Gearbox Writer Responds To Allegations Of Racism In Borderlands 2 Character ‘Tiny Tina’

Like its predecessor, a distinct attribute of Borderlands 2 is its crass humor—especially in its depiction of stereotypical characters, who are often played up for laughs. Notably, Scooter the mechanic is depicted as a stereotypically incestuous redneck who has a crush on his morbidly obese sister. Arguably, it is these characters who lend the game much of its flair.

Despite its low-brow humor, the game has never been accused of racism—until now.

The issue was brought up by @mikesacco, who expressed his discontent over Borderlands 2 writer Anthony Burch’s depiction of Tiny Tina as an ebonics-slinging potty-mouthed teenager.

“I really like BL2′s writing, but Tiny Tina’s trope of ‘white girl talkin’ like them urban folk!!’ has got to go,” wrote Sacco.

Burch bristled at the accusation that the depiction was racist, but replied that he appreciated the feedback.

“Have you never met white people who use that kind of language? Tina is based on several I know personally,” wrote Burch, who appeared confused as to why it could be considered ‘racist’ that Tiny Tina used ‘black lingo’ (his words). Burch further elaborated that his use of certain words in Tiny Tina’s dialog were more for their rhythm than any racial or class allusions.

Other users on Twitter were quick to join in the ensuing back-and-forth, with some offering their support for Burch, and others for Sacco. One user, agreeing with Sacco, equated Tiny Tina’s speech to “verbal blackface.”

Randy Pitchford, Gearbox president, expressed his support for Burch. “Tina is not racist because you are not racist. You’re a pillar of tolerance and inclusion,” wrote Pitchford.

In concluding the dialogue, Burch conceded that he is intent on soliciting feedback and willing to alter Tiny Tina’s use of ebonics for future content if need be.

“I’m just not convinced that a character using lingo like badonkadonk/crunk is inherently racist. If I’m wrong I would like to know why,” wrote Burch. He continued: “The last thing I want to be is exclusionary or prejudice, so if Tina truly is problematic I’ll change her.”

The dialogue has since garnered the attention of Kotaku, prompting even more users to contribute their opinions to the matter and respond to Burch.

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23 Comments on Gearbox Writer Responds To Allegations Of Racism In Borderlands 2 Character ‘Tiny Tina’

Stranger

On February 3, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Isn’t saying that lingo like that is meant only for black people itself a racist thing to say?

Robert

On February 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I think that these people have too much time on their hands…

Cranky Canadian

On February 3, 2013 at 5:45 pm

The only reason racism still exists is because people won’t shut up about it… stop always bring it up or relating stuff to race.

Whether you find Tiny Tina annoying or funny should be the topic… it’s a matter or personal experience where each of us has witnessed similar persona’ … and has nothing to do with race, but an individuals personality.

S

On February 3, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Huh. I thought this article was going to be about the Hammerlock DLC based on some of the reviews I read (haven’t had a chance to play it yet). So…Tiny Tina is the racist problem here? Go figure.

gasmaskangel

On February 3, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Seriously?

Thats racist? I always thought that racism was demeaning an entire segment of the poulation based on certain prominent genetic variables, not using the word “bodonkadonk”. Claiming that something like this is racist is devalues it when something actually racist happens.

Ian Miles Cheong

On February 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Yeah, I don’t think it’s racist either. It’s not like many white people don’t already speak the way she does. And it’s NOT because they’re racist.

Luther

On February 3, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I don’t think its racist, but it feels racist that people are getting upset about it.

John

On February 3, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Racism in today’s definition is becoming a card, and if your White you have to be a cracker, because somehow everything we do is racist or some kind of atonement to a system we weren’t party to. We have to live with that stigma based on Black Panther, NCAA, KKK, blah blah teachings. I mean African Americans now don’t seem to understand the history of slavery, dominant warlords in Africa were the ones enslaving and selling other tribes, and there were indentured servants who were just as much slaves as well. Then again there are so many groups that operate on so many different beliefs it is easy to understand why they throw silly things like facts out the window. Though this case supports the theory of counter racism against Tiny Tina, as the guy making the argument to Burch believes a white person cannot be allowed to use Ebonics. He just made a case, with that same logic an African American should only use Ebonics….It was an emotional argument that really wasn’t thought through. However, this also could be one of those times where troll is being a troll, and Gearbox got bated into that argument. At least they try to work things out with fans on the forum, not like Bioware…

Axetwin

On February 4, 2013 at 12:07 am

Remember, its not racist until its used in the media for entertainment value.

TheDog

On February 4, 2013 at 1:59 am

Having a 13 year old girl who actually talks similiar ( not quite so over the top, but similiar), I find their argument quite ridiculous. I’ve seen this on other sites, and it’s the black population getting peaved, not at TT, but at the idiotic white folks trying to speak for them. Haven’t read one bad comment from them about TT. Most just can’t believe people would be dumb enough to actually put this out there.
This is the way it always is. You get a group of noisey people (usually white), who feel the need to speak for every race, creed and religion out there. They then begin to cause problems for all by speaking out with their narrow minded views. These are usually people who have never actually stepped foot in the real world. They’ve lived there whole lives in rural podunk, USA, population: 300.
What’s actually more funny is, I believe, Trace Atkins (country singer) had a song out not long ago, had a popular song called “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”. Funny, no one called him racist. Maybe you just have to be a kid.
Gearbox, just leave her alone. She’s great as she is. Reminds me of my daughter and makes me smile.

Goner

On February 4, 2013 at 5:10 am

Was Sacco on crack?
Because he’d probably cry at watching Purple fiction.
I do not had play borderland 2, but just by imagining the cute blond kid above, talking the way they said
make me laught and for me it’s the idea of the century.
I agree with Stanger.
If Sacco want to f…ck around about what is racist or not he should better watch at Capcom with his
Mike bison in street fighter alpha 3 ( the end ) and street fighter 4 ( the taunt or choatsu ) in all way they describe the guy like caricatural black dumbass.I got other exemple about Jap’s game but i got toget short.

Ironcyde

On February 4, 2013 at 5:14 am

Once again, the so-called ‘anti-racists’ show themselves up to be massively racist. Same as with the Michelle Obama monkey picture – the PC brigade immediately assumed that it must be because she was black, because they themselves immediately think of monkeys when they see a black person. Never mind the fact it was on a website called ‘Celebrity Monkeys’ in which celebrities of all colours were made to look like monkeys. Same applies here – these idiots have heard something and instantly assumed it must be racist, because that’s what THEY relate it to. Hypocrites and bigots, the lot of them.

Ed

On February 4, 2013 at 8:42 am

@Cranky Canadian “The only reason racism still exists is because people won’t shut up about it”
Wow! That’s a massively stupid thing to say.

Damien Rhodes

On February 4, 2013 at 8:53 am

Ed – no, it really isn’t stupid in the slightest. What’s stupid is the habit of inferring or assuming racism in absolutely anything and everything. No black characters? Must be racist, even if it’s set in the English countryside during the 1940′s. Add a black character? Must be racist, because now the disparity between whites and blacks is apparent. Make said black character integrated? Must be racist, as he’s a “choc-ice” as Rio Ferdinand would say, betraying his roots. Make him more akin with his culture? Must be racist, as it’s a stereotype. The same is true of sexism, homophobia, and all types of bigotry. The people who claim to be trying to make progress and create an equal society, in which everyone is treated the same, are holding everybody back by demanding advantages and/or disadvantages to certain sections of society on the grounds that they are different.

I agree wholeheartedly with Cranky Canadian – if these pseudo-liberal PC types, mostly in the predominantly white middle class, would just shut the hell up about it instead of appointing themselves defenders of groups of people they consider vulnerable, the rest of us could just get on with it and prejudice would be far less commonplace than it is now.

TheDog

On February 4, 2013 at 10:09 am

Damien Rhodes@ I’m afraid I have to side with Ed, although not completely, cause I understand ( I think), what was trying to be said. Problem is, it just isn’t correct. Racism still exists because of ignorance and stupidity. No the only thing that happens when people talk about it, is they show that ignorance and stupidity. Sorry, but it still there whether we know it or not. And it’s not like they’re going to convert people over to their way of thinking. On the contrary, they just make someone look and think that person is an idiot. No, the media doesn’t cause it. It just lets us know that it is still alive and kicking.

Damien Rhodes

On February 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

TheDog – I’m not suggesting prejudice would be eradicated. It’s unfortunately human nature to be distrusting or lack empathy towards people in situations they don’t know for themselves. And I’m not saying it should be swept under the carpet completely, as that would be irresponsible. However, there’s no question that the level of vitriol and venom has increased in recent years as a result of people being called ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ or ‘homophobic’ for having genuine qualms about certain things that have nothing to do with race, gender or sexual orientation. For example, if you oppose open door immigration because of the burden on public services or the inevitable rise in employment, you’re called a racist even though race never comes into the equation. Same with opposing EU membership, or suggesting that maybe marital/custody laws that heavily favour women (it’s actually written into many laws that women don’t have to prove anything to get the benefit of the doubt, while men need 100% proof of everything or they’re not listened to) are somewhat immoral, or that the Pride rally requires loads of extra policing. Bring up any of these issues and you’re called a bigot, despite the issues being unrelated to the people in question as much as the circumstances. People with this mindset do not enter discussion with those who oppose it, unless they can find some way of deliberately muddying the issue in order to appeal to emotion.

I was probably wrong to ‘completely agree’ with Cranky Canadian, but I stand by what I said overall. People can’t expect an egalitarian, completely tolerant and meritocratic society when there are still examples like this of people reminding us how we’re all different, and therefore should all be treated differently. That runs completely apposite of what they’re supposedly trying to encourage.

I also want to make it known that I wasn’t attacking Ed personally, I have no reason to. I just thought his comment didn’t really have a lot of substance to it. If he’d explained WHY Cranky Canadian’s comment was stupid, I probably would have been a little less harsh of tone.

Chris

On February 4, 2013 at 11:01 am

@Cranky Canadian and Damien Rhodes- Racism still exists for several reasons. One is that people don’t want to talk about it and pretend it doesn’t still exist.

This was an instance of people wrongly accusing racism, as often happens. As a black guy I can tell Mike Sacco that he’s completely wrong. There is no such thing as ebonics. It’s simple slang and only slang. That’s it. It’s open for anyone to use. And if you happen to grow up in a certain culture or society, you’re way of speaking can be greatly influenced by it’s speech patterns no matter you’re race.

SupremeAllah

On February 4, 2013 at 11:32 am

Sounds like you like many others have “white guilt” issues.

It is racist and ignorant for a white guy to have this character speak like that, but isn’t when a black person butchers the english language and are entitled to be the only ones allowed to talk like idiots? Really?

R.J.

On February 4, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I really hope that nothing is done to change Tiny Tina. She is my favorite character in the game. Honestly, I consider it far more racist to say that only people of a certain ethnicity are allowed to speak a certain way.

Ashley

On February 5, 2013 at 1:47 am

Agree with SupremeAllah. Condescending PC jobsworths who want to feel like they’re fighting for something while more often than not ignoring the opinions of the consensus of the very people they’re claiming to stand for.

Ed

On February 5, 2013 at 8:46 am

@Cranky Canadian The Dog Damien Rhodes

I get the point that you’re making about accusations of racism and other -isms being used too frequently but I just thought that suggesting that we ought to all stop talking about it and then it’ll go away was a remarkably silly and dangerous thing to say. In my opinion it’s far better for the debate to be skewed towards oversensitivity. But from what I’ve read about this particular case, it seems a lot of nonsense. The same thing happened when Django Unchained came out and idiots called it racist without seeing it.

Lee

On February 5, 2013 at 9:21 am

This is no doubt the dumbest thing I ever heard. By his logic I should get angry for black people for using the white man language.

quicktooth

On February 6, 2013 at 2:49 am

Why CAN’T a lady talk in a cool way??