Feminist Frequency is a web series created by Anita Sarkeesian and co-written by video remixer Jonathan McIntosh to analyze pop culture from a feminist perspective. The point of the series is to point out female character archetypes, mostly negative criticism towards what she regards as the Unfortunate Implications that ensue from various shows and movies. Part of her stated goal is to educate people on feminist theories using pop culture to communicate basic concepts. In addition to covering individual subjects and top best/worst lists, there is a twelve-part mini-series on "Tropes V.S. Women", started in 2011. Near the end of 2012, she announced her "Tropes V.S. Women in Video Games" which had planned to have 12 parts when completed. Both works just so happened to use this very site as inspiration. A fundraiser her video games videos turned out highly successful due to media attention on an associated harassment campaign. The first video of this series was released in March of 2013. She announced in January 2016 that she would be ending the project, citing that she did not feel the passion for the series that she used to have.Feminist Frequency was later turned into an official non-profit organization. Though started and run by Anita Sarkeesian, Feminist Frequency as a project is technically a group effort. Another contributor is Jonathan McIntosh, credited as a producer. Game reviewer Carolyn Petit was brought on as a production assistant in late 2014, going on to co-write episodes of the "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games" series and reviewing several games for the channel. The other members of the project choose to remain anonymous.Feminist Frequency has been known to receive very controversial reactions, so please please please observe the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement.
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Tropes discussed in the series
- Each of the "Tropes V.S. Women" episodes focuses on a particular trope she considers to be negative:
- First: Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Anita also brings up The Muse, conflating the concept with MPDGs. In her view, the concept of muses is antithetical to the idea that women can also be artists.
- Second: Women in Refrigerators
- Third: The Smurfette Principle
- Fourth: The Evil Demon Seductress, a combination of female Horny Devils and The Vamp.
- Fifth: The Mystical Pregnancy
- Sixth: Straw Feminists
- The Tropes Vs Women in Video Games series:
- The first three are about the Damsel in Distress.
- The first focuses on the definition (a woman rendered completely helpless so the hero can rescue her) and the history of the trope from some of its earliest incarnations up to the year 2000.
- The second focuses on more modern games and the trope's combination with other tropes for a Darker and Edgier twist. Murdering the hero's wife and forcing him to rescue his daughter combines the Damsel in Distress with Stuffed into the Fridge. Some combine the two (called by Sarkeesian "Damsel In The Fridge") by getting the hero to rescue the murdered wife's soul (usually from hell), and some have the twist of getting the hero to murder her himself at the end of the game to rescue her from mutilation or just to get at the villain, sometimes with her begging to be freed (combining it with Mercy Kill, called by Sarkeesian "Euthanized Damsel"). She then places the games' violence against women in the context of reality, focusing on the fact that the final combination rationalizes violence against a woman for her own good and the fact that this is a rationalization often used in abusive relationships.
- The third is about role reversal and the differences of the Distressed Dude from the Damsel in Distress. In it, she also discusses the continued use of the Damsel in Distress, portrayal of ironic sexism in indie and mobile games, and the distinction between subversion of the trope as opposed to parodies of the trope.
- The fourth is about the "Ms Male Character" trope, a subtype of Distaff Counterpart, with digressions into the Smurfette Principle and Tertiary Sexual Characteristics.
- The fifth and sixth are about the "Woman as Background Decoration" trope, referring to non-playable character Fanservice that caters to the Male Gaze and the related Video Game Cruelty Potential. The second part of this also references the tendency for Drop Dead Gorgeous to focus on female characters (particularly in marketing materials), while men have a much wider variety of death scenes that don't center around their sexuality. It also refers to Would Hit a Girl in cases where a female character is introduced purely for an evil male character to beat up to prove how evil he is.
- The seventh and eighth videos focus on who Sarkeesian considers "Positive Female Characters" and why.
- The seventh video focuses on The Scythian from Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, specifically examining the emotional impact of the Scythian's Heroic Sacrifice.
- The eighth video focuses on Jade from Beyond Good & Evil, examining her relationship with other characters and the role of her socioeconomic status in gameplay.
- The ninth video is about the concept of "Women as Reward," with a focus on several Troperiffic examples of Fanservice. These include cinematics with Standard Hero Reward, Smooch of Victory, and Rescue Sex; Easter Eggs that result in topless or otherwise sexual scenes, characters, or events; unlockable costumes which overlap with Fetish and Chainmail Bikini; moments where sex or sexualized interaction rewards players with Experience Points or an increase to Life Meter or Sprint Meter; Collection Sidequests involving Fanservice; and Achievements for sex, having sex with multiple women, ogling female characters, or sexual interactions with nonconsenting female characters. Sarkeesian discusses the way these tropes reinforce a feeling of entitlement to women's sexuality, as with the behavior of cat callers.
- The tenth video is a "Special DLC Mini-Episode" for "Women as Reward" about Downloadable Content, Pre-Order Bonuses, and full-price bonus content that serve as profit-driven version of Fanservice.
- The eleventh video is about "Strategic Butt Coverings," focusing on a specific Double Standard related to the ways butts get framed and sexualized in video games.
- The twelfth video focuses on "Body Language and the Male Gaze," examining the prevalence of Sexy Walks and camera angles tailored to the Male Gaze on female characters.
- The thirteenth video is about "Lingerie is not Armor," focusing on the ways female characters get sexualized in situations that make little sense, the ridiculous nature of the Chainmail Bikini, and the the linkage of sexualization to female characters' power. Sarkeesian also discusses the ways that video game developers can prioritize realistic combat or athletic attire over Jiggle Physics, and the rare examples of female characters expressing non-sexualized sexual desire.
- The fourteenth video focuses on "Female Combatants" and the question "Are Women Too Hard to Animate?" Sarkeesian discusses how violence against some female combatants is gendered, while other violence is not, and the reluctance on the part of developers to include women fighters in games.
- The fifteenth video discusses two tropes that are implications of Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty: Only One Female Mold and Men Get Old, Women Get Replaced. Sarkeesian discusses how male characters are allowed to have a variety of builds, body shapes and ages, while female characters are usually young and slim to fit the ideal beauty standard.
- The sixteenth video discusses the "Sinister Seductress," which comprises several tropes regarding female sexuality: Fan Disservice and Body Horror on the one hand; The Vamp and Horny Devils on the other; and the crossover between the two. Sarkeesian discusses the Unfortunate Implications of depicting female sexuality as "evil".
- The first three are about the Damsel in Distress.
- Most Writers Are Male: Discussed most of the time.
Tropes invoked|Trope during the series
- Accentuate the Negative: Largely focuses on what she finds sexist in the media.
- Action Girl: She tends to be highly critical of these kinds of characters, seeing them as not empowering, but, more often than not, capitulations to toxic masculinity and its exhortation of violence over communication.
- Actual Pacifist: She has shown to have a strong dislike of violent media in all forms, and has praised games like Gone Home and Portal for not relying on it to tell their stories. She has dissented from other feminist commentaries and criticized True Grit and Mad Max: Fury Road for connecting supposed empowerment of women with Violence Really Is the Answer.
- And That's Terrible: She argues that Hollywood "should feel really guilty right now" about using the Mystical Pregnancy trope.
- But Not Too Evil: Anita doesn't care much whether it's the good guys or the bad guys who are being sexist. And she especially doesn't care if Deliberate Values Dissonance is in effect, such as with Mad Men.
- Epileptic Flashing Lights: "Women As Background Decoration Part 1" shows the Duke Nukem 3D strip club scene and the attract mode from Rave Racer, both which uses a hefty amount of strobe lighting.
- Iconic Outfit: Nearly all fan and parody art will show her wearing a pink plaid shirt, hoop earrings, and a ponytail. At her panel for Geek Girl Con 2015, she explained that the regularity of her outfit is more based on what looks good in video production than any personal attachment to the look.
- Men Use Violence, Women Use Communication: Discussed in her videos about True Grit and Veronica Mars. Anita appears to believe that women using violence makes a work not feminist, just by definition.
- Not So Different: Many of her supporters point out that the tropes she criticizes in video games are also complaints levied by gamers.
- Unfortunate Implications: Invoked. The series presents an analysis of how many tropes about women play into double standards and unfortunate implications, promoting sexist values without conscious intent but effective methods. Anita Sarkeesian commonly shares a very brief and abstract analysis of an aggregate of works, selecting a few works to reference by name and pointing out how the work makes their unfortunate implications.
Tropes conversed during the series
- Hyperactive Metabolism: From the transcript of Are Women Too Hard To Animate? Female Combatants:To participate in the worlds games create, we happily accept time travel, superpowers, ancient alien civilizations, the ability to carry infinite items, the idea that eating a hot dog can instantly heal your wounds, and a million other fictions. Itís certainly not too much to ask that these fictional worlds give us believable female combatants too.
- Time Travel: From the transcript of Are Women Too Hard To Animate? Female Combatants:To participate in the worlds games create, we happily accept time travel, superpowers, ancient alien civilizations, the ability to carry infinite items, the idea that eating a hot dog can instantly heal your wounds, and a million other fictions. Itís certainly not too much to ask that these fictional worlds give us believable female combatants too.
Tropes used during the series
Works specifically discussed in the series
- True Grit: She likes Mattie as a smart young woman but argues against other feminists calling it feminist because Mattie promotes masculine violence instead of feminine cooperation.
- Sucker Punch: Viciously derides it as a "steaming pile of sexist crap" (and takes the time to call its director an idiot).
- The Force Awakens
- Twilight: Argues that, while she hates it as much as most people, she feels that they do so for all the wrong reasons, and that the "right" reason to hate it is because Edward is a creepy, possessive stalker, as the character himself references him as in the companion book Midnight Sun. While she doesn't go into the details of the feminist analysis, it echoes a tidal wave of feminist backlash to the Twilight series easily accessible with a web search and the video is not so much an effort to analyze Twilight as it is a reference to a larger discussion.
- The Hunger Games: She likes the first book for its portrayal of Katniss as the strong, reluctant warrior but finds the premise unrealistic. She considers the later books to pointlessly distort the story into a Twilight-esque romantic Will they? Won't they? and simplify the Katniss character into sexist cliche. She likes the film adaptation but finds the Race Lift casting racist.
- Veronica Mars: Praised it for interpreting women (the main character specially) for being tech-savvy and the use of non-violent conflict resolution. Panned the third season for literally villainising feminists.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Although she hasn't discussed the show in an episode, she has mentioned it often as one of her favorite shows and characters. She has also published one dissertation in which she compares Buffy to Bella Swan.
- Dollhouse: She considers it misogynistic because the Villain Protagonists are sympathetic at the same time they do horrible things to women.
- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: She considers it wonderfully feminist for presenting a strong, independent single mom and for having a lot of character development.
- True Blood: She finds it sexist for promoting female dependence to alpha male types represented by the murderous raping vampires.
- Mad Men: She considers it sexist and doesn't buy that presenting retro sexism to make us laugh at the 1960s removes the element of sexism and thinks that it ultimately serves to make sexism be perceived as acceptable.
- Dexter: She doesn't like having a crazy serial-killing man as a part of popular entertainment.
- Bones: As with above, she doesn't like it for having crazy serial-killing men as a part of popular entertainment. She describes it as sexist but doesn't go into why.
- CSI: New York: As with above, she doesn't like it for having crazy serial-killing men as a part of popular entertainment.
- Firefly: She indicates she considers Zoe part of an anti-feminist trend recasting tough male roles to women, flashing Zoe's profile while discussing the trend with regard to why she thinks Mattie Ross in True Grit is not a feminist character.
- Kanye West: She calls the music video for "Monster" misogynistic for fetishizing dead women.
- Justin Bieber: She sees his version of "All I Want For Christmas Is You" as about a Stalker with a Crush and thus creepy.
- Bayonetta: She describes its Fanservice pandering to the Male Gaze as misogynistic, and she especially doesn't like its marketing in Japan, where people in the subway were encouraged to take flyers covering up a wall-sized poster of the protagonist in order to undress her.
- Star Fox Adventures: She presents its original version Dinosaur Planet as a feminist game made sexist when turned into a Dolled-Up Installment for the Star Fox series.
- Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- That Dragon Cancer
- Quantum Break
- Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
- The Nostalgia Chick: Cited as a reference source.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: She likes Katara. With regard to the film The Last Airbender, she finds the Race Lift casting racist.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: She approves of it but hasn't gone into detail why. Although she has expressed disappointment in the idea of Equestria being a monarchy, especially after the events of the third season finale.