Is Ghirahim Offensive?
Posted on May 28 2012 by GestaltReplicant
As a series that has grown and advanced over 25 years, The Legend of Zelda has had its fair share of bizarre characters – heroic and otherwise. Whether it’s the eternally-cosplaying Tingle or the bug princess Agitha, Nintendo knows how to make some truly unsettling personae to populate its games with. Perhaps one of the strangest is Ghirahim, a key villain from Skyward Sword. With his effeminate growling and untoward advances to the young hero Link, Ghirahim is certainly painted as a character to be feared. However, there are some questions raised by Ghirahim – his actions, his words – that necessitate pinning down exactly who he is. It’s basically canon that he’s gay (the first real gay character in a Zelda game), what with his penchant for Link. So the question has to be asked – is Ghirahim an offensive stereotype? Read on for a potentially controversial new look at the villain from Skyward Sword.
First off, here’s a rundown of Ghirahim’s character traits: vanity, narcissism, and attraction to Link. Those three aspects of this character are played upon again and again throughout the game, and are designed to make him as fearful of an enemy as possible. Those three aspects (when substituting Link for any given young male) are also commonly used offensive stereotypes thrown at gay men. Ghirahim is blatantly gay, as is shown throughout the story – and this, in turn, makes him the first gay Zelda character (or at least, the first to have such a strong focus). He’s also obsessed with his looks, swooshes his hair about, constantly acts feminine, and can’t keep his hands off of Link. He’s also a truly awful villain meant to inspire fear in the player.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong about having a gay villain (just as there isn’t for a gay hero), but all of Ghirahim’s mannerisms – his character – are built entirely upon outdated stereotypes. This means somewhere down the line of development, someone at Nintendo seriously thought the best way to make a truly horrifying enemy was to pile up a load of offensive notions about gay people into one character – and this idea got the green light. What was the thought process behind making Ghirahim? Was there truly no other way to make a frightening villain?
It has to be remembered that Japan has a different culture than our own, and that there are different cultural norms that define social behavior within said country. But even so, it seems increasingly difficult to believe that Ghirahim was created without referencing offensive stereotypes. Does gayness really equate with scariness to the development team at Nintendo?
What do you think of this possibility? Is Ghirahim an offensive stereotype, or does he simply seem exactly like one by coincidence? Comment away!