The Bowsette Thread


#1

So after Peachette was added to New Super Mario Bros. U for the Switch port, the Internet was rightfully bewildered. Toadette turning into Peach? What? Why? How? What does it mean?

Then an artist, ayyk9, made a comic showing Bowser trying the crown on. And everything changed. Forever.

In summary:

Also, it was found that Super Mario Odyssey had concept art of something called the Koopa Cap where Bowser possesses peach so??? um???

So, first off, there’s a lot of extremely lewd art out there, and I’m not going to die on a hill for the male gaze or whatever. I’m also kind of committed to the notion of Bowser as a “heel”, as in, within the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario and all his friends and enemies are performing; Peach isn’t in danger, and Bowser isn’t trying to hurt anyone. They’re putting on a fun show.

What I do want to talk about critically is the notion of “gender-bending”. This term basically always refers to a character, either male or female, being “swapped” to their binary counterpart. (This usually doesn’t play around with non-binary or gender non-conforming identities.) Bowsette being in the discourse puts another spotlight on this concept that has been around for a long time. A lot of the time, people on the further left/progressive/etc. spectrum have criticisms for this concept, and I sympathize with them, but I also have been a fan of such art for a long part of my life and it gave me a place to explore my identity.

One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard is against the term “gender-bending” itself. The argument is that “gender-bends” always represent gender as externalized and that it implicates that gender is equivalent to sex characteristics. A “true gender bend” might be the exact same character design but with a different internal identity. I agree with this, but at the same time, if gender is performative as many people also believe, it makes some sense that a “gender-bend” would manifest as external expressions, right?

I haven’t actually heard this criticism, but I can see it immediately: a lot of “gender-bent” art (sometimes called Rule 63) is pornography of male characters represented as female characters. Like I said, I’m not going to defend the male gaze. However, I don’t think pornography is devoid of value or meaning. Many trans people use pornography that plays with gender as an outlet for their identity. (I’m more familiar with the trans woman end of this, but I’m sure this applies to trans men out there!) Sometimes its used as a coping mechanism, both unhealthy or healthy, or a place to express fantasies.

For me, “gender-bending” and similar practices, both in fanart and in pornography, played an essential part in discovering my identity. I think it helped me understand gender as something that is not a prescribed category applied to someone immutably, it’s definition is fluid and subject to change. It’s not fixed, it can be moved around. This perspective, I think, helped me come to terms with my own identity by revealing to me that my gender was not a permanent assignment at my birth.

So obviously, there’s a lot of elements about this issue that I haven’t talked about, so I’m really curious to see if people have different ideas about this practice, and Bowsette herself. This narrative is also, as I’ve said, extremely influenced by the male gaze in a way that I feel should be pushed back on. The vast majority of Bowsette art is drawn for male consumption. Still, I can’t help but still be excited it. Like, yeah, it can be pretty egregious, but I can’t help but see: Bowser as a buff trans lesbian queen? Sign me up!

What about you? How do you feel about Bowsette? How do you feel about “gender-bending” in general? Let me know!


#2

Oh man, a thread that invites me to talk about gender-bending? You shouldn’t have!

To make this clearly so people don’t assume: I am trans, I am not cis. I also have spend my adolescence on and still visit fairly often sites dedicated to transformation fiction, which of course has a big, big subgroup of gender bender fiction. So I have a fairly big knowledge of know-how of this topic. I will also refer a lot to gender bender themed porn here so I do not recommend reading this post if you don’t wanna hear porn talk (though I intend to keep things vague, I don’t think being super explicity would add anything in this case).

So let’s start with Bowsette: I have to admit that tbh… I kinda real hate this trend, and it’s not even because of gender-bending, it’s just that I dislike humanization of inhuman characters a lot. I don’t think it’s bad (mostly) or anything but personally I much would much rather not see it. Sometimes you don’t like something and that’s okay.

Personally, what I am fascinated by in more recent gender bender fiction is that it’s way more common to have stories that end up with two characters ending up together as a guys. I wouldn’t call that a popular trend but nowdays you WILL run into it from time to time as opposed to years ago where it never happened. In those stories it’s common for two mains to have ‘‘straight’ sex first and then admit ‘Hey, I actually like(d) you and would be totall cool if we dated as guys’. Sometimes the work will end up having two sets of sex scenes but that is rarer. Other times two mains were couple before ‘’‘the change’’’ (that’s pretty rare though).

I have also noticed that in case of games you can start finding sex games that slowly start to implement option for you to simply choose what pronouns you want to be refered by, instead of making it locked behind what genitalia your characters has, BUT it’s still often implemented very clumsly, where you can see there still is thinking ‘genitalia=gender’ behind the scenes.

Overall, I wish that instead of people simply deciding ‘gender-bending is bad and if you do it you should be publicly called out’ or that it’s ‘inherently queer’ there would be more discussion of it cause it ain’t disapearing, like, ever. I get why other trans people can feel very uncomfortable about it (I do sometimes too) but I don’t think that something making you uncomfortable necessarily makes it bad. And there is reason why one of more popular ads I see on tf sites is for trans help forums. Though there is a lot of bad shit out there, so in some cases you should call out people for it.


#3

Bowsette has been pretty good, in general. At least in my circles (so mainly queer spaces, women-only spaces) it’s been some positivity around representations that often mirror people like me. Big women who want to be allowed to be big (vs being told that we can either make ourselves small or extremely small and the former is actually the best we can expect).


#4

That’s good! I don’t really roll in any circles because of my social anxiety, so it’s good to hear that queer/women spaces are having fun with it. Unfortunately, I have to say that outside of those circles, it tends to be extremely “sexy Peach but with horns lol” which is kind of frustrating.


#5

Really good points in the last paragraph. I remember there was a big debate when Waypoint published that fanfiction last year. I think it’s really important to be conscious of the damaging affects some of the art that indulges in this trope has had on some people. I don’t think this justifies the censorship of art that explores this trope, though.

But now you’ve got me thinking: you mentioned gender-bending “ain’t disappearing, like, ever.” Which I agree with! But my question is… is this a particularly new trend? I mean, the concept of “gender transformation” has been in folklore and mythology and all that for centuries. But has there been a spike in its popularity in recent years, specifically with the advent of internet communities that provide an anonymous space to explore it?

Specifically, within the discussion of “gender-bending” characters, rather than the extremely broad category of “transformation fiction”, is often put into practice on popular culture characters. Does that come from the nature of mass communications, or is something else going on? Is it just a combination of the already present fanfiction and “gender transformation” trope, or is there something special occurring when redefining the gender codes expressed by a character?


#6

I liken gender bending and what trends it leads to to gender or sexuality based head canons. I just saw the latest episode of bobs burgers and, light spoilers, tina disguises as a boy. I posted that it was my head canon that tina was a gay trans boy crazy boy and was downvoted for it for no reason.

As a trans woman gender bending comes off as just using the idea of feminization as a form of gratification. Hey this bowser character is suddenly likable as a hot girl with big bongos, whodathunkit? But that doesn’t mean the concept is inherently bad, just like crossdressing isnt inherently bad. Its just yet another inherently queer concept turned mainstream by ripping it off its queerness as It’s taken over by mostly cis guys that use it like a glove to wear and take off instead of a form of explanation of less rigid identity in characters written in one way.

I want art that explores bowser in more than just the hot big boobs and thats for the sake of both artists who do easily can fall into just doing sexy white women and because theres so much more to explore.

And dammit if I want tina to be a gay trans boy LET ME HAVE IT


#7

I’m impressed by Bowsette and how fast these memes spread now. I feel like the Bowsette craze is already dying down and it only started what, two-three weeks ago? That didn’t stop at least four girls at New York Comic Con yesterday from taking advantage of the new hotness and cosplaying as Bowsette.

I hate to rail on Ready Player One randomly but I will anyway because I hate that fucking movie. But my biggest problem with that film is that everybody simply accepts media as is, media does not change, is not digested, and fandom is treated as a one-way street. These kids are not really fans, they’re consumers. But fandom is a two-way conversation whether IP owners like it or not. Bowsette will never appear in a Mario game but s/he was, for a month, the hottest character in the goddamned world and Nintendo could only be along for the ride.

The Mario franchise will never have anything to say about trans characters or sexual power or defining your own identity. But that doesn’t matter because with this fanart craze, we decided it did. That’s a moment worth appreciating.

(Also Ready Player One sucks ass.)


#8

Koopa Peach > Bowsette

Just look at this cutie.