Emma Wolley explains at the Financial Post, why it’s important to talk about tropes vs. women in video games. I’m going to explain why it isn’t important to talk about it because the whole thing is a red herring.
First of all, Anita Sarkeesian isn’t a video game expert and shows a marked lack of knowledge on the subject. She offers no facts and all of the examples she uses have two things in common: They are from Japan and from franchises that began in an era where the funniest show on US tv was a show about a bar owner who sexually harasses his employees. Times have changed. Her credentials are as a “pop culture critic” and her degree is in “social and political thought”. She’s never been involved in any way in the field of video games, or anything remotely relevant other than she indicates she may have played Mario when she was a kid and remembers it is about saving a princess.
Some already know why she is the mouthpiece for women in games, but for those that don’t here is some background: Anita Sarkeesian submitted a video series for crowdsourcing. Every video Sarkeesian ever made was either comment disabled or heavily moderated, except very suspiciously, this one. The internet showed up and called her names, threatened her with gendered violence, and generally acted how they do when they attack something. Now of course I am not saying it’s good that they did that. I am saying she knew it would happen and planned to cash in on it, and cash in she did. Her youtube videos that she was already making for free about why legos are sexist were funded not just for the 6k she was asking for, but 160,000 US Dollars and the resulting press blew her up to a social media demagogue.
Now the question is, did she achieve this lofty position because of the strength of her ideas? The answer is a resounding no. Her ideas are weak, unsupported, and downright stupid. Basically she’s no more than a talking head who doesn’t provide any evidence to back up her claims. Why does that qualify her to be the face of anything? Her credentials are “Woman who got called names on the internet”.
I understand that she’s not the first woman to get called names on the internet and a lot of the money that rolled in was as a show of solidarity, but now she has been given a voice that she in no way deserves. She’s the worst possible spokesperson the industry could have. She doesn’t actually care about the games or the discourse, she only cares about elevating herself and getting paid to do it.
Her idea for the series lacks any kind of coherent thesis. In her video she says “With a few notable exceptions all women in video games fall into 5 tropes” and she said the following tropes were as follows:
- Damsel in Distress – Video #1
- The Fighting F#@k Toy – Video #2
- The Sexy Sidekick – Video #3
- The Sexy Villainess – Video #4
- Background Decoration – Video #5
When tens of thousands of dollars started rolling in she added these super secret surprise stretch goals:
- Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress – Video #6
- Women as Reward – Video #7
- Mrs. Male Character – Video #8
- Unattractive Equals Evil – Video #9
- Man with Boobs – Video #10
- Positive Female Characters! – Video #11
None are more telling of her agenda and lack of thesis about video games than #4 and #9. She is upset if villains are not plain looking. If they are unattractive, that’s bad. If they are attractive, that’s bad. It’s a ridiculous third wave feminist agenda that everyone should be plain and boring looking for fear someone who is plain and boring looking might develop a self esteem issue and develop an eating disorder.
She doesn’t give a hot damn about the games and that’s why she doesn’t know anything about them. I’ve seen some really stomach churning things in modern, triple A releases from major developers, but the thing is they are hidden inside the game’s narrative, far from anywhere Sarkeesian could ever find them (she doesn’t even know to turn on the controller for her video). This is why she’s the worst pick to be the face of critique in video games. It reminds me of the Kmart in my home town. It was like half mile from my house and they had a video game section. One day I was shopping in the video game section. It was 2003 and I shit you not, they had “Y2K compliance kits” mixed in with the computer games. Someone asked if I needed help, and I said yes because I was looking for a specific title that was a big release. The kid went and got a man with bad teeth that appeared to be in his 70’s who asked me, “What video were you looking for, young man?” That guy was more qualified to talk about games than Sarkeesian.
Sarkeesian herself is a trope. She’s the typical malcontent woman who wants to blame all societal problems on a patriarchy. There isn’t a kind of character (with a few notable exceptions) that will make her happy. If the protagonist has sex appeal she’s a fighting fucktoy, which I find more objectionable in theory than 99% of things in video games not made in Japan. If she’s not, she’s a Mrs. Male character. If she acts like what is typical of game characters, but is a woman, she’s a man with boobs. There is no winning because she decides how she feels first, then reverse engineers the reasons why she is factually correct.
This is evident in the way she uses the scarcely scattered “facts” she does use. First she points to how many women play games, then ignores the fact that the games they play don’t follow any of the tropes she lays out. One of the most popular games among women doesn’t have that. I mean just tell me where the fighting fucktoy is in this game:
She uses her “facts” one way when they support her argument and ignores them when they don’t. Just because her vocal opponents are wrong, doesn’t make her right by default. Just look at her latest video and tell me that her cherry picked examples from Japan are any where near as bad as Japanese culture in general. Tell me in the comments how this is relevant in any way to modern North American culture. Tell me how this image she says is a “fighting fucktoy” archaeologist
If Sarkeesian had her way we’d have nothing but archaeologists in games that look like this
I’d probably take her class, but I don’t think I would want to play a game where she appraises Greek pottery.