Sindel, a character from Mortal Kombat, has earned the status of a queer icon for several compelling reasons | GAME3A

Sindel, a character from Mortal Kombat, has earned the status of a queer icon for several compelling reasons

While progressing through the gory and visually stunning story mode of Mortal Kombat 1, my utmost attention was captivated by a singular character: Si...

Nancy Ing Oct 16, 2023
Sindel, a character from Mortal Kombat, has earned the status of a queer icon for several compelling reasons

While progressing through the gory and visually stunning story mode of Mortal Kombat 1, my utmost attention was captivated by a singular character: Sindel. Observing her majestic grace, formidable self-assurance, and dangerously alluring hair, I couldn't help but think, "Wow. Sindel is an absolute force to be reckoned with!"

This realization led me on a journey of exploration. Was I the sole gamer who felt a strong connection between Sindel and queer individuals like myself? According to discussions on Reddit and GameFAQs, I discovered that I was not alone in this sentiment:

“Bi guy here. I main the fuck out of Sindel.”

  • TheToyHero [Reddit]

As a gay man and an ardent devotee of Sindel, I can wholeheartedly relate to that sentiment.

  • Screamhbk24 [Reddit]

As an LGBT individual, I can confidently say that the majority of LGBT people hold a deep affection for her.

  • Deanyzy [GameFAQs]

Undoubtedly, Sindel is not the sole queer icon within the Mortal Kombat franchise (Mileena and Kung Jin are frequently mentioned as well). However, she undeniably holds a significant place among them. The reasons for this distinction are difficult to pinpoint precisely. The concept of a "queer icon" has evolved over time, and each icon possesses unique qualities and characteristics that contribute to their status.

Does the designation of a queer icon originate from their aesthetics? Take into account figures like Cher, Elton John, and RuPaul. All three artists are renowned for their remarkable blend of glamour and camp. Sindel, in a similar vein, perfectly embodies the queer aesthetic. This matriarch effortlessly exudes elegance in her stylish purple bodysuits while simultaneously dismembering adversaries with her hair. Glamour? Absolutely. Camp? Undoubtedly!

But what about attitude? Any individual deserving of iconic status must possess confidence, wit, or a certain audacity. Take into account the larger-than-life energy of Liza Minelli, the rebellious spirit of Lil Nas X, or the sharp and clever jabs of Mariah Carey aimed at J-Lo. These three icons exhibit distinct personalities, but most importantly, they possess an undeniable sense of individuality. A queer icon lacking in vibrancy and vitality simply won't suffice.

Sindel's personality has undergone significant changes throughout the various timelines of Mortal Kombat. In the latest timeline, her actions exhibit traits of maturity, wisdom, and determination. However, her portrayal in MK11 presents a notable contrast, which has been met with considerable disapproval as it represents a controversial retcon. The story campaign in Aftermath depicted Sindel as an extravagant diva driven by a hunger for power.

Although Sindel's evil retcon did not resonate well with fans, the abundance of memorable reads and one-liners it provided could fill a library, borrow all the books, return them, and forever close the library. (It's worth noting that Sindel's heightened sensuality in MK11 is something I, as a queer individual, strongly relate to.) So, that's a definite mark in terms of attitude. Another crucial aspect to consider is talent. Does this talent need to be within the realm of performing arts? Absolutely not. It could manifest in various forms, such as being a gifted writer like James Baldwin, a star athlete like Billie Jean King, or a dedicated leader like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

Sindel's talents fall into the latter category. The story campaign of MK1 brilliantly showcases the Queen of Outworld's diplomatic skills. However, it's important to reiterate her signature attribute: magic hair. Regardless of Sindel's timeline, her lethal locks are a constant. Let's recap. Sindel aligns with several surface-level notions of what a queer icon could embody. But is that sufficient? To address this question, we can look to Judy Garland, arguably the archetype of the modern-day queer icon, who possesses a crucial trait shared by every icon I've mentioned: resilience.

Judy Garland's story is a depiction of triumphing over adversity. As a young actress under contract with MGM, she was subjected to the control of adult men who dictated her daily life. Studio executives administered drugs, imposed strict dietary restrictions, and made demeaning comments about her body while simultaneously making advances towards her. Years later, Garland reflected, saying, "My life was a blend of complete chaos and utter solitude."

After enduring immense trauma and emerging resilient, Garland developed a profound connection with her gay fans. They shared the common experience of navigating a world dominated by heterosexual white men. Despite criticism, Garland wholeheartedly embraced her gay fanbase. The press often referred to them as "the boys in the balcony." It is argued by some that the queer community's mourning over Garland's death played a part in fueling the events of the Stonewall Riots.

Sindel's legacy exemplifies the same principle (excluding the evil retcon). Together with Jerrod, she guided Edenia towards prosperity. However, Edenia fell victim to an invasion by Outworld. Shao Kahn killed Jerrod and took Sindel as his wife. Before Shao Kahn could invade Earthrealm, Sindel selflessly sacrificed her life to safeguard it with a magical ward. Regrettably, Sindel was later resurrected and manipulated by Shao Kahn, leading to the removal of the ward and setting the stage for the events of MK3.

Why Mortal Kombat

Sindel managed to break free from Shao Kahn's control at the conclusion of MK3. However, her challenges were far from over. She fought relentlessly for the sovereignty of Edenia, enduring multiple imprisonments by Shinnok and Onaga. In the latest timeline, despite being the sole Empress of Outworld, her authority is constantly undermined and questioned by the men surrounding her. Shang Tsung, General Shao, and their allies even conspire to overthrow her in a coup attempt. While she ultimately triumphs over the coup, Sindel sacrifices her life defending Liu Kang's timeline from the threat posed by Shang Tsung.

Queer revolutionaries throughout history demonstrate a comparable resilience, such as Marsha P. Johnson, who famously threw the "shot glass heard around the world" during the Stonewall uprising, or Lady Gaga, who protested against the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy four decades later. Strength of character stands as the most crucial attribute that defines a queer icon, and Sindel possesses an abundance of it.