This post has nothing to do with game mechanics. I will be talking about political and social stuff like this from time to time (I did, after all, mention the real world in the site's subtitle). If that bugs you, well, you were warned.
When Apple Cider Mage first brought up the Ji Firepaw thing, my first instinctive reaction was: "What? People flirt. A lot of guys will flirt with women, even upon first meeting them. Most of these same guys will not flirt with men. This behavior may often come off as creepy, but it does happen, and why should fiction present a world that is better than, or even as good as, the real world?"
And then I remembered what a whole lot of Christians in Cranston, RI had been saying to Jessica Ahlquist, who fought to have an unconstitutional Christian prayer banner removed from a public school: that it shouldn't bother her. That if it did bother her, she should just avoid looking at it. That it didn't matter if it bothered her, because it didn't bother them. That the fact that it bothered her meant there was something wrong with her. (All of this squeezed in between the numerous threats of rape and murder, mind you.)
And then I remembered the post "Shut Up and Listen" on John Scalzi's "Whatever" blog.
I was not OK with what Cranston Christians were telling Jessica Ahlquist, but had very nearly put a stamp of approval on the same kind of thinking regarding Apple Cider Mage's opinion of Ji's dialogue. Why? Because as an atheist, I can see religious privilege looming over US society as big and obvious as a sky full of particularly malignant storm clouds, and it pisses me off, but spotting my own privilege as a dude is like asking a fish to identify that substance it's swimming in. "Water?" asks the fish. "What's water? What's swimming? I'm just doing what everyone does here. I don't understand why you're flailing around and gasping. What's your problem?"
There is no way I can read Ji's dialogue and feel what Apple Cider Mage feels. It just isn't possible. But I can shut the fuck up and listen when she says there's a problem, rather than lashing out defensively with all the rationality of a rattlesnake at a perceived attack. I can think about what it would feel like to spend seven hours a day in a building with a giant banner on the wall that reads, effectively: This place is for us. You are not one of us.
I can remind myself that, just as so many Christians seem to find it impossible to understand that such a banner in a public building is not OK, I will have similar difficulty understanding the way Ji's dialogue makes Apple Cider Mage feel, and that my lack of understanding does not invalidate her reaction.
It's not that fiction shouldn't make people uncomfortable. Good fiction should challenge us, and it should upset us at times. But when only part of the audience is singled out for that discomfort, one of two things has happened: either the storyteller has failed to deliver an important part of the experience to the rest of the audience, or that part of the experience was not important and the group that was singled out has been made to feel uncomfortable without cause. So if Ji being creepy and making the player uncomfortable is essential to his character and the story, Blizzard failed to deliver on that aspect of the story for me. And if it isn't essential, then there is no defensible reason for him to be written the way he was.
And so I'd like to congratulate Apple Cider Mage for convincing Blizzard of the rightness of her argument. As of the latest beta patch, Ji's dialogue has been changed — and, hopefully, Blizzard's writers will be keeping a more watchful eye for such things in the future.