Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Interracial Relationships

According to the United States Census Bureau interracial marriage is at an all time high? It really shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, interracial marriage has only been protected by law since 1967, when the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia agreed with the now common-sense belief love need not follow social conventions. The same year, Director Stanley Kramer broached the still heated subject in film with  Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a film about a young white woman who brings her highly educated, respectable, and black fiance to meet her "progressive" liberal parents. The film remains one of the best takes on race relations and, in its time, pioneered the rare depiction of positive interracial relations in the media.

I could go into great detail about growing up as a person of color and the ways the world seems cordoned off. It was still uncommon to see interracial relationships when watching films and television shows. Suffice it to say that, for a time, I felt perpetually stuck in ethnic boundaries not of my choosing. Like most partners in interracial relationships, the uniqueness of the situation rarely crosses my mind unless a third party comments on it ("That's different" being my personal favorite) or if I watch Friends (which always seemed so shockingly homogeneous).

Every now and then it's nice to see my lifestyle affirmed in the media I consume. This has been discussed in gaming of late by a slew of talented writers who correctly interrogate the lack of diversity in both television and games. While we are collectively on the subject, I just want to put in my vote for more diverse relationships. I too am thrilled that Dom Santiago diversifies the Gears of War cast, but it also feels a bit conformist to see him shacked up with Maria. Even in the decayed future, romantic racial lines generally follow normative values.

Also, to give praise where it is due, three cheers for Commander Shepard and her inter-species love affairs. I don't quite know how Garen and Femshep are meant to copulate, but I would guess that under the covers, even anatomical differences matter little. I should also don my hat to Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance, whose romantic tension is palpable and completely ignores social conventions. Maybe there is a young Latino kid out there, a little me, who after playing Mass Effect, decides to step outside his internalized constraints and make his move.

None of this is to say I find all same race (usually white) couples in games aggravating. You would be mistaken to presume I didn't blush at the touching scene between Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher in Uncharted 3. But hey, when it's time to draw up a touching love story next time, why not take a look at the diversity all around us. Yes, a majority of people still marry partners of their own race or ethnicity, but these figures are changing, particularly among the young and college educated. Also, even these relatively low marriage numbers are skewed. People of all races date and cohabitate together with higher frequency than every before. Let's take Shepard's lesson and race to a galaxy full of diverse romantic options. If love can buck conventions, so can games.

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