Typically I would be reviewing for you a game or some such every week. Sometimes something brand new. Other times, I would be revisiting an old favourite of mine.
Today however, I felt that it would be a key point to try and address a game that has probably had more controversies than I’ve had hot dinners! I want to look at it from a perspective to see how well or poorly they have included LGBT+ characters.
I will be looking at the Grand Theft Auto series and how well (or poorly) they have shown support (or distaste) towards the LGBT+ community.
A key thing to realise here is that the game is a certificate 18 game, and many (nearly all) of its jokes are both dark humoured and satirical to life. Almost every aspect of the game is inspired by a real life event or industry, and they would turn it on its head and mock it.
Unfortunately because certificates are ignored almost entirely by the parents of the world who get these games, this extreme humour, which knows few boundaries, is then accessed by the very young. From it, they would develop what they consider more factual than comedy, which is where concern should be.
The Series, and Key Characters
In most of the early games, there was not as much intrigue, lore and world building happening. The story revolved around being a character who rarely even had a voice, interacting with the criminal world around them. The premise of the game being that you had this large free roam world to explore and enjoy.
Grand Theft Auto 4 was when they eventually began to flesh out their world. Rockstar released an expansion “The Ballad of Gay Tony”. It was at this point onward, that LGBT+ characters began to be included in the GTA universe.
Gay Tony or Tony Prince as he is also known, is a powerful club owner who comes face to face against many threats. In many ways defeats his foes to become a powerful character in the GTA4 world.In my opinion the LGBT+ community were accounted for and included in the game. There were very few if any negative connotations as you essentially played a ‘business partner’ of Tony and his Clubs.Now, its worth noting that the GTA series do not hold back when it comes to racist terms and bad language used in all of the wrong ways that we know to be wrong and have negative connotations.
Grand Theft Auto 5
It is alleged that in Grand Theft Auto 5, Trevor is Bisexual because of his many vulgar interactions with both men and women and the references he would have sex with either gender. I do not believe that it is a justifiable allegation to make as there is so little proof outside of remarks he makes. Many of the things he says are purposely extreme because he himself is an extremely aggressive individual.
There are a few gay bars within the game’s main city, Los Santos. This is where representation and mockery are the wrong way around here. The depictions of their drag queens are at best, in poor taste, if not borderline offensive. It relies on making a mockery and a joke out of them, so they are poorly dressed, with emphasis on a stereotypical male physique and shape. Knowing that their audience largely may not even fully understand the LGBT+ community, it is a low blow to make a mockery of an already targeted part of society.
On balance, they make a mockery of every aspect of society. I’m sure a good counter argument would be to simply state that “we make fun of every ‘type’ of person no matter their race, faith or sexuality” which, whilst that might be so, it does seem that this was a needless hit at a minority for an easy if not distasteful laugh.
Grand Theft Auto Online
Whilst this is an extension of GTA5 as its online aspect, it has entered a league of its own when it comes to new content and places to go, and things to do.
As far as the online experience goes, your character is not treated as any gender. When an update came, bringing club businesses into the online aspect of the game, we see the return of the popular Tony Prince from GTA4. As time has passed, he has become an even more powerful entity within the hospitality industry.
My concluding thoughts on this game and its humour is that it takes a shot at everyone from every walk of life. It was designed as a satirical take on the reality we face to this day and whilst a lot of the jokes do land with success, I feel that they approached the LGBT+ community with a mix of good and bad content. I feel a lot more could be done by powerful developers such as Rockstar that could help address a lot of today’s problems. It would be nice to see a developer make a more bold statement. Will we see it in a series like GTA? I would say, unlikely, but if they did, it would have the potential to make a huge positive impact if done well.