The very last trailer for Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One dropped today and we finally got a peek at Lena Waithe’s lesbian gamer! She showed up in the official posters earlier this week too, but seeing her in action in what’s sure to be one of the biggest movies of the year got me shivery all over. To talk about her character in any real way I’m going to have to blast you with some major book spoilers so let me post the trailer first in case you just want to watch it and walk away with an unspoiled mind.
Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future where most people spend their time in a virtual reality known as the OASIS. The story kicks off with the death of OASIS creator James Halliday and his invitation for every OASIS user to find three hidden keys that open three hidden gates, with the promise that whoever bests what’s behind the last gates will win Halilday’s entire estate, including complete control of the OASIS. To find the gates and beat what’s inside, the OASIS users hunting Halliday’s easter eggs — Gunters, they’re called — have to immerse themselves entirely in the nerd culture of the ’80s. Books, movies, TV shows, video games, D&D manuals, music. They have to know it all if they want to have any hope of solving Halliday’s esoteric riddles.
The protagonist of the book is Wade Watts whose OASIS avatar is named Parzival. His best friend, also a Gunter, is named Aech inside the OASIS and, like Parzival, he’s a white guy. Except that when Parzival finally meets Aech in real life, he finds out she’s actually a black lesbian named Helen Harris. When her mom signed her up for the OASIS as a child she told her to create a straight white male avatar and use voice modulating software to sound like a man because even in a cyberworld in 2046, she knew Helen would move through life easier as a white dude. The reveal is complicated for a lot of reasons, and people either love it or they hate it.
I’ve been very curious about whether or not the film adaptation would allow Aech to just be a black lesbian inside the OASIS. It seems like casting Lena Waithe in that role is making a deliberate choice to showcase the character as a black woman. We finally get an answer in this trailer. Waithe looks and sounds like herself in the scenes outside of the OASIS and this is what she looks like inside the OASIS. (You can go back and watch the trailer now and you’ll know who she is in the game.)
I’m glad she’s not a white guy but I’m also a little confused by this choice?
Lots of feminists really hate Ready Player One and think it’s Everything That’s Wrong With Geek Culture, and I get it, I really do. I’m hyper aware of the story’s flaws. However I am a nerd child of the ’80s and so I’ve read this thing at least ten times and I love it and I can’t wait to see it, and I’ll be crossing my fingers for plenty of outside-the-OASIS scenes where Waithe can shine. I have hope: It looks like a lot of these gamers live in some kind of #resistance warehouse in the movie?
Waithe told SlashFilm that making this movie was the most joyous time of her life and that’s enough to help me over my qualms and catapult me into the theater.
I’m super curious to hear your thoughts about this whole thing.