Sexuality in Life is Strange

There's a stereotype that women are more open with their feelings and less shy about expressing intimacy with other women in specifically heteronormative environments. This includes but is not limited to women giving and receiving hugs, sleeping in the same bed together, and talking about personal problems. The women we see in these situations in media are usually cisgender and heterosexual. It's the "girl talk." These things feel platonic to many of us. They're almost always depicted that way in media, and they're frequently platonic in our relationships with people in our lives.

But that's a pretty limited viewpoint to hold exclusively. Because of this, we believe men who express their feelings with their male friends must be gay or "effeminate," and we are far more likely to believe women are just "really close friends" instead of romantically and/or sexually interested in each other. Take Legend of Korra as an example. At the end of the series, Korra and Asami end the story with the start of their journey together — and together with only each other — after many scenes of blushing and showing how much they cared for each other. Beyond Nickelodeon not allowing obvious declarations of love and kisses between two women, many people just assumed they were friends because of a tendency in American culture for women to express closeness.

At the beginning of episode 1 in Dontnod's game Life is Strange, protagonist Max Caulfield reunites with her childhood friend Chloe and learns she had some sort of relationship with a girl named Rachel before she went missing. By episode 2, Max — and by extension, the player — find out Chloe and Rachel had a secret hideout together. In their hideout they write on the walls to prove that they were there together. Chloe speaks endearingly of Chloe and at one point calls Rachel her angel. In episode 3, Chloe learns Rachel had a relationship with a man they both knew, and suddenly she feels betrayed by Rachel. From all of this, I believe Chloe is or was in love with Rachel.

Rachel has changed Chloe's life, and romantic relationships don't need to be the be-all, end-all of life-changing relationships. At the same time, I don't want that to come at the expense of romantic relationships outside of heterosexuality. Chloe is still deeply affected by Rachel's disappearance, but she's also overjoyed to see Max again. Max is a bit shy and probably still figuring out who she loves. Chloe seems to have a better understanding of that.

While the two undeniably are friends, Chloe makes jokes about Max using her power to rewind time to kiss Chloe without Chloe knowing it happened. In episode 3 they strip to their underwear and go swimming together, chatting about each other, the last couple of days, and boys. Chloe insists guys at the school must like her, and I have Max reply with, "Ewww." Chloe later on says she's been interested in guys as well, but from what I can tell, she hasn't cared deeply for someone like she has for Rachel. Her relationship with Max is progressing as well, but it remains to be seen whether Max has any romantic interest for Chloe.

But then I swear I wasn't just idly shipping Max/Chloe with little context. Max spends the night at Chloe's house like old times. They wake up and lie in Chloe's bed together for a while, just enjoying each other's company. As Max looks for something to wear, Chloe dares Max to kiss her. As the player, you choose whether Max kisses her; I went for it. Would they blush at each other and confess? Would they trip over their words as they stumble through sexuality like most young adults?

Max kisses a dumbfounded Chloe, and the game frames it as a dare and nothing more. Max laughs as if she pulled a "gotcha!" on Chloe.

Much of the dialogue in Life is Strange has sounded like it was written by dads trying to understand their teenage daughters. That's why I'm not sure these moments are supposed to be telling the audience Max and Chloe are interested in each other. If this were a straight couple, you can bet people would be declaring this to be canon.

For many of us, kissing is extremely intimate. After all, you're physically close enough to smell each other and taste each other's saliva. I think there are very few people who would kiss each other without it communicating physical and emotional closeness or desire. For it to be treated as a "haha, gotcha!" moment is insulting. However, if you talk to Chloe after the kiss but before moving on downstairs to get breakfast, Chloe says, "You better not rewind and take that kiss back." Chloe says nobody's good enough for Max... except for herself.

This sounds anything but a platonic relationship, at least from Chloe's end. Maybe the writers will pleasantly surprise me.

I hope episodes 4 and 5 will explore their relationship with that in mind. Will these two eventually date because of my decision? I really can't tell, but I hope this wasn't a throwaway moment because we need to see greater representation for women who aren't heterosexual or heteroromantic. So far Life is Strange has shown us Chloe has been interested in men, Rachel had some kind of close relationship with a drug dealer she and Chloe knew, and all of Max's classmates insist her friend Warren has a big crush on her. I can only hope at least one of these women will have a confirmed relationship with another woman. And I hope one day we'll have enough representation in media that it won't feel like I have to back myself up on the existence of these relationships whereas straight relationships are assumed to be canon.

For now, the "word of God" has stated the relationships in the game are ambiguous. Ambiguity can be interesting, but ambiguous relationships that aren't heteronormative get talked down as if they're the product of people trying to make something "more gay." I really wish relationships between people of the same gender didn't have to be depicted with a million metaphorical fingers pointing at it to make it obvious, but we're still at a point where people think two girls kissing means those girls are close friends.

And this isn't even me getting into the politics of relationships in terms of age differences, which I may talk about in the future depending on what happens in the next two episodes for a certain teacher in the school.