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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by dsheinem Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:34 am

MrPopo wrote:But I think it's flawed to say "Faris is a terribly written transgendered character" if the character is not intended to be written as transgendered. It would be like saying that Butz is a terribly written black character.


That TV Tropes article has quite the way of presenting the postmodernist “Death of the Author” critique, but the dismissiveness implied by that article aside...from that type of perspective PS’ take has merit. I don’t know that PS said that Faris was intentionally written that way, but I did think that they were suggesting that Faris could reasonably be read that way (especially, for example, by transgender players or by people first encountering ideas about gender presentation when they played this game as kids, people who are familiar with some of the polysemy of Japanese pronouns, etc.). It’s a queer reading, for sure (it reads against more “obvious” or “intended” or “surface” readings), but that type of postmodern criticism is much less about hermeneutics (“this is the TRUE deep meaning, supported by authorial statements and my expertise in translating symbols”) and more about demonstrating the impossibility of any “neat” or “definitive” read of any text.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by marurun Fri Nov 22, 2019 10:07 am

One way of considering this is that what an author intends is important, but an author does have a responsibility for at least some potential readings of their creation. There's no way an author could consider every possible reading, and that expectation would be absurd, but an author should step outside their own viewpoint at least a little to consider a couple other likely interpretations of their work. There are too many creators now who simply say, "It doesn't matter what you think, that's not what I meant." But creativity that is meant to be presented to an audience is communication, and a communicator has some responsibility for the reception of their work, not just the intent.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by PartridgeSenpai Fri Nov 22, 2019 10:25 am

I am a very strong believer in Death of the Author. The author's intent does not matter when compared against the effect it has on an audience. If a claim about the effect/meaning of a work can be backed up sufficiently with evidence in the work, then it's as valid as any meaning the author meant the work to have. The intended meaning is just one of many possible ways to read a particular text.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by MrPopo Fri Nov 22, 2019 10:53 am

marurun wrote:One way of considering this is that what an author intends is important, but an author does have a responsibility for at least some potential readings of their creation. There's no way an author could consider every possible reading, and that expectation would be absurd, but an author should step outside their own viewpoint at least a little to consider a couple other likely interpretations of their work. There are too many creators now who simply say, "It doesn't matter what you think, that's not what I meant." But creativity that is meant to be presented to an audience is communication, and a communicator has some responsibility for the reception of their work, not just the intent.

I definitely lean far more to the side of author's intent. You're right that an author should be open to the ideal of alternative interpretations, as that can help them be aware of potential blind spots (oh crap, I didn't realize I wrote this character as a racist caricature). But I don't think it is a fruitful endeavor to always look for alternate readings of a work; for every actual intended allegory (Animal Farm for Soviet Russia) there are ten innocent works that have a deeper meaning imposed on them.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by Ack Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:10 pm

I think you should consider the agenda of the person writing the interpretation. In this case, Pidge noticed something and stayed focused but did not go in expressly looking for this interpretation. But someone with a more extreme viewpoint could go in solely with the intent of a one-sided interpretation. As a result, we have to consider the interpreter's view, which...I mean, it's Pidge. Not exactly someone I see screaming from the battlements to bathe in the blood of foes.

Conversely, it's also not a satirical interpretation, which are sometimes misconstrued. My brother once wrote a tongue in cheek interpretation of Ender's Game where he declared, based on the text, that Orson Scott Card was a mysogynistic homosexual with a child fetish. He got an A for creativity, but others might have read it as a serious take.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by marurun Fri Nov 22, 2019 2:03 pm

MrPopo wrote:
marurun wrote:One way of considering this is that what an author intends is important, but an author does have a responsibility for at least some potential readings of their creation. There's no way an author could consider every possible reading, and that expectation would be absurd, but an author should step outside their own viewpoint at least a little to consider a couple other likely interpretations of their work. There are too many creators now who simply say, "It doesn't matter what you think, that's not what I meant." But creativity that is meant to be presented to an audience is communication, and a communicator has some responsibility for the reception of their work, not just the intent.

I definitely lean far more to the side of author's intent. You're right that an author should be open to the ideal of alternative interpretations, as that can help them be aware of potential blind spots (oh crap, I didn't realize I wrote this character as a racist caricature). But I don't think it is a fruitful endeavor to always look for alternate readings of a work; for every actual intended allegory (Animal Farm for Soviet Russia) there are ten innocent works that have a deeper meaning imposed on them.


I read this as agreement. I think there's only a couple degrees between us on this.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by MrPopo Fri Nov 22, 2019 2:41 pm

Probably. My initial read of what you wrote was more on the side of Death of the Author. But reading it again I can definitely see that we're probably more closely aligned, with me probably having just a bit more exasperation than you with my English teaches of days past.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by pierrot Sat Nov 23, 2019 6:18 pm

PartridgeSenpai wrote:There is absolutely plausible deniability for reading Faris that way in the Japanese original (and especially the English translation). I won't deny that you have valid points in that regard. But dsh really sums it up nicely that the intent doesn't matter so much as the impact. This is how I read the character. It also doesn't actually matter if Faris, the character, self-identifies as a man or not for the purpose of my piece. Gender IS presentation (both how you interact with people and how they in turn interact with you), and Faris' experience mirrors that which actual trans and gender non-conforming people face to the extent that even if that wasn't the intent of the author, that was the effect for me.

To be clear, I'm not disagreeing with the fact that Faris' speech is written in a way to force the Japanese player into assuming that it's a man speaking, when introduced to the character, or insinuating that Farris couldn't be interpreted to be a gender-queer person. I had originally played a little bit past the 'Faris has lady bits' part of FFV in English, on the PS1, and when I played the it on the SFC a few years ago, I remember being pretty shocked by how masculine Faris' speech was. I fundamentally disagree with this determination of gender, though. It insinuates to me that people don't have any sort of agency when it comes to their own gender, or that because people view one as a particular gender, that is his gender. It insinuates to me that I would have been female as a kid because I was told by girls that I seemed like one of them. It seems to suggest that other people get to decide someone's gender based on interpretations of how that person acts. Am I misinterpreting what you're saying at all?

I'm also not trying to suggest that it's not a good topic for discussion, or trying to shut down conversation. My contention is really that I think it would most matter what Faris feels his gender is.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by PartridgeSenpai Sun Nov 24, 2019 9:51 am

pierrot wrote:I fundamentally disagree with this determination of gender, though. It insinuates to me that people don't have any sort of agency when it comes to their own gender, or that because people view one as a particular gender, that is his gender. It insinuates to me that I would have been female as a kid because I was told by girls that I seemed like one of them. It seems to suggest that other people get to decide someone's gender based on interpretations of how that person acts. Am I misinterpreting what you're saying at all?

I'm also not trying to suggest that it's not a good topic for discussion, or trying to shut down conversation. My contention is really that I think it would most matter what Faris feels his gender is.


Thank you for bringing this up, because it's definitely something I've spoken about too vaguely here and should clarify my stance on.

I believe in gender as taking two forms in the world we live in right now: conceptually (via the self) and functionally (via society). They aren't two completely mutually exclusive things, but for the most part they are. Conceptual gender is the form that I personally subscribe to as the idealized version. It's what you say in the 2nd paragraph here, that someone's own determination of their gender is the final and only word on their gender, and it's what should be respected. In an ideal world, this is the only form that exists (which also kinda abolishes gender as a concept, ironically enough, as it would mean that there is no societal element to binary gender expression at all and therefore nothing to actually base one's own expression on, but that's another conversation).

The functional aspect is what I meant earlier when I said gender is all presentation. It's how your outward presentation allows other people to read you, and how they therefore will interpret your gender. It's something trans people struggle with every day and is the source of constant misgendering. It's why so many trans people focus so hard on "passing" for their desired gender. Finding that gender euphoria and the total acceptance of yourself from entirely within yourself, damned what society thinks, is very very difficult and something very few people can do. Given that we don't live in a world where asking for someone's pronouns just like you'd ask for their name is a normalized thing, people virtually don't have any agency over their gender outside of how they present to the outside world. If everyone is telling you you're a girl; commenting on your hips/boobs, using she/her/hers pronouns, assuming all you do is traditionally feminine hobbies; it makes it really fucking hard to feel like a man. It makes gender dysphoria rampage like crazy and makes it really hard to keep going out there every day to just be told that no, you and the way you see yourself don't matter. While the functional/societal form of gender really sucks 99% of the time, it's unfortunately a fact of life for just about every trans person at some point in their lives, and it's a struggle I saw mirrored really clearly in how Faris has to put up with people through their journey.
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