It’s amusing to me to watch American video game journalism outfits dance around labeling Twintelle—the new fan-favorite character found in the upcoming Arms game from Nintendo—as black. After all, it seems as if Nintendo’s development and marketing teams took great care to ensure that American audiences would identify the character as such. The character comes equipped with a handful of well-known “soft” stereotypes regarding black American and Caribbean women. There’s the curvaceous build with an emphasis on the character’s ample ass and thighs. There’s the dark skin tone. There’s the unique name with a randomly attached French suffix or prefix. There’s the incredulous tea sipping pulled directly from slang and memes originated by black women and black gay men. And finally there’s the oversized jewelry—those are damn near doorknockers, folks—curly, colorful hair, and skin-tight attire taken straight from your average Instagram baddie or cookout-attending cousin. I’d be annoyed by the blatant pandering if the character wasn’t so recognizable—and adorable.
My God, is the character adorable! I’m so mad.
I’m sure for East Asian audiences Twintelle has a different name and is considered a young Japanese star enamored by and participating in a Ganguro renaissance (which apparently entails dressing like you escaped from a Bad Boy video circa 1997). And that is just fine, absolutely correct, and a clear example of Nintendo’s marketing savvy that the company can create such mutable characters that blend seamlessly into multiple subcultures and ethnicities.
I’m certainly not one to label every dark-skinned character appearing in an East Asian animation or video game as black. In fact, I’d argue that a sizable number are actually meant to be read as dark-skinned Asians or Pacific Islanders by Asian audiences and American audiences. But there are simply too many context clues regarding Twintelle to believe that Nintendo had zero designs on tapping into the brand loyalty and overwhelming support that black audiences provide when approached with positive representation. Black individuals are recognizing themselves in Twintelle because that is exactly what I believe Nintendo wanted to occur. His mama named him Clay, I’mma call him Clay.
What is sadly familiar is the backlash from those who profess to be “beyond” race but seem determined to squelch the joy of any black girl or woman who sees a link between a positive image in the media and her own blackness. The response is repetitive, intrusive, and shows that said individuals are not the impartial observers they claim to be, but are very much the product of centuries of successful anti-black propaganda. Were this not the case, identifying blackness in something that is considered good by the masses would not trouble them so. For them, blackness is to be emphasized and reserved for criminal suspects and objects of ridicule alone.
Ignore them. Celebrate. Embrace every pleasant surprise in the media you find. And brush up on those combos before June 16.