Today marks the 3rd installment of Anita Sarkeesian's "Tropes vs Women in Gaming" series about the Damsel in Distress trope. This time the topic is about approaching the flip side of the coin, games where there is a female protagonist in charge, and why they either fail or aren't enough to combat the reoccurrence of the "kidnap princess" gameplay mechanic.
Once again... what the hell is everyone getting so angry about? She has a very valid point, AND she goes into detail about both why ironic subversions aren't beneficial to an overall goal of equality, AND offers suggestions on how to make a damsel in distress game work where the damsel is the protagonist you play as and isn't a hyper sexualized character.
All of this is basic gameplay creation 101 stuff, things anyone just starting to make games in the industry should be learning or trying to achieve, and the fact that more people AREN'T trying to fix things is part of the reason why Anita even needs to make videos like this in the first place.
Bottom line, I agree with a lot of what she suggest. And, let me remind you, that being critical about the gaming industry and understanding that there is lingering sexist things about certain games DOESN'T mean you CAN'T enjoy those games. It's a little depressing that she has to keep re-stressing this same point, but apparently it's something people can't grasp very well. It's OK to acknowledge that things like "Fat Princess," while meant to be funny, are also kinda sexist and mean spirited. And it's OK to acknowledge that while Princess Peach did get a game of her own, it was a cheaply made stereotypical "women have emotions so let's use that as the main gameplay mechanic" piece of crap that it was. I can acknowledge that Super Princess Peach had faults and was kinda shitty...AND I LIKED THE GAME.
Guys... this series is nothing to be scared of. You don't need to make "response" videos trying to deconstruct what she's saying and "prove" her wrong. Because when you do that, you're just making the rest of the gaming community look like sexist assholes by confirming what she's talking about. CLARIFICATION: YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY MAKE RESPONSE VIDEOS BECAUSE SHE IS NOT 100% CORRECT, I JUST DO NOT THINK IT'S A GOOD USE OF YOUR TIME You want to fight the "evil feminist" that she is? Acknowledge that she has a point and then DO something to FIX it. Either by pointing out to game developers that you don't like this trope, or heck, even make your own independent game where the female character is strong and can support herself without looking like a glorified T&A realdoll.
"On the surface, victimized women are framed as the reason for the hero's torment, but if we dig a little deeper into the subtext, I'd argue that the true source of pain stems from fellings of weakness and/or guilt over his failure to perform his socially proscribed patriarchal duty to protect his women and children."
Not because the main character might have actually loved and cared about his family...?
Also, I can't help, but to get this feeling, when watching her videos, that she thinks that men in general only see women as property.
Though you might not read this due to this very great amount of responses:
Thank you for always providing interesting information in your journals. I'm not really a gamer (well I play games, but no web-connected ones, since I do not like this dependency and I want to be 'alone with the game'), but I really appreciate all the stuff you talk about in your journals.
Especially the Damsel in Distress-journals helped me find some ideas for university classes (Critical media analysis).
So, thank you
Beyond Good and Evil is still one of my all-time favourite games, and I still love to play it. Hell, I even adore seeing it mentioned in just about anything, seeing how it was unjustifiably under the radar for a long time despite the fact that it was loved by critics and gamers alike (The ones who played it at least).
The quality of the game is not dependent on the gender of the characters involved so long as they are handled correctly. Jade makes for an awesome protagonist and she doesn't get sexualised at all, and both the male supporting characters - Pey'j and Double-H - are not as useless as a lot of video game sidekicks are.
That's what I mean by being handled correctly - where, regardless of gender, the characters are important and functional to the story. Both Pey'j and Double-H were useful in the game's combat and were able to do things that Jade couldn't, but Jade still did most of the legwork, being the player's character and therefore the hero of the story. (I'm not going to say heroine because I believe it's unhelpful to refer the men and women heroes with separate words for the same role. A hero is a hero)
My reaction to the video was probably the sort of thing that Anita was hoping for (I think) - whilst sceptical going into it, and indeed attempting to find faults with her argument, I had to concede that she was right. About a lot of things. No other way around it, not that there should be. Honestly, now that I've seen this I want to go over some of my stories and overhaul them to avoid blatant damsels :I
"OmG sHe IsN't TeH rEaL gAmErZ!!!11!!!1one!!1! ShE's SuCh A sLuT!!!"
or "not all of us are like that!1!!"
The former barely deserves recognition as a combination of words to form an idea, let alone consideration as valid criticism. what with the fact that all evidence suggest that she does in fact play video games. Even if she didn't, her critisism would still be mostly based around problematic tropes/mechanics, and is thus valid.
And the latter being irrelevant, as those who "aren't like that are (for the notable majority) not doing anything about it. Usually, its the people who sit back and don't care that are a bigger problem than the people spreading hate.
Also, would it be possible to get more game protagonists who aren't Cis, straight, and/or white? a little intersectionality goes a long way...
I especially loved that made-up video game towards the end!
Thanks for sharing this, I'm glad to have discovered her videos!
It's the whole problem with feminism backlash and the false belief that feminism means to take away from males. People who seriously believe that and act to "defend themselves" (defending, of course, from they 'scary' woman who just want an equal representation) are only acting out of their own sexism because if they can't see why things need to change then they are blind.
You're right of course, and so is Anita. I admit I was sceptical of her going into it, but afterwards I must concede that she's completely right. Personally, i'd prefer to see heroes of either gender have a goal that isn't about acquiring a love interest at the end. And that could be said for any media platform, not just games.
Like Anita says, it's better to move away from the trope entirely rather than look at it ironically or switch the roles. They should give the heroes something else to fight for, even if it's just money or a personal belonging or something. And, in stories where there are multiple characters involved in gameplay, make them all important and functional to the story rather than items or useless pieces of scenery. I think if we really want to move away from sexism, then we should actually start treating both genders in media equally (by that I mean in equivalent value) and just take the "gender roles" out of the picture altogether.
Dude, i'm gonna level with you.
If one person thinks there is a problem, that means there is easily a lot more who think the same. It's no different with the problem that Anita's talking about.
What I mean is, if enough people are saying that there is a problem then there is obviously a problem or they wouldn't be complaining about it. See what I'm saying?
There is nothing wrong with just stopping the overused damsel trope. It's dumb and unrealistic and it's taken way too long to drop it. Why are you so against this?
What kind of alternate universe are you on? I don't see any of it on a lot of games I've played (though they're single-player in majority). About the same thing for comics too. There are a few exceptions that are blantantly in bad taste, but to say it's everywhere is a ridiculous overstatement. Also games and comics shouldn't be made for the sake of subversion, but for the passion of storytelling.
I'm glad that silly feminism trend only exists in America and Sweden. Feminism is fine against religious zealots in 3rd world countries, but not for that particular case.
It's also ironic that you're claiming that all she wants to do is to talk when she actually disable comments, or that last paragraph of your journal shows that you're against all forms of opposition.
A woman working in the industry created a hashtag for twitter to expose reasons why the game industry is sexist and to let other women in the industry speak out about it: kotaku.com/5963528/heres-a-dev… and if Kotaku isn't a reliable enough source for you, here's the huffington post: www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11…
A news article talking about why we can't seem to move beyond the sexism in the industry: www.slate.com/blogs/future_ten… and an article about how women are treated at geek conventions: www.slate.com/articles/double_…
Documentary kickstarted funded for talking about sexism in the gaming industry: www.polygon.com/2013/5/5/43028…
Naughty Dog demanding female members for a focus group about having a woman on the cover of their game: www.gameinformer.com/b/news/ar…
New York Times criticizing Last of Us for having male lead: www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/art…
An article about how Remember Me was rejected by publishers because it had a female lead: www.joystiq.com/2013/03/20/pub… and an article about why they chose a female character instead of male: www.vg247.com/2013/04/16/remem…
Video Vlog about why it's "not okay" to harass women in nerd culture: www.escapistmagazine.com/video…
Blog about sexism in nerd culture: girlygeekygaming.blogspot.com/…
Controversy surrounding Capcom's Cross Assault video game competition where a game coach harasses his female player to the point of her quitting and refuses to apologize for it because "that's just how things are" kotaku.com/5889066/competitive…
An article about a cosplayer who was sexually harassed at Comic Con who fought back: www.dailydot.com/news/black-ca…
Keep in mind that these are only just SOME of the examples that exist out there to show that this is a PROBLEM. It's not just the games that we play, it's also from within the industry itself and how the fans OF that industry respond towards women in general. This is what happens when a niche hobby like gaming becomes mainstream. All the ugly sides to the culture gets exposed to the light.
And no, I am not about ignoring all forms of opposition. I just think it's a waste of time to use my journal as a "Anita take down" platform and was trying to encourage people to NOT do that here... something you obviously didn't understand.
"Only in America and Sweden"? What kind of alternative universe are you in, may I require? Feminism is everywhere and it should be. It is only about equality. I cannot believe you, as man from wealthy and educated France would oppose women being equal to men. I go by the assumption that you agree we are as intelligent, capable and well-adjusted as men are and thus deserve equal rights. Feminism is wanting those rights. And sadly, we do not have them enough. Even in my country, celebrated for it's equality, my pay is less than a man's pay for the same work. So yes, feminism is needed outside of those 3rd world countries.
How does "passion for storytelling" outclude women? You can have a great story and still have great female characters in it. Look at Hunger Games with a female protagonist, for example. Or Disney with it's tradition of female leads. One cannot say that Beauty And The Beast would be a bad story.
To detail a little more my statement on 'storytelling vs. subversion', I was just saying that a game or visual novel shouldn't be made like a political agenda. A character shouldnt be just labelled as 'strong', 'gay', 'black', or etc... That's why 'strong independent women' just makes me chuckle. What Anita/Preston wants, is the extreme opposite of the spectrum they're criticizing. It's certainly not an answer to that little issue.
I, personally, do not care if the main character of the story is either male or female. But what I do want is a good MC with character development, and I have the impression that these silly people forget that easily (or just dismiss it).
I don't care if the main character is any of those thing either... but you'd have to be blind to notice that women hardly every get the main role in anything, and if and when they do it's usually for sex appeal first before character development. That's the kind of crap I'd like to see changed. That's all.
But that isn't going to change when so much evidence in the industry shows that guys don't WANT that to change and actively oppose it, or worse yet, don't even REALIZE that they're being sexist and harmful in response. That's a problem that needs to be addressed so that we can write more compelling female characters and make everything equal.
Though, I think a huge issue I really had with the video was the run-around about the 'Damsel in Distress' ideal. It's there, yes, but it's also story-telling and well known. I wouldn't call -that- sexist. Not really. Sure, it'd pretty cliche and I could do without it. (Though, if anyone wants to go on and insult the Legend of Zelda Series in general due to it's normal lay-out. Suuure, go ahead.) In all honesty, I'm not concerned over something like 'Hey, Imma go rescue Peach from Bowser.'
Because, in the end, it's a story. This, Tom, is what you get upset about. Gamers getting angry, pissing, and throwing stones. Not her, Anita or whatever. She did everything pretty well, but in general. I'm not a fan of people casting stones at a good game because of the STORY. Yes, they use a cliche to push the main character onward.
Ah, Ocarina of time is a great one, I think. The story hadn't been about rescuing the Princess. The actual story had been, soley, saving Hyrule from Ganon up until the final portion where she does get captured. In fact, Shiek (Zelda) Did go about saving Link after he got his ass handed to him by Bongo Bongo.
But then, Shiek was portrayed as a male, wasn't he? Until She reveals herself as Zelda and THEN gets captured. Hm... Not sure if Sexist or good story-telling.
I think, what a lot of people may actually be upset about is more along the lines of her apparently condemnation of a popular novel. I don't believe there's a subliminal message in something like Zelda, or Mario. It's simply something they've done, and done over again. It works, and if a person thinks a woman is weak because of it... Well, they're fools. It's a game, it's literally a playable story. That's all. You can push at it, pull at it, try to unravel it as something it's not but all you're going to get is a vast differentiation of ideals and opinions.
My girlfriend has beaten my ass in games for the last five years. Really, it pisses me off... Not cause she's a woman, but because, honestly, I'm tired of getting my ass beat by the same person in general (Fucking Pikachu.) Doesn't make me sexist, doesn't even occur to me that a gender role is being played.
I've gone on a bit of a tangent, though. My main issue with the video was the hyper focus in the idea that Damsel in Distress ='s bad. When, honestly, that isn't so bad. Sexualizing character? Yes, I can see that. I've said in the past that it won't go away because it -does- make money. And honestly? As the world grows more and more open... It's going to get much worse. In the days of Nintendo, things -tended- to be cheesy, mostly rated-e. There were those games like Turok, and...
And they fucking forgot Perfect Dark. Jeez. Seriously people? Perfect, mother-fucking, dark? Woman role, killer of everyone, best goddamn AI known to man? No? Fuck off.
Admittedly, you've got more leading male roles but that isn't just sexism. It's, in a lot of cases, habit. And, again, story. Don't condemn a game because you don't want to see a man in the role. Why? Why be bothered by it? It's a video game, I've played Tomb Raider. I've played Perfect Dark (Obviously) I've played both Portals. I've played many, many games with lead female roles and I don't see the problem with the males having their own.
No, again, I believe she focused on something that shouldn't be a problem because she isn't the writer. She did not write the story for that game, she has no right to tell someone that it's sexist, or wrong, because the writer felt the need to push the story in that direction. She could certainly call it a bad game, or the writer a lazy git, but calling something sexist because it doesn't fit your views? That's... Well, honestly? That's the mind of a moron. Someone set in their way and refusing to see reason on the thing. Refusing to see the alternate.
But again, this doesn't mean she's wrong about -everything- No. Not at all, there certainly is an over-sexualization of characters. GTA, Mortal Kombat, Soul Caliber, Bayonetta (Still a damn good game, though.) and goddamn if Duke Nukem doesn't thrive on it. But, in the end, that wasn't the focus.
Now, the point of the video might have been meant to say 'Yeah, there isn't reverse sexism going on here.' Countering the argument that happened before. I agree, there isn't. But at the same time, I fail to see how many of her points were sexist to begin with. Though, that's just my opinion as that video was hers.
This tiring trope needs to go away. I was eight years old 20 years ago... and I still clearly remember my friend Johnny telling me to sit on the brick-covered mail box until he rescued me from the monster. I suggested he stand on the brick-covered mail box and I rescue him. His response was I was the girl and it was my job to be saved. I think I walked away at that point.
When we neighborhood kids would group up and pretend to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the boys would tell me I had to be April because I was the girl. I told them I was going to be Leonardo instead, and I led them into battles against Shredder!
It's sad that this troupe is being passed on to future generations.
Her game idea sounded pretty okay really.
Not to mention how she makes men sound like we all are shallow and horrible people. I mean if someone kidnaps my girlfriend, mother, sister, whatever, according to her videos I'm doing it because they stole MY PROPERTY, rather than, I don't know, because I care about them?
I mean if she cares that much why doesn't she make her own game? She has the money now, and she can even ask a group of female gsme developers to help her out, make it a 100% girl product.
Whay hasn't she asked the opinions of female game developers? Now that would be something to watch.
No, saving someone you care about makes you wonderful. Of course. That is why so many male protagonists have that goal; they are heroic and brave by going after their damsel. The problem is with the female; if her role in the story is only to be taken away and then saved without having any power over her fate then yes, she could be replaced with a cake or something. Let the protagonist save a cake then. So when Anita says the damsel is "property" she does not mean that men think of women like that; the plot just treats her like one. Anita says it pretty roughly yes, it comes off like men thinking of women as stuff. Then again, Anita's biggest problem is her harsh way of saying things and she can get misunderstood that way.
Damsel In Distress is not a trope we need to kill entirely, we just need a little less of it. It IS a pretty lazy way to build tension.
And saving a cake? It doesn't make sense.
People use the damsel in distres thing because we can all relate to wanting to save or protect a person that we love rather wanting to save the world, let alone an object. A more personal journey than saving the world, not as pointless as having to save a cake.
Most of the time she just wants to see sexism where there is not. Like in that one game in which you can choose to save a guy instead of a girl. Fair play there, right? WROOOOONG because she says so!
''She could be replaced with a cake or something'' like a dog? The game also gives you the option to save a dog, now, that's gotta be fairplay for her right? Nope, she just commented about how the developers were trying to say '' women and dogs are the same thing so you can interchange them!''
Anita has a harsh way of speaking, I already said so. And yes, she sometimes makes too edgy points. But Damsel In Distress is pretty sexist. There the woman is only something the man loves, saves and protects. She is only acted on without taking action herself, making her vulnerable and helpless. What do they call something that is only acted upon? An object. There would be nothing wrong with few stories exploring this idea of wanting to save someone being the driving motive. But when thousands over thousands of games/movies/everything uses it and gives us helpless objects of saving, then we have a problem. Also, why is there nearly no versions of guys saving each other, girls saving each other or girls saving guys? There are some distressed dudes and we need more of them. Painting males as the heroes who need to do the saving, we are also putting unfair stress on guys. Like, you have to be strong and assertive to deserve a girl's love. We need more male characters who do not fight but are instead rescued/healers/bearers of some passive power of holiness that can purify the world.
No matter how much the game character loves the damsel, as long as she's merely acted upon, she is like property in the eyes of the plot. Now replace the damsel with a cake. Someone steals the cake, the hero goes after it. I'm using the cake as a funky example of how you can replace the damsel with an object and the story would still be the same. With the same teaching; you have to be brave and heroic to save something important to you.
I basically would not hate the Damsel In Distress as a trope if it was not so overused. It's just lazy writing from a period when stories were done lazily.
And again, that's just Anita projecting her believe that women are objects in games. The damsel in distress trope is just an easy way to give to hace the plot move. Double dragon the whole ''plot'' is '' punch people ''. Those games are mindless, they are not even trying to create a story most of the time.
Damsel in distress is more of an excuse rather than a storyline, lazy writing most of the time.
So at least if people like anita are going to hate on the trope, hate it for being lazy, not for being evil like she thinks.
And I still don't apreciate the fact that Anita believes that all men think that women are objects or that game developers hate women and want them out of gaming for good because '' this is a boys club!!!''
Legos are sexist too according to her...legos. LEGOS.
Male characters do not get put in this with females, saying so is deceivieng oneself. No matter how shallow, males at least get to be active. They DO things, where females are DONE TO. Yes, shallow characters are always stupid and often offensive. But it's not the same as females getting objectified.
If anything, having only aggressive, active and hunky males is sexist. Damsel In Distress is objectification. And portraying females as helpless and delicate is sexist, which often goes hand in hand with this trope.
Anita has never stated that "all men think women are objects". If you can prove me false, give me a link to a video/interview where she says this. She's saying that this plot device treats them like that. And I'm very happy you are not one of those men but yes, some men objectify women. And game industry is VERY sexist. And gamers can be sexist too. Just ask around to see how many women lie their gender online just to get to play in peace, since unfortunately games have been "boys' club" for a long time. There are real documentaries about it, if you want to look into that. But thankfully, not the entire industry is rotten. And it's changing.
And again, there will always be sexism in all media, racism, all that stuff.
Saying that video games make people sexist is like saying that violent video games make people violent. No arguments have been made to probe that other than interepretations of games.
You can agree to one without agreeing to both
She does not imply that men players see the woman as property. The one holding the controller may truly like the character and be emotionally attached to saving them. But the plot still treats her like property and so she is like any cake or powerful world-saving artifact to the male character.
Yes, there is sexism and racism in media. Are you implying that it is acceptable? That it is alright and we should all just lay back, being ignored or mispresented? Here I can only hint that being a white male would probably be a great thing then...
Violent games do not make anyone violent, true. Saying that would be ignorant. But violence in video games is simpler; it is about a hero using force to battle enemies, something that rarely comes by in real life. Plus there is our society's values and laws that tell us how bad murdering and violence is from an early age. Sexism is much more subtle and our societies have rarely any solid value system against it, sadly mostly in support of it. Entertainment presenting sexism acts to enforce it in real life in a way violence is impossible to be enforced due to heavy anti-violence messages and rules.
Why do we have violence in video games? Because warfare and using violence as a mean of protection as a necessary measure has long been accepted in our world. It is rightful to use force against the evil, be that evil whatever. Why do we have sexism in video games? Because that, too, is something in our societies. Women have long been seen as passive, helpless and dependant. By commenting upon that we are also commenting upon sexism in real life. Anita is making a statement against a general view on women when she comments how games present them.
Video games do not make people sexist. Sexism in the game industry makes video games sexist. Just like how violence in games doesn't make people violent, but how video games reflect the violence in our own society. Video games are not the source of the problem, they're the response to it.