Anything fictional is likely to have certain tropes, a common theme or device that may sometimes be overused but not always. The website TV Tropes exists primarily to catalog the billionty-trillion things that show up regularly enough in fiction to warrant being called a trope.
In the video game Overwatch, there are numerous characters you can play, and most of them fall into at least one trope category, if not more.
With one new character, however, it’s apparently a problem.
Regardless of how we perceive characters, black stereotypes extensively permeate media. From the Black Dude Dies First to the Black and Nerdy to the Sassy Black Woman, and everything in between, on-screen portrayals of black characters lean heavily on tropes that have been ingrained in media since its birth. Abhorrently disgusting and inherently wrong, these spurious portrayals paint black people in ways that are not reflective of the population. It’s discrimination feigned as fiction that was initially meant to reinforce that African/African-American/black is both inferior and other. Although entertainment media—films, games, music, novels, etc.—have gotten better at depicting people as complex, nuanced individuals in recent years, it is still evident many struggle with what the hell to do with black characters. Unfortunately, though Blizzard has succeeded in the past (re: Overwatch’s lesbian character, Tracer), with its latest character the company stumbled, creating nothing but a talking, punching, walking stereotype. Doomfist, Overwatch’s latest character (or villain, to be more precise), is the epitome of creation confusion, as he is just about every black stereotype thrown together.
First impressions are hard to overcome, and the impression Doomfist leaves is not a good one. Based on design and lore, Doomfist—real name Akande Ogundimu—falls into quite a few different stereotypical categories. According to TV Tropes’ Black Index, Doomfist can fit perfectly into the African Terrorists, Angry Man, Bald Black Leader Guy, Blaxploitation, and Scary Black Man molds.
Now is an important moment for this writer. You see, this is the moment where I inform him that “trope” does not necessarily equal “stereotype.”
After all, let’s look at what’s listed in the above as “Angry Man,” but is called “Angry Black Man” on TV Tropes’ site. Sounds bad…until you realize that, according to the site’s White Index (yep, they have one too), there’s a trope titled “Angry White Man.” In other words, people get angry often enough in fiction that they have become tropes.
None of these are stereotypes for one simple reason: No one generalizes the entire race into being any of these things. That’s what a stereotype is, a generalization over an entire group.
But, let’s say that the more tropes a black character meets, the more racist the show. What does that say about the Netflix show Dear White People? There’s a long list of tropes for the show, most dealing with the black characters. Using this writer’s logic, that means Dear White People is racist against the black community.
Except, it’s not.
And neither is Overwatch. While I can get people being bothered by the second black character in the game being, basically, a villain, it’s ridiculous to cite tropes as evidence of racism. Yes, Doomfist is apparently an African terrorist, but guess what Africa happens to have a lot of? Terrorists. Yes, he’s bald, but let’s be honest here. Black men tend to look better bald than white guys do. Blaxploitation? Dude, Shaft is the only person I’d put in a room with John Wick and expect to survive.
— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) July 18, 2017
I’m not saying a case can’t be made that Doomfist meets stereotypes. After all, he’s a criminal — something I heard associated with black people for much of my early life in the Deep South. That could be a legitimate gripe.
But that’s not what happened, and bad arguments deserve to be smacked down hard. Doomfist hard.