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Dec 20th 2011 at 11:41:45 PM •••

So, there's been a bit of discussion about the Unfortunate Implications of the depictions of women and men in the game. Now, I have to admit I'm as guilty as adding to both of them as anyone, if not more (and rather at length, I have to concede), but on reflection I'm starting to wonder whether they should be on the page at all. So I took the liberty of moving them here to discuss whether they should be on the page in their present form, in an altered form, or not at all.

The first example seems like a valid cut in any case, since the discussion doesn't start from a Fridge Logic point to begin with, but a little bit of a bitch-session about some people daring to think the game might be a bit sexist in some ways (which as I think I've made over-abundantly clear, is a valid viewpoint, but not necessarily a discussion appropriate for our purposes here):

  • Where in the hell do people get the idea that the game is sexist? Most of it seems to come from Catwoman and Ivy's outfits, and the fact that thuigs will call Catwoman a bitch. For the first, those two characters explicitly use their sexuality as a tool for their crimes. Having them wear something that covers them up would make as much sense as dressing batman in neon. For the second, 'bitch' is used as a standin phrase for freak with Batman. Go ahead, replace any instance of bitch with freak, and it works. Its a derogatory phrase used by enemies.
    • Batman is also called 'wanker' by Penguin and 'bastard' by Catwoman (albeit more of an affectionate tease.)
    • In my opinion, it is because a Vocal Minority (probably with a Straw Feminist or two) think "OMG! Female supervillains using their sexuality to seduce others = Sexist!" and the use of the word "bitch" is a capital offense to any Straw Feminist (despite that men also got sworn at in the game, and not just with the word "bitch" or "son of a bitch" but they can take it, because they're men while women should never be sworn at). Also, there are very few females in the game when everyone, if even the mooks are looked at, though there are probably reasons for that (discussed lower on this page actually)...but since there are so few females, it stands out more when they are insulted. I can agree with that if it is winter, Catwoman should probably not be using Absolute Cleavage, though.
      • The problem is, people are not looking at context at all. As far as insults go, the people casually throwing around words like bitch, are not shown as heroic. It would be same as critisizing a Medal Of Honor game for supporting nazism. Secondly,if you are going to complain about women dressing seductively, why aren't you complaining about all the guys who have massive muscles and perfectly chiseled chins?
      • To address the second point, because the men aren't sexualised to the same degree as the women. To take one comparison; yes, Batman is a well-built handsome guy with a chiseled jaw, but he's also a well-built handsome guy with a chiseled jaw who's fully covered up and not showing any skin except for said jaw, with a huge cape that further cloaks and obscures most of his body. His sexual appeal, if not absent entirely (he's still a handsome, well-built guy, after all), is not foregrounded or made a primary characteristic. In contrast Catwoman, to take one example, is wearing a skin-tight leather (with no cape to obscure things like Batman), is showing a lot of skin and cleavage, she's designed so that her rear-end is highly prominent in the main camera angle (and yeah, she's walking in the same way that Batman walks, so it's to some degree unavoidable, but she's still animated to show Baby Got Back to best effect — and there may be justifications, but you are not gonna persuade me that she's not being overtly sexualised when she's crawling around the place at times) and most of her character and interactions are highly sexualised and / or erotically charged. Unlike Batman, her sexuality is foregrounded and, if not necessarily her sole attribute, is certainly made a primary attribute throughout the game. Now, fair's fair, context is important. And in context Catwoman has, if not always then certainly for a good long while, been inherently a rather sexualised character (as has Poison Ivy) for that matter), so at least some of this is just par for the course. And fair dos and full disclosure, I'm a heterosexual male who appreciates this particular type of the female form, so I'm personally not entirely upset by this (even if I do think it gets a bit ridiculous at times). But that's kind of the point; it's favouring heterosexual men. It's a bit disingenuous to suggest that people who are upset by the depiction of women in the game should also be getting upset by the fact that the guys have big muscles and the hero is a chiseled jawed handsome guy, because when it comes to being sexualised the depictions have little-to-no equivalency whatsoever; pretty uniformly across the board, the women are being presented as highly sexualised harbingers of Fanservice where the men are not, or at least are not primarily or solely presented as such.
      • The point is, it is fantasy. I don't understand why it's okay to portray a male as superhuman athlete who boldy disregards danger to put himself and his life at risk, but not okay to portray a woman as seductive? I'm not saying they portray Batman as a sex object, but they are portraying him as an idealized concept. It's a two way road. You can argue that Catwoman teaches girls to be overly sexual to get what they want, but you can also say that Batman is saying that to be a good guy you have to have a superhuman physique and a careless disregard for your personal well being.
      • That's still pretty disingenuous, for the simple fact than a male character being presented as an over-idealised and super-competent hero fantasy isn't really the same kind of problem as a female character being presented as a sex object; there's very few people going "Oh no! This male character is an unrealistically competent hero figure! What an outrage! How dare they?!" To (perhaps over-) simplify the essential argument, Batman exists as a (largely) male power fantasy that the (most likely male) player inhabit — he's essentially the perfect guy that the hypothetical male player (presumably) wishes they could be; he's smart, he's competent, he saves the day, he's good looking. But while he might have appeal to female audiences, he's not constructed specifically with them in mind; he's who the guys want to be. Catwoman, on the other hand, is also arguably not constructed with the women in mind, but again the men; she's presented primarily as a sex-object for the (again, presumably male) player to ogle and fantasise over. The problem is not that sex appeal is inherently bad, but that it's one sided; it's all for the men, and arguably works to alienate and exclude and potential female players — since, let's face it, no matter how you frame it "heroism is noble but might require some risk and sacrifice" or "if you want to be like Batman you'll have to get off your arse and exercise a bit" are better messages than "girls, you won't get anywhere without showing and using the ol' tits-and-ass". It's also, on a personal level, rather obvious and pandering; Catwoman's a sexy character, true, but there's ways to do it that are more subtle and less obviously clammy-handed about it.
      • That's a very big YMMV and it's to do with the discussion further down the page about the violence against women vs. the violence against men in Arkham City. For example, given that Catwoman can beat up men more violently and in far greater quantities than Batman can beat up women in Arkham City, the fact that she dresses provocatively can seem a bit irrelevant. The fact that this woman has problems with men, gives the tired "My Eyes Are Up Here" line to Hugo Strange and calls her father a son of a bitch, being a male troper and playing as Catwoman bothered me no end. I, for one, hated the fact that Rocksteady — or Catwoman, at the very least — assumed All Men Were Perverts and made us play as a sexist character. In essence, I agree with the original point being made and say that the game isn't sexist against women just because two of the female characters dress suggestively and are called bitches. This ties into a point being made further down the page, where someone suggests it's fine for Catwoman to fight so many male prisoners simply because they're bad guys. If that's the case, people have to also accept that those same bad guys are going to call the heroes harsh names.
      • Sorry, I'm a bit confused; are you saying the game isn't sexist against women but is sexist against men? Because if you are, I'd really have to disagree quite strongly. At the very least, I certainly don't think it's an 'either-or' situation as you seem to be suggesting; the game's depiction of women doesn't suddenly become irrelevant just because Catwoman is depicted as disliking men or engages in the same combat mechanic as Batman. As for the All Men Are Perverts argument, while the depiction of men in Arkham City is perhaps questionable as well (although they are established as being psychotic criminals, and consequently hardly people we are supposed to root for or identify with), there's one pretty glaring counterexample to your argument about the negative depiction of men Rocksteady are presenting, and that's Batman himself. As in, the actual character the player character is primarily supposed to identify themselves with. If the fact that Catwoman is shown to have issues with men negates the issues with women people suggest the game has, then it stands to reason that the depiction of Batman would similarly negate the issues with men you raise above that appear to upset you so much. And just FWIW, since I suspect the point you allude to further down the page was one of mine, I never said that it was 'okay' that Catwoman was beating up guys — I did and do acknowledge the clear Double Standard the game presents on the issue — just that this particular context meant it wasn't quite the unforgivable Moral Event Horizon on the game's part that someone else (and I'm honestly not sure who it was) genuinely seemed to be suggesting it was.
    • I dunno, I think Batman has a great ass...
    • The biggest problem to me is that bitch is a sexually charged word. You don't hear goons calling Batman a bitch. Add that to the constant repetition of the word directed towards Catwoman and Harley, plus how completely sidelined Selina, Harley, Talia and Oracle all are, plus how Catwoman basically acts like a pinup whenever she's not doing anything (with only the fourth wall as her audience)...Selina doesn't even steal anything, and she was the lady with the most publicity! You could've just written her out of the game and nothing would have changed. And don't get me started on the racist implications of cutting Talia out of the trailers in favor of someone who doesn't even contribute anything to the plot.
    • "You don't hear goons calling Batman a bitch." Actually I'm fairly certain that you do at one point, but that's not really the point. In any case, I'd say Catwoman does contribute to the minor plot point of Batman not dying and the Joker not escaping and killing every main character and taking over Gotham. Also Talia was hardly cut for racist reasons, I believe that was just because they didn't want to reveal the al Ghul's presence in the story - Ra's is also absent from them all, I believe. If I remember correctly, she was only known to be in the game at all because her voice actor leaked it.

The second is a bit more of a question mark, since it does start from what is a fairly genuine bit of Fridge Logic — where are all the women, anyway? — but seems to get a bit off track.

  • Bit of a nitpicky one here, but why are the only female people in Arkham City named characters? All the unnamed thugs and political prisoners are male. Both Blackgate and Arkham Asylum are mixed-gender facilities, and presumably, Strange is getting anyone who disagrees with him politically tossed in, as well as anyone with a criminal record. Shouldn't there be more female inmates?
    • Talia Al Ghul's personal guard is an Amazon Brigade too and there are a few female doctors that might not have been named but as for actual inmates... well there are a lot of lonely and psychotic men around.
    • Also, if they had added female inmates, it would have probably ended up being a stew of Unfortunate Implications. This might have been a developer's decision to avoid oodles of implied rape.
      • That kind of fails on both accounts then, it gives us a stew of Unfortunate Implications (women in Gotham never commit crimes, there's no way women in Arkham could be anything but raped.) and about 60% of the incidental dialogue about women in the game has implied rape.
      • Well in real life, most criminals are male. And do you want to give an example of this "implied rape" dialogue?
      • "Catwoman should be careful walking around Arkham City looking like that. Some of these guys haven't seen a woman in years."
        • Also one where some of the Joker's gang contemplates a takeover if he dies of his illness, suggesting that they have (paraphrasing) "Some fun" with Harley before they kill her.
        • The lack of females in Arkham City has more Unfortunate Implications for men than women. What does it say about a sex when there's an equal-opportunity prison with only male prisoners and when the only legitimately evil female character in the game is Harley Quinn? Catwoman, Talia and her guards are all portrayed as anti-heroes and Poison Ivy doesn't get involved.
        • Although there logically should be a lot of women in Arkham City as thugs and villains (there are a lot of female villains in the comics such as Roxy Rocket, Nocturna and Lady Clayface, as well as a few versions of Amazon Brigade here and there for mooks, since Batman Would Hit a Girl very often) seems to boil down to Men Are the Expendable Gender. For many video game players, it would probably feel different to break the bones of female enemies than male ones...notice how Batman defears Talia's guard compared to the henchmen of Joker, Penguin and Two-Face? However, it is a step-up to include female mooks since the first game featured none, despite that Blackgate is often shown to be a prison for both men and women.
      • There's a HUGE difference between a couple of thugs making lewd jokes to each other and putting women and men together in a place like Arkham City. Remember, Hugo Strange is doing nothing to control the prisoners inside the super-prison. As long as they don't try to escape, he basically lets them do whatever they want. Hell, Strange can't even be bothered to make sure every prisoner gets fed. You really think he'd do anything about it if female prisoners were being routinely raped by male prisoners?
    • My theory is that they're all holed up in Ivy's building. There's a lot more of it than we can explore, after all. She offers them protection if they tend her plants and she uses them as bait, as any men that try to get approached get brainwashed into being Ivy's henchmen. It's perfectly within Ivy's style to do something like that.
    • My theory is, it is a male facility. Women are sent somewhere else. The only two women locked up inside Arkham City is Ivy and Harley, and they are well protected.
      • As to the above two theroies though, there are far too many female criminals in Gotham to fit in one building (well, then again Ivy's building seems to be an example of Bigger on the Inside...), as established in many Batman comics like Arkham Asylum Living Hell (read Living Hell and you'll see that there are just as many insane supervillain women as men in Gotham, it features such wonderful people like Jane Doe and Magpie). Also, with Hugo Strange...there is no possible way he would ever spare the female criminals, because as the comics show with when he meets Catwoman, Strange Would Hit a Girl...and torture her psychologically, and attempt to kill her just to spite Batman. He literally feels no empathy (except for the whole I Just Want To Be Batman Foe Yay thing), so he would have no problem killing people regardless of gender. As for who Strange is working with, it is safe to say Ra's Al Ghul would kill anyone who is a criminal (though the irony is lost on the character).
      • I think that the game wanted to portray being Batman, but the developers realized that most people are not Batman with his whole "one rule" thing. Although Batman would have no problem hurting female criminals, the audience playing him likely would. In addition, Protocol 10 would have killed a ton of them (and since female characters often start with sympathy just for being female, it is easier to acknowledge that male thugs you met over the game are dying, possibly due to you knocking them out and leaving them there when Protocol 10 strikes)...although I suppose this would just make Strange and Ra's look like even bigger Complete Monster types. It seems to just be an Acceptable Breaks from Reality thing due to the Double Standard, in my opinion. As an example, and be honest with yourself...would you feel comfortable using the limb-breaking finishers on female mookss or punching a female supervillain in the face for killing someone/-insert evil thing here-? Not many do...though it either causes Fridge Logic as there are obviously more female criminals than three (Ivy, Harley and Catwoman) who live in Gotham...or Fridge Horror when one thinks too hard about someone like Strange would do with them.
        • I'm more uncomfortable with the idea that gamers are comfortable with breaking one gender's bones more than the other's. The fact that that's seen as acceptable is worrying and, for me, stops being a Double Standard and crosses the Moral Event Horizon. With Catwoman in the game, it even becomes a disturbing case of Abuse Is Okay When It Is Female on Male.
        • While I agree that there's a Double Standard operating here, I think suggestions that a Moral Event Horizon is being crossed here are a little extreme. Keep in mind that in context within this game the men who are being 'abused' by Catwoman here are psychotic thugs who usually will attack her as soon as look at her; a fairly good case for self-defence in most cases could probably be applied. Furthermore, Double Standard it may be, but for better or worse within a lot of western society we are in large part conditioned to view violence against women as totally against the pale, and statistically speaking it is more likely to be men using violence against women than the other way around (this is not to say that the other way around is impossible or unheard of; just less common). It's a fairly deeply-ingrained societal attitude to overcome (if indeed it should be).
        • Warning - Anvilicous rant ahead, all in one troper's opinion: It may be 'less' common, but in general, hurting others violently and injuring them is wrong, period (excepting self-defence, sparring for sport and some other contextual occurences). 'Statistics' can easily be biased, abused and manipulated to show things other than the truth and in a lot of cases, Western society imposes the Wouldn't Hit a Girl rule and Abuse Is Okay When It's Female on Male idea a lot. It doesn't take that much force to hurt someone, and a man or a woman can both be dangerous in a fight. But as long as people keep stereotyping women as in need of help and that they couldn't possibly hurt a man, it will hurt both sexes. Men can be abused by women and it will not go reported in most cases or be brushed off (already skewing 'statistics') and women will also be stereotyped as 'weak', thus preventing them from being taken seriously in a variety of roles (for example, women in many militaries, Western ones included, cannot go to the front lines unless it is nearly guaranteed somehow they'll live...Men Are the Expendable Gender but the women who do want to serve in the front lines can feel very ticked off about this; or televised female mixed martial artists who want to fight the men but can't or else it could hurt ratings, etc.) I'm not saying either sex has it better (there are so many stereotypes, anyone can feel down about them at some point) but if gender equality is to ever happen...then stereotypes in general need to go. Treating people as individuals would be a lot better, and the same should apply to fictional characters. This is not a Batman vs. Thugs and Catwoman vs. Thugs problem, it is a problem of society and how they treat both people and fiction in general.
        • Fair points all, but suggesting that the people who designed the game and who enjoy playing the game are somehow crossing the Moral Event Horizon because there's no female characters getting beaten up is still rather extreme. And while there's certainly a wider context that this is all happening in that could / should be addressed, it's still a "Batman vs Thugs" / "Catwoman vs Thugs" issue simply because this is the current example we're discussing; if context is important then it's important in the wider and narrower contexts. It's also fairly reasonable to argue that the game itself falls into the "sparring for sport or other contexts" categories, since it's not like we're actually going out and beating up male criminals in real life — we're doing so through the fantasy context of a video game.
      • In addition to the above, they probably decided that Fridge Logic, Double Standard or Unfortunate Implications aside, it does help distance the equally-if-not-more Unfortunate Implications of what many people would probablyassume would happen to many of these female criminals in an uncontrolled prison environment filled with physically strong, sadistic, psychotic and sex-starved male prisoners. I mean, there's been plenty of discussion alone about the fact that the male prisoners constantly use terms like 'bitch' and make lewd implications about what they'd like to do to Catwoman or Harley or Poison Ivy if they get the chance, so putting more female characters in there, especially as prisoners, would cause even more unwanted (to the makers) speculation about what exactly has been happening to these female prisoners. Of course, there are female criminals just as there are male criminals, but male criminals statistically speaking are more likely to be violent offenders than female offenders, and on average men are generally stronger than women, thus leading to the assumption — warranted or otherwise — that the women are likely to be overpowered by the men. The named female characters are in there partly because they're well-known and iconic Batman characters but also because it's implicit that even in this environment they can take care of themselves; Ivy has control over plantlife, Harley is the Joker's right-hand woman and just as psycho as he is, and you spent a fair bit of time kicking ass as Catwoman. Unnamed female characters don't necessarily have this luxury, and the producers probably wanted to avoid what they saw as unwanted or unnecessary baggage for what is, when all is said and done, a bit of escapist fantasy, and so probably decided that this was the lesser of two evils in this case.
        • I agree with the above as well, but I think that the developers were still hesitant to have the player go all out on female characters. Some people in Real Life have no problems with fighting regardless of gender and Would Hit a Girl (as an example, I know many martial artists who would...but they are also Martial Pacifist types who see violence against anyone as a last resort)...but a lot of people have been raised to believe violence against women is wrong in any context (yes, even if the women are criminals trying to kill them). Also, people tend to see violence against women as worse than violence against men. I just finished changing the Would Hit a Girl entry on the main page for example, where someone said Batman hurts [[spoilers: Talia's Amazon Brigade]] even more than male mooks. As someone with knowledge of the human body, their excuse that because they are trained, somehow they can take Batman hitting them more than male mooks, falls apart. Yes, as trained kunoichi/female ninja and assassins they would have a higher pain threshold than say your average criminal...but that wouldn't mean anything once Batman breaks your arms and legs, as you still wouldn't be able to move properly to fight Batman. Except that in the game, Batman NEVER uses finishing moves against female enemies other than a punch to the head (which he uses against male enemies as well, along with the limb-breakers and it seems in this world, a punch to the head = Tap on the Head for men and women). But somehow punching women in the head is worse than punching men in the head, even if the women are murderous criminals just like the men. In addition to all that, arguably the female assassins are worse than the male mooks, since they blindly follow Ra's and Talia, who you know, want to kill most of humanity. The male thugs probably don't have this ambition, judging from their dialogue.

In any case, I've made my views known on both questions, and if it's okay to have them on the page I'm happy for them to be there and the discussion to continue — I'm just getting worried that it's a bit off-topic and off-point.

Edited by DoctorNemesis Hide/Show Replies
Mar 5th 2012 at 3:31:05 PM •••

Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you on this, DoctorNemesis. Is it stupid that I couldn't find this page? All the different discussion topics, it's difficult to keep track.

Anyway, I was the one who you replied to all that time ago and I'll say, first and foremost, that no, I wasn't saying there wasn't any sexism against women in the game. My argument, however, is that while Catwoman and Poison Ivy both dress provocatively, it's because Rocksteady are pandering to what they think men will be attracted to. They're patronising their male audience with those two, Catwoman in particular, and I dislike the insinuation from the developer that I'm going to ogle this same woman who delivers tired lines to Hugo Strange, calls her father a son of a bitch and breaks the bones of the male-only inmates in Arkham City. It also brings up the age-old point of how would a male hero be received if he called his missing mother a bitch and spent an entire game beating up women (albeit criminals). Even if scantily-clad, I'm guessing the treatment of women would still be focused on. So that, to me, was Catwoman's Moral Event Horizon. Because while you're right when you say we're not supposed to be rooting for the criminals, we ARE supposed to be rooting for Catwoman.

As for the subject of Batman being a positive portrayal of men, it hardly negates the issue I have. For example, do the more conservatively-dressed Vicky Vale, Talia Al Ghul and her guards negate the way Catwoman is dressed? The only ways that my issues with Arkham City's depiction of men would be negated is if Arkham City was actually shown to be unisex, as is stated in the game but never shown with the exception of villainesses, and if both Batman and Catwoman could perform the same moves on each, regardless of whether they're bone-breakers or punches to the head.

Edited by Guest1001
Mar 5th 2012 at 11:24:19 PM •••

Talk about small worlds and timing — I only just this second decided to have a look in here for the first time in months... :-)

Anyhoo, Guest1001, if our previous discussion was anything to go by, I suspect that this may be one of those 'agree-to-disagree' issues to some degree, but, looking back (and taking into account what you just posted) time and distance has given me a bit of a different perspective on what you were saying, so I just want to start by also apologising if I mischaracterised or misinterpreted some of your views (as, looking back, I suspect I may have done). So, apologies on that front.

With regards to Catwoman, I can see where you're coming from, and there's definitely some condescension towards the male audience in the depiction of many of the women as borderline wank-material as well as the obvious issues with depiction of women (which I believe I noted in the earlier discussion); however, I would still have to question Catwoman's actions being classed as a 'Moral Event Horizon'; she is, after all, mostly operating in self-defence against people who are usually bigger and much more well armed than her. I'm also not sure that the 'man calling his mother a bitch and beating up female criminals' counter-example fully works in this case, simply because that's an inherently much less likely example to ever encounter. Yes, we don't see Catwoman (or Batman) beating up any female criminals, which adds an element of gender-imbalance, but I would argue this is less an example of what might be called misandry and more a simple reflection of the fact that generally speaking, for whatever reason, most violent offenders tend to be male, not female — and this is not to suggest that there are no violent female offenders whatsoever, just that they tend to be vastly outnumbered by male violent offenders (by 9 to 1 according to most studies); ergo, even if Arkham City were unisex, it would still stand to reason that males would still vastly outnumber female inmates, and thus that most of the conflicts either Batman or Catwoman would encounter would be with male prisoners. I just don't see how any of these issues you highlight mean we somehow shouldn't root for Catwoman.

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