There’s an online controversy brewing over Pharah from Overwatch and her racial heritage. While originally bearing Egyptian symbolism like an Eye of Horus tattoo, which was removed in a new skin and replaced by a Native American motif, the internet outrage machine is churning at full speed amidst accusations towards Blizzard for thinking that all brown people are interchangeable.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this, it’s interesting how Blizzard has tried so hard to make this game inclusive for nearly every group you could imagine, they’ve really bent over backwards and earned a lot of praise for their efforts, and you have to wonder how much of this outrage comes from people who are simply looking for reasons to be offended on someone else’s behalf.
Kotaku reports: “Dozens of forum posts questioned, Did Blizzard just assume Pharah could switch races because she’s brown?”
You read that right, literally DOZENS! But to the contrary, there are other posts from Native Americans who love the Pharah skin, even if it’s not a perfect portrayal, they’re still happy to see the effort. You can cherry pick a few outraged people from either side and turn just about anything into a big controversy.
In an Overwatch comic, we see Pharah in Canada with snowy TV’s on in the background, and this has lead people to believe that she isn’t in-fact just changing races on a dime, but that she is indeed mixed-race, with an Egyptian mother and an Aboriginal Canadian father, and she can choose to explore both of them as she pleases.
People who were jumping on the offended-bandwagon didn’t seem to take a moment to think about the fact that they shouldn’t pigeon-hole mixed-race people and force them to choose one race or the other.
When asked to comment on the mixed-race theory by Kotaku, Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan has the following to say:
“That’s what we’re driving towards. All the hints are there, so we’ll see.”
It’s open for interpretation but it sounds like he’s just stopping short of saying, “Yes, relax, she didn’t magically change races overnight, she’s a more nuanced character who can explore different aspects of her culture.”
Cultural appropriation is a highly-debated topic, and accusations of it can really hurt someone’s career, not to mention accusations of racism. Do you think Blizzard was being racially insensitive for having a character that most people believed to be Egyptian dressing up in Native American-inspired outfits? Even after it came to light that she’s mixed, people are saying Blizzard just added that lore in after the fact to cover themselves.