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Overwatch's new Mei skin draws criticism for cultural appropriation

MM-Mei skin
(Image credit: Blizzard)
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Overwatch has unveiled a new legendary skin (opens in new tab) for Mei, and that hairstyle ain't it.

The MMA-inspired skin MM-Mei appeared on the Overwatch League store yesterday, sporting a fighter's robe, gloves, and championship belt. But it also gives Mei—a Chinese hero—cornrows, a traditionally Black hairstyle. 

The inspiration for the hairstyle appears to have come from Zhang Weili (opens in new tab), a Chinese MMA fighter who wears her hair in a similar style. Tight braids are common amongst MMA fighters with longer hair, but cornrows are typically not worn by fighters who are not Black.

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The hairstyle has drawn criticism from players, who pointed out that there are many other MMA-inspired hairstyles to draw from. As well as the issues around cultural appropriation, the fact that a Black hairstyle has made its way into the game before a Black female hero has been a point of criticism. While Overwatch 2 (opens in new tab) will introduce Sojourn (opens in new tab), Blizzard has not released a Black female hero in the game's five-year history. 

Blizzard has had a rocky history with the way it's handled diversity and representation in Overwatch. Dorado, a Mexican map, was based on an Italian city. The introduction of Sigma was riddled with harmful and outdated mental health tropes, and the choice to make him barefoot being "to sell the 'asylum' look" (via Polygon (opens in new tab)). 

Blizzard has yet to respond to the feedback, with the MM-Mei skin currently on sale until May 11. 

A fresh writer in the industry, Mollie has been taken under PC Gamer's RGB-laden wing, making sure she doesn't get up to too much mischief on the site. She's not quite sure what a Command & Conquer is, but she can rattle on for hours about all the obscure rhythm games and strange MMOs from the 2000s. She's been cooking up all manner of news, previews and features while she's been here, but especially enjoys when she gets to write about Final Fantasy, Persona, The Sims, and whatever other game she's currently hopelessly fixated on. There's a good chance she's boring another PC Gamer writer about her latest obsession as we speak.