No Room for Mii in the Dollhouse
I had this Madeline-themed dollhouse as a kid that I really didn’t like all that much. It came with a few dolls, Madeline and her friends, who were all pretty much the same except for their hair. You were supposed to roleplay as these little girls, picking them up and reenacting their adventures from the books.
“Choose the girl you like the most,” said my sister, “and pretend she’s you!”
But the very idea of “playing as a girl” left me anxious and distressed, years before I would understand why. I shoved Madeline back into the toybox and moved on. There was no room for me in the dollhouse.
Ten years later, I picked up Tomodachi Life for the Nintendo 3DS. The player creates Miis based on anyone they wish (real people, anime characters, anybody), and cares for them inside their digital apartment. The Miis are largely autonomous, so players mostly stand back and watch them make their own choices, getting in fistfights with other Miis, or crying alone on the floor.
I was 19 years old, just beginning to question my self-identity. A stress-free Mii ant farm without rigid, defined characters to roleplay felt perfect for me. I had the chance to make a doll of my own. Surely there was room for me in this dollhouse.
But I quickly realised that I couldn’t actually make a Mii of myself. Try as I might, I couldn’t make a Mii Saph who’d flirt with Captain Falcon or Vegeta next door. I couldn’t get either of them to proposition my Mii, either, which is a shame because I am terribly cute.
Tomodachi Life’s lack of same-sex relationships upset me, considering the end-goal is for the Miis to marry and have kids (a restrictive set of goals in its own right!). I eventually vented my frustrations online, and some Redditors presented me with a “workaround.”
“Just make your Mii a girl so it can fuck guys.”
It was barely a solution. Hell, it might have been more harmful to me than my original problem. My Mii could either kiss Ganondorf or wear a suit to their wedding, but he wasn’t allowed to do both. He was forbidden from visiting the beach shirtless while going on his date with Falco Lombardi. The game labeled my Mii with a pink, skirt-shaped marker, and getting rid of it meant sacrificing both our integral identities.
Rap battles with Reggie Fils-Aimé and theatre dates with Hank Hill were within perfect reason for Tomodachi Life, but a gay transgender Mii was just too far.
The game left me with the familiar distress once brought on by Madeline’s dollhouse. There was no relief in Tomodachi Life for me. The humorous, often absurd roleplay fantasies at the core of this game were only fully available to cisgender, heterosexual players, quietly excluding everyone else. It was fundamentally impossible for the game to reflect my own self.
There was no room for me in the dollhouse. Sometimes I wonder if there ever will be. ◒