March 20, 2014

LGBT Representation in Grand Theft Auto

          

          Grand Theft Auto is a very popular gang-based action games (as I’m sure many of you are aware). They portray a simulation of life that many games don’t, and that’s the seedy underbelly of a city setting—mob ties, drug deals, everything like that. They make many events, characters, and features very over-exaggerated--explosions, sex appeal, anything you can think of. They definitely appeal to an 18-24 male demographic. As such one wouldn't think there'd be much outside of the above within the game. However, it is actually very interesting to observe these games in the context of LGBT representation. Being the kind of games they are, one wouldn't think that they are or would be known for their portrayal of this, and they aren't. 

          But that’s what makes them so great.

          Think about it, in these games there are characters which show traits, if it’s not completely obvious up front, of being members of the LGBT community. I’ll start with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I’m choosing that one because GTA prior to GTA 3 were before my time. I only watched my brother play 3 when our mom would let me. He had some funny stories about that game—but that’s something for another time. 
     
          In Vice City, you play as Tommy Vercetti, the same character from GTA 3. His lawyer in this game, Ken Rosenberg, subtly portrays some LGBT undertones, in that he is a more effeminate character within the game. His clothing choice is also rather colorful—though that was the
80s—and he has some nervousness about his voice when things take a turn towards dating etc. While it might not be the best representation, it’s a start. 

So much GLAM. 
        
          Jump to the GTA 4 expansion titles. Most notably, within the title, is The Ballad of Gay Tony. This is one of the first games that I’ve played that has a very clear and prominent gay character, and not portrayed in a horrible light. Rockstar even glammed up the description and art for this game, making a deviation from previous GTA titles. “The Ballad of Gay Tony injects Liberty City with an overdose of guns, glitz, and grime" according to Rockstar's website.

          Come forward more and we have GTA 5. This time, there is a character within the game whose back-story involved struggling with sexuality and problems within his family. He talks about how he sleeps with women AND men, and how sleeping with men “isn't gay”, it’s just something men do. Even moreso, he is portrayed as a "normal" guy. He is not overly effeminate or made out to be a stereotype. The following is from the GTA Wiki; I haven't had much of a chance to play through 5 yet. "Trevor has showed a lot of hints that he feels sexual attraction towards men too... [when] he admits he already have done fellatio on men (I'd rather suck a d--k than smoke weed... and trust me, I've done both!). In another conversation, he admits he’s bisexual.

See? Regular guy. Maybe minus the rifle and explosion.

          These games show a glimpse, at least in my opinion, of the changing attitudes towards homosexual people within society today and how the acceptance of being so open has changed. You start with a game based in the 80s that came out 2002 that features a possibly gay man as a major part in the game, to a game that came out in 2013 with a character that actually is part of the LGBT community and yet is part of this gritty, violent, sometimes shocking game series.


          These games might reflect society more than we think; and I’m not talking about gang drama.
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