On Media, pt. 1

SPOILERS AHEAD. You have been warned.

I wanted to name this “On Tropes,” but I have so many categories already, so I am combining this with posts about books, television, movies, etc. Only video games will remain as a standalone media category.

Those who fall within sociocultural expectations struggle to understand the importance of representation of “others” in media. Every day, I see edgelords and other strongly-opinionated netizens write exhaustive treatises on how not every special snowflake needs to be represented at every time. Actually, it usually looks more like this:

“I am a pansexual non-binary transgendered demi-frog and I refuse to buy this game until Blizzard is no longer run by fascists who think I don’t have a right to exist.”

Ugh, the internet.

I’m not here to advocate for content creators to have their hands tied to quotas that say they must have at least X characters who do or don’t fit a certain profile. I just want to talk a little bit about how transgender people have been historically represented in media, and how they are represented today.

If you like this sort of thing, I recommend the excellent tvtropes.org, which is one of the craziest wikis out there.

Actually, if you don’t know what a trope is, at least read their definition of it here, because I will be using this term a lot in these posts.

One of the most prominent tropes used to represent those who cross gender lines is one I’ll dub “The Psycho.”

“The Psycho” is one who shows signs of transgenderism either as a result of being mentally unstable, or as a part of it. In my mind, there are two especially recognizable characters who fit this mold: Norman Bates of Psycho and Bates Motel, and Buffalo Bill of Silence of the Lambs. In the case of the former, he seems to have some degree of schizophrenia or dissociative (multiple) personality disorder, whereas the former is a serial killer with a traumatic childhood who wants to become a woman through wearing the skins of other women.

This trope probably has its roots in the fact that, for many years, being transgender was legally considered a mental disorder, along with homosexuality and female hysteria. Actually, it still sort of is, but much less so than it once was, and the focus is now on the stress caused by it, rather than the dysphoria itself.

So what do these tropes mean for me? Well, a couple of things. First of all, I think this trope has a definite impact on how people view gender dysphoria. It is a hallmark of the crazy, and anyone who earnestly believes that they are a woman trapped in a man’s body, or vice-versa, has got some screws loose, or a traumatic childhood, or both.

By my own estimation, I am not mentally unstable. However, I cannot help but think that others will think that I am, should I ever come out to them. And their feelings are not completely invalid. One, it is impossible to completely put yourself in the shoes of another, but moreover, I’m sure plenty of people with mental illness have had some degree of gender dysphoria. It just so happens when a mentally ill person also shows signs of something that is also contrary to societal expectations, that thing also gets lumped into the illness.

This post kind of sucks, and never really went anywhere. But this is more a journal for me, than anything else, so I’m not too worried about it. Oh, and all those movies/shows I mentioned earlier are excellent, and definitely worth a watch. Just remember, a couple of fictional characters don’t represent an entire group of people.

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