Friday, September 5, 2014

Videogames and Sexism (part 3)

I'll start this entry confesing I find the second video on the 'damsel in distress' trope particularly disgusting. The way she draws parallelisms between fictional worlds and real problems that have absolutely nothing to do with them is troubling and hints to an underlying problem with her attitude towards media: she tries and finds ways of twisting reality so that things that mean something will look like they're doing quite the opposite.

This image represents feminism better than Anita's spiteful discourse.

But let's start with a small but very relevant example: "In the most decidedly patronizing examples, depictions of female vulnerability are used as an easy way for writers to trigger an emotional reaction in male players." Yeah, you read correctly, and I'm quoting literally. She assumes female players are not able to trigger emotional reactions from signs of vulnerability from female characters. You know, empathy must be a thing alien to her. Because, you know, if it doesn't fit her twisted view of the world, then it's not possible. This is a small token that shows just how biased her view is. It also helps explain how she gets to the conclusions se reaches. It's most likely she starts with the conclusions and finds a way for facts to take her there. Shameful. Oh, to tope it all, she is showing a clip from ICO to remark her point. Well done, Anita. At least you show us here your real face.

"As we discussed in our first episode, when female characters are damselled, their ostensibly agency is removed (that's a fallacy since they never had that agency by definition since they are NPCs) and reduced to a state of victimhood. So narratives that frame intimacy, love or romance as something that blossoms from or hinges upon the disempowerment and victimizations of women are extremely troubling because they tend to reinforce the widespread, regressive notion that women in vulnerable, passive or subordinate positions are somehow desirable because of their disempowerment." How?! Anita has a problem with basic logic. The fact that the pricess falls in love with Prince Charming because he recues her from the dragon's lair doesn't mean he likes her because she is powerless! She is rescuing her and giving her power back, for God's sake! And most of these stories tend to finish with "they lived happy forever after", don't they? And that's after she's given her power back. Uhm... I've yet to play a game, watch a film or read a book where the good guy likes the girl because she is captive, or powerless in any way. Usually they like the girl before (that's why it's usually a 'loved one' that gets kidnapped as she herself pointed out in the first video) and the very few times where that's not the case she is presented as someone sexy and attractive and that's why the hero likes her. If it wouldn't be because I think she's just trying to find a way to justify herself, I'd say she's quite sick and should see a shrink.

If you're to criticise Anita, keep it classy!

I do have a problem with that idea of romance on the damsel in distress trope, but it's quite the opposite: it tends to reinforce the idea that men are desirable if they are able to fulfill the 'white knight' role. It tells girls to wait for their Prince Charming to appear and save them. That's obviously infantile, but it may end up shaping women expectations on boys and, as Shrek clearly shows, Prince Charming may turn out to be a fucking prick, and the Ogre a valiant hero, but you won't know that unless you get to know them. Just because someone looks like the white know doesn't mean he is. That's my main issue, which is bad both for men and women alike: some men may not get a fair chance or even felt themselves less due to their looks while some women may aspire to 'be rescued' which is a passive position I wouldn't like for anyone I love.

She goes on with that a bit more with one stupid remark more I'll skip since the reasoning to discredit it is the same as the previous one. Well not to mention I don't know anyone that feels that power imbalance in a relationship is good or desirable. Oh, and that's definitely not a 'paternalistic' attitude. I can say, as a father, I definitely want my son to do better than me. Most parents do.

"The woman in the refrigerator trope is used as the cornerstone of some of the most famous contemporary videogames. It provides the core motivational hook behind both the Max Payne and the God of War series". Buzzzz. Error! The woman in the refrigerator requires someone a loved one to be killed by someone else so that you can exact revenge. In God of War (probably she hadn't played the game because it's too 'gross') it's the anti-hero who killed her. If you're critizising a game the least you could do is get your facts straight... but that's only if you're looking for the truth, and Anita is obviously not doing that. She's only interested in her truth.

Anita uses Max Payne 3 images to talk about Max's wife and daughter's murder to support her point. She forgets to mention that in the game you're a bodyguard for a family formed of 3 members (father, son and daughter). In one of the scenes, for instance, Max has to rescue the son because he had been kidnapped. So much for your typical damsel in distress trope...

"Developers must be hoping that by exploiting sensationalised images of brutalised women it will be enough to fool gamers into thinking their games are becoming more emotionally sophisticated." Because she knows what developers think or hope... And uses images of Dante's Inferno to remark her assertion. It's a pity that game received quite mediocre reviews and I don't think the story was praised as 'emotionally sophisticated'. I don't really think that was the point, but instead simplifying a complex plot (Dante's Divina Comedia) into something most people could easily understand. To know that you didn't even need to play the game, for God's sake! But wait, there's more: "but the truth is there's nothing mature about most of these stories (I don't get the use of 'mature' here but anyway that's a sentence I can agree with until...) and many of them cross the line into blatant misogyny." Thanks for giving us no examples to rebate the point. Anyway, as it's already becoming a trend in her analysis, she doesn't need prove to assert things. She just says them, and you must believe her for her word. Well, I'm a gamer since a very long time ago, and I must say there are very few games with misogyny depictions (in their protagonists that is).

"When I say 'Violence against women', I am primarily referring to images of women being victimized (dramatic silence to see how a woman is being murdered in a game) or when violence is linked specifically to a character's gender or sexuality". Ok, so while de second part is what everyone understand for the term, the first one is not. Images of women being victimized are only relevant to the case if (and only if) the violence is linked to their gender. Otherwise it's just violence against an NPC (calling them human beings seems a little too much) that happens to be a woman. That's how the world understands it. Anita's definition is an excuse to accuse of sexism and misogyny things that are not. That's blatant demagogy.

A note about the 'misoginist joke' she comments in GTA 3. She's right about it but she ignores the context of it. MrRepzion (a famous youtubber) presented a counter scene in GTA 4 where something very similar happened but with a girl shooting 2 men that were annoying her. I understand a misandric joke doesn't make a misoginist one good, but it helps understand that the tone of the game is not one that condones that sort of behaviour. It's making a parody of common pop stereotypes and deforming them to the extreme.

According to Anita, in terms of 'justifying' violence against women this is one of the worst offenders. No offense, but I wouldn't consider those 'things' women or human at all. I must admit Duke Nukem Forever is quite simplistic wirh regards to hooks for adolescent players.

(While speaking about the 'Euthanised Damsel') "These damsel'ed women are written so as to subordinate themselves to men. They submissively accept their grisly fate and will often beg the player to perform violence on them, giving men direct and total control over whether they live or die." There are so many things wrong with this sentence... First, the women are not written to subordinate themselves to men. They are written suffering a lot of pain caused by 'the bad guy' (usually a monster, alien or demon). They are not submissively accepting their fate, they are in pain and thus want to end their suffering. That may be apology of euthanasia, but definitely not sexist. They happen to be woman but that's not the reason why they are being killed, or in pain. Also, she confuses the term players with men. So it's actually the player (whether male or female) the one in control, if even in control, not men. But most importanly, most of the times, the player is not in control. They can't progress until they kill the one in pain. She, herself pointed that a moment ago, it's surpising how quickly she forgot about it. Oh, wait, it served her purpose of showing how men are depicted as powerful misoginists in games. Even if she lies... who cares?

(She then continues) "...In other words, these women are 'asking for it'. Quite literally". English is not my first language but I believe that sentence is used to justify violence against women, usually domestic violence. She's drawing similarities between you shooting a half-woman/half-alien with domestic violence or (real) violence agaisnt women. That's a disgusting opinion worth of only the worst demagogues and is spiteful, twisted and sick. She's portraying herself quite well with these (veiled) accusations.

"Of course if you look at these games in isolation, you'll be able to find incidental (sic) narrative circumstances that could be used to explain away the inclusion of violence against women as a plot device. [...] Games don't exist in a vacuum and therefore can't be divorced from the larget cultural context of the real world of the real world. It is specially troubling in light of the serious, real life epidemic (wrong use of the word) of violence against women facing the female population on this planet. Research (context and reference purposefully omitted here) consistently shows that people of all genders tend to buy into the myth that women are the ones to blame for the violence men perpetrate against them. In the same vein, abusive men consistently state that their female targets deserved it, wanted it or were asking for it. Given that larger cultural context it should go without saying that it is dangerously irresponsible to be creating games in which players are encouraged and even required to perform violence against women in order to save them. Even though most of the games we're talking about here don't explicitly condone violence against women nevertheless they trivialize and exploit female suffering as a way to ratchet up the emotional or sexual stakes of the player".Oh, boy, that's so wrong!

Some societies have institutionalized sexism. They are not where these games are played though. They are normally framed as the bad guys, mind you.

So, according to Anita, any type of violence against a female victim is highly irresponsible because it could encourage or perpetuate stupid a false beliefs that violence against women is ok.That is a very bad case of censhorship and a very demagogic one. First of all, the 'epidemic' of violence against women is not exclusive but it's certainly more common in poor or socially depressed areas of the world. Those that have little access to videogames. That's not a justification but a way to show how she tries to put in context videogames in 'the world' but fails to do so when it doesn't help her agenda. But that's not the end of it. If she was right, about her claim then it would be ok, but she admits most of these games don't condone violence against women. Actually, most games condemn it (the bad guy does it and the good guy ends up beating/killing him). And when the violence is performed is almost always within a reasonable context ('incidental narrative circumstances') she argues we shouldn't 'trivialize' the subject. How the fuck are we trivializing the subject of violence against women when an alien has transformed your girlfriend in a half-alien thing and she is in unsufferable pain and asks you to kill her. It sounds like the 2 things have absolutely nothing to do with each other, right? Well, that's because they don't. Particularly considering that it's the hero the one that punishes the alien that actually victimized the woman. But still, she uses that excuse to implicitly accuse game developers of reinforcing the beliefs that women ask for it. That veiled accusation is misandric, demagogical and disgusting. What's wrong with you?!

She then goes on to say that game developers didn't mean to do it, just didn't think about the 'underlying message'. Well, maybe that's because there's no underlying message! If the writer didn't think there is one, you're there to correct him and tell him what it is and how it's so bad, even when that underlying message contradicts the obvious and direct message (punish the one that hurts the innocent victim). Yeah, sure.

"[...] in many cases developers have backed themselves into a corner with their own game mechanics. When violence is the primary gameplay mechanic [...] it severly limits the options for problem solving." This is something I completley agree with. It's a pity she doesn't use this knowledge to analyze the games she analyzes. Instead uses her biased view of the world to do it.

"One of the really insidious things about systemic and institutionalized sexism...". What institutionalized sexism is she talking about. I understand institutionalized is when the State is helping maintain the subject. I don't believe that's the case in most modern democratic societies. I can't think of many forms of institutionalized sexism and none of them are relevant to the subjects discussed in the video.

I didn't find this sequence funny. Apparently I'm not the only one. The big gun out of her dress is a nice touch, though.

"Likewise engaging with these games is not going to transform players into raging sexists. [...] Cultural influence works in much more subtle and complicated ways." That's just bullshit to justify the fact that she has absolutely no prove whatsoever that any of these tropes have any real effect in the world. In fact, it's a way of saying, I'm not going ot justify my following conclusions, just believe them because I say so. And then she goes on with them:

"So when developers exploit sensationalized images of brutalized mutilated and victimized women over and over and over again, it tends to reinforce the dominant gender paradigm which casts men as aggressive and commanding, and frames women as subordinate and dependent". This is just bullshit. There's absolutely no logical connection between the first and the second parts of the sentence. Why does the use of brutalized women frame them as 'subordinate' or 'dependent'? Let's do a different reading, but now based on the plot of most of these games: when developers constatly frame the perpetrators of violence against women as the evil guys and they are constantly and unequivocally brought to justice or exacted vengueance upon, it tends to reinforce the notions that violence against women is an evil thing and that performing it will not go unpunished. Isn't it a way more literal and realistic read of the situation? If I can do it, why couldn't Anita? Or... maybe she didn't want to?

"In fact these games usually frame the loss of the woman as something (sic) that has been unjustly taken from the male hero. [...] The implication being that she belonged to him, that she was her possesion". Yeah, sure. The fact that many of these games present them in a healthy relationship or that they never treat her as an object leads her to think that instead of that, maybe, the male protagonist loved the one taken and they are devastated by it. I must be crazy to think of that implication!

"[...] I'd argue that the true source of the pain is stems from feelings of weakness and/or guilt over his failure to perform his socially prescribed patriarchal duty to protect his woman and children." I'm sure that if I lost my partner or son I would feel weak, frustrated or guilty I couldn't be there to save them. I'm actually pretty sure my partner would feel in a very similar way too. Adding the 'socially prescribed patriarchal duty' is a twisted attempt into transforming a very noble cause into a sexist selfish one. That's demagogical, biased, unjustified (as most of what she says) and, at this point, nauseating.

I'm surprised this game doesn't treat subjects with delicacy, subtlety or nuance...

"Violence against women is a serious, global epidemic, therefore attempts to address the issue in fictional contexts demands a considerable degree of respect, subtlety and nuance." I don't agree with the 'demand' part, I'd say it's best if they are treated like that. But being blunt and clear is just as good (she definitely is blunt and clear on those subjects and not subtle at all). Anyway, the point is, those games are not about women. They are not about men either. They are about shooting or beating people. If you still haven't understood that, then you may consider you're not capable or prepared to do this job. That's also the same reason why the games that focus on addressing those issues exclusively do it the way you like it (ie, To the Moon or Dear Esther). Because they are not shooters, they are games centered on the narrative not on the shooting gameplay aspects of it. Understanding that is crucial to doing proper unbiased analysis of games.

"The 'dark and edgy' trope cocktails that we discussed in this episode are not isolated incidents, or obscure anomalies, instead they represent an ongoing recurring pattern in modern game narratives". I'm not going to deny it, I'm just going to point out how she avoids backing her statement with proves, statistics or anything else that would prove it. She just states something and it must be believed. That reminds me of something, what could it be...

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