mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
mark_asphodel ([personal profile] mark_asphodel) wrote2012-10-07 11:37 am
Entry tags:

On Defining "Canon Gay"

Before I delve into Tellius for this series of posts on love 'n' stuff, let's talk about what makes canon gay, well, canon. In a series like Fire Emblem wherein a lot of canon het is left ambiguous and declarations of eternal togetherness rarely surface in the form of "I love you," how do we recognize same-sex relationships when we see them?

1) It fits the criteria used for het pairings in that canon.

Let's take Fire Emblem romance on its own terms. Example numero uno here would be the paired endings for Raven & Lucius and Lyn & Florina, which don't even pass as business partnerships like the Marcus/Merlinus ending does. Raven/Lucius and Lyn/Florina meet every single standard for a "canon het" pairing in FE7. Yes, the (translated) text speaks of "friendship" and not love. Yes, neither pairing gets married. Matthew/Serra doesn't mention love or marriage-- they could just be having "friends with benefits" consolation sex. Or he's perving on her. Rebecca/Wil speaks of friendship and not marriage even though they cement the "friendship" by having a child. The Vaida/Heath ending speaks of "support," not love or marriage. Meanwhile, while I can't verify endings for them at present, Heath/Legault and Eliwood/Hector exist on the same plane as, say, Sain/Priscilla or Hector/Serra, het pairings without joint endings nonetheless enjoy a fair amount of popularity and really can't be deemed "crack." So what's canon, then?

[And again, every single pairing in FE6 except Zealot/Juno and the Roy pairings get the same level of endorsement.]

And as far as Kaga-era games go, find the part where Elice and Merric get married in the game text. It ain't there. In official art, yes. In the artbook, yes. But it's not in the game text for FE1 or FE3. Standards for canonicity are a wee bit slippery in the early days, so what makes Gordin abandoning Altea and following Master Jeorge to Pales (which, if you read between the lines is precisely what he does) any less telling than Elice's implied wedding to Merric? Or Linde's implied crush on Merric? Or Catria's implied feelings Marth? Etc. And again, we're not talking the reboots here, so I don't care what FE12 did or didn't do with these couples. We'll deal with that mess later.

2) Making it "not gay" requires an absurd amount of hand-waving.

Marty's canon epithet is "The Man Whom Dadga Loved." Even if you don't like your muscle-bound yaoi daddies, that one's hard to get around. And if the character Marty were Dadga's young son while Tanya had been a female brigand dubbed "The Woman Whom Dagda Loved," nobody would be thinking twice about accepting that as romance. If you have to resort to a blatant double standard to make it not-gay, or claim that "loved" means something else in a canon that doesn't throw "love" around all that often, then maybe we're dealing with a case of... canon gay.

3) Potter Stewart Rule, aka, "I know it when I see it."

This is very dodgy ground, because we're dealing with interpretation here. We're dealing with "seems" and "maybe" and "possibly" and "sure looks that way," which is a much weaker argument than strict application of #1 or #2. Or worse, we're dealing with "and what the hell was THAT about?" And the example I'm going to use is something I've danced around repeatedly, in meta and 'fic both, because it enjoys basically zero support in fandom either Stateside or in Japan, at least as far as I can tell. But damned if it isn't there in the text.

I said in the post on Kaga-era games that it appeared that Finn (as "het" as anyone else in FE4 as far as pairing mechanics go) was rewritten in FE5 to be, well, not into chicks. Or, as Ammie put it, "Finn seems gay." Do not mention Lachesis, do not pass go, etc. Let's look at the text here, so you don't have to go plowing through FE5. I will bold the most relevant parts.

CONVERSATION (Finn, Selphina)

[Mark: so in Chapter 9 of FE5, Finn encounters an old comrade he hasn't seen in ten years. Selphina is about nine or so years younger than Finn, which means she was in her teens the last time they met. Her husband, Glade, has been Finn's only best friend from the time they were trainee knights.]

"Sir Finn! It's good to see you again."

"You are...?"

Selphina: "Have you forgotten me? I'm Selphina."

"Selphina? Count Dorias' daughter?"


"...Well... So this is that little girl with the braids..."

"Ten years can make a big difference. I'm now married to Glade."

"Glade? He's alive!? Where is he? I have to see him!"

"He's not here. He went to aid the people in Tahra..."

"Oh, I see... Too bad. I suppose it can't be helped if it's an order..."

*The following part ensues only if Leaf already spoke to Selphina*

"You seem to be more interested in Glade than me, Sir Finn. You haven't
changed at all... You were always cold towards women."

"Cold? I never intended to be..."

"Then why did you leave Lady Lachesis? You knew how sad she was..."

"...I don't know what you're talking about..."

"Yes, you do! But you act like you don't know at all. You're cruel, Sir

"Selphina, we've met after many years. We don't have to..."

"Oh... Yes, I'm sorry. We finally meet again, and I can't do anything but
shout at you..."

"No, it's all right. We'll talk about it later. Right now, we must fight."

"Yes, Sir Finn..."

Got that? In terms of "whoa, did I miss something here?" that's right up with some of the classic bits of Tellius innuendo... especially as we're dealing with the character with the most screen time in the entire Jugdral saga aside from the three Lords and their tacticians. And yet, since the "Lachesis love triangle" thing has had far more influence in fandom, I've yet to see anyone take this at face value-- humorously or otherwise . In the exhaustive FE5 playthrough over at Something Awful, OP Cake Attack highlighted this as "an interesting piece of characterization" but didn't elaborate. A longterm GameFaqs poster currently going by the title Wrk20 will ambush you with this conversation if you try to argue canonicity of Finn/Lachesis, but takes it to simply mean Finn is kind of a rat bastard toward the women in his life (something that doesn't really add up if you take his interactions with Evayle into account). Even the Japanese meta site Tara Palace, which presents the maintainer's personal case against Finn/Lachesis in fine detail, doesn't really go there from what I can tell.

So, where does Selphina's little rant fit into things? I'm perfectly comfortable with saying Finn is not actually into chicks, FE4 mechanics be damned, but there are a couple of reasons not to make the full parabolic leap into saying "'cause he's into dudes."

1) Selphina argues about trivial things and maybe we're not supposed to take her seriously. X-ref her argument with Glade over whether Leaf inherited Cuan's eyes or Ethlin's. While canon paints her in a positive light, she's something of a little yappy dog.

2) Per canon, Finn's been an emotional flat-liner since the fall of Lenster. If he didn't show sufficient interest in or appreciation for this fine, fine A-list woman, it could be part of a much broader anhedonia and lack of interest in anything not geopolitical. [This appears to be where Tara Palace is coming from.]

3) He does say Briggid was beautiful. Twice. So apparently back in Gen 1 days, before all the bad shit went down, he at least took note of A-list women. (This is not the place to discuss prevailing tastes in Jugdral).

In conclusion, this "interesting piece of characterization" is more than sufficient to run with in terms of fanfiction and the like, not to mention for semi-humorous meta, but I'd be leery of waving it as "canon gay" in a dead-serious, case-closed sense. (Though it would be a hell of a lot more significant in terms of overall FE canon than Robin'n'Grey or Dadga'n'Marty!) And these essays are nothing if not SRS BZNS, which is why I'm dragging my feet over the all-important issue of Ike, Soren, Heather, Tibarn'nReyson, and the rest of the Tellius crew.

But if you ask me when I've got my personal preference hat on and not my SRS BZNS, defense-of-canon hat on, I'm gonna invoke the ghost of Potter Stewart and say "Yup. Gay." And then ship him with Lachesis and/or Briggid anyway because I like trainwrecks and boy howdy do those go off the rails.
amielleon: Tiny cartoony Soren clinging to Ike under a leaf in a rainstorm. (Ike/Soren: Little Shelter)

[personal profile] amielleon 2012-10-07 06:32 pm (UTC)(link)
What's intriguing to me is that #3 is generally enough evidence to deem someone in our personal lives gay. "Woah, he's a music major AND a vegetarian AND he dresses like that? Gay." (Of course, we are sometimes wrong about this, and the Finns in our lives are merely asexual/traumatized/not into objectifying women.) Actually, funny example of this: a few months ago Lily and I were derping around listening to some dialects on the IDEAS site. After hearing about 5 seconds of one of them, I turned to her and was like, "Is it just me or does he sound gay?" And she said, "I was just thinking the same thing." And this was from five seconds of a guy we've never known in any way before, reading a prepared text.

(I was going to link you to it, but unfortunately we don't remember which one it was anymore, and now that I'm biased going in "OK GONNA FIND A GAY CLIP" it's entirely possible I'll pick out a zillion false positives.)

Incidentally, some linguists do take an interest in this kind of recognition. I went to a seminar about phonetic characteristics of gay Minnesotan men, but unfortunately their conclusion was that their methods were flawed. I also know via Lie to Me that there was a study that found that some people can recognize gay men just by looking at their faces in a generic mugshot -- it's about the way the facial muscles are held.

I would say it's funny that we hold fictional characters to a higher standard for proof of sexuality than the higher-stakes matter of people in our daily lives, but IMO, it's totally understandable. We (or some of us, anyway) expect storywriters to cater to our preconceived notions -- if a character's gay, we think it's important enough that they'd come out and say it. This is, of course, heteronormative... but it's a valid enough assumption if the producers of the game are similarly heteronormative.

Considering that FE is heavily marketed toward women in Japan, I suspect the producers knew exactly what they were doing -- queer baiting. They'll give just enough to entice that slash-loving female demographic, but leave enough room when it really counts so that no one can accuse Nintendo of corrupting the youth.

That said, repressed gay!Finn may be my favorite piece of Jugdral headcanon.
blankspectrum: (an army of us)

[personal profile] blankspectrum 2012-10-07 06:52 pm (UTC)(link)
Considering that FE is heavily marketed toward women in Japan...

Given that FE is basically a huge dating sim with some swords and war and shit on the side, this does not surprise me in the least.

I have more thoughts on the subject of the post in general, but I'm kind of feeling distracted right now so I'll write more later. :-P
raphiael: (Lulu)

[personal profile] raphiael 2012-10-08 05:58 am (UTC)(link)
I think Tellius fandom, especially, is totally oblivious to this. Just because you've got a meaty manry hero and a bunch of war stuff does not mean it is a Man's Game where ~fangirls~ should not tread. :B

[personal profile] xenosynth 2012-10-07 09:54 pm (UTC)(link)
Hrm... my thoughts are mixed if only because I hate assuming things myself. That's probably why I don't write fics that often with characters from a series, I don't like making any assumptions without word of from the author on my side (Unless it's a parody). That said, when it comes to identifying orientation, it's a bit of a mix. I don't think too many people are good at discerning 'gay' and 'straight' with people as per your rule 3, given that I've had quite a few friends think that I am gay, for different reasons such as me avoiding things like 'spin the bottle' at a party that was mostly female, and like the 4 friends of mine from anime club that thought it was weird I didn't want to read some doujin at a friend's house or thinking 'fanservice' and 'moe' were stupid. Not to mention even my sociology teacher had at ask given that on our 'gender/value association' I scored most points in effeminate, 2nd in neutral, and 3rd in masculine, and am apparently one of the only male students she had do that at this school >_>;. It always really bothered me. Then again the same group from the anime club that I was sort of dragged into would also try to use the same criteria on teachers and stuff and it was really weird, even married teachers, so I wouldn't consider them a valid source of judgement. Even moreso it weird me out that someone would do that to people in real life, with a fictional character it's one thing, but playing guessing games with someone's orientation in real life is sort of weird to me, I mean... it seems a bit arrogant and inconsiderate to take someone you've only known for minutes and classify things about them you really can only learn from them.

What is considered 'gay' really I think does depend on which society and norms you are trying to compare them to. I don't know, even in Fire Emblem I don't really do the romance thing, I just tend to pair whoever seems... canon? Which is a bit hard given we aren't really given canon, but the game does tend to hint at things (Eliwood/Ninian, etc.) Though I haven't played much outside the 6/7/8/9 games. I just haven't really had fun with the other games, I don't quite know why but I only can play one chapter before getting bored now xD; Though I will admit the Finn thing seems pretty legit. From those games the only non-het characters I can think of (And I haven't played them in forever so their might be more) were... Ike and Soren and Lucius and Raven, I think.

All in all this might just be a side effect of me finding shipping in general weird xD;

[personal profile] xenosynth 2012-10-07 11:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Hrm.. you have a very good point. Romantic subtexts whether het or otherwise are not something I pick up on well, but I do see your point. But at the same time I don't really know what makes a person gay or not. I see sometimes what I see as two men or women being best friends as suddenly being perceived as a sexual love, and I don't understand that. At other times I see a pairing where others are like "O_o they are just friends." So I don't know where to really draw the line on what means what. I mean, I have friends in real life who are homosexual, and I never would have known until they told me, and even afterwards I don't really see what makes them any different from me or anyone else other than their choice in who their partner is.

As for the judging with real people, yes and no. I still don't think it's necessarily fair to the person though especially since assuming a sexuality or race shouldn't change how you treat a person, nor should THAT interfere with a job or not. Iono, I just don't like making assumptions like that on people, and if I do I chastise myself for it.

As for the newest game I haven't paid it too much attention however if it's picked up on the same annoying trend as Agarest then ugh. That is a regression ~_~ The whole loli/shota pairing in games is a bit disturbing and quite a few strategy RPGs with dating sim elements do it, as the aforementioned Agarest, using excuses like their race to say they are older than they are, which is an obvious cop out when it's apparent that it is done for fanservice reasons.
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)

[personal profile] amielleon 2012-10-08 12:41 am (UTC)(link)
Last year I was with some dormmates. We were taking the public transpo to see a show. A young guy got on the bus: black, dreadlocks, hoodie, moving around like you wanted to give him some space. I told myself, don't judge this guy. Dreadlocks are good for African hair and hoodies are warm, you wear them yourself.

A few minutes later, he attempted to steal a dormmate's purse. Fortunately her boyfriend had his eye out, and fended him off.

I'm not telling you this to say that all black guys with dreadlocks and hoodies and big movements are thieves. I'm saying that we make snap judgments, we are able to make snap judgments because we and our ancestors needed them to operate, and sometimes they really do protect us. Though there are reasons to attempt to change it, our instinct is intelligent and should not be dismissed out of hand. Many times they pick up trends that are difficult to put into words.
lyndis: (Default)

[personal profile] lyndis 2012-10-08 01:30 pm (UTC)(link)
Do we require a different standard of proof for gay and lesbian relationships in canon than we do for het

That's actually a really good question. I mean, think about things in our daily life:

How many men say "I love you", or "Love you", or even the word "love" to their friends, even really close friends? Even when they do, it's more of an, "I love you, man/bro/son" type of a thing, and only under, it seems, certain conditions (wedding, they almost died, a close friend died, etc).

Whereas with women, I hear them say it all of the time. Even online, tons of "ilu" and "ilu2" fly all over the place between women, and sometimes it means very little, sometimes it means something completely legit. I mean, I love my friends and I'll tell them this now and then, but I never mean anything beyond, "I love you like a friend" to them. Whereas if a dude says he loves someone, male or female, it's looked upon as automatically being a declaration of romantic interest. Hum.

It definitely makes you think, though. I think FE is too loose to determine either way (for the most part) what characters are gay, bi, or het, as there isn't enough canon evidence on any side to really determine it. Let's not forget about the asexual people, either! Or the asexual-bi/asexual-het/asexual-gay people, because they can be divided into those categories, too. ;)

I do feel that IkeSoren has the most canonical evidence of any of the games I've personally played, because they have a close bond already that, from the start, never really read to me as "just pals". Maybe because of the way they talk to one another, or the codependency going on. I'd have to replay to get concrete evidence sadly. But I think for most characters, let's use Guy for example, they just don't have enough background info or supports with other characters, that might make them look as if they lean one way or the other. I mean, Wil and Rath, for example: is that a pairing? I think it COULD be. But maybe Rath just needs a friend, because as it stands, it seems he's never actually had one. Would he even be READY for a relationship? And he does have a canon daughter, so that's where things get sticky. Maybe he's just bi. We don't know. It's really hard to say based on what little information we have. But I think it's safe to say it could go either way, I mean, why not? But we can't say with 100% accuracy, yeah he's straight, or yeah he's gay. Because maybe he's actually asexual and only had a kid to reproduce in the first place/carry on the family line or something. /shrug
amielleon: Tiny cartoony Soren clinging to Ike under a leaf in a rainstorm. (Ike/Soren: Little Shelter)

[personal profile] amielleon 2012-10-08 01:34 pm (UTC)(link)
Very true about it changing across gender lines. If two girls hold hands, they could just be cutesy. If two guys hold hands, they're GAAAAAAAY and we should all start barfing rainbows.
lyndis: (Default)

[personal profile] lyndis 2012-10-08 09:28 pm (UTC)(link)

OTOH, what does she say in Japanese?

Good question. I'm honestly not sure!

Also, I totally see what you mean. The L word doesn't come up hardly at all, so for it to be used at all is probably indicative of something.
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)

[personal profile] amielleon 2012-10-08 10:49 pm (UTC)(link)
[フロリーナ] (中央右)
大好きよ、リン!!▼ <--- this is the line in question

[フロリーナ] (中央左)

She says "daisuki," literally "like a lot" -- you can use it for ice cream and rock stars -- but I'd say "daisuki" is the most frequently used word used for romantic confessions. Granted, I don't know Japanese well enough to remark on if this is a normal thing for sweet little girls to say to their beloved slightly more mature female mentors --

wow that sounds sexual, actually. (I seem to recall that that particular dynamic is a Thing, sort of like a female pederasty thing I guess? but magically more innocent or something. You see it a lot in boarding school anime with lesbians.)
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)

[personal profile] amielleon 2012-10-09 01:22 am (UTC)(link)
Quite correct. Even when "ai" is used, it's often not said to their face. The manga I'm working on has the same dude saying "suki" and mentally monologuing "ai".

Hilariously enough, Marty is "ai".
samuraiter: (Default)

[personal profile] samuraiter 2012-10-07 09:59 pm (UTC)(link)
Good ol' Potter Stewart. I may not agree with his method for defining obscenity, but it set a bit of a precedent for other, more useful tests. Like this one. :-)


Is there even such a thing as canon bisexual?
raphiael: (Kamina-Stahn)

[personal profile] raphiael 2012-10-08 05:07 am (UTC)(link)
Do characters with both paired het and paired same-sex endings count?
I think they ought to. Probably little in the way of "equal balance", but that's true in real life, too.
Off the top of my head, I'd say Lyon counts (explaining away the "love" for Ephraim and not for Eirika smells like your 1 and 2, there, even if it is just another symptom of crazy for him). Lyn, probably. Florina, yeah, though she's so much more "romantic" with Lyn that I'd buy Hector as security and nothing more as fan interpretation. Eirika's female interactions are kind of suspect to me, too, but I'm tired and don't feel like digging up text right now. (She and Tana do have an ending, IIRC, though.) Lucia's another case, IMO, though it's less same-sex ending and more she's all Elincia all the time no matter wtf you do.

...okay, so it looks like off the top of my head it's only nice for ladies.

It's easy in fandom to default to "everybody's bi", of course, just for ease of crack pairings and other funtimes. But if we're talking about actual text, and not defaulting to "everyone is interested in the opposite gender, even if you don't see it"-- which I think is a stupid default assumption anyway-- then it gets tricky.
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)

[personal profile] amielleon 2012-10-08 01:25 pm (UTC)(link)
In defense of the slash-loving fandom, I think most of them only believe that everyone-being-gay is a possibility and that their pairings have enough presence in the script to be an option/appealing, which I would grant them. Rarely have I seen them claiming that everyone's gay until proof to the contrary is presented.
raphiael: (Bard Decoy)

[personal profile] raphiael 2012-10-09 12:43 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, I saw a lot of things in earlier FE fandom where ALL THE PAIRINGS were slash, and none of the women came up. Matthew/Guy, Heath/Legault, Raven/Lucius, Kent/Sain, Hector/Eliwood-- and a suspicious lack of anything else.

Don't see it much at all anymore, and am glad for it. Though I don't think they're really any dumber than the more usual fics were everyone is conveniently and happily paired off and swooning over each other while the "story" happens. I'm, uh, not above judging whether I want to look at something by the number of pairings listed in the summary.
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)

[personal profile] amielleon 2012-10-09 01:24 am (UTC)(link)
I think "slash everyone" still exists (outside of FE fandom), I just think its proponents usually believe most of those characters are canon bi or something.
kyusil: (harrumph)

[personal profile] kyusil 2012-10-09 04:19 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, it's always seemed to me like this is a very young-teenager thing to do-- more like looking at one's headcanon as the inflexible, absolute truth as opposed to one interpretation of something with many possibilities. It takes maturing to be able to learn that in general, I think.
raphiael: (Edward2)

[personal profile] raphiael 2012-10-08 06:17 am (UTC)(link)
I think 2 is really the biggest one for me. I mean, yeah, there is that subset of "yaoi fangirls" or whatever that does the inverse, but anyone rational can see that's a tiny minority compared to the usual trend of seeing something as "romantic" when it's between a man and a woman and "omg just friends" when it's the same gender involved. And that's stupid-- there are gender conventions in interactions, yeah, but men and women can be friends, too. If you need more proof for a gay pair than a straight one, then I think you're slanting things all over the place to fit your own assumptions. Just like those dreaded "fangirls" "make everything gay".

Mostly unrelated to the topic at hand, you've mentioned (and I agree) that FE6 is the beginning of a lot of the "rehash", and your bit on Finn's "flatline" there made me immediately think of Percival's angsty BS aimless emotionless flopping. Wonder if that's at all intentional.
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)

[personal profile] amielleon 2012-10-08 01:32 pm (UTC)(link)
Also, I found Tara Palace's reference to this incident. It's on this page.


"However, for some reason, in chapter 9 when you look at Finn and Selphina's conversation, even assuming Fin was temporarily cold toward Lachesis, at the least, the meaning of what Selphina says is truly unknown, and so at the very least, [self awareness? either that or "symptoms"] did not seem to be there, so by the end of Thracia 776, since this is not recognized, I can believe that this [recorded moment?] was natural."

EDIT: Oh hey, when did free users get an edit button? Awesome.

Okay, so I think the first bracket place is actually symptoms, as in symptoms of a decaying relationship. Reading on in this somewhat rambling essay, I think this person believes that this describes a facet of Finn's personality and that it was not meant to be a remark on Finn's relationship with Lachesis, owing to factors like Finn's attachment to Nanna and chasing after Lachesis post-Thracia 776, and so on.

Are you sure she hates Finn/Lachesis? I'm not getting that vibe myself, or at least not from this page. She does end that section stressing the importance of Eltoshan in the picture, though. (I also think it's very cute that she refers to "Seisen Sigurd-verse" like that's a different kind of canon.)
Edited 2012-10-08 14:07 (UTC)

[personal profile] gerardotejada 2012-10-24 04:28 pm (UTC)(link)
Interesting point of view, but is all speculation not what you would call canon. Fire Emblem games represent a very conservative view of family and love determined by the Japanese cultural views that spawned the games.

Wether the fans asumtions are based on whats logical for them, and many times "gay" is the most logical answer. Seems like the first canon gay character in the games is Heather and thats treated as a joke.

Making It not gay just requires not reading the script sexually, wich is hard when you are normated by a sexed culture, It shows that in fact this gay stuff is just speculation. Thinking in viewing Fire Emblem romance in Its own terms means in fact ignoring material context of where and when the games were produced.

Besides Romantic love is not the only love, but this is a topic open since Tolkien wrote LOTR, many parts of the script can be readed without any implication of what we know as romantic love.

But anyway, the only way you can talk about Canon Gay in Fire Emblem is by ignoring or twisting the concept of Reader Response. The reader completes the text, in other words what you say "its there" ITs actually not there.

With all this I dont want to say FE is a reactionary game (wich maybe It is), but that the game stil shows conservative and traditional views. Either way sometimes the dialog is so corny that would make more sense if the characters were gay, so the reader completes the text in his mind to get what makes more sense for them.

Any way, everytime some one say "Its obvious they are gay" you enter in the weak argument cause It implies that "Its there" so the whole text becomes not a body of inquiry but infact the whole proof of the argument.

But if It makes more sense for people to read It as Gay then they should do It, thats the whole point of having an imagination. But "logical" doesnt means canon, specially when you do a close reading and see the whole issue in Its social context.