This is going to be wildly unpopular, so let me preface this by saying that I do not hate this character for the essence of what he brings to the game. I honestly find him enjoyable.
Now then, moving forward. My least favorite character is Zevran.
Zevran is an assassin, he is witty, he is even charming. I have had playthroughs where my Warden really did not like him and was very uncomfortable around him (Kahrin), and I have had playthroughs where my character adored him to bits (my Tabris and my Aeducan, actually, really liked him).
The things I dislike about Zevran are the tropes that seem to swim around his character.
First of all, and most grating to me, is that Zevran was portrayed to us as the only homosexual option for a male warden in DAO. Ever hear the so-called ‘joke’ that ‘it’s not gay if it’s an elf’? This is representative with what we are given here. Whether intentionally or not, because I often will give BioWare writers some benefit of the doubt, they gave us a rather harmful dichotomy when presenting the two male LIs for the game.
You have Alistair, who is a conventionally idealized man. He’s tall, and brawny, and you are meant to find him attractive according to traditional ideas of what a man should look like. As the heterosexual LI for female Wardens, he is read as the very epitome of manliness. He’s a warrior! He hits things with a shield! Rawr! He’s tough! He’s also as white as the day is long and we all know that White is Right.
Zevran is lithe and lean and has long hair. He dances around and stabs things with daggers and darts behind his enemies. He wears a skirt! These are not criticisms, but if we examine what these things seem to emphasize in his character it borders on a disturbing message about the portrayal of performing masculine.
The other thing that bothers me about Zevran is that he falls directly into the exotified Other category of race. He’s got that dreamy accent, ambiguously Latin, and it could be Spanish or Italian, it’s fairly open to interpretation. He calls you tesoro, and amore. We all know that Latin Men are the Sexiest ever! I feel like Zevran is hypersexualized — he routinely makes commentary in the vein of his ‘anything goes’ sentiment — and that his accent and foreignness is added in an attempt to be more racially diverse. What ends up happening is that Zevran begins to read like a stereotype that is harmful. What they have effectively done is to make him the Exotic Other.
Zevran is also the son of a sex worker, and has admitted to doing work that is equated with sex work. So, essentially, the only non-hetero choice for a male warden is a Latin, former sex working elf. Please tell me that I don’t have to tell you why I find this portrayal problematic.
As a character I find Zevran fantastic. I like him. He’s funny, and the way he is introduced to the game is nothing if not amusing. His open brashness is endearing (Shut up, Kahrin, he’s cool and we do like him), and he is incredibly devoted, not just as a LI, but if you friend path him. Again, like I said, it is the way that Zevran is presented to us, and not the character himself, that I object to. In an effort to present us with a variation on race, class, and sexuality, BioWare kinda mangled it and shoved all of these things into one near-caricature.
Thank you to Whuffie for the screencap.