That is to say, a lead character that isn't white, straight, or cis.
A few Nintendo games let you create your own avatar like Splatoon, Animal Crossing, and the Miis in general but let's step back from those and talk specifically about named characters with their own story and defined character traits.
Has it happened already in some lesser known title? I've been trying to think of characters that aren't white in Nintendo games and so far the only major example I can think of is Ganondorf.
I haven't played either of those franchises. Is Birdo featured more there than something like Mario Kart or Party?
EDIT: Also, this sort of makes me think of to what degree something like this needs to be labelled on the character. Like, most people just assume Birdo is a female, so they might not even know they're looking at a trans character. But, to call attention to it would be an even less progressive move in my book. *shrug* Just throwing that idea out there.
Well... I'm not sure Birdo is a very progressive attempt at a trans character anyway. The description which leads people to call her trans reads as such:
"he thinks he is a girl". It sort of sounds to me less like Nintendo created a "trans character" and more like Nintendo created (from their perspective) a confused boy. Which is what not so very progressive people tend to think trans women are... just confused men. (Or vice versa for trans men.) It's kind of the opposite of a progressive take.
Also IIRC that was only added to the US instruction booklet? Like, is it even canon or is it just some throwaway instruction booklet thing written by someone who had nothing to do with the creation of the character?
With that said in more recent games Nintendo often refers to her as her so... does that mean Nintendo moved towards a more progressive take? Or that Nintendo just decided to ignore the whole random instruction book thing entirely and decide she is and has always been a girl? I'm not sure they have ever really publicly commented on this shift?
And then of course you have Captain Rainbow, a game which (apparently, never played it) actually does consider her trans but... the whole game plays with the idea of taking Nintendo characters and showing them in some brand new, often bizarre light, and it wasn't even developed by Nintendo, so I'm not sure it is really considered canon.
Hmm, it seems even for the same game Nintendo can't really decide what gender they think Birdo is...
The Spanish language website for Mario Smash Football, while describing Birdo, suggests that the character's gender is indeterminate. The European website for Mario Strikers Charged Football refers to Birdo as a male character.
@NinSage It's not really splitting hairs to try to understand the context though. A trans character that is created as a joke about confused people cross-dressing, for instance, is not the same as fully supporting trans people with a trans character who is presented in a more legitimate way.
Now, I don't totally know the full history of Birdo, but I'm saying *if* the instruction booklet is what we are basing this off of, then it's kind of a bad take on a trans character. And, at least in NA, Nintendo doesn't seem to have a very consistent take on Birdo anyway, so it's tough to know what the real intentions are.
One example people bring up is um... The Witcher franchise I think? I've never played it so this is all second-hand, but apparently the writers of the first two games threw in some trans characters just as, essentially, punchlines... and that didn't go over particularly well with the trans community. But for the third game they put more thought into it and created a serious, (somewhat?) fleshed out trans character, and people are loving it. That's a huge difference.
@GameDadGrant This may be the case. I recall looking into this before and finding it hard to find clear information.
You... you guys did this just to get me to make a post, didn't you? -_-
@Zero The instruction booklet for SMB2 is an accurate translation of the Japanese instruction booklet, albeit with both a name change and an obvious naming error. The character has always been trans in Japan, it's only when translated into other languages that anything gets changed and the inconsistencies begin. For example, in the Japanese instruction booklet for Mario Kart Double Dash!!, the line for Birdo reads something like "Appears to be Yoshi's girlfriend, but is actually his boyfriend?!" Also, you're right, the concept behind Birdo is supposed to be a "joke" in Japan, which is probably part of the reason why Nintendo don't run with that in other countries such as the US.
That said, they've still been a bit weird about it, even in the US. For a while, Nintendo avoided gender-specific pronouns, and always referred to Birdo by name. This ultimately ended with the SSBBrawl trophy description, which dubs Birdo a "creature of indeterminable gender" and uses the pronoun "it," which to me seems even worse. Since then, US games finally do refer to Birdo as "her."
I'm full of Mario character facts! Just ask me about the difference between Kamek and Magikoopa, the answer may surprise you...!
And now, just like Edward from FF IV, I shall go back into hiding.
I am curious about the difference between Kamek and Magikoopa. The way I always understood it, Magikoopa (SMW) was named "Kamek" in Japanese. Then when he became a major character in Yoshi's Island, the US release gave him the name "Kamek" to distinguish him from the rest of the Magikoopas. What was that character called in Japan?
Come to think of it, the Mario series is weird about having a "race" of creatures, but also a "main" version of that creature with the same name. Perfect example: Yoshi. There are Yoshis, and then there's THE Yoshi. The green one! See also Toad. There are TOADS (formerly known as "Mushroom Retainers") and then THE Toad. I even made a comic about this, shameless plug.
So I wonder, since there are multiple Birdos...are they ALL transgender? They all appear female. Are there non-transgender Birdos?
@TriforceBun Yup, you know the Kamek/Magikoopa trivia! I remember seeing that Magikoopa was a cut character from Mario Kart 64, and there were arguments over whether it was Kamek or Magikoopa. It may sound like just trying to diffuse the argument, but they're actually both right! More recently, I recall seeing people wishing it were Kamek in Mario Super Sluggers instead of a "generic" Magikoopa... The Japanese name is Kamekku which is basically the same as Kamek, making it the original name for the character and Magikoopa the one created for the US.
The answer to your other question has to do with the Japanese sense of self, which makes things complex. Yoshi, for example, is simultaneously both a singular character and a representation of every member of his group. So every Yoshi you see is still Yoshi, but also an individual. The concept of there being "THE Yoshi" or "THE Toad" is actually something we in the US or other territories think, there isn't really that distinction in Japan. Our culture is more about being a unique individual, so concepts like these don't go over well here.
OK, I getcha. I wasn't interpreting that way, but, I can see it. I was thinking more about the decades since then in which it feels like Birdo exists and acts rather distant from any joke or punchline. But, that's just my perspective.
@kriswright Well, we're Nintendo fans so it is what we know. As I said the Witcher franchise has trans characters, I just don't know them by name because I don't play those games. I think a lot of big games do nowadays, I just never play them.
I think a lot of indie games nowadays have trans characters as well. One offhand that I actually played is Read Only Memories, which was developed by a team started by the (gay) guy who runs GaymerX so that was chock full of LGTB characters.
Bridget has an... interesting story. But it sounds like he is just dressing up as a woman because uh... well, read for yourself:
Background Despite the name and appearance, Bridget is actually male. He was born in a village in England where the birth of twins of the same gender was considered bad luck, and it has always been demanded without exception that one of the twins should be sacrificed or either exiled if that happened, but their parents were unwilling to lose one of their children and instead they decided to raise him as a girl so that they could hide him from the society he was bound to live with, and probably in order to seek forgiveness he was given the best education they could afford to their daughter. Bridget loved his parents and did his best effort to live a life in disguise to keep them from worrying, but even then he could see his parents feeling guilty for what they did and eventually Bridget started to believe that if he could leave and come back with enough money then perhaps the village will be able to see there's nothing to their superstitions, and not long after as if in answer to his prayers he heard about a bounty for a Gear in the forest of demons and decided to become a bounty hunter.
So less trans and more participating in purposely subterfuge because uh... wait, this makes no sense, how would dressing up as a girl make you not look like a twin? Wouldn't you just look like a sister / brother pair of twins then?
So, he was raised as a girl his entire life? Does Bridget know what he is? (Unless you're very exposed to something and told otherwise directly, you might think that everything you have is how its supposed to be and never think anything of it. ie: on South Park recently, Cartman thought that girls had balls below their vaginas. He's in 4th Grade, how would he ever know otherwise?)
I've seen a Law & Order: SVU episode exactly like this, actually (minus the bad luck twin curse). Hmm. A little girl found out that he was actually a boy after some trace DNA didn't come up right, or something. I can't recall how the twist was unearthed, but essentially the same. (The parents opted for the surgery when he was quite young.)