This article is a guest post by one of my dearest friends, Maligma. A person of color, she offered me her impressions and thoughts on Tyrael during a game session of Diablo 3. I was so struck by her impressions I asked her to write them down so I could share them with my readers and add another personal perspective on the game. It’s an experience I, as a white person, would never have or expect, but I believe it’s a good example of how racism creates entirely different world experiences, expectations, and impressions. This article simply one personal example of this. – Doone
Don’t get me wrong it was cool seeing a different type of face on arguably one of the coolest characters ever, but as Doone and I played through the story I had to say it: ” lmao, a black guy ruined heaven!!”
Initially, I really was only half joking, but the truth of the matter is my impression wasn’t all that funny. Throughout Diablo lore Tyrael had earned his place in fandom through great feats in battle. He uncovered the prime evils scheme and founded the legendary Horadrim. He was all that stood between sanctuary and the council! He was a freaking badass.
Then just as we discover that our smart, intrepid and battle-honed ally is black… He’s human and impotent. Ok fine. Its a little blasé and predictable, but he’s still a badass, right? This is Tyrael!! Just because they put a black face on him wont change the lore he’s always been… hell, at the very least, he’s not like some characters and can actually speak real English. …at least, that’s what white people say to me from time to time. Between those two things, there’s positively no way Blizzard can fuck this up. And boy did they have me fooled when he went all black jesus on us in the cinematic. He seriously earned his spot among the glorious and mythical “exceptional negros” we’ve all come to love. Denzel Washington! Samuel l Jackson! Even Will Smith! You know, those brothers you could see yourself getting along with irl and stuff!
The story progressed as though the guy had lost more than just those wings. He just goes along for the ride in summoning Zultan Kulle and is completely aloof as the whole I am your father bit rears its ugly head (GG, writers). As well spoken, confident and stoic as he is, he never again meets the expectations that his winged, faceless status set for the player base – or me for that matter. The Horadrim existed not through his devotion to sanctuary, but as an unwitting tool for the Prime Evils to exploit. This man who had faced down evil that most cannot fathom couldn’t even find it in him to continue to fight by your side when you needed him most. Even his “heroic” fall, in context, boiled down to him being a sneaky upstart who refused to be put into his place.
This is why we can’t have nice things…
Colored or marginalized persons in media are a paradox of sorts. It’s interesting seeing them in a respectable position, but… in the back of my mind, I just know that there’s a shoe or two in their story that’ll eventually drop or that they’re only awesome because someone else did x,y,z. In the case of Tyrael, he’s a little of both. Entertainment casts are very cut and dry. There’s Caucasians, aliens, demons, “other” and “faceless”. More men than women – yet oddly, more tits than muscles (not really sure how that works). “Fa” — I mean, gays, don’t exist on either end of the controller. Unless hot and female. Or a scrub.
If a studio does dare put a marginalized face to an active character, we are usually abusive, abused or a caricature (hai2u Witch Doctor). This isn’t to say there aren’t ANY heroes or “normal” people of brown. This isn’t to say that I want to paint everything we watch and play brown either… to be frank, I’ve seen enough mammies, magical negros, crackheads, church-going baby mamas, thugs, basket-balling project escapees, and Tyler Perry to last me a lifetime. For every hero, there’s 20 of those which is a really shitty return on investment. It does more harm than good for us to be included at all so I’d rather not be. If we are to be included though… then I’d like people in general to stop being selfish and defensive about bigotry and deal with stereotypes so I can turn something on without facepalming in disappointment for once.
The Diablo lore had already set the master plan of the Prime Evils in motion. They got themselves banished to circumvent the pact and were already in Sanctuary swaying mankind. Why couldn’t Blizzard have just finish that work in this installment instead of ruining an iconic character?
The heavens burned and it was a black man’s fault.
Alysaya is a fantasy artist who spends most of her days drawing beautiful characters and worlds. Her art is very inclusive and she’s striving to take her talents into the gaming industry. You can see more of her work at her website: http://tayallen.carbonmade.com .
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