standing at the back in my sissy robe

June 25, 2009

Glory to the Sin’dorei or ‘Some of the gayest people I know are straight’

Filed under: Real Men Wear Purple,Soapbox — Tamarind @ 3:33 pm

I don’t know quite how it arose but there was a conversation on Guild a week or so ago about, yes, that ancient fossilised chestnut: belves and their place in the Horde.  There were some fairly interesting comments, alongside the usual scintillating insights of: “blood elves are so gay!”  I remember there was a massive hoo-hah when The Burning Crusade was in development because they “de-gayified” the belves by making them go the gym more.  Strange.   But I always find the bloodelves = gay thing slightly peculiar (I’m going with “slightly peculiar” as opposed to “fucking offensive” which is the alternative).  And I know “gay” is essentially WoWspeak for “something I am too stupid to understand in its full complexity” (or, rather, “something I personally don’t like”) but I still think it underscores the implicit toxicity that pervades both the perception and communication of gender and sexuality in WoW.  So, we think blood elves are gay because they are feminine.  And we think they are feminine because they are vain?  That says dreadful things about our attitude to homosexuality AND women.  Way to go!

Seriously though (okay, this isn’t serious at all, damn).  Here is a picture of a male blood elf (in, I think Tier 5 gear):

belf

Now here is a picture of a famously gay person:

Ian McKellen

And, finally, (brace yourselves) here is an iconic figure of female fantasy embarrassment fantasy embarrassing fantasy from the 70s:

rogue

ARGH! MY EYES.  HOLY FUCK MY EYES.  And, oh my God, he’s even wearing a white swashbuckler’s shirt. PLEASE STOP THE PAIN.

But the point I’m trying to make is that there’s an extent to which, I believe, male belves were an attempt to tap into female fantasy, much more than they are to male.  (There’s been a slight logic leap but I think I’m presuming that if people think blood elves are gay, they must therefore appeal to gay men).  And I’m not just saying this because I don’t especially fancy belves.  But thinking about it in terms of pure logistics: you have 11 million people playing WoW.  10% of those are gay, 16% are female.  Assuming the 10% comprises some lesbians as well, you’re probably better off shooting for the 16%.  The fact that this leads you to create FABIO suggests a FAIL of different magnitude but still.

Most of the guildies who ‘fessed up to having belf characters did so sheepishly as if it represented a breach of WoW taste, which I thought was a shame.  The arguments arraigned against them – not connected to gayitude – were connected to the notion that blood elves did not fit in with the feel of the rest of the Horde.  Truthfully I find “the feel” of the Horde a little difficult to gauge.  I’m about to pin my geek colours to the mast here, but it reminds me rather of the presentation of the Klingons in Star Trek – half the time the writers can’t decide whether they’re violent psychopaths we should condemn or a members of a proud and noble warrior race we should admire for having bigger balls than us.  There’s certainly a fair quantity of moral ambiguity sloshing about in Azeroth, but there’s also a degree to which it’s ambiguity arising from inconsistency of presentation.  As  Hordie, you’re often yo-yoing between undertaking spiritual journeys, poisoning dogs, saving small cow villages from invasion, torturing people for information and, of course, rootling around in the interior of slain animals for their very important organs.   It’s hard to get any sort of fix on your own moral position at all – usually you’re someone who will do anything for XP and cold hard cash.  It’s that simple.

So ultimately, I don’t think it’s moral stance or campness of voice emote that unifies the Horde – it’s basically brokenness.  Thrall gathers up shattered people and gives them back their identity and their pride, and something to fight for and something to fight against (I love Thrall!).  Although, before the restoration of the Sunwell, the belves were half-mad magic-crack addicts with a being of pure light chained up in their basement (tsk tsk), they were also completely wrecked.  And it’s that which makes them, in some ways, more understandable as members of the Horde than, say the cows.

We’re told the Taurens feel a spiritual connection to the orcs, and to Thrall especially, but, of all the races of the Horde, despite the horrible things that have happened to them, they strike me as basically sorted in ways the others aren’t.  They are all stoic and forgiving after all.  Hmmm… maybe that’s why they weren’t at the Battle for the Undercity.  They were off on a team-building weekend with Cairne, singing Kumbayahs around the camp fire and trying to build bridges that could support a golf ball out of spaghetti and marshmallows.

Where was I going in this post, except Museville Central Spaghetti Junction.  Oh yes.  Races.  It’s interesting, isn’t it, what appeals and what doesn’t, and why.  Having spent 75 levels following M’Pocket Tank’s twitching derrière through Azeroth and byeond I can state for dammit certain I wouldn’t play a female belf if you paid my subscription to do it.  It’s like being stuck in a war with Alicia Silverstone.  Gah!  But I have none of the rather violent aversion to male blood elves that others in my guild seem to evince.  I rather like Tam, and at least I can see past his arse which was one of the prevailing problems with my cow druid.  On the other hand, find the Alliance races both aesthetically and imaginatively unappealing as a general rule… instinctively rather than for some well-articulated reason.  On the other hand, I’m crazy about girl cows.  I don’t know if this is some over-identification holdover because my first character was a male Tauren, who was presumably into them himself, but I do think they’re rather pretty.  I’m not saying – for the record – that I’m hunched over my keyboard, dreaming of a sweet female Tauren mooing in ecstasy beneath me or anything.  I just like their pigtails.

Okay.  I have to get off this post before it goes over a cliff.

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18 Comments »

  1. “Okay. I have to get off this post before it goes over a cliff.”

    Too laaate…..:-)

    I think “gay” in this context, beyond the obvious adolescent meaning of “things I don’t like” is about blood elves subverting gender boundaries in some fashion. Thus, long flowing hair is “gay”, despite the fact that I don’t recall ever meeting a gay man who actually had hair like that (plenty of straight men, though). They are “pretty”, which causes anxiety, probably because men are not supposed to be erotic objects – they’re supposed to be the ones objectifying women, not the other way around (or, Old Gods forbid, one man objectifying another). The “buffing them up” supposedly “de-gayed” them, despite the fact that of the men I’ve met, gay men have generally been the most likely (in the aggregate) to be muscled and “buff”.

    Comment by Kahleena — June 25, 2009 @ 5:56 pm | Reply

    • Alas! *plummets to his death on an out of control blog post*

      Yes, I think you’re quite right – and the reason I think they might be a (failed?) attempt to appeal to women is because it strikes me as a doomed attempt to equalize the fact that “make them sexy for the men who’ll inevitably be playing them” seems to be a design goal behind most of the other races – leaving aside female taurens and their pleasing pigtails, of course. But as you say the ultimate outcome of this has just left them with a male dominated player base terrified of looking gay 🙂

      Comment by Tamarind — June 25, 2009 @ 9:45 pm | Reply

  2. First up, you were already at the bottom of that cliff well before you finished that post.
    On the BE gay thing, BE’s are better looking, fitter and wear cooler clothes than the average WoW player. This is enough to confuse them with Carson Cressley in the minds of teenage fanboys. Thus BE=Gay.
    In reality, I think you’re much more likely to see Orcs sweating it out on the ARC dancefloor at 3am. The BE’s were up on the podium for about half an hour, then went home.
    As for the stuff about Tauren women Tam, I have nothing to say except this.
    I love it when my undead female goes into CoS and gets pneumatic boobs. I can spend up to a minute jumping up and down while everyone else is inspecting crates 🙂

    Comment by buboe — June 26, 2009 @ 1:40 am | Reply

  3. I don’t consider the characters that I play to be me. I consider them to be more my partners in crime. I actually have trouble playing male BE characters because they seem too masculine to me. I’d rather be palling around with, say, a female BE. 😀

    Comment by Ecgric — June 26, 2009 @ 3:45 am | Reply

    • No, me neither. I’m not an RP server or anything but I do, secretly in my head, think of my characters as having certain personalities, attitudes etc. I think it’s why Tam always seems to looks so grumpy in the lastest incarnation of the royal purple sissy robe 🙂

      Female belves really really grate on me. If you don’t fancy them, they’re just an annoying voice. I sometimes think that one day I’ll be getting killed by a horde of enemies and I’ll look round for M’Pocket Tank and she’ll be off texting in the corner. And I’ll be all “help help” and she’ll be “what*ev*er.”

      Comment by Tamarind — June 26, 2009 @ 9:34 am | Reply

      • Yes, that does sound like a female BE 😀

        I think you are right, though. The emotional response to female BEs is strong either way. You either love them or hate them. I know there are people who play Horde that wish the BEs didn’t exist. But it seems to me that that hate is exactly why the BEs should be in the horde.

        Comment by Ecgric — June 26, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

  4. GASP! Ian McKellen is gay? Not that it matters to me, he’s to old for my tastes 😀

    *gets up on soapbox*….but something I rly rly rly rly rly rly hate is the misuse of the word Gay to mean lame and or for “something I am too stupid to understand in its full complexity” (or, rather, “something I personally don’t like”). Awesome Quote is Awesome

    We’ve had homosexuals in our Guild, also we have had blacks, whites, men, women, boys and girls… you name it we’ve prolly had it.

    We play in Europe, Europe has everything!

    What I don’t care for is having to listen to (insert gender/racial/sexual minority here) proclaim about their gender/racial/sexual-ness. Let me make something clear, I. DONT. CARE. Play your class and stay in character and quit telling the world you are a black, white, man, woman, boy and girl… it should make no difference what you are/do in RL, now GET OUTTA THE DAMN FIRE!!!

    I find guys are willing to let a girl slack more than say another penis owner… and women are more likely to pull that “but I am a girl I HAVE to stand in the fire” shjit

    *gets down from soapbox*
    Thx for letting me rant Tam

    Comment by Salvànus@khadgar.eu — June 26, 2009 @ 8:20 am | Reply

    • Hehe, no worries about the ranting, grab a soapbox, there’s plenty to spare 🙂

      Complaining about the use of ‘gay’ as a pejorative is one of those things I used to roll my eyes at (it’s just a word, there are bigger things to worry about it, idiots will be idiots) but lately it’s really started to peeve me. Thanks WoW!

      I do have some sympathy for WoW players going around with a I AM A MINORITY FLAG. And asking them not to is sort of the equivalent of instituting a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy which is a whole new set of problems. Ultimately, like you, I want to play the game and have frivolous conversations about Thrall in the bath (don’t even ask) but I think it’s genuinly difficult to operate comfortably in WoW if you go against the prevailing assumption that you are white, male and straight. I think there’s a suble difference between a space that doesn’t assign you gender/race/ethnicity and a space that, if you don’t pipe up with “Hey guys I’m an [x]” will assume you’re a straight, white, male (probably living his mother’s basement). Most of the women I know who go around emphasising that they’re female, don’t do it because they want to be treated differently or get special perks or anything, but because they want it acknowledged that WoW is for them too … which given the way I’ve seen some male WoW players treat some women is definitely questionable.

      Comment by Tamarind — June 26, 2009 @ 9:25 am | Reply

      • I get what you’re saying and “don’t ask don’t tell” is the furthest from my mind.
        I guess it’s me being a closet RPer, which means wanting players to stay in character and play their orc to the dumbest… if you know what I mean ;D

        Nothing ruins a good RP session for me than vent tbh… you not that hawt nelf healer you’ve been running naxx with for the past 3 weeks…. SHE is really an accountant named Gerald from Boston and he collects stamps…. woah TMI fella TMI ;D

        Some smarter heads than mine in the blogosphere have hit upon WoW being basically sexist at it’s core, case in point this silly rabbit holiday thing a cpl weeks back and teh bunneh earz. Maybe it’s that kinda stuff and your basic internet = anonymity formula that creates this kinda monster.

        Comment by Salvànus@khadgar.eu — June 26, 2009 @ 11:02 am

      • Ideally, I think we would all like the sole relevant characteristic to our WoW-playing experience to be our ability to not stand in the fire. As we are, alas, playing with actual other human beings, we all tend to be confronted with varying degrees of asshattery (being a guy who plays a female character as a main has been….eye-opening, though far less so nowadays because I tend to hang out mostly with guildies (who have heard me on vent and know perfectly well I’m male), and because I think the majority of players have now started divorcing character from player to a greater degree than they did when I started). As in real life, somebody who is a racial/sexual/other minority tend to have two choices – speak up and make clear where they’re coming from (not that that will necessarily change anyone’s mind, but it may at least shut them up out of some vestigial decency), or keep their own mouth shut and silently seethe. The second alternative is more comfortable for other people, but not for the one seething.

        Comment by Kahleena — June 26, 2009 @ 11:28 am

  5. Is there not a third possibility?
    that being: People are so open-minded that the racial/sexual/other minority doesn’t make a damn bit a difference to the way you treat others and the way others are treated?

    I know I know I live in a utopian world of my own creation… When will we realise that we are all clinging to the same ball of dirt hurtling thru space…

    Comment by Salvànus@khadgar.eu — June 26, 2009 @ 11:58 am | Reply

    • The third option is, of course, the ideal, but the key thing to remember is that it’s the minorities that get to say when we’ve reached that state, not the majority.

      It’s easy for me not to care whether somebody is black, female, or gay. It’s much harder for *them* not to care.

      Comment by Temitope — June 26, 2009 @ 3:32 pm | Reply

      • assuming oppression, yes ofc it is harder for “them” to not care, but assuming a world is possible similar to what I described above, we would define ourselves through what makes us alike and not what makes us all unique little snowflakes. I am a minority in the part of the world live in… but it’s not a singular revelation in which I describe my whole being. It’s a part of who I am but only a part and so long as being “different” than the rest doesn’t hamper my relations with others… what’s the difference? if I cut you, you bleed red, if you cut me I bleed red…

        Comment by Salvànus@khadgar.eu — June 29, 2009 @ 9:38 am

  6. Complaining that blood elves are gay is just… gay. 🙂

    Comment by Zaphind — June 29, 2009 @ 8:50 pm | Reply

    • I suppose that joke had to be made, and I suppose it had to be you =P

      Comment by Tamarind — June 29, 2009 @ 10:02 pm | Reply

  7. hmmm i’m not sure i agree about belves being marketed to girls, they do look like fabio but you have to ask yourself whether guys making jokes about scrunchies and the rather homoerotic dancing really fit in with the whole strong and macho image 😛

    besides, i’m gay and i’ve always found them to be hawt stuff!!

    That aside, ‘a sweet female Tauren mooing in ecstasy beneath me’ made me laugh for ages… i’m still wiping the tears out of my eyes! I think we all know who to hide naked inside the cake at your next birthday 😀

    bwahahaha!!

    oh and one thing i find worse than people using ‘gay’ as a pejorative is when they use it.. realise they’re talking to you.. and then get embarrassed and try to go back and use a different word. Firstly, I have more important things to worry about than you using that word, secondly you’ve just made this conversation a whole lot more awkward and thirdly, will it really make me feel better if you dont use it talking to me when i know you still do for everyone else?

    people are stupid. blood elves are hot. Tam likes cows.

    Comment by uke — July 4, 2009 @ 2:34 am | Reply

    • Well, I’m not saying I’d kick a bloodelf out of to bed for, err, spilling mana on the sheets (as long as it wasn’t That Guy, of course).

      That would have to be one hell of a birthday cake – could I have a male blood elf and a female Tauren in there for maximum diversity of thrill? Or do you think they’d just bicker?

      With reference to the gay-as-pejorative social minefield, I got so bored of it on guild a few days ago that my chiding “now now, don’t use gay a pejorative, it’s neither big nor clever” gave way to “if you say that one time I’m going to send a bunch of burly rugby players around to you house to spank you until you get to like it” to which there was a) no reply b) no repetition. Hurrah 🙂

      Comment by Tamarind — July 4, 2009 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

      • lol, spilling mana on the sheets.. sounds like something a teenage boy would use to explain a weird stain to his mother 😛

        and yes, it’s hard to imagine a naked tauren and a belf cramped inside a hollow cake… you have to wonder what kind of smalltalk there is to be made in a situation like that. Either way, when they pop out of that thing you can be sure that something will have been spilled – some milk, a splash of ‘mana’, or maybe even blood!

        hmmm, threatening with a team of burly rugby players… now this i can use *grins evilly*

        bwahahahahaha!!!

        Comment by uke — July 5, 2009 @ 2:46 am


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