Trojan Horse Narratives: Sneaking in Queer Stories

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Abstract:

This session will discuss the use of “Trojan Horse” narratives to represent queer characters in mainstream media with specific attention to video games. A Trojan Horse narrative is the practice of defining conventional protagonists who are used to “sneak in” less conventional types of characters or storylines, for example queer stories getting told through a heteronormative protagonist’s relationship with a queer friend or family member. Although this term was coined by Jenji Kohan in reference to introducing story arcs on being, queer, Black, Latina, or in extreme poverty in Orange Is The New Black, it can be seen in a number of contemporary video games ranging from indies such as Gone Home to big-budget releases such as Fallout: New Vegas. Specifically, this session will seek to answer:

  • What is the Trojan Horse structure?
  • When can this approach be used to positively represent queer characters and stories (and those of other groups often excluded from mainstream representation)?
  • What are the pitfalls of the Trojan Horse structure, such as allowing representation to devolve into tokenism, and how can they be avoided?
  • How can we as game makers, game consumers, and game critics recognize and meaningfully discuss queer Trojan Horse narratives?

Trojan Horse narratives will also be discussed with special attention to issues of representation as allyhood, and the folly of erroneously equating media consumption with experiential understanding. As Anna Anthropy succinctly put it, audiences must not be “eager to use games as a shortcut…to feel like they’ve done the work and excuse themselves from further educating themselves”.

 

Bio:

Klew WilliamsKlew Williams is a master’s candidate and Research Assistant at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her focus is on interactive art, wearable technology, and delivering educational content in novel ways. Before returning to school, Klew worked for five years as a Product Manager, Project Manager and Software Designer in Denver, CO, where she was an internationally competitive bare knuckle fighter and karate instructor. She enjoys painting, gaming, and getting outdoors.

Twitter: @Klewachu