Fire Emblem Doesn't Just Need Gay Characters, It Needs Queer Life

Spoilers for Fire Emblem: Three Houses below.

In preparing to write this article, I watched video of some of the S-rank romantic supports main character Byleth can have in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. As I'm still playing through the game myself, I needed context for the ongoing discussion about the same-gender romantic supports in the game. I was entirely prepared to be angry at the male/male options in the game, which are—to be blunt—incredibly bad on multiple levels. What I did not expect was to watch Byleth's marriage proposal to Edelgard and be infuriated by it.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ne8wvg/fire-emblem-three-houses-doesnt-just-need-gay-characters-it-needs-queer-life
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yeah I just finished last night and while I knew it was coming it still kinda stung that charming, flirty, talked about us being together after the war a LOT, claude was not to be.

while I would prefer specifically queer characters (like leon) and also specific protagonist(s) (like alm and celica) if what we’re doing is blank player insert leads, and if the support conversations are going to just be the same anyway… literally why not just do Everyone Is Bi. it’s not the ideal situation, but it’s better than THIS.

& on Alois’ S-rank from what I’ve read not only are you just Best Friends in the end but uh, you end up marrying a woman from his village? which is. uh. a choice that was made, huh.

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But… the game does have queer life. Dorothea is such a clearly bi character that when she talks about future marriage prospects, she uses ‘partner’ and not ‘husband.’ She has paired endings with multiple female characters that aren’t Byleth. This is true of several other characters, male and female, and soem of those endings are extremely explicitly romantic. And unlike Byleth’s support, it obviously can’t be copy/pasted from a straight support. Why is this content ignored completely in this article?

And also -

‘Three Houses in particular hammers the issue of political marriages and “continuing the line” home over and over again.’

But in three houses narrative, this is presented entirely as a bad thing? Multiple characters talk about being abused by their parents in the pursuit of this goal. Several characters want to destroy this system entirely.

I don’t disagree with the overall point of the article, that the representation can be improved, but there’s lots of very glaring omissions about Three Houses’ gay content.

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If I spent years romancing a guy only to find out that he had a wife and kids that somehow had never come up in conversation, it most definitely would not end with, “This is cool let’s be best buds for life!”

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If this refers to Alois, I can’t figure out how that would happen, I’ve had like 3 conversations with him ever (maybe B support but I don’t know if I got that for sure) and I know he’s got a wife and kids.

Yeah, it’s not a surprise for Gilbert, either, for the record. I have to wonder what S ranks with a woman Byleth look like for them. I’d imagine it’s basically the same, but it obviously has a very different impact if you’re expecting a romance as a gay man who often isn’t given that chance in fiction, and as a straight woman who’d have to go out of their way to avoid a story where their cipher gets with a man.

I’ve definitely noticed when Dorothea or Mercedes have said “partner” instead of “husband”, but I’ve also noticed the characters around them barrelling past that to assume heteronormativity. It kind of sucks that the bi characters here (because it seems there aren’t any lesbians or gay men among the romanceable characters) have to advocate for themselves, with nothing in the world backing them up. At least as far as I’ve seen, there aren’t mentions of historical figures like any of the four saints settling down with a partner of the same gender. There’s no mention that while the straight couples go to the Goddess Tower on a particular night, those with a beloved of the same gender have a spot of their own tradition. Dorothea talks about wanting a partner to take care of her, but I’ve yet to hear anything else about how same-gender marriage is treated, or hear of a pair of married men or women. Which is weird! Because we do get the rumor about “a man and a woman making a promise at the Goddess Tower”, we get Ashe giving Ingrid a tale of a historical woman who was a knight despite the expectations of her as a noble, we get characters being crushed under expectations of bearing children to political marriages, but only when the alternative is not marrying at all.

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Fair! That was just the vibe I was getting from what I’d seen of people describing Alois’ story progression; I’m still early, so I’ve had maybe one conversation with the guy that was entirely unmemorable.

It’s also maybe worth noting that there are some supports that feel like they could definitely be read as queer but the game sort of leans into friendship.
I’m thinking of Bernadette’s specifically in my playthrough. She totally seems to have crushes in a lot of her supports with other women. But it sort of becomes about her making friends because she’s lonely.
Also, a lot of men tell women to smile in this game.

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I took Linhardt to the goddess tower as Male Byleth, so while the legend as written may be heteronormative, at least the characters can seem to ignore that.

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I don’t really get whenever someone talks about there not being enough queer in a thing. I’m bi myself but I understand that I make up a very small percentage of the population. If there are a large cast of characters it makes sense if only 5% of them are queer and provide relationships and such, that’s something akin to actual reality, a staggering majority of the guys you’re going to find are not and never will be into other men.

Right, sure. I took Mercedes as female Byleth, and I appreciate that there are characters who are bi. But, first of all, she was still my student and that was not great (even if she is technically older, maybe, at that moment), second, she was the only woman I had the option to go with, and third, none of the students who aren’t explicitly bi mentioned it in a gender-neutral way. No “although I suppose two women could go”, no “I heard so-and-so took his partner”. I like this game, I appreciate that there are same-gender romances. I would appreciate it more if being gay was something brought up by anyone other than the people who are, or if those people made up more than six named character in a game with a multitude of unnamed characters who could have had even one line and never been seen again, and still made a huge difference in tone with just that. I’ve had sidequests about delivering love letters, give me one that isn’t straight. And this is me, frankly, being too eager for table scraps. It would not be unreasonable to ask for way more than that, I just know I’m not going to get it in a game for a mass audience.

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It feels like there are people in the game who are/may be queer existing in a straight society that isn’t interested in paying attention to them. But unlike even real life, they aren’t able to create their own spaces. They don’t find each other and make space for that part of themselves in a way people irl do. I think that’s a part of what people mean when they say the world of fire emblem doesn’t make room for queer identities.
In a lot of ways I think this applies to mostinority groups in the game. It gestures at some stuff with Cyrus (idk about Dedue) but I haven’t seen it really go deep on that in any way.

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I think pulling out the percentages and populations argument doesn’t make much sense from a wider social standpoint or in the case of video games. You can’t accurately gauge the amount of queer people in the world because of the hostile reception queer people have in various places. People don’t come out for a lot of reasons. Statistics on how many queer people exist in any given area are only going to be as accurate as that area is welcome to having queer people in it in the first place.

Video games don’t need to accurately mimic real life, but if they did and wanted to include queer characters, it would make infinitely more sense to me for there to be more in a group of people than less. I’m bi too, as well as non-binary, and outside of co-workers? I don’t really hang out people who aren’t queer a lot. We have fundamentally different lifestyles from the ground up, and that’s just touching on the intersectionalities of sexuality and gender, not race or assigned gender at birth. There are things I don’t feel I can talk with them about due to a lot of social factors. This has been pointed out by numerous queer people on social media; if you’re not cishet, you’re usually going to hang around with other people who aren’t because you have more in common.

The other thing is that the inclusion and exclusion of queer people in a game is an active step that has to be taken by the developers. Including queer representation and then making it as flatly bad as the mlm relationships in this game is an effort someone had to make, as opposed to the random way things tend to happen in real life.

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I may have missed something but it seemed to me that the article doesn’t discuss the amount of queer content in the game, it just states that the existing content sucks.

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I haven’t read the article yet because I haven’t finished the game so I don’t wanna say too much, but this is something I’ve been having a lot of feelings about while playing. Some of the supports I’ve seen between same-sex characters have felt like they were loaded with implications of deep caring and love for each other to the point that I thought they’d end up together, but later learned that it wasn’t a possibility. The one that confused me the most was between Dorothea and Manuela; it’s bewildering that they can’t be together. It makes me wish explicit romance wasn’t referenced in this game because it’s like saying “Well yeah, those two characters have said they want to live their lives together and help each other succeed, but also they’re not married, so it’s not real love.” It’s frustrating that it feels like it’s showcasing various types of love but deeming some more legitimate than others.

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So I just went around and got a bunch of the A ranks. And the article mentions S rank conversations being the same for male/female protag, but I didn’t quite realize that would probably be true for the A ranks as well (probably should’ve been obvious). And because a lot of the A rank relationship scenes are sort of written to flow into an S rank romance, a bunch of the characters seem player-sexual. I’m playing as female protag and pretty much every other woman (really every character) has a “I’m stronger/better/happier with you and I want to be with you forever” type of line. And it just feels so baffling that they didn’t just let that happen. I just saw a scene with Bernadetta and it’s really cute.

Related: I wish you could have a sort of A+ relationship with everyone. Quite a few character arcs feel incomplete to me, like they are holding back the last bit of development for the S rank skit.
It’d be nice to maybe have 1 S rank and the rest as A+. Maybe that’s too much writing work?

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But those two characters can be together. Their paired ending literally mentions a ‘life full of love.’

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Oh my bad then! I haven’t finished the game yet and was going off of something a friend said while talking to me about this topic.

love to have the idea of queer representation be bound by whatever statistics cishet society throws at us

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If they’re going to do romances then they should absolutely have better representation, I really wish this game had just cut romance entirely though. Going from one support convo that fleshes out the world and character backstories to another one where its another student falling in love with me, the silent professor, just wasn’t enjoyable for me in ether of my playthroughs. Especially because it all just comes down to choosing a name from a list as the actual only romance related choice. The non flirty support convos just seemed much better to me.

Also in one of my endings the text said one char disappeared with the woman I married, while her own text said she was with me. Inconsistencies like that don’t help me feel like its a worthwhile or meaningful thing.

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