Recently, I stumbled on Mortal Kombat X by NetherRealm Studios. Initially, I didn’t have an opinion about the game beyond the old school arcade version I played as a kid. I assumed it would be the exact same game, full of mortalities, over-the-top graphic violence, outdated graphics and a healthy dose of poor voice acting. Of which the game certainly doesn’t lack, but the developers didn’t have to stretch too far to create content. I was surprised to find the game offered a lot more than a reflection of the lackluster 90’s film and the arcade game. My husband started playing the story mode and I was shocked to find a hint at an Asian man with a Black woman relationship. Takeda Takahashi, the son of Kenshi and a new character to Mortal Kombat X, attempts to flirt with Jacqui Briggs, the daughter of Jax Briggs and another new character to the franchise. Although Takeda fails in flirting, I was pleased to see this type of relationship appear in a video game. NetherRealm Studios breaking barriers to represent an AMBW relationship in Mortal Kombat X.
As archaic as this sounds, I find the idea of an interracial relationship explored in media is still new. Less than 50 years ago it became legal in every state in the U.S. to marry outside of your race. If you think this is’t a problem take for example:
“Back in 2000, Alabama became the last state in the country to overturn its ban on interracial marriage. And despite more than three decades having passed since the Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional (rendering such bans effectively moot), more than 40 percent of Alabamians still voted against overturning it,” said Aaron Blake of The Washington Post. We’re making progress by displaying all types of interracial relationships but the media and video games could do better. Video games are making huge strides in progressive shifts, such as showing romantic relationships and gay characters in many games. There are, however, many chances in video games, and media alike that are missed opportunities to represent an AWBW relationship.
As a mixed race Black woman married to an Asian man, I find it’s important to display all types of relationships and more importantly a relationship reflecting my own. This is what drew me to Mortal Kombat X and it helped me to look past the flaws of the game. Rather than focusing on the negatives I found a very positive notion in the game’s progressiveness. NeatherRealms is helping to normalize an AMBW relationship by featuring a small blossoming romance between Takeda and Jacqui. The idea of this relationship actually calls for there to be more attention brought to it. Although the media has a long way to go to represent across the board, NetherRealms is taking the helm and guiding other developers to explore beyond partnerships.
Takeda and Jacqui
Takeda and Jacqui are part of Johnny Cage’s team to protect EarthRealm from invading forces. In the first couple of scenes Takeda expresses interest in getting to know Jacqui, she completely blows him off. Takeda is determined to start something with Jacqui despite her rejection. At this point, I was convinced Takeda would chase after Cassie Cage, Luke Cage’s daughter. Many fans felt Takeda should have picked Cassie over Jacqui, and others felt Kung Jin should have been paired with Jacqui. However, Kung Jin is gay which is more or less confirmed by the cinematic director Dominic Cianciolo.
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@bcharred I see people are picking up on the subtle exposition contained in Kung Jin’s flashback. Glad we have observant fans!
— Dominic Cianciolo (@domcianciolo) April 14, 2015
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Thankfully, the writers decided Takeda should pursue Jacqui because it’s important to show the game’s true intention, rather than focus on expected relationships. This presents an opportunity to showcase a rare relationship between an Asian man and a Black woman. The developers are keeping the game authentic by showing real motivations and the reason Takeda choose Jacqui over Cassie; he’s simply attracted to Jacqui and knows what he wants. Over the course of the game, Jacqui slowly begins to fall for Takeda. Maybe it’s the extreme circumstances they are under protecting EarthRealm. Certainly, it’s reasonable to dispute Takeda had his pick between Jacqui and Cassie. He never once during the game made any advances towards Cassie. Again, Takeda had made up his mind as soon as he saw Jacqui there was no one else for him.
Takeda remains at Jacqui’s side and drops hints of his continued interest in her. Their romance begins to bloom during Chapter 11 “Jacqui Briggs.” While the team is grounded in a forest Takeda suggests this would be a perfect night to go on a moonlit walk however due to the circumstances (one of the antagonists hunting the team) it wouldn’t be a good idea. Jacqui expresses she had no idea Takeda was an outdoorsy kind of guy, yet she would like to go on a walk with him after their mission. A sweet moment passes between the two of them before Cassie and Kung Jin interrupts the moment. Reptile ambushes Jacqui, and Takeda attempts to rescue her, which results in him being, blinded by, Reptile’s poison and he falls to the ground. Jacqui battles with Reptile to reach Takeda. She pours water in his eyes to wash out the poison, and Takeda calls her beautiful. At this point, the romance unfolds albeit slowly. Who has time to fall in love when the world is falling apart? I think the manner in which the developers handled their slow romance makes it more interesting and leaves a lot of questions about them. Additionally, in arcade mode when the pair is pitted against each other, they banter about their relationship. If this isn’t the developer almost screaming they are a couple I don’t know what is. And I love it.
Skip to 6:45 to see the banter between Takeda and Jacqui.
I appreciate their relationship is allowed to grow naturally. It’s not over the top and pushed in your face. Takeda and Jacqui’s relationship pales in comparison to the four or five hours in which story mode lasts. As a matter of fact, Takeda and Jacqui never share a kiss during the game. But it’s not important that they didn’t kiss; rather it’s important the developers displayed an uncommon relationship. AWMB relationships are generally on the rare side, to begin with, in media, it’s almost non-existent. There are games that show AMBW partnerships; but never romances. BioWare’s Mass Effect comics showed a partnership between Maya Brooks and arguably, one of the most hated characters in the Mass Effect universe Kai Ling. There are, however, plenty of implied AWBW in movies and TV such as Ninja Assassin, Romeo Must Die, Flash Forward. However, Into the Badlands is one of the few shows in which this kind of relationship is not implied but, loud and proud for the viewer, just not the characters. Hell, NetherRealms even implied another AMBW relationship/partnership in Mortal Kombat X between Tanya and Rain. Although it never truly pans out, due to Rain losing his usefulness to Tanya at the end of her story mode. For a relationship not very common to begin with it is really important to display a healthy version of an AMBW relationship in media and video games. It only helps to promote the reality an AMBW relationship is real.
Times are changing.
At the end of the day video games and the media are slowly becoming more and more diverse. I for one am more than happy to see relationships like my own reflected in the media. We still have a long way to go before representation in the media to the public is actually normal, but when developers like NetherRealms take a different road and show how accepting and progressive they are about interracial relationships, all I can do is applaud them. I hope NetherRealm continues to flesh out Takeda and Jacqui’s relationship in future games. It also makes me eager to check out their future games.