There’s a post on Tumblr going around that says something along the lines of “When I call my favorite character a piece of shit, loser, etc. it really means I love them.” I can understand it to a certain extent, and may even practice it, even if the language in my phrasing never quite gets as harsh as “a piece of shit.”
But what really made me think about it was comparing my reactions to using the word “loser” to describe of my two all-time favorite characters, Miles Edgeworth and Kaiji, and how the former will make me smile, while the latter just makes me extremely, extremely uncomfortable, despite connecting with and relating strongly to both characters. It’s actually pretty easy to piece together.
Edgeworth is (speaking strictly career-wise) a hugely successful person, Kaiji is far from it. When I see Edgeworth get jokingly called a “loser” in fandom, it’s attributed to his closeted love for the Steel Samurai, dropping his guard and getting flustered in front of people in the midst of trying to keep his cool, or using melodramatic language—harmless attributions, in other words. I never see “loser” applied to things like his phobia of earthquakes, his PTSD, or other struggles or shortcomings that aren’t something to be made fun of, though, honestly, even if I did, it still wouldn’t make me nearly as uncomfortable as applying “loser” to Kaiji, because of their hugely different circumstances.
When I see “loser” applied to Kaiji, it isn’t used to describe something like him throwing a little fit in a sandbox, but exclusively attributed to his depressive behavior—his addiction, his apathy, his lack of motivation, his self-defeatist mindset, his depression in general, and so on. And for as much as the narrative may try and tell me, “You’re supposed to see this guy as a loser” I cannot, in good consciousness, call Kaiji a loser.
It’s something that’s not confined to a specific fictional character, but a reflection of my real-life values as well. When I hear about a person who is terrified of going outside and face real-world responsibilities, unable to motivate themselves, and convincing themselves they’re wastes of space, feel upset about something they think others will see is “irrational,” I don’t call them “losers.” The thought of thinking them as such doesn’t even cross my mind. If anything, I desperately want them to get help, or to help them if it’s in my power. To call them a “loser” would be to nothing more than to needlessly kick them while they’re down. And this isn’t even getting into the ableist implications of people suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.