Reviews Comments: Much improved from earlier videos.
Much improved from earlier videos.
I have previously been somewhat critical of Anita Sarkeesian's videos. While I agree that sexism (mostly unconscious, but deeply ingrained) is still a problem in media, Sarkeeasian's previous videos have frequently been biased(In the Bayonetta video, she makes no mention of the fact that, despite her admittedly hyper-sexualisation, Bayonetta is also the most competent character in the game) or focused on trivialities (Such as going on a diatribe on the misrepresentation of the Black-Widow Spider- interesting, but irrelevant to sexism in media). Moreover, she frequently comes of as smug (telling filmmakers that "they should feel really ashamed" for including sexist elements) undermining her points, even when they are otherwise well made. These issues are far less prevalent with her latest videos. She has adopted a far more academic style of presenting accurate evidence in support of her hypothesis. Importantly, she has accepted that Tropes Are Not Bad. Instead of decrying individual examples of Unfortunate Implications, she instead identifies overall patterns of sexism within the industry. Not only are these harder to refute, but more indicative of the real problem- ingrained sexism in our culture shaping games to reinforce that sexism. She is also more positive, less smug and actually discusses ways that the traditional gender roles may be subverted and toyed with. Indeed, a later video will showcase such successful subversions. Essentially, she has gone from simply complaining about the issues, to suggesting ways that they may be remedied. I still have some criticisms of these later videos. She could have distinguished between damsel-as-lover and damsel-as-daughter- both evoke different emotions from male players (However, both still define female characters in relation to males). I also think that, while she has a point with the Unfortunate Implications of "male protagonist forced to fight/kill his brainwashed/disfigured damsel, often while they beg for it", she ignores that these situations tend to derive drama from the male protagonist's reluctance/trauma in doing so. Again though, the female is defined solely by the male's response- the critique retains validity. However, such criticism's are likely a product of the discourse that Sarkeesian aims to incite. As such, I must gives these newer episodes a tentative endorsement.
I don't recall her ever saying that Tropes Are Not Bad. And all characters in fiction exist to evoke emotional reactions from the protagonist/player character, regardless of what they do or what happens to them.
comment #19606 Rahkshi500 1st Jun 13
She doesn't use those exact words, but makes the point that it is possible to enjoy a work, while simultaneously being critical of the messages it may convey. As such, while individual uses of a trope are not bad, the shear pervasiveness of sexist tropes is indicative of problems. And its not that the character evokes an emotion in the player character, it's that they are largely defined by that emotion (for example, feelings of protectiveness towards a damseled character, which help define her in the damsel role), and consequently (as that emotion is based on traditional gender-norms) by their gender. Again, she's gone from going on finger-wagging rants about individual examples of tropes that happen to have unfortunate implications, to pointing out general trends that, while innocuous in isolation, are indicative of worrying trends.
comment #19607 Nemo 1st Jun 13
Thing is that those trends are already dying. The works that still feature the distressed damsel prominently are one's that belong to old franchises and do it only because they've always done it.
comment #19608 McSomeguy 1st Jun 13
The video pointed out, actually, that many modern games are changing "damsel in distress" to "murdered damsel".
comment #19610 BonsaiForest 1st Jun 13
It seems they do that mostly to up the "gritty" factor. The thing about the damsel in distress in that it works based on the feeling of protectiveness men have towards women, or more generally that the strong have towards the weak, in any civilized setting, as well as the offense given to that civilization by the existence of other men who flout this deference. Anita Sarkeesian doesn't really want this to go away, because no woman would want to live in a world where the strong just took what they wanted and didn't care. But as long as it exists, then the damsel in distress is an effective storytelling device and, more importantly, one that doesn't require a lot of expository setup.
comment #19624 luomo 2nd Jun 13
I disagree, one of the complains is in fact that she doesn't follow Tropes Are Not Bad. That simply using certain tropes will always make them suffer Unfortunate Implications regardless of context or actual reasons, and that she stretches the trope too much. Enjoying something while being aware of it's flaws is by no means what Tropes Are Not Bad is suppose to be to begin with, is that tropes are tools that can be used well or badly but that it's simple use doesn't make it always fall under one category, which is why usually the tropes' descriptions talk about bad and good uses of it.
comment #19625 marcellX 2nd Jun 13
Yes, but why do the values Strong and Weak need to be attributed to male and female respectively, and why so frequently? Your naturally conflating "strong" with male and "weak" with female are indicative of the gender biases that the trope arguably reinforces. Obviously, it's a common part of escapist fiction for the strong to protect the weak- Indeed, this is a key basis of the hero-fantasy that games frequently follow. But why does gender need to be such a key element of this relationship? In the videos, Sarkeesian, lists many Male-Strong and Women-Weak examples form the last five or so years. In the modern era, where women are generally seen to be even with men, consistently portraying them as the weaker party doesn't really feel like an accurate portrayal of how real-life relationships work.
comment #19626 Nemo 2nd Jun 13
I maybe misused tropes are not bad. Put simply, the reason I think these new videos are better is that she doesn't cite any one individual example, but many examples of a trope with unfortunate implications being used. While she does concede that on an individual level, many of the uses of the trope are justified within the narrative, collectively (and that's the key work here) the shear pervasiveness of the trope is indicative of some, likely unconscious bias in the way games are developed, which is indicative of their still being some bias in overall society.
comment #19628 Nemo 2nd Jun 13
I agree. She very clearly points out that the trope is used again and again and again without much variation. There's a real lack of creativity in general in the gaming industry in many ways - gameplay, story, etc. She's talking about story and characters of course, but yes, there's real problems there.
comment #19629 BonsaiForest 2nd Jun 13
About the part of male characters being forced to kill their brainwashed/disfigured loved ones, I really disagree with Anita on this one. Even if we accept the valid critique that it's used to evoke an emotional reaction, the way she tries to parallel it to real-life domestic violence makes no sense. Many of these fictional women who beg to be killed are making the conscious choice for the players to end their life, and for many people who believe in euthanasia, respecting their wishes is better than letting them suffer. Even they know that it's not presented in a positive light, but as a tragic yet necessary action. This is a vast major difference and nothing like a real-life abusive man who is deluding himself into thinking that beating up his wife or girlfriend is for her own good.
comment #19630 Rahkshi500 2nd Jun 13
@Nemo Again, context, the key word here. The issue is implying that the simple use of it is bad. Badassin Distress and Badass Damsel are two whole troupes that tackle the whole always sexist issue. Almost everything can be subjected to an unlimited number of theories, just because sexism could be one of the reasons for something doesn't mean it is (like conspiracy theories), as is the example of her saying that a game with a female protagonist was changed in favor of Star Fox for sexist reasons instead of the more sensible and already criticized policy of Nintendo of picking games and stamping it's mascots on it. The issue is not whether or not a pattern of sexism exists or not, but that it's crazy and rather psychologist wanna-be to crumple up every instance together, which is not helped by her bias or fallacies, like the Star Fox game example, diminishing counter examples (saying Peach only appear on Super Mario Bros. 2 by mistake, which is a complete misuse of the word "mistake" but that's another matter), completely dismissing (what she considers) "non-main" games of the Mario series and as if that holds relevance, etc. There are games that use Damselin Distress or some variation for sexist reasons, there are many other games that have different and legitimate reasons for using it specially given the context, purpose of the story or in the story, etc. etc. etc. then there are more games that are either lazy, fear taking any risks, keep using the same thing because it works, etc. (I'm looking at you Nintendo) and there are other games that have some other situations. Grouping them all together as being because of sexism (be it unconscious or otherwise) it's a very poor use of psychology, similar to the methods used in the past and getting heavy criticism of a similar return today, be it for lack of research or pharmaceutical company influence.
comment #19633 marcellX 2nd Jun 13
I see your point, and I don't agree with her entirely. I just felt that this video was better than her previous ones. Her biases are less obvious and her research more in-depth. I feel that pointing out the consistent patterns is an improvement over simply beating individual examples over the head. I concede that she does not devote as much time as she could to discussing potential reasons a trope is used, and that to simply blanket it as conscious/unconscious sexism is overly simplistic. However, doesn't the shear abundance of a trope with sexist-undertones, even if it is occassionaly used well for non-sexist reasons, problematic? I'm not saying the trope should be done away with entirely, I'm simply saying that the fact that is used ad-nauseam shows that developers could do with changing things up more, be it due to sexism, or as you pointed out, more likely laziness (which could be argued as a passive form of sexism in this case- "lets use the sexist trope because we can't think of anything better", but that's a whole other argument).
comment #19639 Nemo 3rd Jun 13
Well, yeah, it's another argument because nobody makes a piece of media by thinking "yeah let's use the sexist trope." They use whatever is convenient for the story being told. It's not very creative storytelling but, then again, most of the examples she cited were schlock in terms of their story.
comment #19640 McSomeguy 3rd Jun 13
I think one reason that the trope gets repeated constantly, apart from lazy writing, is that it derives from old medieval chivalry. In old medieval tales, knights were expected to rescue women not necessarily for sexist reasons but because it was their duty. In fact, I believe that in most cases of them rescuing women, they didn't always marry the girl. They didn't rescue them to get laid, they rescued them for apparently the same reasons the police rescue hostages. If knights didn't rescue women, they were seen as cruel uncaring bastards who in a way could be accused of being sexist, I don't know if that makes sense. Fact is this concept while it doesn't necessarily empower women, it respects them. Because of this, it has influenced today's culture one way or another. Fast forward to today, some game designers try to invoke that same medieval chivalric feel to their games. Some more blatant like Legend of Zelda and some more subtlety. Even some games that don't try to invoke a medieval chivalric feeling can have core ideals derived from old medieval chivalry on a subconscious level. They do this as it has appeal and marketable. It does serve as a male fantasy in some cases, however the fantasy being served is not about subjugating women but being a hero like in those medieval tales. Problem with the whole invoking old medieval tales though is that due to whatever reason, the core values of medieval chivalry have some what been degraded or even perverted in some games. What was once a selfless act of saving a hostage became a selfish act of getting a girl. This is the apparent sexism in the use of the concept in some games. The appeal of old medieval chivalry is nice but can lead to a horrible adaptation when not done properly. That's what I think. I maybe wrong in some parts of this explanation but I think that's an idea I'm getting from the overuse of the trope.
comment #19642 Elfkaiser 3rd Jun 13
Nemo: "I feel that pointing out the consistent patterns is an improvement over simply beating individual examples over the head. I concede that she does not devote as much time as she could to discussing potential reasons a trope is used, and that to simply blanket it as conscious/unconscious sexism is overly simplistic." Here I can certainly agree with both you and Miss Sarkeesian; The over abundance of a particular trope as a plot device in a continuous trend can certainly be argued as forming some unfortunate implications. But where I depart from Anita on this is her overuse of theory terminology when discussing the "underlying reasons." because when she talks about them, she only uses one hypothesis or reason for why, and it easily comes off as offensive and insulting to both the game characters and to the players. It would be nice for her to bring up several possible reasons instead of one. This is one of my problems with Anita's videos, is that her trying to explain and dissecting such tropes leads to her creating some unfortunate implications of her own.
comment #19646 Rahkshi500 3rd Jun 13
There's also a more simple view. Let's take Final Fantasy XIII for example. Two of the good guys are trying to save a girl (sister, fiance), the protagonist is a woman, another of the characters is trying to save his son, and by the end they're trying to save millions of lives. The point being that there's this notion that women are seen as weak just because they're saved. Usually when you play a game were you have to save the president, brother, male friend, son, etc. you're not thinking of that person or gender as weak, you're just empathizing with the character trying to save someone they care about or that they're safety is important, the same way you view those male characters is usually the way we also view the female characters, which makes the ingrain sexism argument even more debatable. There's also more games that don't use the trope than those that do, since most of the rescues are on larger scales. But even so there's even less cases in recent years (as we can see with the ones that came out with the 7th gen games) so there has been an improvement of the issue, and unfortunate implications have been taken into account more (for example Kingdom Hearts Chain Of Memories changed Marluxias gender from female to male so the only two females of the group were the ones trying and failing to overthrow the organization). With that in mind I gotta agree with Rahkshi, I think the old method of picking a specific game and braking it down was a good method, but that as with this one the problem is not the idea but that she tends IMO execute them badly, mainly her being too biased, which goes back to your point of she herself undermining her own points. Some of her videos introduction makes you think "you know, now that you mention it" then when she gets to the body and conclusion, examples, etc. that's where she loses you.
comment #19648 marcellX 3rd Jun 13
One issue I have with your piece: However, such criticism's are likely a product of the discourse that Sarkeesian aims to incite. The issue I have with this is that if Sarkeesian were really looking to encourage discourse, she wouldn't have disabled comments on some of her "Tropes vs. Women" videos, which could be taken as an extreme measure against potential trolling, but could also be taken to be cowardly & suggestive of disdain for criticism.
comment #26871 VarianFrenchFry 9th Nov 14
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