There have been a lot of good posts and discussions relevant to The Border House this week, but here are three that I read that all deal with female characters and how they are treated by the games they are in as well as the video game community.
First, over at Laser Orgy, Maddy Myers has a fantastic piece Gears of War 3‘s female characters and how their treatment reflects that of female gamers by the predominantly male video game community:
But those femme-presenting among us who do venture into hyper-masculine spheres get treated very similarly to the way Anya Stroud and Sam Byrne are treated in this game. We get reduced to being Women, or wombs, and shouldn’t we be off making babies or sandwiches or something, somewhere else, not here, because we’re muddying up this masculine game with our femininity. We get looks of surprise and alarm and shock – you play this? This game? We get half-propositioned, half-mocked in ways that are meant to be “jokes,” sort of, except it’s not really a joke at all, is it. We could try to downplay our femininity, or play along with misogynist jokes ‘til we half-believe them, in an effort to fit in – but that never really does the trick, because at the end of the day, you’re still The Other. Even if you don’t try to rock the boat, you’re already causing an upset just by being there. So you may as well rock harder.
Our second piece for today is written by Daniel Orta at his blog, making the case for the Mass Effect movie to star the female version of Commander Shepard:
The world of science fiction films is crowded with the idea of the one male hero fighting adversity for the good of their respective “universe” so to say- everyone from Captain Malcolm Reynolds(Serenity, Firefly) to older classics like George Taylor (from Planet of the Apes). The male hero fighting for good in the face of so much adversity is a world to which comes natural to the science fiction genre in films. Let’s mix it up a bit and place a female Shepard into the role. After all, when you think of a female hero in science fiction, most minds turn immediately to Ellen Ripley of the Alien films. And that character is almost thirty years old at this point- have there been no other real sci-fi super heroines. Okay, maybe Buffy, but she was more fantasy character than sci-fi. Some of the Firefly characters were quite strong, but they weren’t the main character- only playing second fiddle to Nathan Fillion’s Malcolm Reynolds.
Alien was almost thirty years ago! Damn. We are long overdue for another great sci-fi heroine.
Lastly, Twitter exploded yesterday afternoon with discussion of sexism in the newly released Batman: Arkham City. [Trigger warning for the following two links; slurs for both, discussion of misogyny and rape in film for the first.] First is an analysis from Film Crit Hulk, appropriately titled “GODDAMMIT VIDEO GAMES“:
TO REITERATE: IN THE FIRST HOUR OF ARKHAM CITY WE HAVE A SCANTILLY CLAD HIGH-HEAL-NINJA-ING CATWOMAN GETTING BEATEN BY TWO-FACE AS HE CALLS HER A BITCH. WE HAVE A GROUP OF MUSCLE-BOUND HOODLUMS ALL STANDING AROUND EXCITED TO DUMP HER INTO A VAT OF ACID. BATMAN COMES TO THE RESCUE AS CATWOMAN ESCAPES. SHE FLIRTS WITH HIM MERCILESSLY AND MAKES NOT JUST DUMB, BUT NOT-FUN SEXY PUNS. BATMAN THEN GOES OUTSIDE AND YOU OVERHEAR A BUNCH OF GUYS TALKING ABOUT HOW CATWOMAN AND AGAIN THE WORD BITCH POPS IN. THEY ALL THINK SHE SWINGS BOTH WAYS (CAUSE THAT’S THE KIND OF THING ANY SEXY GIRL MUST BE UP FOR). AND THEN THEY’RE BASICALLY TALKING ABOUT THEIR MASTURBATORY FANTASIES OF HER… YOU KNOW, ABOUT THE SAME ONE THEY WERE CALLING A BITCH. BATMAN THEN GOES OVER TOWARD THE JOKER’S TOWER AND YOU HOPE ALL THIS SHIT IS OVER BUT THEN YOU OVERHEAR A BUNCH OF THUGS TALKING ABOUT HOW HARLEY QUINN IS A DUMB BITCH.
NOW THIS WAS WHERE HULK LEFT IT THE OTHER NIGHT AND TO BE SURE HULK WASN’T JUST REACTING OUT OF MOMENTARY THINGS HULK CAME BACK AND PLAYED A LOT MORE TO BE FAIR… IT DIDN’T GET ANY BETTER.
ACTUALLY IT GOT WORSE.
Hulk goes into detail about the difference between portraying misogyny in order to make some sort of comment on it and simply offering up misogyny for consumption without any context or commentary, which he argues is what is going on in Arkham City. Here’s more from Kirk Hamilton at Kotaku, but don’t read the comments unless you want to see just how nasty gamers can be over even a moderate statement like “hey, characters in this game use gendered slurs a ton, that’s kind of messed up!”