Photo by Sharon Roth
Fans of Captain Rainbow no longer have to wait for new content. The long-awaited sequel, Captain Rainbow: Trans-formed, is coming to Switch this Fall.
Last time you saw our hero was in the 2008 Wii title Captain Rainbow, released only in Japan and Korea because it was a totally unproblematic smash hit. Most American fans know Birdetta by her deadname, Birdo, despite the description in the Super Mario Bros 2 English player handbook published in 1988 that says: “He thinks he is a girl … He’d rather be called ‘Birdetta.’”
The first installment of Captain Rainbow featured a quest line involving Birdetta that was criticized by fans as “woefully ignorant” of trans issues and “completely tone deaf.” In it, Birdetta is arrested for trying to use the women’s bathroom, and the player’s main objective is to get her out of prison by finding evidence in her home to prove she is actually a woman. One of the key pieces of evidence is a censored object found underneath her bedroom pillow, which most players interpreted as being a vibrator or dildo. This evidence is accepted by the police as completely conclusive evidence that Birdetta must be a woman.
In response to backlash from trans fans, Nintendo released an apology regarding the content of the original game. “We realize now that a storyline involving a character ‘proving’ their gender identity is inherently problematic. Here at Nintendo, we want to represent real people, and their real problems. We hope this installment of the Captain Rainbow franchise will be more amenable to trans fans everywhere. We pinkie-promise this is not a PR stunt.”
In the latest installment, Birdetta is placed front and center as she wrestles with the dissonance between her gender identity and her family values. Titular protagonist Captain Rainbow aids her in getting access to “lifesaving” conversion therapy to help her “live a healthy, cisgender life as a man.” Creative lead and story development head Minh Tendo is excited to see what fans think of his bold storytelling direction. “Gender identity and sexual orientation aren’t topics we typically tackle in our games here at Nintendo. I want to change that. I hope that transgender kids around the world can see themselves in Birdo, and be assured that we support them unwaveringly in their rightly-founded desire to appear as the gender they were assigned at birth — regardless of the immense physical and mental toll of seeking the pure cisgender life.”
When asked about her revolutionary storyline and her significant role in the game, Birdetta replied, “I don’t care that I am the main supporting character in this new game, it’s for all the wrong reasons. This is a gross representation of me and my experiences. You know trans people existed back in 1988, right? Stop saying I am of ‘indeterminate gender,’ or ‘gender confused.’ I am a trans woman. Stop trying to do something about it and just let me play tennis with Mario in peace!”
On the subject of representation, Nintendo commented, “We hope Captain Rainbow: Trans-formed helps trans kids realize that they are, in fact, confused without us needing to make any effort to produce a more nuanced narrative. We have a trans character! That’s good right? He — I mean she, sorry. He just happens to be a cisgender man, too. We’re progressive. It might take some getting used to for American audiences to refer to him as a man, but it’s about time somebody let them know that a queer character has been shoved in their face for decades without them even knowing. It’s about time Americans started thinking about their Mario Kart main’s genitals.”
Nintendo hopes that the value and intrigue of the token character will bolster sales and international reception.
Kaz Nuckowski is a Copy Editor for the Muir Quarterly. They are usually found in Half Dome laughing and encouraging students to share their wit or giving their own suggestions to make everyone else laugh. Never doubt Kaz and their skills because they will surprise you, especially when the spread has a comic open and they are feeling inspired!