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    Final Fantasy 16’s Profound LGBTQ+ Inclusion Demonstrates the Series’ Contemporary Evolution

    Prince Dion Lesage's Moving Same-Sex Representation Chronicles Final Fantasy's Transformation

    In a realm far from mundane, Final Fantasy 16 has boldly ventured into uncharted territory by showcasing LGBTQ+ representation of the utmost significance. The illustrious character embodying this triumph is none other than Prince Dion Lesage, the indomitable Dominant of Bahamut. This unprecedented revelation renders the “king of dragons” as a proud member of the gay community.

    The scarcity of LGBTQ+ representation in esteemed AAA games is a lamentable truth. Thus, the inclusion of such representation in a Final Fantasy installment elicits profound joy within me. Its significance lies in the ability to foster a sense of visibility and belonging among fans, like myself, who have cherished this series for an extended period.

    One aspect that captivates my admiration concerning Dion’s sexuality is its portrayal as a fleeting moment. Within the confines of his tent, Dion and his confidant, Terence, engage in a heartfelt and private exchange, discussing the intricate facets of war involving the neighboring Dhalmeks. These dialogues are fueled by an undercurrent of anxiety, making the subsequent kiss a poignant and tender display amidst the backdrop of violence, both contemplating the dire consequences at hand.

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    Subsequently, the narrative swiftly proceeds, seamlessly integrating this moment as an authentic and normalized facet of the characters’ lives. Devoid of any salacious overtones, their intimacy is an embodiment of genuine connection. Dion’s sexual orientation is merely referenced once more in a deeply moving and tragic scene with minimal dialogue, serving as a testament to the game’s remarkable visuals and the actors’ impeccable performances.

    Primarily, Dion’s sexuality serves as an integral aspect of his character, defying the need for justification or explanation. He merely exists as a gay individual, his orientation inconsequential to the overarching plot, while simultaneously bearing immense significance for LGBTQ+ players.

    (It is worth noting that Final Fantasy 16 faced a pre-launch ban in Saudi Arabia, most likely due to Square Enix’s steadfast commitment to artistic integrity, which necessitated the studio’s reluctance to implement modifications requested by the authorities.)

    One could argue that the inspiration for such LGBTQ+ representation can be traced back to the Game of Thrones series. Indeed, Dion and Terence’s relationship exhibits an unmistakable resemblance to that of Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell, featuring a secretive liaison between a prince and his loyal assistant. Whether Dion and Terence share a similar level of discretion remains an enigma.

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    Nevertheless, instances of LGBTQ+ representation abound throughout the game, albeit in incidental dialogue. A soldier stationed in Northreach confesses his fears about the impending war to his male lover. Furthermore, in one of the quests, Clive expresses his search for a male companion, eliciting a witty retort from one of the soldiers. While the latter’s response may seem naively homophobic, it serves as a testament to the presence of homosexuality within the realm of Valisthea—highlighting that not all characters are designed to be likable.

    My initial surprise at the inclusion of LGBTQ+ representation in Final Fantasy 16 may inadvertently discredit the commendable efforts of Creative Business Unit 3. This branch of Square Enix is renowned for its work on the MMORPG Final Fantasy 14, a game that does not explicitly feature LGBTQ+ lead characters, yet boasts a thriving queer community. Incidental dialogue from minorcharacters within the game serves to acknowledge their presence, but the true exemplification of inclusivity lies in the game’s allowance of same-sex marriages between player characters. Moreover, the studio has actively participated in annual Pride parades, culminating in a collaborative float for Sydney’s Mardi Gras Parade in 2019.

    However, it is important to note that the Final Fantasy series has experienced a checkered past regarding LGBTQ+ representation. While fans have often speculated about the romantic undertones between FF13’s Vanille and Fang, extending their relationship beyond friendship, the most infamous example of questionable representation lies in FF7’s cross-dressing scene.

    Set in the bustling city of Midgar, protagonist Cloud must assume a disguise to infiltrate the mansion of mob boss Don Corneo. To accomplish this, he embarks on a quest to acquire various items of women’s clothing, which ultimately leads him to the Honeybee Inn, a somewhat disreputable brothel. Regrettably, this quest perpetuates uncomfortable stereotypes and features caricatures resembling Freddie Mercury, further compounded by implicit references to sexual violence.

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    Granted, this sequence originated in the mid-90s. However, Square Enix admirably addressed this issue by revisiting the scene in FF7 Remake, transforming the Honeybee Inn into a vibrant celebration of queerness through dance. The establishment now serves as a nightclub, attracting both men and women adorned in adorable bee outfits. Additionally, a new character named Andrea Rhodea takes center stage, hosting mesmerizing Moulin Rouge-esque performances. “Stand up and bear your soul with pride,” resonate the lyrics, as Andrea and Cloud gracefully dance together on the stage, accompanied by funky disco melodies. Aerith chimes in, exclaiming, “Keep it up, Cloud, work it!” The resounding applause from the crowd reinforces the positive reception of Cloud’s participation, and players are rewarded with the Dancing Queen trophy.

    Andrea eloquently states, “True beauty is an expression of the heart—a concept free from shame and impervious to gender norms.”

    This sequence represents Final Fantasy at its most extravagant and whimsical, though Cloud’s subsequent shame at having worn feminine attire somewhat undermines the intended message. Nevertheless, this sequence exemplifies Square Enix’s commitment to modernization. As the company strives to captivate a global audience, it is bound to be assessed according to global standards. Consequently, in terms of LGBTQ+ representation, Square Enix rises to the challenge. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that Harvestella, released by Square Enix last year, became the first game from the studio to include a non-binary gender option.

    In the grand tapestry of Final Fantasy 16, Dion and Terence’s kiss marks the first explicitly LGBTQ+ moment in the series’ illustrious history. Although it lacks the flamboyant spectacle of Andrea’s dance, it possesses a subtlety and human quality that arguably renders it even more potent and impactful. As members of the LGBTQ+ community, we not only possess the ability to revel in festive merriment but also to express love and tenderness.

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