Games

'League of Legends' Rek'Sai Isn't a Dude, Dude

Rek'Sai from League of Legends (Riot Games, 2014)

Sexuality is an important part of monstrosity, and League of Legends breaks with its traditional depiction of female monsters with this beast.

Biologically speaking, it seems that there is no essential difference between the genders among pac-people. Both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man share an identical body type. It is only markers worn by Ms. Pac-Man that signal the gender difference between the two, her bow and lipstick (well, there is also her mole, which may or may not be painted on a la Marilyn Monroe).

In this regard, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man share something in common with the typical silhouettes that represent the distinction between the men's restroom and the women's restroom. These individuals share an identical body type with only the female silhouette differentiated from the unadorned male silhouette by her triangular skirt.

Of course, none of these observations actually relate in any way to biology. Instead, the function of adornment as a marker of gender and the lack of adornment likewise being curiously marked by gender both presuppose an identification of the silhouette of humans and pac-people as (by default) male. In other words, the gender signification in Pac-Man tells us more about how people respond to identifications of gender and assumptions that are culturally shared about what the “default” body of a species must be in terms of its gender when it is unmarked. It seems that people assume that when stripped of any identifying biological or cultural emblems the human body is male. Frankly, they often do so with animals without obvious gender markings (like dogs as opposed to, say, lions) as well.

Such an assumption may in part explain the strange phenomenon of the monstrous new League of Legends champion pictured above, the creature known as Rek'Sai. Rek'Sai is female. After her release last December in one of the first few games that I played of League of Legends in which a player took on the role of Rek'Sai, many of my teammates were referring to Rek'Sai as “he” or “him”, including myself. Another player who identified herself as female complained about the use of the masculine pronoun in regards to the new champion, reminding us that “Just because she's a monster doesn't mean that she's not a girl.”

Cassiopeia from League of Legends (Riot Games, 2010)

I certainly understood her irritation with us, as when Rek'Sai was first announced as a new champion, I was pretty excited by the choices made in her character design. Among its various character types, knights, pirates, and ninjas, League of Legends certainly also features monsters as characters, including female monsters. However, League of Legends's female monsters fall into a common western tradition of being monstrous but still obviously female, frequently because their sexuality is an important part of their monstrosity. From the Bride of Frankenstein to the brides of Dracula, from mermaids and sirens to Medusa, biologically or emblematically marking monsters in obvious ways as “feminine” is common in art, literature, and cinema, as is the tendency to see female monsters largely as seductive in nature. Indeed, the half-snake, half-human Cassiopeia in League of Legends is based, for example on the tradition of the Lamia, the seductive and child eating snake woman of Greek mythology.

As I said, I was excited about this variation in the standard monstrous female, whose identity was not connected so closely to her sexuality, while her body seemingly defied standard gender identifiers, since she is simply monstrous and grotesque, nothing more. I was irritated with myself that once Rek'Sai had been launched into the world of League of Legends that I suddenly defaulted to calling this monster a “he”. I had quickly forgotten because she “doesn't look it” that she was female because (it would seem) I have grown up with male and female silhouettes on bathroom doors and Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man . I clearly default to the assumption a body is male unless otherwise marked.

I sort of feel especially guilty about this because I have two female dogs, and I often get annoyed when people meet them for the first time and refer to each of them as “he” or “him” and even continue to do so when politely corrected. Their identity as female seems somehow important to me as a part of their person and personality.

Cho'Gath from League of Legends (Riot Games, 2009)

League of Legends does contain monsters similar to Rek'Sai, whose gender should probably not be easily identifiable at a glance, like the insectoid creature Cho'Gath or the slug-like Kog'Maw, yet I presume the monstrous, the ugly, and the grotesque to somehow be, like a lack of adornment or emblem, a “masculine look.”

Now that Rek'Sai has been around for a couple of months, I have heard her more and more often referred to as “she”, and indeed, I believe that I have grown accustomed to “seeing” her that way myself. Following enough correction and familiarity with the character, most League of Legends players seem to have gotten into their heads that this hulking creature is female. However, at least for me, it took a little training to do so and a need to consciously think about what I was looking at and how I should identify it accurately, a curious little lesson in semiotics previously only considered while at the bathroom door.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.