Editorial: Tropes Vs. Women: The Damsel In Distress

Published on March 11th, 2013 in: Editorial, Feminism, Gaming |

By Paul Casey


Anita Sarkeesian has released the first video in her twelve part Tropes vs. Women series, which will look at the representation of women in video games. You should watch it. Not least because you can see how something so uncontroversial can cause so much phony outrage. There is little here that should surprise anyone who has been aware of their own existence for more than a few years. There is nothing that could be considered in any way “extremist.” Sarkeesian is sober, clear, and fair. She also possesses the required humor needed to make this subject palatable to a wide audience.

The first part looks at the video game staple of the “damsel in distress.” As an introduction to why a project like this is a good idea for the medium, it does its job well. Does it really surprise anyone that Princess Peach is just a goal? Does it really surprise anyone that this kind of fucking sucks? For creativity’s sake, obviously, then for all of those other reasons which lead repugnant goons to take it as their due in life to be the targets for all created things.

The very thick goon speaks like this:

“What the heck is up with those eyebrows!? And the earrings? Ha ha! And about the fox female character.. she was strong, she was capa.. LOL!! Yea! Strong and capable women? Lol!! And I’m done watching this. It’s kind of pathetic really. More but hurt women trying to get more attention. Fail..”
Comment 7

The other, mostly literate goons, speak like this:

“I think she’s looking at things from a very onesided perspective. If those designers really hated women so much, why the hell would the entire quest be about saving them?

If he really hated women so much, the protagonist would say ‘Fuck that’ and head to the stripclub to get drunk and look at some fucking jugs.

Instead he goes out of his way to save the girl. That’s another aspect of storytelling. Depending on where you put your emphasis, you can make something sound sinister, or you can make it sound benign.”
Comment 11

“I thought it was really funny how this woman tried to turn getting trolled on the Internet into a serious death threat in order to get publicity (Like she’s the first person to ever have a flash game made about them were they get beaten up). Imo it’s incredibly simplistic and ignorant to cite a few examples of a story-telling motif in gaming as indicative of the entire industry. You might as well say, ‘Hamlet, Macbeth, and The Taming of The Shrew were all written by Shakespeare, therefore all books are written by Shakespeare.’ A video game does not represent the medium, it represents the minds that dreamed it into being. If you don’t like their storyline’s, why not create your own instead of just telling them how much they suck?

Furthermore it’s offensive to gamers that she chose to target video-games over any other narrative medium and frankly their outrage and frustration was warranted, if inelegant. But rather than sinking to her level and advocating for ‘serious discussion’ (read censorship), about the way video games are treated in our society. I will just say I disagree with her and move on.”
Comment 12

This shows one of the most common errors in thinking with the goons. They are under the impression that a campaign of intimidation, threats of physical and sexual violence, attempts to gather personal information, phone numbers, email addresses, and home addresses, do not constitute an effort in censorship. Somehow engaging with an entirely voluntary crowd funding service like Kickstarter to talk about things that some people find interesting and important, to encourage speech and ideas, is itself an act of censorship. What fucking world do these people live on?

Then of course there is the nearly championship level of reasoning which goes into such shots across the philosophical bow as, “If you don’t like it why don’t you create something you do????” When the whole motivation behind the creation of Sarkeesian’s series is because women can’t engage with the medium in that way. They can’t simply create things that appeal to them because they are told again and again that there is no demand for anything other than hard-dicked Michael Bay spunk. This video is an introduction to the problem, and it still names dozens of games which have the same creatively repetitive scenario played out, some better than others.

There is also the weird assumption that Sarkeesian is saying that these games are bad. This is explicitly contradicted by her actual position. She outright states that she has had a love for Zelda for much of her life. A more important thing to take from the video is that while these are classic games, it doesn’t mean that they can’t address an antiquated, creatively vacuous remnant from an earlier time. That the character of Zelda has had flashes of brilliance over the years, while being forced again and again into the role of passive victim, is depressing. These games have so much depth to them, and yet they still fall back on such a tired cliché. Confusing this position with an anti-game one, or an anti-man position is the mistake of either an intellectual minnow or a disingenuous misogynist. They do overlap.

The biggest joke, though, in the above view, which is sadly representative of a large swath of the “video game community,” is the idea that Anita Sarkeesian not only provoked the abuse she received, but actively sought to benefit from it. This is on the edge of being a crackpot conspiracy theory and sometimes spills over into the paranoid “male rights” wet dream that Sarkeesian orchestrated the whole thing.

Here are some tough facts: She asked for $6,000 and was given $158,222, through an entirely voluntary crowd funding service. She asked if people would be interested to support her in dedicating a lot of time and work to examining the subject further. This ties into another major dysfunction that plagues many areas of the Internet: Everything should come free of charge. That Sarkeesian had a popular series of videos that were free, means that she should subsidize that enjoyment forever.

If there were no demand for this work, then she would not have been paid. There was demand, and she was paid. Whether people who had no hand in contributing feel that it was worth the amount paid is of no consequence. They are not being asked to pay for it, or even watch it. Anyone questioning whether she believes in what she is doing, need only see that Sarkeesian is using this money to provide a Tropes vs. Women curriculum to be used in schools free of charge.

More charitable goons may feel that violent retribution is going a bit too far, although the motivation behind the threats to rape and murder Anita Sarkeesian is considered sound:

“I was going to say she probably asked for it by pushing extreme feminism, but if what reads on the Wikipedia article is correct, then the harassment was pretty over the top..Flash game where you beat her up?! Really..?”
Comment 3

When one thing out of a thousand does not massage the balls of these cretins, it is thought to be a sign of their imminent downfall. If only. If only this was a real extremist feminist movement then people like this would be put in their place. Anita Sarkeesian has shown, though, that she has a far cooler head than that. There is nothing whatsoever extremist in the ideology that informs this video.

If there is any criticism of this first entry in her project it is that it may state the obvious. It appears, though, that the “video game community” needs immediate help with the obvious. Even as a first step, and one meant for the widest audience possible, it provokes the kind of perspective shifting which this medium and industry desperately needs.

One Response to “Editorial: Tropes Vs. Women: The Damsel In Distress

  1. Ariel:
    February 2nd, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    This was a good video, and not at all extremist. She took the time to explain the reasoning behind her statements and offered numerous examples, choosing to stick to the most famous (probably) for the sake of realtability. I think people tend to see what they want to see in these kinds of things, so it’s no surprise that there are ignorant (sometimes well-spoken, but most often not) bullies trying to tear it apart.


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