I already adored Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency vlogcast, but after she announced her plan to do a Tropes in Videogames series, and the weeping and wailing of tiny man egos began, and her refusal to back down in the face of some truly monstrous internet abuse and vicious personal attacks, I decided she was my hero.
We’re four episodes in to Feminist Frequency Tropes -vs- Women Videogames, and I’m loving all of the videos so far. Because of the ubiquity of the Damsel in Distress trope, she dedicates three half hour episodes to this trope, dividing them into the History of the Trope, the new “dark and edgy” versions of the Trope, and the final installment, Dudes in Distress. The final installment points out just how few Dudes in Distress type games there are, she comes up with six, and highlights some games that avoid this trope, like Where is My Heart, which was reviewed here when it first came out. In case you don’t remember, it’s the fatally cute Scandinavian platformer that provided much challenging gameplay and all the adorbs.
The lastest episode is Ms. Male Character, where she talks about videogame characters that are essentially just “girled down” versions of existant male characters. From Ms. Pac Man (which honestly was a vastly more challenging game at which I am awesome*), to the girl Koopa in later Mario games, to Maxwell’s sister Lily in the latest Scribblenauts, these characters have no identifying characteristics to distinguish them from their male counterparts, except being girls. Much like with the Smurfs, where all the other Smurfs had names that indicated an interest or skill, Brainy Smurf, Lazy Smurf, Reporter Smurf, Tailor Smurf, Farmer Smurf, and Smurfette… whose only interest was she was a girl, apparently.
Ok, guys, while it can be pretty exciting being a woman, I mean, that whole bleeding, cramps, less pay for the same work and being talked over during discussions, for example, but it isn’t an interest or a skill in the same way that being Brainy or a Farmer is.** As Ms. Sarkeesian explains this just further enforces the idea of male characters as the norm, and female characters as some sort of special class.
Women make up roughly 50% of the world’s population is female. And we’re catching up in percentage of videogames played and purchased. Isn’t about time that videogames quit acting like we have cooties, or we all want to play Cooking Mama. I really hate that game. It is so far from anything that interests me, it’s like we don’t even inhabit the same space time continuum. As Ms. Sarkeesian said in the video, while Bioware may have blown the marketing for Mass Effect, at least they got it right in the actual game.
If you like the blog or the podcast, please, please, please donate to keep us going. Donations go to pay for the podcast hosting and website domain, primarily.
Oh, and Honey Badger’s first two songs are available for download here, for free or pay what you want. We’re also part of a larger compilation to benefit a local venue, with a song written by yours truly. Check it out (we’re track 16).
*I may indeed have had my initials on nearly every Ms. Pac Man machine in Boise, ID in the 1980s. After you played it all the way through, it just restarted, FASTER.
**There is something to be said for the performance of femininity as a skill, but that is a different conversation.