Josie, Pepe and Our Misdirected Nationalism

There is so much rejoicing within the Filipino video gaming community when character Josie Rizal was introduced to Bandai Namco’s insanely popular Tekken series. She will be introduced to the latest installment Tekken 7. She’s introduced by Katsuhiro Harada, Director of the series, with much excitement. We all know how Harada is really close with the Philippine Tekken community and it’s no surprise a Filipino character in vain of Soul Calibur‘s Talim is included in the series.

But then again, there are people who find the character “disrespectful” of the Filipino polymath and reformist. The impact Josie made even reached the National Center for the Culture and the Arts saying that they will “correct any wrong impression” she will create among the public. I don’t mean to be rude to the NCCA, but don’t you think they really don’t have to do anything with the use of our national symbols in producing creative works? I know a friend who created a fictional weapon based on the Philippine flag, and when he filed for copyright, his work was rejected due to “misrepresentation of a national symbol”. This “restrictive stance” is also apparent to casual wear bearing national symbols. I really think is counterproductive in proliferating and educating people about history and patriotism.

I’ve always had the feeling that people direct their “nationalism” the wrong way. Josie Rizal is in no way a representation of Dr. Jose Rizal but a completely new character of her own. So far, she doesn’t represent Rizal as someone fighting baddies in a martial arts tournament, nor she embodies the ideals and thoughts of the First Filipino or represents the Filipino people as a whole. Let’s take a look at Street Fighter‘s Juri Han — she’s Korean, and a villain. Sadistic and sexy. But she doesn’t represent Koreans as a whole — She’s just Juri Han. They’re mere characters created to satisfy the need to represent a people without falling into stereotyping.

Let’s delve more into video game characters represented in video games, then. If you’re familiar with Capcom‘s Sengoku Basara franchise, you’ll know that most characters there are based on historical figures from feudal Japan. Date Masamune, Yukimura Sanada, Oda Nobunaga — the list goes on. And the Japanese, especially the rekijou, welcomed these fictional representations of these brutal shogun and daimyo without having to associate them to the people who’re their namesakes. Another case in point is the representation of world leaders in the visual novel My Girlfriend is the President by Alcot. It has Benedict XVI, Vladimir Putin, and Barack Obama for Pete’s sake. Nobody batted an eye when the game was first released, made a ruckus out of these character and demanded something pretty outrageous, if you still have your sanity intact.

It’s kinda sad that this fake sense of “nationalism” is hampering creative minds to give a country artistic or commercial representation. The very fact that people and the government are not open to such representations is proof that the Filipino is still looking for it’s cultural identity. We can’t be always given the ideal image of a Filipino that’s based upon the textbooks we read, nor we can’t always protest when we feel we’re “misrepresented” by a creator. We should always take into consideration that a mere video game or comic book character will never amount to the history and tradition behind a culture.

You got to admit, though. Beating up an opponent with Josie looks quite fun.

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DISCLAIMER: The piece above doesn’t, in any way, reflect the views of Back2Gaming, it’s editor, other writers and commercial partners. Feature image courtesy of YURIKO TIGER COSPLAY