Murmurings of a relationship between Overwatch characters Genji and Mercy are in full swing. As if the subtle hint in the holiday-themed comic "Reflections" wasn't enough, there are some new voice lines allegedly uncovered on the public test realm that seem to depict Genji and Mercy exchanging chocolates for Valentine's Day. These hints might not seem like much, but Blizzard tends to be very careful about how it reveals its lore, so to extrapolate meaning from a handful of voice lines isn't too much of a stretch.
Somewhat surprisingly, a lot of fans are decidedly not on board with the potential of a "Gency" pairing. Of course, in-fighting happens in every fandom, but I wanted to figure out what exactly was rubbing fans the wrong way about Gency specifically. After all, the Overwatch fandom is known for its sex-positive, romance-heavy leanings, but in this case, the fandom's passion on the subject just seems to be a catalyst for more in-fighting.
The most interesting reason I found behind the Mercy/Genji hatred is much deeper and more nuanced than you might expect. It has to do with the shady ethics and power dynamics present in the relationship between a doctor and their patient. And, like anything related to Overwatch lore, it's complicated. Strap in, folks.
Overwatch Valentine's Day Voice Lines: Is the Mercy/Genji pairing somehow unethical?
There's obviously multiple reasons fans could be unhappy with a relationship between Genji and Mercy, but one Overwatch fan I corresponded with via Twitter said they thought it modeled an immoral patient/doctor relationship which simply crossed too many ethical boundaries.
Let's back up a bit. If you're not familiar with Overwatch lore, Genji was brought back from the brink of death after a battle with his brother, Hanzo, by Dr. Angela Ziegler — better known as Mercy. In the process of bringing him back to life, he was equipped with all sorts of cybernetic enhancements which turned him into a super soldier for the Overwatch organization after which the game is named.
In his official character bio, Blizzard describes Genji as being "repulsed by the mechanical parts of his body," saying he "could not come to grips with what he had become" after his drastic operations. It was only after spending time with the Omnic monk, Zenyatta, that Genji was able to reconcile his new identity.
The Overwatch fan I corresponded with, who wished to remain anonymous, believes the relationship is all sorts of problematic. This seems to primarily be rooted in their belief that Mercy is primarily responsible for weaponizing Genji's body without his consent.
"To me, a doctor initiating romance or agreeing to romance with someone under long-term care, or having been 'saved' by said doctor is taking advantage of a situation in which one party is weaker or perhaps feels as though they owe the other," they told me. "It's a messy situation altogether and there's a reason why it's been a long-standing point of contention in the real world."
They're not wrong about the ethics of a doctor/patient relationship being murky, frowned upon and sometimes punishable. Many states, like New York, do not tolerate relationships between physicians and their patients precisely for the reasons stated above.
"A patient cannot give meaningful consent to sexual contact due to the position of trust and the disparity of power in the physician-patient relationship," New York State's Department of Health website says.
Of course, things get a hair murkier when you try to apply our real-world code of medical ethics to a multiplayer shooter about gorilla scientists, robot ninjas and time-hopping lesbians. For example, since Mercy is technically the doctor for the entire Overwatch organization, should she not be allowed to have romantic relationships with anyone? Does this mean all support characters are technically physicians who shouldn't be allowed to have romantic relationships with the other characters, or is it just Mercy? Since Overwatch as an organization was disbanded, should Mercy still not be allowed to have a relationship with Genji?
Since the canon of the Overwatch world is drip-fed in little comics, animated shorts and voice lines, pinning down concrete information about anything is troublesome, leaving a lot of room for this kind of fan interpretation.
The other main beef this Overwatch fan has with the pairing has to do with their perception that Mercy weaponized Genji's body without his consent. This particular point of lore is — as is most Overwatch lore — murky. Yes, we know for sure that Mercy was responsible for saving Genji's life. During that process, his body was also equipped with cybernetic enhancements.
However, the assertion that Mercy herself was responsible for these enhancements seems to run contrary to her official bio on the Overwatch site, which describes her as "at odds with her superiors and the organization's overarching aims." If she was at odds with Overwatch's militaristic and violent goals as her bio implies, does it make sense that she would have advocated for a weaponized, cybernetic Genji? There's not really a clear answer one way or another, but the nonconsensual weaponization makes the pairing problematic for the aforementioned Overwatch fan.
"Imagine dying and waking up to someone saying, 'Guess what! You're back,'" they explained. "'And your body is a weapon and we plan on using you and your skill for our organization and I hate to say it, but you don't really have the option to say 'no.'"
It's an odd problem to wrap your head around. After all, the Overwatch website goes out of its way to characterize Mercy as a benevolent scientist who values peace, but she was still technically complicit in the whole thing.
Is Mercy the corner-cutting, morally questionable scientist some of the Overwatch fandom is making her out to be, or is she "a peerless healer, a brilliant scientist and a staunch advocate for peace," as her bio describes?
Does it matter?
Not all Gency naysayers are against the pairing for the same reasons stated above. Some of it could simply be rooted in anger that it contradicts their favorite ships, like the Mercy/Pharah pairing called "Pharmercy" — but it's a helpful and fascinating perspective nonetheless.
Mic has reached out to Blizzard for comment and will update with any response.