Despite Atlus’ efforts to change certain scenes in Persona 5 Royal after receiving complaints of homophobia regarding the original release, their efforts have failed to satisfy video game news outlet Polygon, who continue to claim that “the core issues remain.”
The original release of Persona 5 features a pair of scenes between Ryuji Sakatomo and two homosexual men, wherein the men make advances towards the young man which cause him to grow increasingly uncomfortable.
Upon the game’s Western release, the game received a fair amount of backlash from social activists who believed the scenes to be homophobic. One source of criticism was Polygon, who noted in their review of the original release that “examples of queer characterization are there as a terrible joke” and considered these missteps to be “a complete breakdown, a hamfisted misunderstanding of the values and diversity of a younger generation.”
With the release of the updated Persona 5 Royal, Atlus altered the dialogue in these scenes in response to these criticisms. Rather than making Ryuji uncomfortable by hitting on him, the two men now make him uncomfortable by attempting to forcefully persuade him into participating in ‘drag’ culture.
Unfortunately for Atlus, their efforts appear to have been less than successful.
Joining members of the forum NeoGAF in their dissatisfaction with the alterations, Polygon recently published an article titled “Atlus tried, and failed, to fix Persona 5’s most controversial scene” wherein author Laura Kate Dale , the former Kotaku author who once bizarrely claimed that the theme of Persona 5 prominently featured a slur against disabled people, asserts that “the edited version doesn’t fix the primary problem with the premise.”
“While Ryuji no longer explicitly says “lemme go,” the scene still implies that the men abduct him to go try on women’s clothing — something he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t feel comfortable doing. They ignore his lack of consent, and overpower him.
The punchline is now “isn’t it funny that these gay men made a boy wear women’s clothes, despite the fact that they were clearly making him uncomfortable,” instead of the previous joke that was based on the punchline of “isn’t the implied implied threat of sexual assault, or even rape, hilarious?”
Is the scene slightly less graphic in its implications? Sure. Does that make it any better of a situation? Not really. The game gains nothing from this joke, and the edited version doesn’t fix the primary problem with the premise: Two older men ignore a teenager’s pleas to be left alone, and force him to do something he doesn’t want to do. The setup is different, but the results are pretty much the same. LGBT people don’t respect your boundaries, the game implies, and will force their desires on your unwilling kids.
And that’s an idea that has caused many people actual pain in the real world.”
According to the article, it appears that most of Dale’s issues with the scene stem from her own personal experiences of being transgender, as she spends the rest of the article relating the scene to the extreme position that “LGBT people shouldn’t be around children, and that children shouldn’t be taught LGBT people exist, because it will cause them to be tricked into becoming LGBT themselves.”
“When I first came out as trans to my parents, they wanted to know everything about every person I was talking to regarding my transition. Was my therapist gay or trans? Could they be pressuring me into transition because it’s what they thought was right for me, not because I actually wanted it? Did I come out to friends who were LGBT? Did they think it was cool that I had come out as trans? Could trying to fit in with expectations of others have been the cause for me being trans?
My parents were desperately looking around for an LGBT person who had entered my life and tricked me into thinking I was trans, because that would be a solvable situation. It would be easier to address than the reality: that I was actually trans, and had come to that understanding of myself without outside influence.
Those fears are common. I’m not the only LGBT person with a family who assumed that part of my identity was forced upon me. It’s used as a way to discredit someone’s lived experience. It’s used by society to handwave away our fights for rights, because we’re not really suffering; we just want to “seem cool” or “fit in.” It’s used to suggest that LGBT people shouldn’t be around children, and that children shouldn’t be taught LGBT people exist, because it will cause them to be tricked into becoming LGBT themselves.”
In spite of these personal issues, Dale described the game as “stylish, full of things to do, and still one of the most interesting JRPGs of this console generation” in her official review for Polygon.