I was gonna make this thread myself if you hadn’t. Really need to invoke my inner Verbose and have the character count to flesh out my thoughts on this video.
I’ll start by saying that I am in full support of Anita’s videos. I may not always agree with them, I may find her grating and annoying at times, but I’ll be damned if I ever try to take away her right to make these videos on a subject that is quite unpopular on the internet. In her other DiD videos, I agreed with her on a lot of points. This video, however, is a completely different story for me. I find it hard to see many things in this video that I agreed with her on.
For one, she said that this episode would focus on gender flipped DiDs, but she basically only talked about Peach’s game and a couple others for 5 minutes, and then promptly switched the focus of the video to indie games that invoke the trope. It felt like a bait and switch to me. We were promised a video on Dudes in Distress, I want a video about Dudes in Distress, dammit.
Now, moving on to the meat of the video, about indie games using the trope (ironically or otherwise). There was very little here that I agreed with her on. A lot of the games shown invoke the DiD trope ironically, and Anita says that this does not change the fact that they use helpless women depicted in a degrading light. Well, I think Anita doesn’t give this use of the trope enough credit for how it could be affecting the gaming world at large. Most of these games that use the trope ironically do it for the sake of comedy and basically turn the traits of a damsel up to 11 (i.e. Spelunky and Fat Princess). Now, think for a minute, why would this be considered funny? Some would say that it’s the self-awareness that makes it work, but I think it goes beyond that. Brucker used The Lone Ranger as an example of why being self aware about bad narration/storytelling isn’t a good enough excuse to get away with poor quality, but the Lone Ranger was only making fun of itself, while I find that these games use the trope to make fun of the gaming world as a whole. Why is it so funny that you can throw your damsel across the room in Spelunky? It’s not because it’s funny to throw women across the room, it’s because it goes against how we’re used to seeing our damsels be treated when we play games and exaggerates the idea of damsels being objects that belong to the hero. It’s funny because we are all so familiar with the trope that it’s making fun of. When gamers see all these games using the trope ironically, it may make them aware of just how often the trope is played straight in larger titles and cause the audience to desire something different in their games. It’s not anything world changing, but I think these games do enough to make the gaming community at large aware of the frequency of this trope.
Moving on, I’m really bothered by the fact that Anita thinks that the female damsel in Spelunky is sexist while the male one is not. Let’s take a moment to look into the designs of the two characters.
The female damsel is in an outfit that is considered sexy, and she has her fair share of jiggle physics, but she is still in an outfit that would be considered appropriate for being in public. this is the kind of outfit a woman would wear on a date or going out with friends at night. It’s sexy, but it’s still appropriate.
What does the male wear?
An outfit fit for a male stripper. I’m not exaggerating on this one. Red underwear with a matching red bowtie, that is all this character is wearing. Would everyone be ok if the female damsel wore a red bra and panties? I don’t fucking think so. I’m ok with this design, and I know this design is meant more for comedy than for sex appeal, but don’t fucking try to tell me that a male damsel wearing a stripper outfit isn’t objectifying anyone.
Both characters have the same walking animations, the same reactions to being thrown across the room, and they both yell “Help!” so that the player will notice them. The only difference between the two characters is their design, and we are going to think the female damsel is sexist? Nuh-uh, not on my watch. I don’t care how long the history of women being objectified is, both characters are being treated the same way, either both of them are sexist or neither of them are in my book. Anita was bothered by the fact that you could so easily trade a woman for a dog in the game, but couldn’t the same be said for trading a man for a dog? The fact that you could have a male or a non-explicitly gendered animal instead of a female damsel I think speaks much more for the consideration of female gamers and feminism at large than Anita gives the game credit for.
On the subject of the damsels in Spelunky, I’m surprised Anita did not mention the altars featured in the game, where you can sacrifice your damsel for a random item. I would think sacrificing a woman for an object would be much worse than saving them in exchange for a kiss.
I am also bothered by Anita just glossing over the fact that a lot of these games have the option of playing as a female rescuing a damsel (i.e. Spelunky, Super Meat Boy), acting like something like this is inconsequential. Um, excuse me, but I think being able to switch a male character with a female one without it greatly affecting the storyline is a fantastic thing. In Spelunky, you have several choices for female characters (all non-sexualized designs) that does literally nothing to change the story. Sure, the default character is male, but the fact that you could so easily have the gender you want (for both your character and your damsel) is much more progressive than we realize. It’s making the game more accessible to all genders (and sexualities), and that’s fantastic. Super Meat boy does something similar (though not to the extent of Spelunky) where there are several unlockable characters that are either female or genderless. Why are we acting like being able to easily switch a male character with a female one is unimportant when it comes to feminism, DiDs, and the female gaming community? Meat Boy also features a world where the roles of the main characters are switched, but Anita acts like this isn’t important or good because it’s not part of the “main story”. So? The Cotton Alley world still has a story to it (Meat Boy getting kidnapped by Dr. Fetus) and Bandage Girl is the one that goes through the toughest levels in the entire game to save him. Who cares that it’s not a part of the “main story”? It’s frikin badass and deserves credit.
There were many, many, many things I did not agree with Anita on in this video, but the one thing I did agree with was her idea of having a game that follows a captured princess. She used RPG elements in her example, but I immediately had the idea of making a badass puzzle game based on this idea.