Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Elden Ring drops the ball for queer men

As noted by Sam Greer, Elden Ring has made some strides when it comes to depicting romantic/intimate relationships between women. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for how the game deals with queer men. The one man who’s as close to being explicitly queer as Elden Ring gets is Mohg, Lord of Blood. As you can infer from the name, he’s one of the world’s more nefarious figures, and he conforms to pretty much every negative stereotype about gay men out there. 

In the lore of Elden Ring, Mohg is one of Marika and Godfrey’s children, twin to Morgott the Omen King. As Omens, these boys were seen as cursed due to their horns and lack of grace, and were hidden away in the sewers beneath the capital. It’s a pretty queer story right off the bat, huh? Like many real-life queer people, Mohg was seen as monstrous or wrong for the way he was born, and was kept as a dirty little secret to preserve his prestigious parents’ honor. 

Mohg’s gay dynasty will be built in blood

Things only get more stereotypical as Mohg’s story continues. After encountering an Outer God called the Formless Mother who showed him the power of his cursed blood, Mohg fully leaned into debauchery and sought to create his own dynasty from a sea of blood. To accomplish this, he went to the Haligtree (the demigod Miquella’s version of the divine Erdtree, grown with his own blood) and removed his half brother from his cocoon within. He wanted to use Miquella’s status as an empyrean and potential heir to Marika’s godhood as the foundation for the Mohgwyn dynasty. By becoming Miquella’s consort, Mohg would be Elden Lord as his father Godfrey had once been, and would be able to rule the Lands Between as he saw fit. 

Unfortunately for Mohg, this scheme was perpetually on hold up until his encounter with the player’s Tarnished, because despite his best efforts to rouse the sleeping empyrean, Miquella never woke up and could therefore never take Mohg as his consort. As Sam notes in her piece, the notion of being consort to an empyrean is “quite explicitly about fulfilling the roles and rituals of the world around them in the pursuit of other ends,” rather than a romantic role. But Mohg is depicted as being tender with Miquella, gently gripping the hand extended from the cocoon and pressing his forehead against it. He addresses the slumbering empyrean as “Dearest Miquella” and says that he “must abide alone a while,” while Mohg fights the player’s Tarnished to the death.

Miquella sleeps through his kidnapping and imprisonment

On its own, this tenderness might be a somewhat sweet depiction of intimacy between men, but Mohg is not a sweet man. Miquella is not his forbidden lover, he’s Mohg’s kidnapped prisoner. The only reason we don’t see any resistance from the empyrean is because he’s still dead to the world inside his cocoon. Mohg’s monstrous, incestuous love is one-sided, leaving Miquella in his pure (unalloyed, anyone?) state. We see the nastier side of Mohg’s infatuation with Miquella on display when Mohg defeats the player in his sanctum of blood. “Miquella is mine, and mine alone,” he says after having killed you to protect the empyrean from being found.

FromSoft managed to make Mohg’s devotion to Miquella even creepier with the lore tidbit that, due to his curse from being born of one god, Miquella is eternally a child. Though he was working to break this curse and that of his sister Malenia using the Haligtree, by the time the player’s Tarnished comes around the empyrean has already failed and retreated from the world. Despite Miquella’s actual age and power amongst the demigods, he is still a child when we meet Mohg, and would have been when the Omen originally stole him from the Haligtree.

A grown man being obsessed with a child is disturbing on its own, but it feels even more sinister in a moment where anti-trans and gay rhetoric and legislation are rapidly on the rise again. There’s nothing wrong with having complicated or morally reprehensible queer characters in media, but it doesn’t feel great to see the one clearly queer coded man in one of 2022’s best-selling games engage in pedophilic longing in a time where queer people are once again accused of being pedophiles and groomers by conservatives – some to the point of threatening and enacting violence on perceived groomers (read: anyone not in support of anti-LGBTQ legislation). 

Queer people are not a monolith, but Elden Ring’s depiction of Mohg reduces men who love men to the worst stereotypes out there, ones that are having dangerous ramifications in our everyday lives. FromSoft’s relationship with queer and trans stories has always been fraught, but Mohg is definitely a step in the wrong direction.

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