I’m no stranger to Guilty Gear or the yo-yo wielding Bridget: I cut my teeth on the character’s debut game, Guilty GearXX, and I’ve seen both the unorthodox zoning and the particular internet notoriety garnered by Bridget’s feminine appearance and association with a certain term that implies an element of deception. I’m also one of the many surprised by Bridget’s return in the current Guilty Gear STRIVE—doubly so at the reveal that Bridget has gone from identifying as a boy (albeit one raised as a girl for superstitious reasons) to being a trans girl. Honestly, I never thought the games would make this decision, even accounting for the fact that another fighter, Testament, is nonbinary in STRIVE.
However, the biggest shock of all to me was seeing some of the more negative reactions to Bridget’s loudly declaring herself to be a girl, specifically coming from a 4chan-derived crowd who worshiped Bridget as a “femboy” while simultaneously engaging in transphobic behavior. To them, Bridget being trans is a deep betrayal, or as one person summarized it, “their 9/11.”
I’ll be upfront in saying that I don’t really have an “interest” in Bridget, so this is not that type of personal matter to me. However, having seen the “Bridget worship” from all the way back in the day, I had always chalked up the caustic behavior of certain fans as a bit of self-deprecation mixed with slowly discovering their sexuality in a way that was psychically acceptable. While I never thought that being into Bridget automatically made you gay (attraction and sexuality are far more complex than that), I had assumed these people would like to see Bridget happy regardless no matter what decision she made—and even then, the art of her wouldn’t have to substantially change. What I failed to take into account was the fact that bigoted fetishism is a thing, and that by extension, some use “femboy attraction” as a form of identity politics to rally against “wokeness.”
That was an oversight on my part. I know full well how fetishizing a group can risk dehumanizing them (though that’s not to say fetishes are inherently wrong). It also needs to be acknowledged that Bridget is a purely fictional character, which changes the dynamic compared to a real person. It does make me wonder, however, if affirming Bridget’s trans identity is somehow a breach of that plausible deniability that some had used to keep their contradictory beliefs afloat.
One thing I do worry about is how the politics of grievance seem to turn everything into a culture war, and that Bridget is going to be another front for harassment to occur, if it hasn’t happened already. Kudos to Arc System Works for being willing to take this risk, though. When it comes to updating their characters—be they straight, gay, cis, or trans, or anything else—Guilty Gear is unmatched.