She’s always a woman to me

Last week’s release of Super Mario Bros. 2 on Virtual Console — the real Mario 2, not that crummy fake Japanese one, as discussed at length on the new Retronauts — sparked a small flurry of postings at various gaming blogs about how Birdo is the medium’s first true transgendered character and a hero to GLBT gamers everywhere. She was described in the Japanese manual as a rather confused male, but recent game literature pegs her as, well, her.

They all seemed so earnest I didn’t have the heart to tell them that Birdo’s always been a female named Catherine in Japan. The cross-dressing thing (and the name Birdo) is a bizarre concoction of Nintendo’s U.S. division. Bizarre in the sense that NES-era Nintendo was terrified of allowing anything remotely questionable in its games, and it’s hard to imagine who might have decided that gender-bending would play in Peoria while crosses on gravestones wouldn’t.

Sorry, guys, or girls, or some combination thereof! Will you settle for Flea instead?

27 thoughts on “She’s always a woman to me

  1. Are you sure about this? Japanese wikipedia says, “その姿や言動は女性のようであるが実はオカマである.” “It’s figure, speech, and behavior are female, but actually, it’s an okama [crossdresser/homosexual/queer].”

  2. Practically every other japanese fighting game features some sort of transgendered character. I think videogaming is the only medium where you’ll find more trans characters than gay ones.

    Of course, when they are there they’re a huge joke if they’re men and sex objects if they’re women.

  3. Someone will argue that the new literature refers to Birdo as a her in deference to his decision to present himself to the world as a ‘her’, which I understand is courtesy for TGs.

    So I’m getting in before they do.

  4. The US version seems more canon in this case, since the Japanese version wasn’t even a Mario game.

  5. You don’t “settle” for Flea.

    I think Poison from Final Fight is a far more visible Transgendered Video Game character. Especially when you take into consideration all the H-doujinshi.

  6. Please do not use the word “canon” in reference to Mario games, because that is entirely too silly.

  7. This reminds me of an argument I had with my sister as kids regarding whether or not Storm Eagle from the first X game was female.

    All Megaman bosses are male, I say.
    Then why don’t they call them men anymore, she says.
    Well, why do you think he’s a girl, I say.
    She spits out eggs with babies, she says.

    Couldn’t dispute that.

  8. Carl is right. Also, that wikipedia article is ragingly homophobic! (オカマ is not a very nice word.)

  9. whatever, it still has its genatalia on its face. that must count it the medium’s first in some other category.

  10. SonicPanda, your girlfriend has ruined Storm Eagle for me. Now I have to reconcile with the fact that I’ve been hitting (and enjoyed, at that) a mommy.

  11. Psh, Birdo. As a GBLT… er, GLB or T person, myself, I have WAY better heroes than that. Like, ah… Soma when he uses the “Curly” soul? Eh, why not? It’s never been something I really thought about.

    Also, just because I like stepping on punchlines, who is Birdo batting for in that picture?

  12. You could potentially be all four letters at once, but it would be hard to explain at family outings. For all interested, the total alphabetical abbreviation right now is LGBTQIACQ. Fun!

    As for the best LGBT character in a video game, I’d say Zelda/Sheik, since the whole cross-gendered thing wasn’t treated like that big a deal.

  13. “whatever, it still has its genatalia on its face. that must count it the medium’s first in some other category.”

    On that note, either Yoshi is a female too, or those aren’t eggs “he” is throwing in Yoshi’s Island.

  14. The egg argument cannot be used with Yoshi, as available information does not allow our complete understanding or fictional dinosaur physiology.

  15. I honestly think Flea isn’t transgendered…. he could just be a drag queen. ^_^

  16. In an effort to add Metroidvania credibility to this discussion, I shall also mention Frozen Half from SOTN.

  17. Flea had been known since the beginning so it’s kind of old and lost it’s novelty. Birdo and Poison leaked out long after the characters appeared and never got to make a bit impact, more like a few people at a time going ‘hahaha, that’s weird’ (plus both characters are completely female now so the issue is gone). Bridget on the other hand was an internet sensation for a few days after the revelation hit and since Guilty Gear isn’t nearly as popular as it deserves to be there’s always someone new to freak out with it.

    Lesser known TG character: Instructor Mooselini from Parappa. ONLY MALE MOOSE HAVE ANTLERS.

  18. Demitri from Darkstalkers is my LGBT video game hero, due to his tireless efforts to turn all the characters in the game into hot chicks.


  19. I still hope we get the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 on Virtual Console. I know a lot of people prefer the US version, and really I suppose I do to, but back when it came on Mario All-Stars I remember I really loved it. I even beat it without warping and got the four extra levels at the end. Yeah, it was practically hard for the sake of being hard, but new, never-before seen Mario levels are still thrilling. Even a Mario Bros expansion pack is still more Mario!

  20. I know I’m incredibly late to the party, but…

    Nobody mentioned Vivian? Same story, if you read it backwards. Just with fewer eggs being shot out of questionable orifices.

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