mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
[personal profile] mark_asphodel

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.]

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

Finn:
"You are...?"

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

Finn:
"Selphina? Count Dorias' daughter?"

Selphina:
"Yes."

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


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

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


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

Finn:
"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*

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."

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Selphina:
"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.

Date: 2012-10-07 06:32 pm (UTC)
amielleon: Tiny cartoony Soren clinging to Ike under a leaf in a rainstorm. (Ike/Soren: Little Shelter)
From: [personal profile] amielleon
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.

Date: 2012-10-07 06:52 pm (UTC)
blankspectrum: (an army of us)
From: [personal profile] blankspectrum
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

Date: 2012-10-08 05:58 am (UTC)
raphiael: (Lulu)
From: [personal profile] raphiael
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

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