Gaming still has a lot of baggage when it comes to femininity. The medium that largely focused on an audience of straight white men for its early decades has become one of the most diverse forms of media in the world. Such progress has different ethnicities, sexualities, and genders welcomed into the fold as the toxic echo chamber becomes more tolerable.
Things are changing, and we’re forced to confront long-standing issues before we can justify moving forward. Rampant sexualisation, thinly-veiled racism, and fear that supporting more inclusive audiences will see games reduced to political objects are all things we’re still grappling with. Progress is being made, but slowly, and not without forces holding us back. I don’t think this will change, at least not for a long time, but the steps being taken by games like Guilty Gear Strive give me hope for the future. More specifically, characters like Bridget.
Guilty Gear Strive confirmed earlier this week that series veteran Bridget is transgender. This had been part of a complex headcanon for years, but the continued use of masculine pronouns and the narrative’s unwillingness to explore this aspect of her character meant nothing was ever satisfactorily confirmed in the canon. Raised in an English village, Bridget was brought up as a girl due to a local superstition that twins born of the same gender were bad luck, but has remained in ‘girl mode’ well into adulthood.
Her parents believed this superstition, so she came to wear feminine clothes, use she/her pronouns, and presented herself as a cis women. However, the audience (and several other characters) knew she was born male, and she was referred to by he/him or other masculine titles on occasion too. Back in the day she wasn’t viewed from a strictly queer perspective, but was seen as a ladyboy hiding a penis under her clothes that male gamers could make fun of one another for finding attractive because dicks are scary apparently. It leaned into a ‘trap’ stereotype that claims trans people are merely trying to fool people into finding them attractive before their genitals expose the real truth. Like we’re a sick circus attraction instead of actual human beings.
This is a situation that in the real world has gotten trans people killed (and cis people have gotten away with it, under the Trans Panic defence), but given how juvenile and heteronormative games tend to be, burdening Bridget with this stereotype happened quickly and remained an inside joke amongst series’ fans for decades. As a closeted teenager I admired characters like Bridget because they were male beneath it all, yet exhibited all the signatures of an attractive, passing woman.
She was someone I wanted to be, so to see the character labelled as transgender with such explicit declaration feels like queer fans are reclaiming something that was once held over them as a twisted joke. Women have to look and behave in a certain way, or they risk being seen as a societal oddity or unworthy of attention. Bridget fell into this nebulous middle ground.
Her transgender identity is immediately embraced by the wider cast of Guilty Gear Strive, which only furthers how positive this reveal has been. One scene in the arcade mode has Bridget talking with Goldlewis Dickinson and Ky Kiske about a journey of self discovery that is far from easy, but she knows the final destination will be more than worthwhile. The two characters sit alongside her, nodding in agreement while providing the advice that every trans person needs to hear – leaving behind the fear of prejudice and failure to become the individual you want to be is worth the inevitable heartache.
Dickinson is unsure of what to call Bridget, given the complex layers of her gender identity, calling her “cowgirl” before falsely correcting himself to “cowboy”. She responds: “Cowgirl is fine. Because… I’m a girl!” So many games would be scared to define something so clearly, largely so the typical minority of vocal chuds can deny any semblance of queer representation in fear it will ruin the entire game for them. Guilty Gear Strive couldn’t care less, and the conviction it expresses in Bridget’s character and how unapologetic she is in being a trans girl is so damn liberating.
Players have already unearthed further instances of dialogue that only serve to reinforce Bridget’s transgender character arc in the game, making it clear that Arc System Works are fully on board with this new interpretation. It’s been a long time coming, and feels like fitting retribution for a character that for years has been the victim of transphobic punchlines.
While the games themselves might have never leaned into the idea of Bridget being a trap designed to fool eagle-eyed male players, the community embraced that idea and made it the most iconic aspect of her character. It sucked, and I wish I knew better as a teenager instead of leaning into such needless jokes. My internal fascination would eventually lead to me making strides with my own queer identity, but Bridget has always deserved better, and to see her receive that respect in Strive means so much.
She joins Testament, a character who was revealed to be non-binary earlier this year and has also been taken in by fans as a welcome example of queer representation. Fighting games aren’t always heavy on narrative, often leaving us to fill in the blanks or providing lore dumps outside the core gameplay for audiences to obsess over. That is also true for Guilty Gear, but it makes characters like Bridget and Testament so much easier to fall in love with.
Their queerness is deliberate and seldom up for debate, with small nuggets of dialogue between encounters and nestled between modes providing just enough context for us to rejoice over. Bridget is a cute, confident, and empowering trans character who for decades has been working towards this eventual destiny, and to see it capitalised upon while simultaneously subverting a culture of ingrained transphobia is a perfect storm of brilliance.
I wrote recently that Guilty Gear Strive made me wish I wasn’t so bad at fighting games, and not even a day later Bridget is revealed as a trans character to entice me. Maybe it’s a sign.
Source: Read Full Article