Life Is Strange is progressive in that it speaks to different kinds of relationships among women, sexual fluidity, and queerness. In analyzing Chloe Price, Max’s childhood friend, through a queer lens, I discovered that her relationship with Rachel, the missing teen, is ambiguous. The relationship has the potential to be perceived as romantic and that intrigued me. Though some may argue Chloe’s a walking stereotype with her artificially colored hair and fondness for weed, she encompasses all the complexities of a sexually fluid woman and that is both progressive and unique because it’s a portrayal of a diverse identity. Between the sexually provocative posters of women in her bedroom and her close relationship with Rachel, it’s refreshing to play a game that’s inclusive of potentially non-hetero relationships and sexually fluid or deviant characters. Additionally, I deeply value a game that makes me think in an analytical manner.
Consider the term “queer” for a moment and all of its possible meanings. Though the term is connected to queer theory and is typically associated with homosexuality, it can also be linked to individuals who deviate from a normative identity or lifestyle. What is normal, though? Can it really be defined? When I refer to normative lifestyles or identities, I’m referring to what mainstream society presents as normal. White? Check. Straight? Check. Nuclear family? Check. In stirring the pot of complication soup, Chloe simultaneously obliterates normalcy and adheres to it.
Chloe destroys normalcy in that she recreates a queer persona for herself: blue hair, tattoos, the use of the word “hella,” and so on. Her punk fashion sense is something of a rebellion in itself. It’s a giant middle finger to whoever it is she’s trying to piss off. In addition to the recreation of her physical appearance, she has altered her attitude and behavior as well. Sticking to the idea of “punk as rebellion,” Chloe smokes weed and is a Blackwell dropout. She’s a deviant in that she breaks the rules and involves herself with some shady individuals. However, at the same time, Chloe’s “punk as rebellion” presentation adheres to the trope of the unruly teenager. One might argue that Chloe’s rebellion is a normal phase in a teenager’s life. Is Chloe’s queerness in question or are we normalizing it? Will she grow out of this phase?
In shifting perspective, Chloe’s comparable to other adolescent characters in these types of narratives. The journey to claim or reclaim one’s identity is a common theme in narratives featuring fictional teenagers. She gets in trouble with her stepdad, hangs out with questionable people, operates a firearm, etc. It’s possible to normalize and perhaps generalize these experiences, especially because fictional teenagers tend to test the boundaries.
Personally, the thing that’s so liberating about Chloe is her reinvention as a deviant and her ability to self-actualize. She knows what she wants and when she wants it. Chloe had plans to ditch her hometown for a different life, a better life. It’s so freeing to experience Chloe’s deviancy and queerness because, rather than crumbling under the weight of societal expectations and pressures, the punkish teen transforms herself and reemerges like a wildflower out of a fissure in the pavement. She represents the cool best friend, the older sister that parties like a rock star, and so on. The blue-haired rebel rises above and claims her identity during a very turbulent time in her life.
Chloe’s relationship with Rachel is queer in its ambiguity. The pair might be close friends or romantic partners, but either way, their relationship can be read and interpreted in multiple ways. Chloe refers to Rachel as her angel and as someone who saved her after the death of her father. This dialogue is incredibly meaningful and telling of Chloe’s potential queerness. Whether they’re friends or something more, this bond is powerful and that much we can all agree on or relate to in some way. In exploring more of Chloe’s relationships with other women, there are a couple of instances in which her friendship with Max teeters towards the romantic.
When Max proves her time-rewinding abilities to Chloe, the rebellious teen, in her utter amazement and incredulity, cracks a joke about Max making a move on her without her ever knowing. Is Chloe just teasing her friend or is there something more to unearth here? Does Max serve as Rachel’s replacement? Whether they’re holding hands as they walk along the railroad tracks or lying side by side on them, their relationship is becoming more physical and suggestive of a romance. I also noticed that Max gushes about Chloe a whole lot. I feel as though she constantly reiterates how happy she is now that Chloe’s back in her life again.
Though Chloe’s queerness is not confirmed within the confines of the gaming narrative, I sincerely hope it’s true because I’d like to see more portrayals of diverse identities. Life Is Strange is groundbreaking due to its unique game mechanics and its focus on a female protagonist. Why can’t we have an openly queer or sexually fluid character too? The ambiguity surrounding Chloe’s sexuality and her relationships with women is compelling to analyze, but when will it become a reality?