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Despite Nintendo's Stumbles, Breath of the Wild's Fans Have Embraced Crossdressing Link
Breath of the Wild is light on plot, which makes any missteps stand out. One brief costume change illustrates how designers/can fail and how fandom is left picking up the pieces.
Here’s the moment: looking for help in the desert, Link seeks to enter Gerudo Town to speak with their ruler. Gerudo Town is off limits to men. Hearing that a man did manage to sneak in, he seeks them out until he finds a woman named Vilia who turns out to be the individual who snuck into the city. They offer to make Link a set of Gerudo clothing and fawn over his new look as Link bashfully wears this new outfit. Link stands in a cropped top and veil, blushing feverishly as Vilia complements his looks. As the wind picks up, it blows Vilia’s veil off to reveal a full beard that Link responds to with visible shock.
This scene relies on tired tropes. Vilia is a fey dandy character, an expression of queerness as weak and wispy. There’s a fetishizing quality at play, a reveling in the chance to objectify Link. Vilia becomes a punchline as her features are revealed. The bearded lady. The freak in the cage.
My feelings about this moment are complicated. It feels careless, presented without regard for the weight of things it implies about finding humor in the discovery about someone’s gender. It calls to mind the occasional stares I get on the subway. Passing in the real world is full with anxiety. Every time you don’t pass, your mind reels with potential outcomes. Will someone laugh? Will they insult you? Will they assault you? This scenario feels like it was made without much thought for its implications. At least one other critic has broken down the moment’s flaws in detail, calling out the carelessness. Such lack of consideration is a genuine problem as gamers become more diverse.