EA Puts a Bullet Through the Binary
Emma “Sundance” Rosier is one of 10 specialists that players can pick from in the upcoming Battlefield 2042 title. You’ve read the title, so you already know why that’s special. What’s perhaps more interesting, though, is the way that EA presents this information to the player. No piece of in-game material explicitly calls the character non-binary. Instead, you’d have to look at a selection of written info about Sundance, notice the frequent use of they/them pronouns, and put things together.
That’s exactly what one fan did, sending a message to EA’s community manager: Adam Freeman. The response was quick, decisive, and presented without theatrics.
Yep. Sundance is non-binary and uses the Pronouns They/Them.
— Freeman (@PartWelsh) October 21, 2021
It’s easy to read this kind of presentation as a breath of fresh air. It’s subtle, it’s not called out nor made the center of attention, and that’s exactly how a lot of non-binary people want to live. They don’t want to be special, they don’t want to have to “justify” their “decision” to everyone they meet. They just want to be themselves, to simply exist as everyone else does.
But on the other hand, if someone read this as EA being ashamed to represent non-binary characters in their game, I’d have a hard time blaming them. Gender-neutral pronouns are also used for males and females, and since this information can’t be found in-game, the use of they/them pronouns doesn’t have to mean anything to most players. These terms can be easily dismissed as a funny quirk of the writing, and since the character seems to otherwise present as feminine, don’t be too surprised to see a large portion of the playerbase use she/her pronouns for Sundance – not out of malice, but out of sheer ignorance.
Whether this strategy is the best option for non-binary representation is debatable, though one can’t deny that it mitigates any kind of blowback or controversy that may arise from gaming’s more toxic spaces. It pleases those who’d like to see more of their own identity in media, while minimizing its impact. And since a lot of high-budget media is designed to be a crowd pleaser, you can expect to see more “representation” like this in the future.
What are your thoughts here? Is a move like this “far enough”? Is it appreciated? Aggravating? We’d love to hear from you in the comments down below!
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