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This Exists... Because of A Lady

Tropes vs Women In Video Games: Ms. Male Character and the Smurfette Principle


Anita Sarkeesian is back with the fourth video in her Tropes vs Women In Video Games series. We’ve moved on from Damsels in Distress to a pair of separate but related tropes: The Smurfette Principle and Ms. Male Character. Ms. Pac-Man, this one’s for you.

Previously in Tropes vs Women in Video Games

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  • Haleigh Yonish

    I debated on posting this for like fifteen minutes now, but I really, really haven’t liked Antia’s videos in the past. I feel really awful when I don’t support someone’s work who is doing a really good thing. Terrible, terrible guilt. But I just couldn’t get into them because she breezes over so many examples taken out of context and it left me saying, “But! But!”

    However, I liked this one a lot. It just felt like she had more control over the subject matter and a lot of solid points than other videos of hers I’ve watched in the past. I guess that’s a problem with only focusing on snippets, but Anita just seems to really grab this point well, and she had me “Hmming” a lot. Very good flow, and she wasn’t using as many niche examples (which is fine, but can lose a lot of the crowds).

    I made the mistake of watching this on Kotaku earlier and seeing 1,000,000 “jokes” about her. Barf.

    Anyway, regardless of if I always like Anita’s videos, I’m glad she’s making them!

  • Joanna

    It is unfortunate that we default cartoons without feminine features as male. I remember as a kid being surprised that Shenzi from the Lion King was female. Is that something we’re ever going to get past? =/

  • Lien

    To defend her a little on your first paragraph, be reminded that it was good for her to sometime simplify the problem in order to reach a clearer message. Not saying she made everything worse by just giving one scene while not explaining the context but if she did give all the details that the detractors we would still be in the damsel trope for a long time and the discussion wouldn’t of even started.
    And i gotta admit, this video is probably on of the best she made so far! Very precise and clear to the point. And hard to disagree with her a little with some points (like the freakin’ bow and make-ups on girl characters… seriously!).

    And now… comes the part where i start a flame but… what were the example taken out of context you are talking about? I am assuming you are talking about the damsel videos here cause i recall playing most of her examples and noticing the trope in the same scene she shown. The only games i haven’t tried out were the indie games she started to list that had the trope.

  • Lien

    And to even add more nostalgia there, the lion king even emphasis the female leader pack persona that runs in the hyena matriarchal society seeing how Shenzi was the one that boss the others two goons around to do the job.
    She was a horrible person… but i love her!

  • Saraquill

    I’m not so keen on watching this video, as her Damsels in Distress series was so disappointing. She was good at scrutinizing, but not so much analysis. Why bother examining “what,” if there’s no looking at “why?”

    She also rather ignored that there is a long storytelling president of Damsels in Distress, and it did not originate with video games.

  • Mina

    “She also rather ignored that there is a long storytelling president of Damsels in Distress, and it did not originate with video games.”

    Except…she specifically mentioned that the trope has a long history in other media. She even showed the old movie clip where the guy ties the lady to the train tracks.

  • Haleigh Yonish

    Honestly, I can’t give you specific examples from the video game series. I’m sorry!

    I watched her for the first time a few months ago and remember being pretty discouraged and feeling like she wasn’t explaining things as well as she could have and was focusing more on examples than her argument, which is what I meant in my first post. She would just flash faces of characters or give a list and I wanted a more how/why, especially if it was something I hadn’t seen/played. In this one, her Mass Effect example was great because I didn’t even know you could be a woman (!).

    I wish I could respond to this better, but I’d have to go through them all again (which I honestly probably will within the next few days) (also I think it was less her video game series and more her general series?) (I remember she said making women masculine was sexist, and she gave the examples of True Grit and Firefly, and I felt pretty uncomfortable because it was so gender normative) (parentheses) (sorry)

    But I guess that’s in the past, anyway, and it seems like, if anything, she’s just learning and growing and making this more accessible. Like I said, I was pretty into this one, so I hope I like her upcoming ones, too!

  • Lien

    And even brought up the old biblical settings like with the virgin Mary and also stated the damsel trope isn’t anything new in story telling… like in the first 3 minutes.
    Sorry to ask this Saraquill but, did you watch her video?

  • Mina

    Yeah, her original videos were less research intensive and more just explaining a quick concept or point. I remember that True Grit one. I got her point, but it was a subtle one that really needed a more in-depth video to explain properly. These ones have a different kind of feel. She has more time to go into the different ideas and broader research to support things with. It IS a growing process, for sure.

  • Alexa

    She isn’t perfect, but I think she gets her point across better then most people. I don’t always agree with her, but that doesn’t mean she’s wrong on everything. Plus it was kind of alarming in the previous episodes how many variations that a damsel in distress can be formulated into, and how often people do it, and how screwed up the trope can get. I felt she could be a bit more concise, but here she is doing just that, so she seems to be growing in her critique and analyses. And I can’t wait when she tears apart the Fighting F%&k Toy trope. Seriously I hate that trope.

  • Lien

    Oh all good! Honestly i wasn’t trying to attack you, just curious cause i thought you were talking about the indie games that i haven’t played. Gotta admit her first videos, thought to the point, had a bunch of mistakes here and there but be reminded these videos were made like 5-6 years ago right after she finished college. Id’ give her the beginner’s excuse then state “she doesn’t do her research” like everyone is saying left and right on the forums while not even touching the issue… sigh…

    …and what do ya mean you didn’t know you could play as female Sheppard? My inner gamer nerd persona is angry! Go play mass effect and be amazed with Jenifer Hale’s performance! RAWR!

  • Haleigh Yonish

    Oh, I didn’t think you were on the attack, haha. But, I mean, of course she’s growing. If you can look at her videos and see a clear evolution, that’s just a sign she’s a smart person not stuck in one way of thinking or approaching something. So, kudos to Anita, especially since people give her such a hard time that I feel like it’d be hard to continue making these.

    I know. I’m a fake geek girl. ;) I knew Mass Effect existed and have some friends who are super into it, but I work 60+ hours a week and don’t play games like I used to. Being an adult is the worst. I want to try it now! I love Jennifer Hale!!! I’m such a punk!!!

  • Lien

    Oooh same here… *Stares at ivy from a distance while shaking a fist in the air*

  • Haleigh Yonish

    Exactly! It was just too distant for me, but this one was right there and boom and pow.

  • Samantha

    I think the important thing is that, if you find problems, to use that as a way to continue the conversation instead of shut it down.

    Way (way way WAY) too often when I see her videos “discussed” elsewhere, the criticism launched at them is really invective towards Anita herself rather than the content, which is then used to dismiss the entire freaking issue as not worth addressing. (“See? Told ya this was stupid.”)

    Since her video series and the backlash against it brought sexism in video games and other facets of nerd culture to a wider audience, that unfortunately sort of presents her as the sole, or at least biggest, voice for the issue. I say “unfortunately” because people who agree with the general message but not all the details don’t have as much of a platform to present their different views, and people who agree with none of it can use that to write her, and therefore the message, off entirely.

  • Haleigh Yonish

    Definitely. I remember after watching a couple of the first videos, my friend and I got drunk and talked about sexism in media until 3 a.m. SHE DID GOOD.

  • Saraquill

    I read the transcripts.

  • Alexa

    Are you referring to Poison Ivy from Arkham Asylum?

  • Saraquill

    It’s been a while since I read the transcripts. Which section did she mention them?

  • Mina

    First damsel video, four minutes in. It’s right after she explains the basics of what the trope is.

  • Samuel

    Probably Ivy from Soul Calibur.

  • Saraquill

    I just checked. Yeah, it had been a while since I read the transcripts, and I guess I was too annoyed about her not addressing “why” to remember about the Perseus bits.

    Even recalling that detail, that essay trilogy still feels incomplete.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I’m not always enthusiastic about them either. The “Mystical Pregnancy” one from her original series, in particular, I remember really disagreeing with—so reproductive rights are an issue for a lot of women, but it’s off limits as a horror plot because pregnancy is natural? o_O

    But then, some of them are really important tropes to know about, and she’s exposing them to people in a really casual/friendly way. Heck, my eleven-year-old brother watches them. So that’s introducing people to media analysis who might not otherwise have heard of any of this stuff, which is a good thing.

  • Anonymous

    “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: [Step 1 is] collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist[...]”
    —-MLK, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

    The series is documenting the situation in depth. This is exactly what hasn’t been done for a general audience; it’s a baseline for future work as much as a work within itself.

  • Alexa

    Thanks :)

  • Saraquill

    Do you mean like notes for a thesis?

    Even if it is to show facts to a general audience, I’ve been spoiled by other widely available online works that go into detail about gender dynamics, like TV Tropes and Nostalgia Chick.

  • Jon E. Christianson

    It’s been a -long- while since I watched that video, but I think the point against the Mystical Pregnancy trope is that it is so often makes the event all about the horror with none of the ramifications.

    ANGEL SPOILERS

    One of the examples was Cordelia in Angel, where she gets mystical pregnancied twice. Sci fi shows very rarely treat pregnancy with respect, it’s all “oh god, shit I’m pregnant” and so often it’s written in a way that disenfranchises the female character.

    This is especially frustrating if the show, like many sci fi shows, has only one female character. This means if they want to do some (usually overdone) take on the mystical pregnancy, it guarantees that the female character is going to be victimized or turned into a threat.

    Hell, sci fi shows rarely let pregnancies, mystical or not, happen organically. So often the pregnancy is terminated, the baby dies, or, my least favorite, the baby magically is aged up so the show never has to deal with the child-raising part of the experience. The baby is framed as a problem that has to get dealt with.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone remember Terk from Tarzan? I watched that movie for years before I realized she was a girl. Not helped by the fact that boys in animation are so frequently played by women anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Not just a thesis; to make a case for change, it is oftentimes helpful to lay down a thick set of examples. Some of your examples may not be prefect, and indeed might be seen a nit-picking, but the weight of the evidence you present buttresses your case.

    Anita’s work here is not (from what I can tell) to dive into the whys and wherefores of these tropes, but rather to convince, via mounds of evidence, that they exist and are harmful. It’s simple in a way, but the massive pushback she’s getting indicates there’s a need for this work, for this kind of documentation.

    Keep in mind she’s likely having to go through a LOT of gaming media to develop this out. She’s dealing with decades of games that are not well-documented, even within the industry, and esp. in the way she’s doing. To do all that work and provide in-depth analysis is asking a lot, quite honestly.

    And I also suspect that deeper analysis will come in later videos…but even if not, the fact that she’s laying groundwork should never be discounted.

  • Lien

    *sips tea* Ayup…

  • Anonymous

    Shoo bee do sha bee da shoo bee do dadn dada n dee daa!

  • Lien

    I think for me, the biggest offense of that trope in sci fi is with star trek where Deanna Troi gets pregnant, gives birth and watches the kids grow up into an adult… IN THE SAME DAY! Her reaction? “My! Kids grow so fast these days”. I believe it was featured in that one anita episode. And yeah sorry, not buying it… Any ordinary mother would of freaked the heck out and run away screaming for help then make a snarky comment.

    In horror movies, it’s worse. I recall my mother who gave birth to five kids (one of them awesome *wink*) rolling her eyes at the species film where an alien get pregnant, gives birth to a freak monsters and start killing everyone again in the same day. Not saying it should of been realistic but you gotta admit, it doesn’t put pregnancy in the bright light here. And don’t get me started with films where the mother gives birth to a deformed monster baby that KILLS THE MOTHER DURING BIRTH!

    So aye… the mystical pregnancy… could use without it in films and tv shows is what i am saying.

  • ♥☠ シイラ ☠♥

    I have a love/hate relationship w/ Ivy. I love her fighting moves & I’ve made many boys cry in an arcade w/ her & Xianghua & Taki….but yeah…yeah…

  • Robert

    I agree that this is stronger than some of her other videos. Ms. Male Character is a much simpler concept to explore than the ridiculously broad Damsel in Distress trope. I love that topic up into three videos but that also meant she spent two videos laying down the foundation for part three, which really did drive the points home.

    I remember being able to discuss areas of her research I thought were a little off–like the ape/gorilla taking a woman background skipped out on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in The Rue Morgue,” the first printed story to ever use that exact concept. I also remember thinking “but what about this game or this game or this game” as she went through examples. It was such a massive topic that arguments were simplified and some stronger samples were passed over for more well-known titles that fit the argument. She also avoided some of the ickier games like Haunting Ground where the damsel is also the only hero and has no excuse to not be able to take care of herself. But if she got into that part of Damsels in Distress, she would have needed at least one if not two more videos to tie all the ends together.

    I didn’t feel those gaps with Ms. Male Character. It was scripted and shaped so well that even when I thought of other examples afterwards, I didn’t really notice anything missing while watching. I’m curious to see if the rest of the topics are one-off videos or if anything else is large enough to break up across multiple videos.

  • Anonymous

    It is impressive how the complains about character design in this are the same as the Bikini Armor.

    They happen when creators loose the focus on internal logic.

    Amy Rose is a good example.
    Sonic : Boots and gloves
    Knucles : boots and gloves
    Tails : boots and gloves
    Amy : skirt and top and ebverything

  • Carly Hunter

    Whaaaat o_0 huh so she is I don’t think I would have ever realized if someone hadnt pointed it out

  • Nigel Bradley

    I feel she is doing excellent work and is growing with each video. That said, am I the only one who wants to push the hair up on the left hand side of her face? It gets a bit distracting.
    Honestly, I think she would do a bit better in reaching her audience with the inclusion of a wee bit more humor. Not a lot, but just an added sprinkle. She seems as if she’d have a snarky sense of humor about things, and I’d like to see her cut loose a bit more.

  • Katy

    I quite like this series. While I don’t agree with everything she says in her videos and I admit I’m not a huge gamer (I reached my peak with Super Nintendo), I find that she opens the door to broader discussion about the portrayal of women in media, not just games. However, I’m curious to know if she’s going to make a video about Samus Aran from Metroid.

  • http://www.tartaka.com/ Ian

    While I generally agree with the points she’s making, I feel like this video spends a bit too much time on describing examples of the issue and too little on actual analysis of it. And with her analysis, she kind of conflates a few arguments leaving them generally underdeveloped. I came away from the video feeling I was generally more aware of ‘Mr. Male Character’ concept’s presence in games, but without having received any particular insight into it.

    Maybe these videos are meant more to simply highlight issues than to provide detailed academic analysis, I don’t know. I just feel like more could be done with them.

  • Travis

    This video was better than the previous three. The logic fails were far fewer than in her Damsel in Distress section. Really, the only dumb thing was pointing out that only 1 in 5 players had a female Commander Shepard and then immediately complaining about being treated as a niche market.

    I was one of those 20% of players and I think it’s lame that BioWare focused on ManShep rather than the true Commander Shepard too, but at least I understand that I’m in the minority.

  • Aline

    Well, the thing is, if you’ve seen all the publicity showing a male Sheppard, you might feel as if that’s the ‘right’ character to play, which might lead to people who play a female Sheppard being a minority by a larger margin.

    In fact, if I recall correctly, when starting a new ME game (in the original game) you get the option of picking ‘John Sheppard’ or a ‘New ID’, which means a lot of newer players might not have even been aware of the possibility of playing a female character.

    I mean, I made a female Sheppard because I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Hale and knew she’d worked on that game as female Sheppard, but I don’t often customise my characters a whole lot, so I could’ve easily gone with the male default under different circumstances.

  • NickN

    A suggestion that I’ve heard come up in the past about this was that Bioware could randomize which gender, species, race or class that shows up first when players enter the character creation part of their games. Or they could simply have the character creation default to one of the lesser played character options.

    It would be interesting to see if either one of those would have an effect on what people actually choose for their first playthrough.

  • Lien

    …”logic fails”… oh my…

  • Travis

    A randomized default would have made more sense. Shame they didn’t go that route.

  • Travis

    Samus is a weird case. You can find a lot of good and bad in the character.

    I mean, yay for having a badass female character whose gender isn’t even revealed until the end of the game. But then they turn around and offer increasingly sexualized rewards for faster clear times. One of the first strong female protagonists in video games also offers one of the first strip teases in video games.

  • Eisen

    The often repeated “I don’t agree with everything she says, but-” is the new “I’m not a feminist, but-”.

    Usually you don’t have to mention that you do not agree with absolutely everything a person says, but the huge backlash against Anita and her video series tricks or scares otherwise feminism/equality-supportive people to distance themselves from Anita, because we don’t want to be labelled as uncool, shrieking harpies, do we?

    I watched the Damsel videos again (because so many here said “that’s so much better than her Damsel videos – I didn’t like them because of [insert really vague reason]“), and I do not get what problems people have with them. Of course they can’t cover every game in existence. Of course they can’t answer every question, and explain why our culture is that way it is today. And of course there are – like always – exceptions.

    I really believe people fiercly search for something they don’t like, just so they can say: “I don’t agree with everything she says” – main thing is you don’t get counted among Anita Sarkeesian, because out there it seems everybody hates her.

  • Joanna

    Ha, I never looked at it that way. Awesome!

  • Joanna

    I’m probably in the minority in actually liking Ivy. She’s like this ridiculous Amazonian dominatrix and her personality matches her appearance. I think I would dislike her if she were silly and giggly like the Dead or Alive girls.

  • Joanna

    The fact that one of the commenters here didn’t even know you could play as a female speaks for itself. Inclusive marketing = more female players.

  • Joanna

    Differing opinions are allowed, you know. Just because Anita talks about feminism in games doesn’t mean I’m going to blindly agree with everything she says.

  • Eisen

    Did I say it is wrong to have a different opinion? No. But it is kinda strange that so many people have to state first, that they usually do not agree with her, or don’t like her or her videos.

    It’s like: “Normally I HATE popsongs, you know, because I only listen to deathmetal, but this particular song is quite good. You know, for a pop song.” – it sounds like the people are really worried about that others could take them for “Anita Sarkeesian Supporters”.

  • Joanna

    Hmm… I see what you mean. I think it’s because Anita identifies as a feminist and maybe some people expect an all encompassing way to be a feminist. So when they say I don’t normally agree, they’re saying “Her feminism is different than my feminism.” Or something.

    But I do think there’s also this impression from everyone that you’re either all for Sarkeesian or you’re a hatin’ troll and there’s no room for anything in between.

    I think people need to accept that she’s not perfect and that that’s ok.

  • Eisen

    It really worries me. Not because I’m a kind of glowing supporter, but because I see almost every day what damage the word “feminism” suffered all this years. If even people who are mostly in agreement with her, begin to state “Not everything she says is right”, “THIS TIME she is right with this particular point”, “I don’t agree with everything she says”, and so on, then the trolls won. They used all their hate and transformed Anita to a “Feminist Antichrist” even other feminists won’t compare themselves to.

    And this is ridiculous. Anita did (and endured) much to bring this topic out, and even with so much backlash she didn’t stop. But instead of focus on what we’re agreeing with her and her videos, we hastily throw a phrase in our comments, so that no one thinks we’re on “her side”.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know, I think with Anita’s videos it was always like that. Even before the videogame topic came up I heard a lot of people saying the ‘I don’t always agree with her line’. So I don’t necessarily think it’s a reaction to the dudebro trolls or whatever. That has probably increased the amount of times I’ve seen it, but Anita has always been ever so slightly difficult to agree with.

  • ♥☠ シイラ ☠♥

    I can’t really deal w/ the DoA girls & I like Ivy as a character. My “hate” comes in w/ her design. Everything about her is that dominatrix look to exaggeration. I don’t mind sexy but it’s when they put in so much time into making her breast jiggle under a strap (or making Taki’s erect nipples super noticable) that I just kind of go “c’mon!”

  • Eisen

    I could not count it, of course, but too me the dissociation from Anita seems to grow quite a lot. Also the very vague statements about what she is doing wrong exactly.
    I’m curious though – which of her statements do you find difficult to agree with? It must be quite a lot, because you refer to Anita herself, not to one or two statements you didn’t agree with.

  • ♥☠ シイラ ☠♥

    I feel like there’s only so much information to be back into a YouTube video & like stated before, this is to get people thinking more about the tropes & how women are viewed/treated in games.

    Also, she still needs something to expand on when she’s giving talks & traveling, I’m sure.

  • ♥☠ シイラ ☠♥

    I think it’s funny that no one realized this was a female character…even despite Rosie O’Donnell’s voice acting. I know females have voiced (mainly pre/adolescent) males before…but I also liked that it wasn’t obvious in her character design & you got to know Terk for Terk before she became “oh, that female one”.

  • Anonymous

    I referred to her, not the issues, because I was talking more in a general sense of ‘people’ rather than my own reactions specifically.

    Maybe the number of people disassociating themselves from her has grown by a lot, but that could also be a result of her increased audience. It’s difficult to say, but it’s always been present to some extent.

  • ♥☠ シイラ ☠♥

    I understand what you mean about people using the qualifier. I think it’s b/c w/ marginalized groups, we are often lumped together based on one perception & especially once a lot of manchildren were offended by Anita, she became almost a by-default accusation of being one of those “crazy, man-hating feminists”.

    I once got into an argument on a forum w/ a guy & once I mentioned the backlash that a lot of women deal w/ online; he immediately accused me of being a mindless supporter of Anita. I’ve also seen women who instead of saying “I’m not like those/those other girls” say “I’m not like Anita” or even work hard to distance themselves from her b/c if you don’t, you get shrieking morons who don’t think Anita or any woman should be allowed to comment on their games.

  • ♥☠ シイラ ☠♥

    I always found that disturbingly interesting. The entire first game, the character completely identifies w/ Samus & her mission & they love her for being who she is…until she’s a female. Then after that, not even the big roboticized suit could save her from “mother” plots & strip teases & a separation between her & the (male)player.

  • Lien

    And then, after seeing the success of Amy, they decided to add another girl in the sonic franchise: Rouge the bat.
    Oh boy…

  • Anonymous

    The “humans are male by default” thing really annoys the hell out of me, especially for RPGs and shooters.

  • Joanna

    I’m inclined to agree here. I watched some of her stuff before the whole drama with the games tropes series. Her critique of True Blood made me face palm a bit.

  • Joanna

    That’s true. But most of the Soul Caliber crew (males included) look ridiculous so it’s in keeping with the game in general lol.

  • Anonymous

    Personally, I find nothing in this particular video difficult to agree with.

  • Katy

    Yes! That’s exactly what I’d like Anita to tackle. Samus is an interesting case because she starts as a character that subverts the common tropes, but once her true identity is revealed, she becomes more feminized and sexualized. Her character evolution is worth exploring as Samus is often held up as an example of when video games get women characters right.

  • Katy

    Yes, that’s what makes her a character worth exploring in Anita’s series. As well, once her gender is revealed, she is increasingly feminized in later games.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Eh, when I say it, it’s because I legitimately don’t agree with all the points she makes. Since it is usually a discussion of ideologies, it seems like a distinction worth making. As opposed to “I’m not [I don't want to be called] a feminist, but…” There are things she’s said and points she’s made that I’ve had a legitimate problem with. There are also a lot of things she’s said that have been very thought provoking and spot on.

    It seems a bit harsh to accuse everyone who puts the clarifier of “I don’t agree with everything she says” of being sheep who don’t want to accidentally be associated with her while holding the same ideals. Feminists can disagree about issues, even publicly, and that’s okay.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Wait, who’s too masculine in Firefly? Zoe? Because she’s tough and stoic and gets stuff done? That’s not inherently a masculine trait.

    Yeah, though, I’m kinda in the same boat. It’s been ages since I watched her videos, but I remember always finishing them going, “Well, yes, but no…” but heck if I can remember any of the specifics because it’s been ages. But yeah, she does have some very specific ideas about gender. Which…it’s not bad to want to see more traditionally feminine traits portrayed in the same positive light as more traditionally masculine traits, but…yeah.

    Gah, now I’m just gonna have to go and watch ‘em again when I get home and be grumpy at things.

  • Jamie Jeans

    I remember playing the latest Mortal Kombat game at a get together, and someone was using a couple of the female characters… aside from the costume designs, they all got some variation of a sexy dance, which made us all laugh because of how stupid it was, not to mention disturbing since they looked beat up as all hell, depending on how much life they had.

    Needless to say, there was much laughing, groaning, and sighing at it…

  • Jamie Jeans

    Another great video by Anita, and definitely lays down a solid base about lazy, shallow, traditional character design. I thought it was also good that she touched upon the use of traditional female signifiers on men as sources of transphobic and homophobic humour.

  • Rafi Mankassirain

    Ooh Boy *adjusts flame proof jacket*

    OK, I’ll comment in just two areas where I have more knowledge on. That statistic that a lot of people point to on info graphics and the like when regarding how many players choose between male and female Commander Shepard, never really made much sense to me as a definitive study. When playing any of the Mass Effect games you’re not locked into playing either gender upon your first choice. You’re free to play as male or female as many times as you wish. Further more, saying a trailer is web only as a detriment feels a little quaint to me. Internet marketing is one of the biggest ways that things get out there, and saying that something is web-only strikes me as not giving enough credit to the power of viral marketing.

    One last little thing, and I’ll preface this by saying: I am one of the biggest Jennifer Hale fan-boys out there, I’ve loved her voice work since she was Bastila in the first Knights of the Old Republic game. But I feel it’s a major disservice to Mark Meer (the voice of male Commander Shepard) as a voice actor to simply write him off the way she did. Yes, I’ll choose a female Shepard more times than not, but you’ll find plenty of evidence through out all three Mass Effect games where Mark Meer delivered a lines better than Hale.

  • Pink Apocalypse

    It makes me queasy when I see so many people specifically take time to give the ‘I don’t agree with everything…’ precursor, because it feels exactly like Eisen stated.

    It’s expected for people in a broad group to go out of their way to deliberately distinguish themselves between profoundly important topics. Pro-porn and anti-porn feminism, as a very blunt example. But when people are going out of their way to distance themselves from details such as which specific video game characters do and do not meet specific misogynistic criteria, it just smacks of image awareness that only serves to help purely negative opponents undercut the overall message.

    Probably not a welcome opinion, and ripe for anonymous down-voting, but that’s how I feel.

  • Anonymous

    Ah yes – the bloody pink bow/tutu dress!
    The bane of my existence. I hate it so much!

    I wonder if it would be possible for me to create Swedish subtitles to Sarkeesian’s videos and to re-upload them so that my children (and others) would be able to watch these amazing videos. It will be years until they’ll be able to understand the English well enough on their own.

  • http://thewrongdrum.wordpress.com/ Jeanette Diaz

    I’ve had so many “discussions” about her faults turn into criticism of her appearance, speculations she’s literally in bed with an EA executive, and abuse heaped on her nerd cred. It’s so hard to have an actual discussion about her criticisms and where she fails or not.

  • Wormetti

    Excellent video. Smurfette Principle and Ms. Male Character can be avoided without limiting stories. Great list of examples except I don’t think Bully is a good fit for the Smurfette Principle since there are many female NPCs in that game.

  • athenia45

    In the book Japanamerica, the origin story of Pac-Man is described as the creator sitting in a cafe listening to the conversations of women–he noted that women often talked about relationships, fashion and food. He decided he couldn’t make a game about relationship or fashion that would appeal to men, so he went with food.
    I guess I find it interesting that even though he was trying to appeal to women, he still named it Pac-man, when Pac-man could have really been anything. That, and he couldn’t think up a game about relationships or fashion that would appeal to men.

  • Eisen

    I get what you’re saying, really. But on the other hand I wonder, why people have to push out this one statement first. I too don’t agree with everything Anita says, because I don’t agree with everything that anybody says. For me it’s normal to know for sure, that there will be issues I disagree with others, but this is not my first concern, nor do I feel the need to state that, before I put my actual comment out there.
    And again: Nothing against disagreement per se. And I don’t ‘accuse’ people to be sheep. But to me it feels/sounds like they first and foremost have to distance themselves from Anita, fearing they will be taken as ‘Anita-Supporters’. Otherwise there would be no need for a clarifier in the first sentence by so many people. It’s just eye-catching.

    I don’t want to flame, but after your comment I’m really curious: What are these things out of her videos (I’m thinking about the damsel videos and the new one), that you ‘strongly’ disagree with?

  • Laura Truxillo

    Like I said downthread, it’s been a long time since I listened to her videos (I’m at work now and can’t plug this one in). I don’t remember specifics, though I do remember feeling like she made some messed up assumptions about gender and femininity. I remember feeling like she was doing a basic 101 (which is fine, because everyone has to start somewhere, but there’s only so many times you can read/hear the same “hey, ever notice this”), that I didn’t really agree with a lot of the more specific points she would make and that there’s plenty of other places where I read/listen to/engage in discussions on gender and representation and I didn’t feel like I needed to keep watching hers. So I stopped.

    I can probably go dig back into the ones I did watch and find the points I did disagree with, if it’s all that important to you.

  • Ashe

    Shenzi was my favorite as a kid because 1. I loved hyenas 2. I loved Whoopi Goldberg 3. I loved Disney.

    It was all I ever wanted…

  • Rob Payne

    A little late here, but just wanted to add: Just because a precedent was set on a trope, even 1000s of years ago, does not mean it’s existence is automatically justified. People, not just Anita, are calling attention to those tropes and their precedents because we know the WHY of them already. Masculinitity is the dominant cultural norm, for all sorts of reasons that don’t, or shouldn’t, apply any longer.
    I’d prefer to see more solutions to these issues in her videos, but she usually provides at least one idea or guidepost for future creators and that’s far more beneficial than belaboring the patriarchy.

  • Brett W

    She really doesn’t like Christians, does she?

  • Eisen

    I’m sorry, I didn’t want to come across as inquisitve. I was only curious because I think in general most feminists share the same basic views, and I didn’t remember I strongly disagreed with anything I saw on the videos, so I hoped you could tell me what exactly it was that put you off.

    But please, don’t trouble yourself on my account.

  • Haleigh Yonish

    Good god, what??

  • Aline

    I dunno. I didn’t get the feeling that she dislikes Christians. More like she sees the bible as a part of our culture that is open to examination and that proves valuable in the sense that it tells us how old some of these conceptions about women are.

  • Rob Payne

    The only problem I had with that element was that I’ve never considered the default Shepard to be “Shepard.” He’s DudeShep or BroShep, because Mark Meer plays him that way. Jennifer Hale is only “FemShep” because it’s easier than constantly saying “My Commander Shepard was a woman.” But that, of course, gets at what Anita is saying in this video, people expect the default based on the marketing (and the character selection screen as pointed out below).

  • http://www.spaceunicorn.net Jayme

    It seems to me that the point of this tropes vs women in video games series is to highlight exactly how often these issues occur. They are saying, “Hey, this is a problem because it occurs so much. See?” Probably to influence as wide an audience as possible. A detailed academic analysis would be too dry to interest as many people as she might like.

  • HamsterMasterSamster

    It’s surprising what a draw it can be for some players to remain ‘true to canon’, let alone the subliminal impact of constantly reinforcing the fact that Shepard is default male. Advertising affects people a lot more than people like to admit. It may well have been the reason that only 1 in 5 players gunned for a female Shepard (I’m also one of that 20%).

    Rather than define Shepard specifically with very specific cinematics, the marketing could have been a clever ‘insert-yourself-here’ type of ad campaign, or run with vignettes of diverse Shepards who look different and make different decisions to show how flexible the character and the story were. A real ‘shape your own space epic’ deal. Instead, I know plenty of people, and a good deal of female gamers, who would have seen another gruff white male space marine game and rolled their eyes and passed by a genuinely great game experience.

    Unfortunately, we still have game publishers who think slapping a woman on something will actively deter sales, so, that probably factored into the maleShep marketing. One day they’ll realise that inclusive marketing ~expands~ your potential target audience.

  • Rob Payne

    I’ve noticed this for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always chalked it up to the fact that the creators and gatekeepers have largely been male, so it makes a certain amount of sense that they’d create and promote those stories with lead characters with whom they identify. But I’d never quite put it into that phrasing of the human condition, and hearing Anita say that in the video was fairly mind blowing.

  • Rob Payne

    Mark Meer gets better with time, but so does Hale, because the writing gets better. But ME1 is a slog as DudeBroShep, and highly rewarding with FemShep. However, this — “but you’ll find plenty of evidence through out all three Mass Effect games where Mark Meer delivered lines better than Hale” — does not compute. I never felt like Meer was portraying a character, so much as giving line readings. Either paragon, renegade, or a mix, Hale feels like she’s giving an actual performance. But, to each their own, right?

  • Rob Payne

    Pointing out that one of our worst tropes originated in a book that the majority of the world believes in one way or another, and can often be looked at, if not the source of, then, as a codifcation of values isn’t anti-anything, much less active dislike for one (large) subset of peoples who base their values in said book. It’s merely part of explaining how entrenched those values are.

  • Brett W

    But if you actually believe in the Bible, it’s not a “trope” but rather a “thing that happened”. So treating that as just a mere instance of trope use is a little disrespectful to the believers. It would be as if I told a Muslim that the Quran is just a storybook. Ignoring the interminable debate regarding the truth of one or any religions, saying something like that without a qualifier of any kind verges on insult.

  • Brett W

    I see what you mean, but see my reply to Rob Payne above to understand what I’m getting at. Also, she did something similar in her “mystical pregancy” video by mentioning Mary as an example of the trope- while completely ignoring Mary’s free will in the matter. Maybe she doesn’t explicitly dislike Christians, but it gives me pause.

  • Rob Payne

    Well, Muslims also subscribe to the Old Testament and the Garden of Eden, so part of my point was that the statement isn’t anti-Christian. She could have used the myth of Athena’s birth out of Zeus’ brain as an example, too, but a disappointing number of people believe in ancient Greek/Roman religions anymore. She picked an example that works today and is ancient.

    And, come on, how many people actually believe the Eden story is history?

  • Brett W

    Well in the US alone there are like 253 million Christians, 4.82 million Muslims, and 5.8 million Jews. Take those numbers with a grain of salt because I pulled them from Wolfram Alpha. That also assumes that everyone who identifies as Christian or Muslim or Jewish actually believes in the documents these faiths are based on. But my point is that there *are* people who believe the Bible. They exist. I’m one of them. (And no that doesn’t mean I disbelieve in science. I love science.) And even if you think someone’s beliefs are wrong, you should at least show them some token respect.

  • Brett W

    In any case, it remains that instead of choosing a dead religion or an explicitly fictional work of literature, she chose to take a shot at a religion that has a large number of adherents both in the US and abroad. Which begs the question, why?

  • Rob Payne

    You answered your own question. To make the biggest point she used something with “a large number of adherents.” It’s supposed to make you notice and question the trope, its origins, and why it still abounds. She wants you to ask the question, not to be offended by the asking.

  • Aline

    I’m going to hazard a guess and say that it’s because it’s a religion that has a large number of adherents and, as such, the bible is the the one ancient document that mostly everyone has heard of and is familiar with the myth.

    I mean, I can quote scripture that I’ve never even read just from how often it gets referenced in the media.

  • Aline

    Well, I would argue that treating the Bible as a piece of fiction is a disagreement with people who approach the Bible as literally true as opposed to disliking them. I can see where you’re coming from in the sense that it feels disrespectful. But going into a debate on the veracity of the bible would’ve been going way off-topic and pretending that she believes otherwise would’ve been disingenuous.

    The alternative would’ve been to not use that as an example, obviously, but it’s a good example in that it’s recognisable and adds to context.

  • Pink Apocalypse

    So others should actively suppress their benign beliefs (what is and isn’t myth) and silence themselves, rather than risk offending the dominant force?

    You’re disappearing down the rabbit hole of ‘making it all about you’. And in the process, swept the point away entirely.

  • Brett W

    But I think that question is more appropriate and relevant to fiction than to religious belief. In fiction, we have complete control. Everything in fiction happens ultimately for one reason: the author wanted it to. The characters and worlds do not create themselves. And so if a work of fiction reinforces negative stereotypes, it is generally not unfair to hold the author responsible for this.

    But with religion, things are a bit different. If you are not a person of faith, I do not expect you to fully understand. But if you believe the teachings of any of the Abrahamic faiths, then story of Eden is something that actually happened. It’s perceived resemblance to a trope is then an irrelevant coincidence. A more relevant line of questioning would be to ask whether the significance of the event may have been blown out of proportion by the faith’s adherents, creating a slightly warped worldview which then begat harmful stereotypes. But the video doesn’t ask this. It just kind of calls the whole creation thing a trope and moves on.

  • Rafi Mankassirain

    The lines I had specifically in mind for Meer were things such as the famous “Big Stupid Jellyfish” Line in the first Mass effect game, as well as most of the more comedic moments through out the trilogy. For a more serious example the final send off line from Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC, I felt was delivered perfectly by Meer, truly capturing the feelings of what everyone involved must have felt, in closing down the Commander Shepard story. There is one more serious example I could point to however, it is a spoiler so I’ll refrain from posting it, for the sake of being considerate for those who have not yet finished Mass Effect 3.

  • Laura Truxillo

    This is the internet, so I honestly can’t tell if that’s sarcastic or not.

  • Ashe

    I’m in the same boat. Her outfits range from decent to ridiculous to face-slappingly-bad, but she’s pretty damn scary as a rule!

    Helps she has such an ANGRY British accent.

  • Wormetti

    If you believe in creationism then it could still be considered a trope and a work of fiction since it was made up/created by god(s) that could have designed humans with a less sexist origin story.

  • Brett W

    I never said anything of the sort. It’s not as if replacing that reference with another example would have crippled the video.

  • Pink Apocalypse

    That’s *exactly’ what you’re saying. You want someone to completely repress their belief in what is and isn’t myth, because *you* personally choose to find it offensive when they don’t believe the same way you or the majority do, if at all.

    That’s *practically a literal example of oppression*. The fact that you can’t see that or understand it is unsettling. But not surprising, given sociology.

  • Anonymous

    “But if you actually believe in the Bible, it’s not a “trope” but rather a “thing that happened”.”

    That’s debatable. Plenty of people are Christians without being stupid literalists.

  • Anonymous

    If I may say something with the hope of not causing trouble – I think feminism does have some issues it needs to deal with. And I don’t mean all the fake stereotypes of man-hating women – I mean the more legitimate criticisms from other minority groups, such as transgender advocates.

  • Brett W

    That’s… not how that works. At all. And creation wasn’t sexist, despite how much Anita and others may read that into it. Making Eve from part of Adam was to signify that they were two parts of the same whole and that their unity was to be cherished, not that Eve was somehow inferior. You can’t be inferior to yourself. And now things are starting to go off the rails.

  • Brett W

    There is no need for insults. And I’m sure there are people who believe in that way. Although I’m not quite sure how you can believe the Bible without actually believing it.

  • Brett W

    Asking that someone not insult my or another’s faith is oppression?

  • Pink Apocalypse

    I wouldn’t expect someone to repress their outspoken belief about what is myth (in regard to Christianity) any more or less than I would expect someone to refrain from any visual depiction of Muhammad, merely because it would ‘offend’ a Moslem.

    *You* choose to be offended. Attempting to twist the concept of what constitutes an ‘insult’ by falsely applying it beyond your own belief, and consequently forcing others to conform to it, is a falsehood.

  • Anonymous

    Welcome or not, it is an opinion that I share and consider as well. I do feel sometimes that the commentary disassociation can help to undercut the message and can give edge to the negative opponents. There is nothing wrong with disagreement or differing viewpoints, but mayhaps citing what aspect(s) one disagrees with so there can be discourse and awareness is better, yes?

  • Brett W

    If that is so, then why should anyone ever be held accountable for what they say?

  • Anonymous

    Indeed, like how the term “man” and “men” can be descriptors used to mean “human” or “the human race at large.” It is quite the same way and relates within games in this way too, I think. Humans are men by default, man can be a ‘shorthand’ word for human, etc cycles.

  • Anonymous

    Finally watched this. I gotta say, I was wondering when it would come out.

    Nothing I can say beyond a few trivial geek points that don’t really matter. Hope the next one comes out quicker!

  • Lien

    Oh yeah, there are a lot of girls walking around in the halls, but during the cutscenes where you meet the cliques’ leaders, they are either absent or leaning on the arm of said leader. At best, there are the cheerleaders.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, that go-to statistic is terrible. Unless we know the specifics of BioWare’s statistical data, it is a tough topic to debate. For one, did they count how many DudeSheps and FemSheps were created in existence? Did they look at specific player accounts and only count their FIRST Shep’s sex for the statistic? Did they count only Shepards that finished the entire game? Or include every single time someone went into chargen? What if someone deleted their Shepard, is it still an open statistic that was counted? I’d like to know how they got that stat in particular.

    I had 6 DudeSheps and 9 FemSeps at the end. 3 FemSheps finished the game, 1 DudeShep finished the game. Also, someone might play one Shepard over another for the romance options, as they were all heterocentric until ME3 (and that’s why I have 1 DudeShep playthrough, as I finally was able to have m/m in ME3). Doesn’t mean a person enjoys said Shepard. There can be outlying factors. Many people have Shepards of both sexes. If they all count to the statistic, even the ones still in chargen, then that is a silly way to determine anything other than ‘people made a lot of Shepards.’

    ME3 definitely had more marketing of FemShep. Regardless of the FemShep trailer or the cover art reversal (lady on the back so you need to change it to the front because dude is default), some media hype for FemShep during ME3 (which didn’t equal DudeShep’s media hype exposure) over the course of a 5-year franchise period isn’t really much awareness and marketing. ME2 didn’t even list on its website that you could choose your Shepard’s sex anywhere circa ME2′s media hype, for example. I agree, however, that internet and social media marketing can be super effective.

  • Pink Apocalypse

    To take offense, you have to *allow* something to offend you. Saying that someone has ‘offended’ you is implying a cause-and-effect that doesn’t really exist.

    The reality is, saying such a thing is the same as saying you lack self-control, by passing judgement and discarding your moral agency in the process. Demanding that others conform their behavior around an individual’s inability to control their own emotional reactions is childish, selfish, and demanding.

    This is a higher level of philosophy embraced by Christians and Secular Humanists alike. Assuming you do not subscribe to a fundamentalist belief that predicates on manipulating deliberately-inflamed emotions, I would suggest talking to others about it and reading more.

  • Anonymous

    Let me add that I am another commenter that did NOT know you could play as FemShep (in ME1) until 8 months after release. ME2 had no marketing of choosing your Shepard’s sex either, not even on their website back then.

  • Saraquill

    Back when I thought she was implying that damsels in distress originated in video games, I found it dishonest.

    When writing an academic paper, I’ve always been encouraged to write as though my audience doesn’t already know what I’m saying. Assuming that the audience is aware of your ideas and topic can also lead to a “preaching to the choir” effect that could alienate those who were on the fence or just took a peek out of curiosity, only to find a face full of words and concepts that are never explained.

  • Anonymous

    How you get “she doesn’t like Christians” from simply using the phrase “trope” to describe one of the two creation narratives in the Book of Genesis is beyond me.

    It’s also worth noting that a lot of Jewish (did you forget about them? It isn’t like Christians have sole ownership of Adam and Eve…) and Christian women have found a lot of problems with the passages.

  • Pink Apocalypse

    The bible also says that the Earth is flat and sitting on pillars that don’t move, while ocean monsters guard the edge of the seas.

    But you’ve probably figured out a way to literally believe in that, despite all contradictory empirical evidence, I assume.

  • Wormetti

    There are also female staff in Bully but yes each clique only has one token female.

  • Anonymous

    Thinking about the reaction here to this and to the Damsel videos, I think a lot of that comes out of the subject being a bit less challenging. I don’t mean less important, but it isn’t as threatening. It’s relatively easy to deal with pink and bows. It’s easy to see characters-which-aren’t-really-characters as hollow. To some extent, the way these non-characters are often so hollow makes them harder to relate with.

    With Damsels, we’re diving more directly into stories a lot of people love, and starting to understand the fundamental problems in how women are treated by the authors of the story, and sometimes by the player characters. We have to confront how our enjoyment of some games can be to some extent complicit with the victimisation of women. That’s a challenge. When we watch the sequences of murdered damsels or mercy killings, when we understand the scale and problematic depth of the trope, and then we recognise games we’ve played and enjoyed, that really hits the gut. We probably don’t feel the same way about liking Ms. PacMan or Supergirl after understanding the nature of the tropes behind their creation.

  • Brett W

    It wasn’t based solely on that. She also mentioned the account of Mary’s pregnancy in another video. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but it seems like a pattern.

  • Brett W

    I think there’s a line to be drawn between what is obviously intended to be poetic language and what is intended to be a historical narrative.

  • Brett W

    Your line of thought seems to invalidate civility, tact, and etiquette altogether.

  • http://thewrongdrum.wordpress.com/ Jeanette Diaz

    Yes, it’s true! I think there are some good critiques that could be made of her methods, thoroughness and the speed at which her series has come out, but the only discussions I ever have end up being about crap like that! And some of this was with women!

  • http://jbsargent.wordpress.com/ TWOxACROSS

    “Keep in mind she’s likely having to go through a LOT of gaming media to develop this out.”

    Would just like to point out that apparently she hasn’t, because people found that she stole a lot of footage from Let’s Play channels. It’s also often said that she’s only done a lot of very cursory research on certain games, so a lot of what she says is incorrect in the grander scheme of things.

    My dislike of the series arose from the knowledge of those things, also coupled with feeling her work cherry-picks details, and doesn’t offer any solutions at all.

  • Ashe

    Well, I wouldn’t frame those as discussions.

    It’s more…mmm…’rageface word vomiting’.

  • http://thewrongdrum.wordpress.com/ Jeanette Diaz

    HA! Perfect!

  • http://thewrongdrum.wordpress.com/ Jeanette Diaz

    I think everyone on this comment board is awesome. This is the most intelligent, well reasoned and thoughtful discussion on an Anita Sarkeesian video I’ve ever seen, I love the Mary Sue, I really do. Actual humans who understand critical analysis and criticizing critical analysis dwell here.

  • http://thewrongdrum.wordpress.com/ Jeanette Diaz

    A trope can still apply to things that have actually happened! Pretty much all literature, story devices, and common plot elements originate from things that happen to people throughout history or stories that have been heard or repeated. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RealLife

    In the strict world of literary criticism, the Bible and other religious texts aren’t treated as fiction per se, but rather the storytelling mechanisms that are used to relate the events as happened are examined. You can see different tropes used to explain the same events in the Gospels or different versions of the Bible across Abrahamic faiths frequently. In the best, and hopefully most. literary discussions, even and especially amongst atheists like myself, the Bible is recognized as one of the most important works of literature in human history. So it really needs to be examined the same way and with the same reverence as Shakespeare, Tolstoy, the Koran, the Ramayana, Jane Austen, etc…

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheBible?from=Main.TheBible

  • http://thewrongdrum.wordpress.com/ Jeanette Diaz

    It’s two out of maybe dozens of tropes she’s used over the years? The Bible has thousands, and the examples are easy to relate to and easy for people to reference since it’s the most widely read book in the Western world, if not the world. She’s bound to overlap and mention them occasionally. Not to mention that the stories in the Bible inspire much of the storytelling in Western literature, including video games.

  • Anonymous

    I specifically used the term “gaming media,” in part because it’s bloody obvious she’s not playing every game. If she did. this would, indeed, take years. I’ll easily grant that she should, in fact, ref. where the videos are coming from — note that as articles like this point out, her works easily falls under Fair Use — but that, in and of itself, doesn’t invalidate her points.

    Cherry-picking details: Details only matter to an extent. If a troupe gets implemented 30 different ways in 35 bits of media, that doesn’t mean the troupe isn’t there. If there’s activities in the game that soften the blow of the troupe, it doesn’t mean the troupe isn’t there, either. It’s the weight of evidence that she presents, that even with the “But…”, these concepts keep popping up.

    Solutions: Why is “stop doing these things” not an obvious point? Why does someone have to present evidence AND solve the case? Why can’t you take from the series some ideas about what’s wrong in games and provide your own solutions?

  • Rafi Mankassirain

    Why Thank you! I’ll agree that this does seem to be one of the more responsible place for discussion, a healthy mixture of both agreement and disagreement which is necessary when tackling such a topic.

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    I actually thought this video by the title was going be on the subject I don’t tend agree with her on, which is female characters who are given more stereotypically male characteristics, and whether they count as feminist characters, but it isn’t so there’s not much point in discussing it here. Generally I think intelligent discussion and critique shows an appreciation for a piece of work. However, it’s unfair to constantly bring up the entire range of her views in every discussion, particularly as I think you can see her ideas developing from video to video. I agree that there’s this need for people to distance themselves from her and her views, and people really need to stick to discussing the views expressed in each video individually. This is a problem I actually see a lot in the feminist community. There’s this very black and white ideal. If someone does something problematic people feel the need to justify liking other things they’ve said and done, and I think it creates too high an expectation. No-one is right all the time.

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    I didn’t like this quite as much as her damsel in distress series, but I think that’s because the subject matter was mostly things I am already aware of. I do like the lines she draws between different tropes, and the history behind them. I think these longer videos suit her discussion style better as they allow her to be more in depth on her subject, which is where talent tends to lie, and the range of examples she used here is a credit to her research. Looking forward to the next one.

  • http://discord-inc.tumblr.com/ James Fletcher

    While true, the problem is that line is going to be different for a lot of people.

  • Haleigh Yonish

    what is life

  • Ana KH

    Your initial comment was about why people would feel the need to qualify their comments, people explained why they felt that way, and you’ve since been jumping to, “Give me the specific statement of Anita’s you disagree with”.

    It seems like a bait and switch. If you wanted to argue the specifics of her viewpoint, you should be clear with people so that those who are willing and prepared to duke it out with quotes can do so, and those who aren’t interested don’t get blindsided with a request for citations when they thought they were discussing their feelings/perceptions.

  • http://jbsargent.wordpress.com/ TWOxACROSS

    Because she got a lot of money from her kickstarter for “playing games to do quite a lot of research,” and then she seemingly did “research” that can totally be done for free, because it’s not like she bought the games she covered to get footage and to do research for. Fair Use is no the point, it’s that she seemingly did the least amount of actual effort, because everything she talks about regarding games is a lot of cursory knowledge (as if she just read wiki articles or skimmed through Let’s Plays) and took footage from others instead of providing her own, which was something I thought she was inferring, given how much money she asked for and got. That’s my problem with her using others’ footage. It seemed rather dishonest for the amount of money she received.

    I say cherry-picking because she mentions things that supposedly follow certain tropes, when many of them also transcend their tropes as part of story and character development – which brings me right back into thinking she didn’t actually do a lot of in-depth research to see how many things turn out in the games. I and many others (some female) believe that sometimes there’s way more to what can be defined as a “trope” these days, and Anita takes them in the very basic sense when many of her examples easily transcend their tropeyness in various ways – a good example is how one young woman’s video response mentions that (the easy target for Anita) Princess Peach’s capture doesn’t exist simply for the male power fantasy and as an object to be won; she’s the monarch of the entire kingdom and also someone that Mario really cares about.

    As for solutions: it comes down to everything I said above, and nothing good came from it. Much of what she’s said has already been mentioned ad nauseum before, so it seems like she just swindled money from people to do shallow research and then essentially preach to the choir. She could have done something great about also showcasing the games that transcend the tropes she discussed, mentioning them as a new standard for tropeless and gender equal media. I understand the point is “stop doing this” but it just doesn’t make the video series stand out the way it could have, and instead it’s known by many to be entirely vapid and pointless.

    In the end, you say that I should be the one to provide solutions based on what I saw in the videos, but, it just makes me feel that once again Anita didn’t do as much work as she could; she seemingly did little in-depth research on the games she was discussing, got footage from others, and now I’M the one who has to offer up solutions?

    That’s my problem with the series, it just seems very empty of actual effort, and she just tossed responsibility on others as much as she could while then offering up nothing of real value.

    There’s also the fact that she’s apparently been recorded stating that she’s not a gamer at all, before she started the series (I think), but then goes on in her videos to say how much of a gamer is and how she cares about the game industry and wants it to grow. It makes her series seem even more objectionable if it’s true, because now it’s someone who lied to one party – she isn’t a gamer and therefore doesn’t care about the industry like she would have us believe, or she is a gamer and cares but lied to that classroom to…I dunno…not feel like an outcast or something. Either way, it makes me skeptical of how much she actually cares, and given how I perceived a lot of her work, I’d venture to say that she really doesn’t care.

    But, whatever.

  • Rob Payne

    Civility, tact, and etiquette don’t really come into play in textual analysis, though, as that’s a form to present critical arguments using evidence — and any evidence that supports your claim is valid to use, whether it’s history or myth (so long as its sourced accurately). She didn’t use insulting language other than your own bristling at the term “trope” here, she merely pointed out how old the idea is of Man = Human Default. It’s, like, super old, and is whether you take the Bible literally or not.

    Now, your concerns about being called “stupid” in this comment thread, sure. Civility, tact, and etiquette are required for the most comfortable discussion. But Anita isn’t having a discussion, she’s making an argument.

  • Rob Payne

    What constitutes a “gamer?” I’m sure she’s played video games, and one wouldn’t have to play many to see the Damsel in Distress or the Ms. Male Character tropes, or been exposed to them enough via family, friends, and society to have a grasp on the arguments she’s presented so far. Maybe she doesn’t want the label because then she’d be beholden to people who expect 100% fidelity to the medium to have any opinion on it? I game, but I don’t call myself a “gamer” because I don’t play nearly enough or timely enough to have lots of conversations with actual avid gamers. Not being in the club doesn’t mean you don’t get an opinion, and, quite often, outsiders have a much better perspective than insiders on plenty of matters. Third-party Arbitration is effective for a reason.

    As to the conceit that “she got paid a lot of money to play games”: Did she? I was under the impression that the Kickstarter was funding for the video series, which kept expanding the more people donated. Surely that requires research and playing some amount of games, which I’d argue and wager she has done, but that obviously didn’t mean play every game ever made — or even every game she plans to use as evidence in order to get footage — in her agreement with supporters. I didn’t donate because I found out too late, so I don’t know what the page actually said, but you sound very dismissive of the Kickstarter goal in general and seem to be assuming the worst because reasons. Did you donate? Why do you care about other people’s money? I’ve yet to see any donaters decry her this vociferously.

  • http://jbsargent.wordpress.com/ TWOxACROSS

    Whether she calls herself a gamer or not isn’t the point, just that she said two contrasting things. It doesn’t matter one lick if she’s an “insider” or “outsider,” just that’s she’s honest – the problem I have is that she stated those contrasting things. It just seems odd to state that you care so much about the gaming industry, but not actually be an avid game player.

    “As to the conceit that “she got paid a lot of money to play games”"

    I didn’t say that. Her kickstarter was to fund the series, which covers many costs obviously, one of them having been the implied cost of acquiring games to play them for research – I believe she even said it herself that was going to have to play through a lot of games to gather data for the videos. That becomes odd when she seems to have taken a lot of “her footage” from Let’s Play channels, and coupled with the cursory research she’s done, it makes me wonder why she needed all that money to begin with. The video series has about the same quality as her older stuff, so it doesn’t seem like she needed all that much extra (unless all of her other videos were kickstarted as well, I dunno), especially if she did such little research of her own, and used others’ footage.

    I’m dismissive of her Kickstarter and the videos because she did about the same amount of work someone could do without having the money to do so; shallow research, cherry-picking and talking about easily identifiable subjects, and using footage from others.

    To put it bluntly, I think her videos are shallow, mostly useless and sometimes wrong in places. She did very little to deserve all the money she received from kickstarter.

  • This fellow right here

    That whole “you’re imperfect, boo!” thing can happen pretty much any time with any political affiliation or whatever.

    I’ve heard that it’s more common amongst the right wing than the left, but I can’t confirm that either way.

  • Eisen

    The answer I got was: “I distance myself from her, because I didn’t liked her earlier videos, or earlier, other viewpoints” – that is exactly what I ment with my initial post.

    People see the need to distance themselves from Anita first, before the actual comment is even typed. I still think this speaks volumes.

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    The fact that we default to male is a pretty important part of understanding why women are so under-represented in so many areas. She used a bathroom sign, I usually explain it using the image of a ‘stick man’, which is the most basic depiction of a human being. There’s nothing that marks it as male specifically and yet we call it a ‘stick man’. This concept also applies to most other areas of oppression. White is the default race, straight is the default sexuality ect. That’s why you often find people who, when there is a call for better representation, say that this is tokenism or that there must be ‘a reason within the story for that character to exist’. They view white/straight/male as the natural state of being. If you want to introduce a character that differs from that they see it as you going out of your way to ‘be politically correct’. Never mind that white, straight, men are not even the majority of people.

  • Eisen

    It really is not sarcastic. I don’t use sarcasm because of misunderstandings, and because english is not my native tongue and it would come out wrong anyway.

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    There are two creation myths in Genesis. In the first Adam and Eve are created together in God’s image. In the second Adam is made from dust which God breathes life into, and then Eve created from his rib. Anita’s only questioning the first version of the story within the bible. The idea that without a partner of the opposite sex we are less than whole is both a pretty nasty jab at people who are single and homophobic. Christianity is massively responsible for the level of sexism in English speaking societies. Augustine brought Christianity to England and as an incredible misogynist set much of the tone of how women where perceived in England and the countries that it colonialised for the next thousand years. He used the creation myth to back up his ideas. In his mind women existed to tempt men away from God, as Eve had tempted Adam to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge in the garden. For much of the medieval period women were perceived within the Christian faith as being synonymous with the devil. Medieval depictions of Satan often give it female genitalia. This suspicion of women led to the greatest act of femicide in European history; The witch trials. Christians continue to suppress women’s rights up into the modern day, with restrictions on abortion traditional ideas of the ‘female role’ and concepts of purity. And I will continue to criticise a faith that has done and still does such monumental damage to my gender.

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    I’m sure you’re right. Feminism is just the area I most affiliate with, so I notice it there more. I don’t think the fact that it’s a common issue means we shouldn’t acknowledge and criticise it in our own communities, though. I’ve seen it lead to some pretty nasty witch hunts before. It’s a dangerous road to go down.

  • Kyla Gray

    But Mary is an example of the trope. That doesn’t make it wrong or bad, it just means that it’s one of the first, if not THE first example of the trope.

    I think Ms. Anita is using a common example that a lot of people know even if they don’t identify as Christian. Knowledge of the Bible is so prevalent among people, even those who don’t adhere to it’s doctrine, because the Bible is so integrated within our culture, despite what many people like to believe. Look at how many people say, “Oh my God!” rather than “Oh my gosh!” I’ve seen more documentaries regarding the history of Christianity (all sugar coated I might add) in my school years than any other religion. We say “God” in the pledge of allegiance. Christianity is everywhere!

    It’s the basics of argumentation. Use common knowledge to build your base. Use something that your audience will easily recognize to explain what/how something is. If Ms. Anita were to use Athena being born from Zeus’ head as an example, then the argument would be suspended in limbo for a majority of people.

    Greek Mythology is something that most people don’t know the intricate details about and if they do have knowledge about it, they probably took a class concerning the topic (a university course for example). Because Greek Mythology isn’t common, only a few people would truly understand the relationship between Athena being born from Zeus’s head and the Ms. Male Character Trope.

    Adam and Eve on the other hand is so blatantly common that it’s almost ridiculous. Most people have seen it mentioned on TV, read interpretations and retelling in books/magazines, and have been told/taught the story as children. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if EVERYONE on the planet knew about this tale.

    Also, to address “while completely ignoring Mary’s free will in the matter.” I don’t think it’s relevant whether or not Mary had free will. She still got pregnant despite being a virgin and she’s still an early, historical example of the trope.

    I think that’s something a lot of people have missed when it comes to Ms. Anita’s work. Just because a game is good, doesn’t mean it doesn’t still use a trope. Or just because the scene made you cry, doesn’t mean that – SPOILER ALERT – the Empress’ death within the first five minutes of Dishonored is somehow exempt from being apart of this trope.

    Just because Mary consented to the pregnancy, doesn’t mean that her mystical pregnancy isn’t an example of the mystical pregnancy trope. Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from criticism. In fact, it should be examined and criticized more BECAUSE so many people subscribe to the beliefs detailed within to the point to where it’s impossible to escape it if you don’t believe in it.

  • Rob Payne

    Oh, I get all that. I internalized it a very long time ago. It was her particular phrasing, the scope of it, that blew me away.

  • Kyla Gray

    Whether or not she “deserved” the money from kickstarter is pointless, unless YOU kickstarted it. She received money from people who want what she was offering. I donated $20 to the fund. I’m not disappointed. I think it was $20 well spent. Others who donated might disagree, but if you’re not one of them, then don’t suggest that my money was a waste. The only one who can decide what I do with my paycheck is me.

    I often see people mention how horrible it is that she had her project on Kickstarter. I’ll probably never understand that mindset, unless the people complaining added their money to the fund.

    As for using Let’s Play footage, I agree that she should link to the original video, BUT I don’t think it’s bad that she does. Maybe she couldn’t get her hands on a copy of that old game in time to cut the footage herself. Maybe she doesn’t have the ability to film high quality footage of cutscenes (I don’t have that skill and I know a lot of people who don’t). I’m just speculating and there are probably more possible reasons, but I don’t think it’s wrong to use Let’s Play footage.

  • http://jbsargent.wordpress.com/ TWOxACROSS

    I’m free to scrutinize as much as anyone else, even those like you who donated, I just happen to think differently of the results. I’m glad you don’t regret it, it sucks to realize if you’ve wasted money. Either way, I’m still invested in what she ends up doing because it can change the landscape of an entertainment medium I care about – hopefully in good ways, but so far everything she’s done has fallen quite short to me.

    The bigger problem of her using Let’s Players’ footage isn’t whether she gives credit to them, or that it’s inherently wrong (that’s not AT ALL what I’m saying), but much like you said – “maybe she doesn’t have the ability to film high-quality footage” when that money she got from kickstarter would have EASILY covered the costs of acquiring systems, games, and capture technology. None of the games she talked about were even difficult to acquire, especially in the age of digital distribution.

    Though, I don’t much like this idea that you’re just not allowed to have an opinion on something if you didn’t have any part of it, similar to “you have no right to complain about who is president if you didn’t vote.” While I’ve always voted, I’ve understood the POV of someone who didn’t, because why cast a vote for something you don’t agree in – for any party? If one’s vote, much like their money, is precious, why is it necessary to waste it just to have an opinion?

    I’m not saying that, like, you wasted your money, but that considering what she said the money was going to be for, it does not seem at all right for her to have then done things that required very little to no money at all to do. It’s like me asking for gas money from you, and then deciding to walk, or more applicably catch a ride with someone else.

  • Anonymous

    I’d say Ms. Sarkeesian has academic detachment, but I still think that concluding that she “really doesn’t like” people who are Christian is incredibly extreme. It isn’t like she’s Bill Mahr, Hitch, or even Stephen Fry on this.

    Now, if someone wants to insist that academic detachment implies dislike of people who are Christian, I’m sorry, that says a lot more about their own insecurities than the person they are judging.

    ((sorry on the necro, but disqus screwed up didn’t show me this comment until recently))

  • Chris Jeffery

    Agreed! I’ve tried to discuss my feeling about her videos in the past, but everywhere it seems the discussion is ruled by people who either want to paint her as a demon out to destroy video games or a saint who can do no wrong. I agree with the vast majority of her points, which is why I’ve found it so frustrating that so few places exist where one can find a place to intelligently discuss some of the gray areas in her videos.

  • mogoskier

    I have been following these videos and there criticism for a while now and I don’t think anything she saying is wrong per say she dose have a tendency to point to a problem and have no answers to solve it, what the reason it keep happening or any real studies to back her clams.
    For example with this video she points out that Ms. male characters are different from the guys by stereotypical female traits (bow, make up, pink etc) and that is true but what do you do to fix it, especially with limited graphics. If I don’t have the tools of troops and stereotypes to show quick info what do I use. Do I put breast on Ms.Pacman do I make her look the same what. I bring this up because a good chunk off her examples are 8-bit and animals. Are these methods overused yes but if I have limited resources what can I do.
    Also what effects dose these traits have on girls? I’m sure they do and there are studies on them but she never shows one.
    There one other thing and THIS JUST MIGHT BE ME AND A REALLY DON’T THINK THIS WHAT SHE SAYING, IT JUST COMES OF THIS WAY TO ME, when she listing her examples there a tone that the creator of the game put this trope there to purely undermined women and that it. Again I’m sure that not what she doing but it dose come off like that.

  • Anonymous

    Why does Anita choose to mark herself with stereotypical female gender identifiers in this video? Btw this does apply to her content. It seems rather ironic. She did not choose to present herself as the games she was claiming are better for gender models.