. I really, really wanted there to be an option where something more concrete happened in terms of their relationship taking that turn. So I did feel a lot like this person on twitter.

 

https://twitter.com/...129652122333184

 

​I agree with "Lady Alvane" 100%. I couldn't have expressed it better. Also this:

 

https://twitter.com/...359633272217600



#51 multimediator

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Posted 05 July 2016 - 01:33

So after a few more days of mulling over and overthinking the Book 5 conclusion, I uncovered another reason why I'm disappointed that Kian "bro-zones" Likho. In terms of character progression, it would be phenomenal to see Kian--who begins the series as a lone assassin, rigid and unquestioning of the orders he receives, and viewing magic and magicals with distrust and hostility--end his journey actively choosing a magical as his lover and life partner. It would be equally amazing to see Likho, who views Kian as a cold-blooded murderer and has sworn an oath to kill him, eventually choose Kian as his lover and life partner.

 

Another point: in the name of the Balance, if Kian is forced to endure an Anna kiss at the beginning, then he should be rewarded with a Likho kiss at the end. Just sayin'  :)


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#52 the red of the kin

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Posted 05 July 2016 - 08:39

Theoretically I'd agree.

But Kian assassinated Likho's family...and due to his conduct April got assassinated as well.
There's just too much baggage.
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#53 Vainamoinen

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Posted 05 July 2016 - 11:32

There's just too much baggage.


At least too much baggage to resolve in a few weeks' time.

 

But if Likho went with Kian to Sadir ... fighting side by side for a better future, for years, usually a very stimulating thing to do ... we may not have seen that happy end, but who knows, it may have occurred after all. :)


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#54 Raiden

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 04:12

I found it a bit strange that Kian was gay, because it largely felt unnecessary. It didn't really seem to pertain in any way to the story or his character. It almost seemed tokenistic, as though someone made him gay just to check a box, and not to serve any purpose. 

 

In a way though, it does actually make his presentation more realistic. If you think about it, I'm not gay for a "purpose," it's just who I am, and why should that be any different for Kian? For most of us our sexuality is only important when it comes to relationships, and in the context of the game Kian is a man dealing with far more important issues than seeking romance, so it's perfectly reasonable for him to be gay without it having any significant bearing on anything. 

 

I think the matter-of-factness about it is what makes it seem slightly jarring at first, because we're so used to the assumption that every character is going to be straight by default, that when we find out that one isn't we look for a reason why that choice was made. When it's brought up and then left dangling, with no real conclusion, it's natural to wonder "what was the point?" even if it needn't necessarily have a point. 

 

With that said, I still think that the way Kian's sexuality was handled ultimately felt shallow and hollow, and not particularly satisfying. Normally if you throw me a half-decent gay character I'll just feel happy to be acknowledged and included in some way, but this felt awkward to me. That moment with Crow had me cringing because it felt so out of place. A whole game of being coy with the issue, and one question about hooking up with April Ryan and he's declaring his identity in an overly-forceful tone...

 

I think the developers still probably deserve some credit though, because this concept of casual representation is an interesting one, and not something I've really seen before. Throwing the idea out there that people you encounter every day can be gay in spite of your presumptions, and that it really has little impact on anything. I suppose you could even compare it to Dumbledore being gay in Harry Potter, in the realm of subtle character traits, though I'm not sure that Rowling really gets any credit for that if you don't actually allude to it somewhere in the source material. 

 

Interestingly, until I watched that video just now I had no idea that Likho might be gay too. It's interesting what you miss through your choices. 



#55 Vainamoinen

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Posted 29 November 2017 - 14:20

I think the developers still probably deserve some credit though, because this concept of casual representation is an interesting one, and not something I've really seen before.


I absolutely have trouble giving clear cut examples where it has been similar, but that shouldn't deter from the fact that this exactly is the kind of representational diversity we have been craving for decades.

 

Narrative media where some traits of the hero/outsider define his or her character are all good and well. But just as April wasn't "April Ryan, heterosexual girl looking for a new dude", Kian wasn't "Kian Alvane, homosexual guy looking for a new dude". These traits were always there, always in the background, and they never defined those characters.

 

Acceptance and equality simply can not be achieved if narrative media keeps defining characters by their sexuality or their color of skin. We can not accept the wonderful diversity as total normality this way. The answer to the question "Why is the main character special?" should increasingly less be "Because he's gay". It just is, it's just one of many traits, and it doesn't come into the story much. We hopefully can transition further from (correctly!) showing homosexual people as victims of society to showing them as parts of that society.


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