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13 December 2009 @ 05:43 pm
my interpretation of Naoto [read at your own risk)  
So, it's pretty common knowledge that I'm unhappy with the "general fandom perception" of Naoto Shirogane, as well as how the game handles hir for the most part after the "big reveal." But where I tend to have trouble articulating is how I personally interpret Naoto as a character.

So I finally hammered out my personal interpretation of the character (it is canon-plausible, but I don't believe it to be 100% canon; there's plenty of room for ambiguity in P4, as well all know.) It's mostly for my own writing of Naoto for RP and fanfiction, rather than to assert an opinion over anyone else.

And please keep in mind that I may have an empathy bias. Since I'm trans, I like to think I understand the issues at hand a bit better than the fandom layperson, but at the same time I realize that I'm not Naoto Shirogane and therefore do not have the ultimate say on Naoto's personal thoughts and gender identity.

So, without further ado.

What Naoto's shadow was centered around was a bit clouded by the dialogue in the scenes both before and after. He wanted to be respected as an adult, but lacked that respect, due to being a teenager. There was also the issue of being biologically female, which all of his issues truly centered around. His self-image was shaped strongly by his desire to be a detective, which grew both from the family business and his love for reading detective novels. And so he wanted to be like these detectives in every way, including being male like them. He internalized this, and it became part of his identity. At his age, it was easy enough to "pass" as male by dressing and acting the right way. It was his persona, and one he was perfectly comfortable with.

His shadow therefore did not come from a desire to be able to live as female and not "live a lie" yet be a detective in a male-oriented society. Interpreting it that way is taking the easy way out on Naoto's characterization. It rather came from insecurity over the instability and denial surrounding Naoto's status as a biological female living as a young male detective. In his current body, he'd soon lose the ability to consistently pass: his height and voice are those of a male child, not a male adult. Once he reaches a certain age, his disguise is no longer convincing. Either way, he'd never get the respect adults command. But Naoto was "living a lie" in a way: if he just ignored the femaleness, it'd go away. There was no need for surgery or hormones, since those are only for those who acknowledge that they were biologically female in the first place. The first step to solving the problem is admitting you have it, and Naoto was unwilling to admit anything. After all, seeking a permanent solution would blow his temporary cover.

This makes the Shadow's desire to perform SRS on Naoto's physical body all the more logical. His Shadow craved respect, and had no qualms about revealing all in order to get the permanent solution it needed. It was up-front about how it wanted a male body rather than uncomfortably pretending it already had one, and felt free to humiliate the "real" Naoto in the process. Manic complaints and cruel honesty were preferable to stuffy denial. The one hitch is that he says that there's no way for him to become a man: this seems to show a lack of information rather than willingness. He didn't do his research (and neither did ATLUS, apparently.)

So this brings us to Naoto's "acceptance" of the Shadow. The way he spoke to the group, it seemed as though he accepted that he was female and that he'd go on living life anyways. As a girl. But other than his peers referring to him hesitantly as a "her," there's no evidence that there was a change at all. He lived and acted the exact same way as before: as a boy. (We are going to ignore that one thing on the dating path with Souji. It is a horrible can of worms that I'm not opening right now.) This indicates that what Naoto "accepted" was more complex than just "oh I'm a girl now." Rather, he ended his denial about the physical state of his body, allowing for progress to be made. He's comfortable "being" male, but now doesn't have to lie to himself about how there's a need for progress.

Therefore, Naoto is in a state where he's "out" as a transmale but still consistently passes, and is ready (with a little extracurricular research) to go on to the next step in becoming the man he wants to be.
Current Mood: pensivepensive
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a crafty trilobite: Harmlessansemaru on December 14th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC)
That's precisely how I feel. It could be that P4 really is sending the wrong message, but I will never interpret it that way.
a crafty trilobite: bawwwwcelotansemaru on December 14th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
I'm not sure what's so wrong with it, but apparently a large number of P4 fans were willing to come out of the woodwork to say I was wrong the last time I expressed it.
paperclipchainspaperclipchains on December 14th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
To be fair, BB, you were pretty inflammatory about it last time and implicitly suggested everyone who disagreed with you was just fapping.
a crafty trilobiteansemaru on December 14th, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
Point taken. I said one thing that I ought not to have, and it ruined my entire point for intelligent discussion.
_dahne_ on December 14th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)
This is really interesting to read. I never did get through all of Naoto's social link, cause by the time I got my Courage up enough to talk to her (I do see her as female in a way, will explain in a second) it was near the end of the game. I got the feeling it would piss me off a lot, too. I lot of the dialogue options really bugged me, like telling her to talk more like a girl. It seemed like the moral of the story was going to be "you're stuck as a girl so act and talk like it's socially accepted girls are 'supposed' to, you'll be happier that way." Which, arrrgh.

The way I'd like to see it is she didn't identify as male so much as present that way for the sake of getting respect and not having to deal with being a girl who didn't fit the traditional definition. Less wanting to be male, and more not wanting to deal with the crap you get from being female, if that makes any sense. I'd rather the moral be "it's oaky to be a girl who isn't girly, dress and talk and act like whatever you goddamn want to and screw anybody who disrespects you for it." But that's probably a lot of projection on my part.

So what is that "one thing on the dating path", anyway?
a crafty trilobite: scissors61ansemaru on December 14th, 2009 02:45 am (UTC)
I agree that the dialogue options were nearly always terrible. Unfortunately, I had to go through a fair portion of Naoto's social link, since I was playing with my sister. (She, for some reason, is far more gung-ho about dating all possible girls in video games.)

Your interpretation is entirely valid, too. It's one of those things that definitely works with the character without being horrible. I think any player is bound to project on certain characters, and that's totally cool.

There's a thing where MC-kun's direct dialogue options can pressure Naoto into wearing the girls' uniform and talking in a higher voice, because his/her normal mannerisms are "weird." It's just all kinds of awful, and a good portion of the fandom thinks it's "cute."
a crafty trilobite: CHRISTMAS HAS CHANGEDansemaru on December 14th, 2009 05:12 pm (UTC)
Er, the higher voice is specifically in the US translation; in the original, it concerns the pronouns Naoto uses. Thinking it's weird to use boku and all.
Katauragirl on December 15th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
chiming in here to say I agree 100% with you - basically seconding all mumu said.

What makes me sad and sick though is I "know" it's not canon in the sense that, because of what I know about Japanese society and what I can assume about the game designers, I know they would be like LOL WHAT HAHAHAHA if they were told something like this, because the prevalent social mores would dictate that the only suitable narrative arc for Naoto IS that "she realizes she's a girl and didn't really want to be a boy/just wants a maaaan/to be told she's cute/wear an apron/make you bento with hearts in it"

It makes me want to puke and makes me so sad, so I much prefer your take on it and that's the way I like to see Naoto written/rped. In the actual game I just wince and grind my teeth whenever they start making things awful for him...

I really love P4, but at the same time while there are parts of it that are amazingly progressive, so much of it is one step forward, ten steps back. I'd pretty much sum up the game's philosophical/social problems as "this game shows you that people are unhappy in life if they feel they don't have a choice about what they do with their lives....but once they have a choice, they can CHOOSE to do what everyone expects from them, and find true happiness by conforming"
a crafty trilobite: bawwwwcelotansemaru on December 15th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh Japan.

It's sad. I know I can interpret this as much as I want, but... it's never going to be the case that the original creators thought this through.

Still, Naoto was almost a step in the right direction. There was clearly more thought behind him than the average "reverse trap," and the creators seemed to be at least kinda aware of transgenderism.