How Genshin Impact’s Rosaria Challenges Religious Stereotypes
I’m from a very religious family, and I know exactly what you think of when I say that, but you’re wrong. Before I pull you back from the brink of the stereotypical ‘religious family’ trope, I need to describe just what I mean when I say very religious. My sister worked as a missionary for Christ in Africa, and now teaches the Bible in one of the poorest regions in England. My mother works for the diocese running the Bishop’s calendar, and my grandparents (both in their 70s now) still volunteer at the local church each week; or did, prior to Covid. I went through Holy Communion and Confirmation, and was expected to attend church each week until well into my teens. So yeah, very religious. But they don’t fit that image of being ‘a very religious family’; and that’s why I love Rosaria in Genshin Impact. I know that sounds like a weird link, but I promise it makes sense.
You probably associate being very religious with being pious, dressing dowdy, and holding puritanical and ultra-conversative beliefs – this is not true of my family. I wasn’t stopped from listening to punk music or rap as a kid; although as a young white boy, someone really should have stopped me from listening to all that rap and nu metal. My family are also supportive of my transition, my sister studied fashion, they voted for Corbyn (think Bernie if you’re American), and they drink and dance and swear. They’re not the Flandererses; they’re a normal family that go to church. I’m an atheist and I haven’t been banished from returning home ever again. This is where Rosaria comes in.
If Genshin Impact wanted to introduce a religious character, I’d expect them to bring in a bright, polite nun-type character. Someone like Mercedes in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Mercedes doesn’t tick off every element of the ‘very religious’ trope, in that she’s gay, but she fits the basic archetype much more than Rosaria does. I like Mercedes, and there are religious people like that, but it doesn’t feel particularly modern or realistic. It’s the same when the villain of a game is some religious cult leader. There’s a lot of evil and cover-ups and power abuse in the history of religion, but it’s rarely a snarling demagogue proclaiming themselves the Chosen One. Religion in gaming tends to be either the Virgin Mary or Jonestown, and as someone who grew up around religion, I don’t see a lot of that in my own experience.
Enter Rosaria. She’s a sister in Mondstadt’s Church of Favonius, but she dresses in much more modern and fashionable clothes than you’d expect a sister of the church to wear. She’s also sarcastic, quick-witted, and admits that she finds certain aspects of church life – like the choir practise – incredibly boring. This is a more natural, realistic depiction of a modern religious person, and makes a welcome change from the typical religious women we see in fiction, but particularly in games, where religion is rarely explored with any meaningful analysis.
It’s also important that she’s been given this attire and personality without being sexualised. It’s Genshin Impact, so she’s very pretty, but she’s not just a doll in a ‘sexy nun’ costume. Her religion isn’t just tossed in there to be laughed at. It’s fair game to make jokes about religion, for the record, especially if it’s a scathing satire of the hypocrisy of the power structures, but when there’s a grounded and three-dimensional character like Rosaria, I’m glad it’s being played straight.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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