Sunday, June 2, 2013

RE: Damsel in Distress Tropes vs Women part 2

(This is a direct copy and paste so there may be spelling errors and the sort. It is rough.)

Throughout this video I'll be quoting from the video Damsel in Distress: Part 2 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games. Anita frequently uses sensationalized language to enrage her audience. If you get angry or offended easily; fuck off.
Anita once again begins with her same opening statement that it is necessary for us to maintain a certain level of cognitive dissonance when playing video games, enjoying them but also being keenly aware of their "pernicious aspects." So let's see how pernicious these video games are shall we...
She continues with her definition of a damsel in distress adding the caveat that:
"[A damsel'd character is] not necessarily always just a one dimensional character type entirely defined by victim hood" This flexibility in her application of the damsel trope allows her to dismiss any female characters that do actually have depth, are funny or interesting or are integral to the story if at any point they are shown to be in a vulnerable situation.
She goes on to say that "Periodically game developers may attempt to build a more fleshed out relationship" between the male and female characters. I would think that this is a good thing but Anita dismisses this type of character development by citing some examples as patronizing and then saying it is only used as an "easy way" for writers to TRIGGER an emotional reaction in male players by then exploiting the established relationship by putting the female character in a vulnerable situation.
These two claims are somewhat at odds, since the suggestion in the former is that game developers are rarely successful in building the relationship and the latter then says that the relationship that the developers attempted to but presumably failed to build is now being exploited just so that they can put the female in danger. In reality this is just how story telling works, you need to introduce conflict or drama and putting someone in a close relationship with the protagonist into a dramatic situation is an effective way of doing that.
Also, I'm pretty sure that  I don't have male genitals but I sometimes feel protective of some of the characters in the games I play. I say "pretty sure" since Anita doesn't deal in absolutes.  Many of the claims Anita makes in this video are peppered with qualifiers (such as often times, feels like, periodically, or something tends to something else). These make her statements more vague, less susceptible to specific counter-points and give her more flexibility in defending them. These qualifiers are a tool she uses frequently to build up her wall of bull-shit...that she hides behind. Must be smelly.
She continues with "narratives that frame intimacy, love, or romance as something that blossoms from or hinges upon the dis-empowerment AND victimization of women are extremely troubling because they tend to reinforce the widespread regressive notion that women in vulnerable, passive or subordinate positions are somehow desirable because of their powerlessness." Let's carefully take this quote apart because there is a lot of stuff going on in this sentence. Female characters in games that they aren't the main protagonist are by definition only secondary. The entire romantic background of a relationship is really outside the scope of the game and not what players are interested in (outside of Bioware fans). It is understandable that a relationship would grow from two characters that underwent a tough situation at the hands of some villain. Why is this "extremely troubling" then? Anita says it is because they reinforce the notion that women in such vulnerable positions are desirable because of their powerlessness; not only this but that this notion is "widespread." Maybe in some cultures, but women being helpless is not something I would agree with as being desirable and isn't seen too much any more in first world countries.
If you take her spiel and apply it to romance novels, now that is something. It is fair to compare the two as they are primarily read by women and Anita seems to think only men are marketed to.
Romance novels are largely written by women, for women. In my opinion, they are a far worse medium for setting an ideal on how relationships should be and how women should act. The DiD is rampant in the romance genre.
It is also prevalent in young adult books for teenage girls. Of course, the most popular example is Twilight where an abusive relationship is viewed as the ideal and to be rescued over and over again is like totally dreamy. The popularity of this book has set off many rip offs w/basically the same plot, spreading like mold in a damp basement. Thankfully it is fading with strong female characters becoming popular.
Those kinds of books are more damaging in my mind than video games to IRRATIONAL PPL. Like teenagers. Most grow out of it and only visit the fantasy in their mind for fun. I say most b/c there will always be women out there pining for something that doesn't exist and vica versa for men. It isn't the default though.
In past history, the simpering sub-servant woman was set up as the ideal but there were exceptions. Just as there are exceptions now with some men wanting a soft spoken, clingy woman.

While explaining the "Women in the refrigerator" trope, Anita says "trading female characters lives for something meant to resemble male character development is...part of a long media tradition." Shouldn't the death of a female character with some relationship to the male character result in some sort of character development?
A more "insidious" trope hybrid that Anita talks about is the Damsel in the Refrigerator, this is when the villain murders the female and then also traps their soul. You know I think insidious might be Anita's favorite word, she uses it a lot. Well maybe its regressive, or dis-empowered or victimized or grisly... Who am I kidding? Of course it's misogyny! The point is she re-uses the same emotionally loaded buzz words over and over again to drill into her audience just how offended they should be.
Later she says that "developers must be hoping that by exploiting sensationalized images of brutalized women it will be enough to fool gamers into thinking that their games are becoming more emotionally sophisticated." Let's be clear that she is suggesting devs are purposefully injecting this sensationalized imagery to fool gamers, that is to manipulate them into believing that the game is more emotionally sophisticated.
She continues with "the truth is that there is nothing mature about most of these stories and many of them cross the line into blatant misogyny."
Wow! Really? Which ones? She doesn't name names here, this is another one of those vague statements that you should just accept as gospel and be alarmed about. If she had serious ammo to back up her claims of rampant misogyny in the game industry this would have been a good time to use it. The nearest clip was from Dante's Inferno (released in 2010) which shows a women being stabbed. So I went back to look up the plot for this game and it turns out that it's actually quite complex. I don't think it exactly follows the book, but there's a lot of murdering and sin and soul saving going on as the protagonist goes through the 9 circles of hell.
Another trope, Anita's Euthanized Damsel, occurs when the character is forced to put a damsel out of her misery. Where she says the player "must murder the woman in peril for her own good."
Only so many plots, remember 36 dramatic situations by Georges Polti.
This is mercy killing, could you do it? The scenes are gut wrenching. It is a popular trope b/c it is relatable. It isn't used because of hate towards women, it is because of love, of our humanity. In some games, you could even call it assisted suicide. What if your loved one was in terrible pain, just wanting it to stop? Think about that right now. Think about someone you care about just wanting it to all end. That feeling you are experiencing right now is why it is a powerful plot device in stories.
An example of this in a game that Anita didn't include is the Walking Dead. MILD SPOILERS there is an assisted suicide w/ a woman, a mercy killing w/a woman, and another with a man. SPOILER: and this isn't a game but think of the movie the Fly. The afflicted has turned into a monster and is mercy killed. The monster was male and the one doing the shooting was female but how is that really different than if the genders were reversed? Would it really be so much insidious that way?
The example anita uses is [Prey 2006]. We see a clip of the monster woman begging to be killed. What she edited out was the male protagonist refusing saying he would save her. She has to tell him that there is now way to and to please kill her. After the deed is done, a female voice, the bad guy...girl, taunts the protag and he lashes out distraught at what he had to do.
perfectly reasonable in the context of game universe
Anita then goes on to say " These damsel-ed women are written as to subordinate themselves to men. They submissively accept their grisly fat and will often beg the players to perform violence on them. Giving men direct and total control over whether they live or die."
This is just plain wrong. They are in control. They are the ones telling the heroes end their suffering.
"In other words, these women are asking for it. Quite literally."
No Shit. They are asking for it but aren't in control. (what)  This is really Anita's cue again to her audience to work up their outrage. However in the context of these games, the actions the players perform are the most logical and ethical. yes it is a device used to deepen the players connection with the story, so what? That is how story telling works . There are tons of moves about aliens invading earth, does that mean you shouldn't see Mars Attacks b/c you have seen Independence Day? No. they are two different types of movies, they are both good in their own right but they also use a lot of the same plot devices and cliches to get there.
Let's continue,

" In each case, violence against women is used to bring women back to their senses"
That is the bad guy's plan. To make you kill/hurt what you love and it is very fucked up. It is why he is the bad guy.
"These stories conjure up super natural situations in which domestic violence...appears an altruistic act done for the women's own good." What about demonic beasts that look like women?
... "just because a particular event might make sense within the internal logic of a fictional narrative that doesn't in and of itself justify its use" ... "games don't exist in a vacuum and therefore can't be divorced from the larger cultural context of the real world"
Apply Mario kicking koopa troopas to animal cruelty against turtles ?
Anita then talks about the real live epidemic against women and gives some stats. Do not be distracted by Anita's PSA. Of course domestic violence is bad but that doesn't mean Anita can invent her own system of logic or otherwise make unsubstantiated claims.
I would also like to add that none of the violence against women in the clips she has shown in her video show the male hero being happy about these hurt and dead women. The only happy people are the bad guys...b/c they are the bad guys and are doing bad things. These depictions of violence aren't shown in a positive light. In fact, I would say that it shows how disgusting this abuse this. (even in GTAIII, you know your character is a criminal and a bit of a dick)
"Given the reality of that larger cultural context, it should go without saying that it is dangerously irresponsible to be creating games in which players are encouraged and even required to perform violence against women in order to save them."
No, it does not go without saying. Why again is it the things which are ethical int he context of a fictional universe "dangerously irresponsible" in the real world? The problem with Anita and I think most who are against all video game violence is that they don't understand that people, rational people, know when they are playing a video game and when they are not and what type of behaviour is appropriate in each circumstance. After knocking out your girlfriend who has turned into an ogre by throwing bottles at her, like Anita shows from Grabbed by the Ghoulies, she is afraid that someone will go and throw things at their girlfriend in real life.
She continues with
"Game creators aren't necessarily sitting around twirling their nefarious looking mustaches while consciously figuring out how to best mis represent woman's part of some grand conspiracy"... Earlier statement suggested game devs were complicit  "developers must be hoping that by exploiting sensationalized images of brutalized women it will be enough to fool gamers into thinking that their games are becoming more emotionally sophisticated."
Note that the subtext at 6:52 in Pt1. video frames Miyamoto as someone who frequently employs DinD trope, and in the case of Starfox Adventures deliberate strips out an existing female protagonist and re-casts her as the DinD. And that  Miyamoto doubled down  with the release of zelda ~13:35 pt1.
Throughout this video, anita avoids using absolutes as much as possible by peppering almost every sentence with qualifiers. This contributes to her overly verbose manner of speaking she has adopted. Her habit becomes almost comical with this string of sentences in the previous quote [highlight it in text] because by saying they "aren't necessarily" twirling their mustaches she's leaving open the possibility that maybe there are some out there with nefarious mustaches and that they twirl them while looking for ways to misrepresent women. Her intent here is to squelch claims that she is weaving a misogyny conspiracy."
"One of the really insidious things about systematic and institutional sexism is that most often regressive attitudes and harmful gender stereotypes are maintained and perpetuated unintentionally. "
Don't worry! It is not your fault you're a misogynist! It is the perpetuated systemic sexism's fault!
"we TYPICALLY don't have a monkey see monkey do relationship with the media we consume. Cultural influence works in much more subtle and complicated ways HOWEVER media narratives do have a powerful cultivation effect helping to shape cultural attitudes and opinions."
 Just because Anita states this, it does not mean in any way that she hasn't been HEAVILY IMPLYING that all this "violence against women shown in video games" makes it seem okay. She is just saying it in a "more subtle and complicated way" b/c she is sneaky like that.
" so when developers exploit sensationalized (you wold know something about that wouldn't you) images of brutalized mutilated and victimized women over and over again again it tends to reinforce the dominant gender paradigm which casts men as aggressive and commanding and frames women as subordinate and dependent.
Oh wait, so we're not concerned really about violence against women in the larger cultural context after all and we are really concerned about this dominant gender paradigm?
"Although these stories use female trauma as the catalyst (the only one?) these are not stories about women. instead these are strictly male centered stories."
She is right. These are male centered stories and that is exactly why the women only play secondary roles in these sometimes cliched plot devices.
And as for her then complaining about women being stereotypes? Well, all side characters don't have much background put into the game. They give you enough for you to know okay, this is what they look like and they are a mischevious, or nice, or broody, etc. person. If you fleshed out every single charac ter in a game, would get a bit boring and long don't you think? Both genders fall into stereotypes.
Remember in her previous video when Anita kept wrongly referring to women as objects and possessions? Well she is at it again.
There is a clip from
[The Darkness II  "I take from you"] in which the main character watches his wife be murdered in front of him with the murdering saying "I take from you"
Anita says that this implied "that she belonged to him, that she was his possession. Once wronged the hero must go get his possessions back."
No, that is not the implication. The line is "I take from you." As in he is going to take his wife from his wife. Referring to her as his wife does not imply she was his property or even that the villain was making that implication. Once again Anita is over eager to jump at the chance to show her audience that some women somewhere in some fictional game universe was referred to as a possession.
"On the surface victimized women are framed as the reason for the heroes torment. but if we dig a little deeper into the subtext  I'd argue that the true source stems from feelings of weakness and or guilt over his failure to perform his socially prescribed patriarchal duty to protect his women and children."
can men not love Anita? And of course they feel protective over the ones they love. I do to and I would say it is expected of me too even if I have these.  She says "protect his children" no fucking shit. These characters are parents. They are going to feel guilt, a VERY strong emotion. There is a reason why you hear, or read, the line "This is all my fault" or something similar is books, movies, tv, games, and even real life.
But obviously it is none of that and just societies fault!
She elaborates with "In this way these failed hero stores are really about his perceived loss of masculinity and then the quest to regain that masculinity primarily by exerting dominance and control through the performance of violence on others."
Oh wait, it is men's fault again.

Is Anita really so sexist that she looks for perceived misogyny and apply it everywhere? That tin foil hat must be really tight girl.

She then goes on to say that revenge based narratives can be harmful to men b/c " they help to further limit the possible responses men are allowed to have when faced w/ death or tragedy" Just revenge for loss of power and not loss of a loved ones life Anita?
I really don't think it is being harmful. It falls under anger, one of the five stages of grief. She gives some examples of games that go about grief in other ways, including Dear Esther. That is all fine and well though I would say that Dear Esther is more of an experience than a "game".
Almost done!
" Violence against women is a serious global epidemic. There fore attempts to address the issue in a fictional context demands a considerable degree of respect, subtly, and nuance."
"Women shouldn't be mere disposable objects or symbolic pawns in stories about men and their own struggles with patriarchal expectations and inadequacies."
I detect a slippery slope. You just can't say it should be shown a certain way and to not do it that way is "irresponsible." To say there is a right or wrong way to show certain parts of life, like the female gender, or violence against women even fictional way will just snowball it's way to censorship.
If a developer wants to show violence against women in a "respectful" way, good for them and if another does so in a way that you feel doesn't, that is their right too.


  1. I enjoyed your analysis. One thing that I find important is that a lot of the games she showed were Action/FPS games that usually fill the empowerment fantasy that many people have.

    I also chuckled how many of the games she mentioned were AAA. As its own genre (I would argue it is) AAA are focused on being safe and returning an equal or greater return on the investment. Does that mean that its acceptable? No, it means you need to look at smaller games to find the change in the medium as a whole. AAA are mostly reactionary and offer few new mechanics that haven't been tested in smaller games. That includes stories as well.

    If she truly wanted to accurately portrayal this "epidemic" of violence against women in video games she needs to expand beyond the AAA and the two, maybe three genres she is stuck in.

  2. The thing is though, accuracy was never Anita's concern. She is mining videogames for material that supports her conclusion rather than performing an objective analysis on the subject to determine whether or not her conclusion even has merit to begin with.

    What makes that all the worse is that when the footage doesn't support her conclusions she'll just opt to show it out of context, or in most cases will project onto the viewer what she expects them to take from it, which of course she never actually bothers to elaborate upon. She merely says that something is sexist, typically labeling it with a descriptor that she most likely picked up on TV Tropes, and leaves it at that.

    Ugh, it's all very mind-numbing. She's so intellectually insulting and disingenuous, but because of the sensitive nature of the underlying issue of sexism, few people are calling her on her shit. In fact, I spent several mind-numbing hours reading through the thread dedicated to her on NeoGAF, where it was clear that her supporters were male gamers too afraid to be labeled sexist to do exactly that. When the majority of her support there can be summed up as "You're part of the problem if you don't agree with her!", you can see why I think that this series stands to do more damage than good.

    I wonder what her ultimate purpose is. Again, fair and accurate analysis isn't her goal, and she offers up no solutions to what may only be a problem to her in the first place. So what the hell does she expect to achieve with this self-serving series, besides to set the cause back dozens upon dozens of years? Ugh.

  3. One of the problems is that society is tolerant to violence against mens, this is why main characters must be mens.
    For example, in Far Cry 3 the protagonist is drugged and abused by Citra and there was almost zero complains about that.
    In the new Tomb Raider, some guards suggest they want to abuse Lara but nothing really happens because Lara manages to escape. This generated a lot of polemic because the game suggested "rape".

    The main problem with extreme feminist like Anita is that they will never be happy with anything.

    Let's change the original Super Mario Bros to a story where Mario is a King kidnapped by Bowser to control the mushroom kingdom and a low class fat and ugly girl have to fight against enemies to free the King.

    Would that be less misogynist? No, and this is just a small example. Change the main protagonists of games between mens/womens and feminist would still complain or even complain more.