The Ethics of Empathy in Life: True Colors
Life is Strange: True Colors’ supernatural elements feel a bit different than its predecessors, in that much of protagonist Alex Chen’s superpowers seem like something not far off from how most of us operate anyway. Alex Chen is described as being an empath. He can see the emotions of others as colored auras around them when they are experiencing intense emotions. Fear of the unknowable manifests in a purple cloud that emanates from the affected person and the objects around them. Anger at one’s circumstances manifests as a bright red light that boils. A room can be lit up by the bright yellow glow that emanates from joy-seeking people.
Alex’s ability to see the room with greater surgical accuracy than most socially conscious individuals allows her to do this. Her superpowered empathy takes it a step further. It makes the People Feel More Like Puzzles To Be Solved Than people whose lives are dominated by the same anger, fear, or happiness Alex sees.
Alex’s empathy goes beyond understanding how people think. It’s about using that knowledge to your benefit; to get to know people beyond their masks and to figure out how you can manipulate them to suit your needs. It’s a great way to get the right buttons. However, it’s not always manipulative in a negative way. It is important to feel someone’s anger and defuse it to help them move toward a common goal.
However, manipulation can come at a price. Alex can become overwhelmed if she is too close to intense emotions. This is why Alex has had so many problems throughout her time in foster care. When she moved to a new place, the conflict would occur, and she suddenly found herself dealing with the rages of two people instead of her own — sometimes to violent ends.
True Colors’ early episodes are filled with the possibility that Alex might lose control of her emotions by being around others. This taps into my anxieties about comforting those at their lowest. It can be difficult for people to express their emotions, especially when difficult to put into words. Alex has a unique ability to see the physical manifestations of emotions that no one else can. After seeing emotions as colored light for so many years, it’s an instinct to communicate that same clarity and precision to others.
Ethan is a young boy from Haven Springs. He is the son of Charlotte and Gabe’s girlfriend. I spent a lot of time with Alex as he was my brother. Both of us were in mourning as Gabe’s passing acts as the core mystery to True Colors. Ethan feels he is responsible for this tragedy in his own way. My relationship with my children has been complicated by explaining that the world can sometimes be cruel and uncaring. It is hard for me to hear my nephew’s story about a mean classmate or my niece who can’t talk at the age of two. It has been hard for me to watch a child struggle with the complex emotions of human life.
How do I tell a child experiencing so many emotions in their rawest form that things will improve if I am still stricken at the knees from the same sadness as in my 20s?
True Colours I sit next to a child who feels the intense anger at the world as well as the deep, dark sadness that comes from the loss of a loved one. True Colors isn’t about gaming the act of supporting each other, but it helps to understand what it’s like to feel so sensitive to others’ emotions that you can have a vice grip. Alex is an empath and feels that these emotions are her responsibility. She cannot let someone tell her they are fine and then let it go. She is constantly reminded of this by the emotions that she can feel and see leaking through the cracks.
This responsibility feels brief, considering Alex’s invasive abilities. Alex realizes that she can absorb the emotions of others around mid-course. It begs the question: what would that do to someone? To take away anger from their own grief? It would be much easier to take that burden off of them and relieve ourselves. These emotions are not just a red flag; they are what make us unique. My refusal to let someone get angry was rewarded. However, it was worth taking the fear away later.