When most people think of queer coding, they probably think of it in terms of sex. After all, when you see a character who looks like they might be queer, it’s natural to jump to conclusions about their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, there’s much more to queer coding than just sex. In fact, the way queerness is coded in video games and other media can have a profound impact on the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.
1. What is queer coding?
Put simply, queer coding is the act of representing queerness in a coded or hidden way. This can be done through a character’s mannerisms, fashion, or vocal inflections. In some cases, queer coding may be used to make a character more likable or relatable to a queer audience, while in others it may be used to make a queer character more palatable to a straight audience. Either way, queer coding is a way of signaling queerness without overtly declaring it, and it has been used in a wide range of media, from early Hollywood films to modern cartoons.
2. What are the negative effects of queer coding?
While queer coding is often used to make a game more appealing to LGBTQ+ players, it can also have the opposite effect. In many cases, queer coding is used to reinforce heteronormativity. This happens when queer coded characters are used as comic relief or used to further the plot of a straight character, rather than being allowed to exist as their own fully-fledged characters. As a result, queer coding can have a negative impact on LGBTQ+ community, making them feel invisible and unimportant.
What are some examples of inappropriate queer coding?
Some examples of queer coding that has a negative effect include the use of effeminate gay characters as comic relief, the use of lesbian characters as sex objects, and the use of transgender characters as a punchline. These examples can be harmful because they reinforce heteronormativity in video games. They make it seem like queerness is something to be laughed at or used for entertainment, rather than something that should be respected and embraced.
3. How can we identify queer coding?
One way to identify queer coding is as a form of queerbaiting, or the use of queer-coded characters and relationships to tease queer audiences without actually delivering on queer representation. This can be done for a variety of reasons, including to pander to queer audiences without upsetting straight or cisgender audiences, or because creators themselves are not comfortable with fully queer representation. Regardless of the motives, this form of queer coding often ultimately results in queer audiences feeling disappointed and devalued.
What are other queer coding indicators?
The use of stereotypes and caricatures, such as effeminate gay men or butch lesbians. Another is through subtle visual cues, such as a character’s hairstyle or clothing choices. You should also consider the character’s role in the story; for example, queer-coded villains are often portrayed as evil, manipulative, and dangerous. By keeping an eye out for these signs, queer audiences can help to hold creators accountable and push for more genuine queer representation in media.
4. How does queer coding reinforce heteronormativity?
In many cases, queer coding is used to reinforce heteronormativity. This happens when queer coded characters are used as comic relief or used to further the plot of a straight character, rather than being allowed to exist as their own fully-fledged characters. As a result, queer coding can have a negative impact on LGBTQ+ community, making them feel invisible and unimportant.
Portraying LGBTQ+ characters as deviant, dangerous, or otherwise abnormal sends the message that being LGBTQ+ is not part of the “normal” spectrum of human experience, and perpetuates the idea that heteronormativity is the only legitimate way to live.
Does queer coding lead to one-dimensional characters?
One way that queer coding can lead to one-dimensional characters is by limiting the range of emotions that queer characters are allowed to express. Having LGBTQ+ characters exist only in the context of their sexuality or gender identity, without any other depth or dimension. This flattens LGBTQ+ characters and denies them the same richness and complexity as straight, cisgender characters. Ultimately, marginalizing the LGBTQ+ community.
5. How does queer coding affect video games?
Anyone who has played a video game can tell you, coding is an essential part of the gaming experience. Coding determines everything from how characters look and move to what kinds of quests are available. In recent years, there has been an increased focus on queer coding, which is the practice of making characters or NPCs who are queer-identified. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as giving a character a same-sex partner or giving them gender-neutral pronouns. While queer coding is often used simply for the sake of adding diversity, it can also be used to send political messages. For instance, by making all the queer-coded characters villains, a game developer could be sending a message that queer people are evil. Alternatively, by making queer-coded characters protagonists, a developer could be sending a message of acceptance and inclusion. Either way, queer coding is a powerful tool that can be used to shape players’ perceptions of queer people.
6. How can we create a world where queerness is more visible and accepted?
Representation matters. In film and television, queer characters are often either invisible or heavily stereotyped. This can have a profound impact on how queer people are seen in the world. When queer characters are completely absent, it sends the message that queer people do not exist. And when they are only ever shown in a negative light, it reinforces the idea that queer people are somehow deviant or dangerous. This needs to change. We need to see more queer characters onscreen, and we need to see them portrayed in a more realistic way.
What role has television played in queer coding?
Television has played a major role in shaping public opinion on a variety of issues, and it is now one of the most important platforms for promoting visibility and acceptance of queer people. Shows like “Will & Grace,” “Modern Family,” and “Orange is the New Black” have helped to normalize queer identities and relationships for mainstream audiences.
In order to create a world where queerness is more visible and accepted, we need to see more realistic and nuanced portrayals of queer characters in media. This means having queer characters who are not simply defined by their sexuality or gender identity, but who are allowed to be complex and fully-realized human beings. We also need more games, television shows, and movies that center around queer narratives. By creating more inclusive media, we can help to break down the barriers that prevent LGBTQ+ people from being seen as equals.
To all content creators – Queerness is not one dimensional
If you’re a content creator, I urge you to consider realistic portrayals of the queer community in your work. Queer people are not simply defined by their sexuality or gender identity, and it’s time that we start showing them as the complex and fully-realized human beings they are. For too long, queer characters have been reduced to stereotypes or comic relief, and this needs to change. By including more realistic portrayals of queer people in your work, you can help to break down the barriers that prevent LGBTQ+ people from being seen as equals.
Thank you for reading! I hope you’ve found this post to be informative and thought-provoking. I want to end by saying thank you to all the content creators who are working to break down the barriers that prevent LGBTQ+ people from being seen as equals. Your work is invaluable, and I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together in the future.