I noticed a worrying pattern from the people currently commenting on the controversy surrounding Fire Emblem Fates. Many were men who hadn’t actually played the game and who have a shockingly poor understanding of Japanese culture. My interpretation of the events is vastly different to the majority of opinions so far, so there may be a few surprises. For those unaware, the controversy surrounds a female character, Soleil, who has a weakness for fainting around cute girls. After drinking a magic powder slipped to her by the protagonist, she finds herself more in control around them. Destructoid painted this as a gay girl who was drugged against her will as a form of gay conversion therapy, but here’s the thing …
Soleil isn’t gay. She’s not even bisexual.
It’s an easy mistake to make for those who neither understand women nor Japan. Soleil is a girl who is popular with other women—she finds women attractive, she loves to flirt with them and even aggressively pursues them. She faints at the mere sight of the cutest of girls but that doesn’t make her a homosexual.
A woman’s sexuality isn’t black or white or even grey, it’s that infamous 50 shades. Women are often attracted to other women, they even have sex with other women or fall in love with them and yet are predominantly heterosexual. Soleil claims to be only attracted to cute girls and not boys but it seems she means aesthetically. As a heterosexual female, she feels more comfortable exploring her sexuality around women as she should maintain her modesty around boys.
It’s important here to understand the preferences of heterosexual Japanese women. The most desirable heterosexual men in Japan have slim feminine figures; long, dyed and styled hair; and also wear make up; while the built, muscular types are more popular in the gay community. Soleil, like a typical Japanese woman, is not attracted to women so much as feminine looking boys, something shown through her attraction to Foleo and Lutz. We know Soleil isn’t gay because even if you choose not to pursue a relationship with her, even if you never drug her, even if other characters can be gay, Soleil can only fall in love with male characters.
So if she’s not, then why does she act so gay? It’s important to note here that Japan is an extremely conservative country and homophobia is still the norm. It’s not that the majority of Japanese people dislike gay people, but just that they believe that a gay Japanese person is as mythical as a unicorn. The majority choose to believe that Japanese people can’t be gay, but they can be sexually curious. It is my strong belief that the writer behind Soleil never believed that her actions would be interpreted as gay, though perhaps a little experimental.
If she’s not gay, it would not be possible for her to be converted, but in any case it is important to look at this “drugging” incident in more detail. The relationship mechanic in Fire Emblem Fates is pretty complex, but it’s important to understand here. You have relationships with various people simultaneously ranked S-C (S being above A). To improve your rank with another character, you can talk to them, battle beside them or invite them back to your room and rub your stylus slowly over their face. With enough interaction, your relationship achieves S rank and you can propose, though you can still have multiple A rank relationships at the same time.
If you choose to pursue Soleil (Note: you can only pursue a romantic relationship with her if your character is male), then at a point in the rankings she will ask for your help. Her disposition for fainting at the sight of cute girls is affecting her on the battlefield. She wants you to help her by any means. You secretly give her a powder which makes her see genders reversed temporarily. She sees you as a woman and realizes that girls, even cute ones, are normal people too. It works. You tell her what you did and she thanks you.
You can choose to end the relationship here and romance another character to S rank. If you feel it was wrong to deceive Soleil then you can walk away. This is the player’s own choice to continue the relationship. Even if you do pursue the relationship, it’s key to note that Soleil is no longer under the effects of the powder—she is aware you are male, sees you as male and is also aware of the circumstances which lead to her being physically attracted to you. Soleil still chooses to marry you. This is not some clueless girl who you drugged to make fall in love with you, this is a girl who chooses to be with a friend who once helped her.
Cultural misinterpretation is certain to happen in any art or media that crosses international borders. This does not make the actions of certain bloggers who ran in circles causing moral outrage excusable or even appropriate. Perhaps we could all exercise a little more caution and research before accusing developers of ill intentions.
What do you think of the controversy surrounding Fire Emblem Fates?More About This Game