Fire Emblem has a history of having many subtextual same-sex relationships. They’re all generally regulated entirely to reading in between the lines, and only if you have special conversations with just the right characters. The localizations by Nintendo of North America likes to take out these subtexts, though, they’re kind of lazy about it. It seems they might not be so gung-ho on censoring it, as they allowed a rather explicit character into Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.
Heather is not a main character. She hardly qualifies as tertiary. She isn’t some super special elf or magic creature, and there is really nothing going on around her as far as the plot is concerned. She can die in any battle, like any other Fire Emblem character, and that’s it, she’s gone. No game over. She’s just gone forever. She also has to be recruited, so she doesn’t just join up automatically for plot reasons. Aside from being the most useful rogue in the game and there are only two, and the other, who is a main protagonist, has a delayed promotion and falls into obscurity because of it ñ she really serves no purpose aside to exist as a character.
However, I love her. Oh, do I love her. She is, at least as far as I know, Nintendo’s first lesbian. (Alright, fine, it’s Intelligent Systems, but they’re owned by Nintendo, so it’s totally Nintendo, right? Well, it’s a step up from censoring the gay bar in Dragon Quest III at least!) And not in the common maybe she is, maybe she isn’t kind of way. She is blatantly a lesbian, and a running theme throughout the story is that she likes a specific character, Nephenee. She has her flirty remarks to several other characters, including a Queen, and she seems to be the only person who will feed Ilyana, a mage girl who seems to have a bottomless stomach.
Now, not being a plot centric character, there isn’t a lot to really read from and discuss, but there is a lot they didn’t do with her. For instance, they didn’t hit a single stereotypical lesbian vibe. Heather is not a man hater. She’s not obsessed with sex. She’s not crazy. She’s not depressed. She suffers no social insecurity. She’s not even rejecting the role of the patriarchy while burning her bra.
She’s confident, lighthearted, whimsical, happy, and smart enough to dupe a duke into revealing some pertinent information. She’s a thief, sure, but she has a good reason. She’s stealing money so she can get treatment for her poor sick mother. A good daughter and a rogue? What’s not to love!
The very best part is that she’s not hidden or obscured. While she never outright says “I’m a lesbian!” it’s easy to pick up on and pretty much impossible not to see. From her first conversation with Nephenee and her motivations for joining the protagonists of the game, it’s damn obvious who she’s interested in. She joins to make money to help her mother out and to meet all the cute girls in the army. Given her lighthearted and flirty nature, I’m assuming the latter is only kind of a joke.
While a small character from a game not many people have played stateside, it’s a rather happy portrayal of a lesbian in games that doesn’t hit one of the many stereotypes and annoyances. A silly, youthful character that could have been written in many different ways was instead written as a pretty pleasing lesbian, a confident woman, an otherwise interesting person, and a rogue who managed to steal my heart.
Look forward to the next entry, where I’ll go from dipping my toes in an obscure character to diving into the deep end and tackling one of the most renowned: Samus Aran.
This is the first post in our new column Lily’s Look at Female Characters
Thanks to our new writer Lily for this article.