A Michigan high schooler was criticized at a school board meeting last week over a mural she painted for a local middle school. Some of the contested elements were the transgender flag, a hand symbol that comes from a Latin American religion, and the “Satanic” mask of a Genshin Impact character.
According to WZZM13, high-schooler Evelyn Gonzales had to face the parents of Grant Middle School over the mural she painted for the health center. The parents said the painted hand symbol is “demonic” and part of “witchcraft” (USA Today describes it as the “Hamsa hand,” a religious symbol in Latin America). They also attacked the transgender flag on the mural. But you’re reading about this story in a gaming website because parents criticized the mural for featuring a face of “Satan.”
It’s, uh. It’s not actually Satan. It’s a mask worn by Xiao, a character in Genshin Impact. Xiao is an immortal guardian who protects the nation of Liyue from evil spirits. So if anything, he’s the anti-Satan. The mask comes from Nuo opera, an ancient folk art that performers used for exorcism. The Chinese version of Xiao’s ultimate attack line is translated as “Nuo Dance of Evil Conquering.”
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While Gonzales was trying to defend her mural, the parents weren’t very sympathetic. “I feel like she did a really good job finding excuses to defend the things she put on,” said one of the attendees. “None of us are that stupid.” Another stated that the transgender flag was a “sickness,” and that adults who “pretend things like that are real life” needed to be “fixed” by medication and counseling. Others were concerned that the mural was discriminatory towards Christian beliefs.
One student said they were bullied for identifying as queer and that parents should be “more concerned about their children’s behaviors, rather than what’s on the wall.” A conservative-identifying parent was unimpressed by some of the comments from her peers, and said she’d “never seen more bigoted people in my life.”
There are so many layers of fuckery in this situation. But I think it’s worth pointing out that both the Nuo mask and the Hamsa hand are from non-western belief systems. The people who called the mural “hate material” are not just intolerant of the existence of transgender people, but representations of culture that isn’t white. As Genshin becomes even more mainstream, more white people will be forced to grapple with cultural designs and influences that will seem alien to them.
The mural was allowed to stay, with the addition of a few adjustments. Kotaku reached out to Grant Public Schools for a comment but did not receive one by the time of publication.
“I put my art up there to make people feel welcome,” Gonzales said to WZZM13 tearfully.