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Damsels in Distress: Round 3

Last posted Aug 07, 2013 at 03:29PM EDT. Added Aug 02, 2013 at 03:51PM EDT
20 posts from 5 users

ding ding ding

We all knew it was coming, so lets not waste anytime to vent how wrong we all are about each others views.
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Ms. Sarkeesian has released her 3rd installment of Tropes vs. Women, the last of the DiD trope. I was informed this was supposed to be the ‘dudes in distress’ chapter, but was only covered for a few minutes of the video, the remaining time was used to talk about gender hacks and “retro sexism” in video games (video provided below)
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So, second verse, same as the first. You all know the rules: be respectful, no ad hominems, keep it on topic and nudity is mandatory.

Last edited Aug 02, 2013 at 03:57PM EDT
Aug 02, 2013 at 03:51PM EDT
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Just finished watching it, and while there was no nudity, there was an awful lot of boobage present.

Good: I like how at the end, she finally gives a suggestion of a VG plot in which a damsel transforms into a strong protagonist in her own right. It also was nice to see better examples overall of video games that give a thoughtful deconstruction of the trope. (Braid was an amazing game in both gameplay and plot.)

Bad: The first part of the video may have been even drier and slower than any of her previous ones. While I found it worthwhile in the end overall, it was a sometimes tedious journey to get to the payoff.

Aug 02, 2013 at 06:19PM EDT
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bruckr. wrote;

Good: I like how at the end, she finally gives a suggestion of a VG plot in which a damsel transforms into a strong protagonist in her own right…

Well, she did give an example of what a good female protagonist would be like. However, the plot relies heavily on vengeance. And violence. Two things she condemned in her previous video (starting at 23:10 of her last video). So, she’s either a hypocrite (violence is now okay), sexist (violence is only bad when guys do it), or has a convenient case of the forget-mes

Aug 02, 2013 at 08:02PM EDT
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You may be reading into it a bit. Violence is certainly implied in the pictures due to the princess carrying a weapon, but vengeance? Not explicitly or even quite implicitly. But as for the violence, I don’t know. I’m not keen on violence myself, but I think that’s a common element in video games that’s hard keep out. If one is making a game that involves the resolution of conflict, some level of violence is almost always there, if only the sort that involves bloodlessly jumping on heads of evil critters. Anyway, while Sarkeesian has spoken against violence in her previous videos, I do think it was never the same level of outrage she felt about victimization of women.

You know, something else I had a minor issue with was her statement (at about 5:15) that gender-swapping the damsel role is meaningless since there is no “longstanding gender tradition in storytelling” about damseled men. I see what she’s saying there, but I don’t think I quite agree. If the DID trope is disempowering at all, then I don’t see why it isn’t just as disempowering for men as for women. Not to mention being potentially empowering for a female protagonist rescuing a male love interest, depending on how you feel about the trope in general. Anyway, her later claim that the Chippendale-esque gender-swapped damsel in Spelunky isn’t playing off of gender stereotypes seems a bizarre blind spot for Sarkeesian to suddenly develop. If she can’t see that the male character is being drawn in a clearly objectified (albeit cartoony at the same time) fashion, what else is she missing?

I did find it interesting that she talks about using the trope “ironically” (around 12:40) and says that game makers don’t get excused for their sexism because they slyly wink at their audiences. What I found interesting about this though is that I went to see The Lone Ranger yesterday, which had a pretty weak story, but apparently the movie felt it could get away with a weak story by slyly admitting its own weakness through an odd plot device of having the story told second-hand through Tonto’s point-of-view as an unreliable narrator. I enjoyed the movie, but felt that the plot device didn’t excuse the movie’s clear flaws. So anyway, I’d agree that the “Ha, ha, I’m ironically sexist!” excuse doesn’t quite cut it.

Aug 02, 2013 at 11:26PM EDT
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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.

Aug 03, 2013 at 12:37AM EDT
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@bruckr.
My issue isn’t with the violence (I play fallout, so that should say how much I have a problem with video game violence :P), or the plot she proposed (I will admit, begrudgingly, it would probably make for a great game). My issue is how she will say “Violence is bad, and video games propose it is the solution to problems, this is bad, blah, blah, blah”, then flops and proposes a plot that utilizes violence. No hypocrisy there. And not vengeance? Well she was imprisoned by a powerful political leader, and goes after the people who unjustly imprisoned her by taking on a new guise, sneaking and beating up ‘bad guys’…
Hmm. Where have I heard that before?

To recap, I’m okay with violence in video games, and even her proposed plot for a video game. I’m not okay with people being hypocrites (that’s pretty much ninth circle territory in my own divine comedy)
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@Crimson
lol, I might as well be the official host of this hot mess, I was considering not creating the thread but, what can I say :P And I felt the same, someone (you know who you are <>.<>) told me it was going to be dudes in distress, but, whatever whatevs.

I’m pretty sure we can all agree the whole “Hunky male stripper? totally not objectification or the stereotype of musclebound men” was rather obtuse, I can’t say I’m all too surprised, but, it’s not really worth getting all that into.

As for the ‘Retro Jokes’ it may not even be a sexist thing in some cases, per example Spelunky you can choose the person (or thing) you save. I find the idea of throwing a person (be they male stripper or busty broad) funny because I know how wrong it is (I mean, is she seriously suggesting these games will provide people reason to throw and knockout women and male strippers?)

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(P.S. her favorite game stars the lead male as a [literal] pig. lulz must not make joke)

Last edited Aug 03, 2013 at 10:09AM EDT
Aug 03, 2013 at 10:08AM EDT
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What really made me upset is that she takes Earthworm Jim Seriously
and thinks the ending of Eversion was played for laughs

Because a game where the main villain is literally named “Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt” should be taken 100% Seriously.

Aug 03, 2013 at 03:31PM EDT
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@Crimson Locks:

You hit the nail on the head here with your whole post, my only issue being a minor one (far less than the issues I have with the video itself)

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…

I think Sarkeesian’s point was that while it’s good that more video games are offering gender options, in many cases these options are only open after you’ve played the game enough to unlock those options, that is, you have to play as a male at least once. I’d agree that while this is progress, it’s limited progress. I haven’t played Spelunky or Super Meat Boy, though.

@Kyntak:

No, I totally understand your point, I’m just saying that I don’t think protesting violence was ever Sarkeesian’s main issue. There’s definitely some low-level hypocrisy there, though.

The male stripper thing was really weird because I couldn’t tell whether Sarkeesian was saying it’s not objectifying, or rather that objectifying men is less significant culturally. I’m sure everyone here has heard the argument that people who are members of minorities cannot be racist because they don’t have power. I think the issue is that minorities can’t express institutionalized racism, and perhaps there is less of a case for institutionalized objectification of men, but I don’t see how that makes it so easy to dismiss even if that’s her point.

@Mazinger Z:

You have a good point, but in my usual role as the defender of Sarkeesian’s position, I think she gets the joke, she just doesn’t think it’s funny.

Aug 03, 2013 at 06:56PM EDT
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Brucker wrote:

I think Sarkeesian’s point was that while it’s good that more video games are offering gender options, in many cases these options are only open after you’ve played the game enough to unlock those options, that is, you have to play as a male at least once. I’d agree that while this is progress, it’s limited progress. I haven’t played Spelunky or Super Meat Boy, though.

This is very true. You don’t get a female character unlocked in SMB until at least the second world, and Spelunky player character designs are randomly unlocked by finding them in levels throughout the game, so you could almost immediately find a female character or go through almost the whole game without finding one. So that’s one good point that Anita makes, you have to play as a male character to some extent in these games. Still, I was bothered by the fact that, while these games still have damaging stereotypes, Anita gave no credit where credit is due to the game developers that took the time to give these options and unlockable characters. Every unlockable character in SMB has their own special ability, that has to be a pain in the ass to program. Even having different character designs programmed into a game has to be a bigger pain then we realize. These game developers could’ve easily said “Screw it, our main demographic is straight males, so we’re going to focus on appealing to them” but they didn’t, they put in that extra work to have unlockable characters, and I really appreciate that more than Anita seems to.

Aug 03, 2013 at 07:25PM EDT
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@Crimson & bruckr.
Actually what was most irksome, to me, was she focused on her factoid that “only 4% of leading titles are exclusively designed around women in the leading role.” While this is true, coincidentally, the study she pulled that from also said that 45% of games allowed you to choose your gender. And this is something I think she doesn’t bring up enough (if at all).
Think about popular titles that allow you to choose your gender; Fallout, Elder scrolls, Pokemon, Yugioh, Mass Effect, Dead Island, Left4Dead, Saints Row, Various MMOs I won’t go into, etc. All the developers of these games could have easily said “Well, making the game dual gender means more time, work, and money. Hey, let’s just make it focused on a male character to save that time, frustration and money!” But they didn’t. So, while she acknowledges the presence of gender hacks, she completely missed choose-your-gender games (which is absurd coming from someone looking at it from a “systemic big picture” point of view.)
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Also, another small jab at her. I watched it again and contrary to what she said, she never mentioned Super Princess Peach in either of her other videos, in fact, she even said that Super Mario Bro.s 2 was the only game in which she was playable.

Last edited Aug 05, 2013 at 10:18AM EDT
Aug 05, 2013 at 10:16AM EDT
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@Kyntak:
It’s true that the study said that 45% of games allowed you to choose your gender, but I suppose it would be more important to focus right now on games that involve damsels and allow you to choose gender (without having to unlock characters first). Sadly, I have yet to see many games do that.

Aug 05, 2013 at 12:41PM EDT
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Kyntak wrote:

Also, another small jab at her. I watched it again and contrary to what she said, she never mentioned Super Princess Peach in either of her other videos, in fact, she even said that Super Mario Bro.s 2 was the only game in which she was playable.

At about eight minutes into the first video, she says that Peach is only playable in a single one of the “core series” games. Super Princess Peach is not part of the “core series”, apparently. I’m not sure what the distinction is, but I can see it’s important, as she’s playable in most of the MarioKart and MarioParty games, I think. (It sounds like it was a pretty poor-quality game, too.)

Aug 05, 2013 at 07:35PM EDT
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Kyntak wrote:

Also, another small jab at her. I watched it again and contrary to what she said, she never mentioned Super Princess Peach in either of her other videos, in fact, she even said that Super Mario Bro.s 2 was the only game in which she was playable

Actually, in the first episode she does briefly mention that Super Princess Peach will be discussed in later videos (i.e. the third video)

Aug 05, 2013 at 10:59PM EDT
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@bruckr.
I’m not sure what the distinction is either. It was her own title after all, which is different from arena games (MarioKart, SSB, etc.) Honestly I don’t think it was a bad game, especially considering at the time Nintendo was looking for ways to utilize their new dual screen system (the top shows your character in that game, and the bottom you tap which Vibe to utilize). It was however a very easy game I hear, with little difficulty, but this shouldn’t be too surprising considering it was aimed at children and young teens (not to mention, that’s not uncommon for Nintendo, I criticize them for their most recent titles Super Marios Wii, Wii 2, and Wii U, for being so easy you’d literally have to be brain dead to have a hard time.)

@Crimson
Fair enough.

I just came across something today I thought was interesting. This is by no means an attempt to ‘destroy’ her series, but I previously accused her of playing none of these games and this seems to support my suspicion. She did, after all, use her funds to buy them, yet we have no evidence that says she was ‘researching’ them (I thought that was the reason for buying them was to play through them, I must be wrong though). It also seems dodgy she wouldn’t credit any of the people she too those clips from almost like she wants people to thinks she was playing them. Wait, what?

Last edited Aug 06, 2013 at 06:53PM EDT
Aug 06, 2013 at 06:52PM EDT
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Kyntak wrote:

I just came across something today I thought was interesting. This is by no means an attempt to ‘destroy’ her series, but I previously accused her of playing none of these games and this seems to support my suspicion. She did, after all, use her funds to buy them, yet we have no evidence that says she was ‘researching’ them (I thought that was the reason for buying them was to play through them, I must be wrong though). It also seems dodgy she wouldn’t credit any of the people she too those clips from almost like she wants people to thinks she was playing them. Wait, what?

That is actually quite interesting, and I would not doubt it if Anita did take clips from other let’s plays (seeing as it would be a lot easier to find the video game clips desired without having to go through a shit ton of footage you recorded yourself). However, I find it odd that the screen caps in the linked article that try to “nail” her are either from cutscenes or are comparing two different shots from a boss fight. I don’t know, it doesn’t seem that convincing when it’s using screenshots of scenes that every player goes through. What I’m trying to say is that I need a side-by-side video playing for me to be convinced that it’s the same game footage.

And like I said before, I’m inclined to believe that Anita used LP footage for the convenience of finding cutscenes and boss battles rather than having to record every second of her gaming and going through that metric fuckton of game footage. It could be that it means she just didn’t play the games, but I’m more inclined to believe she did it for convenience’s sake. The only part of this whole thing that could bother me is that she did not ask permission to use the LP footage nor did she credit any of the LPers in her credits (which would have been the easiest part of editing her videos).

Aug 06, 2013 at 07:18PM EDT
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Crimson Locks wrote;

I don’t know, it doesn’t seem that convincing when it’s using screenshots of scenes that every player goes through.

At a first glance, yes, it seems like a moot point to make. And some of those screen shots can’t make any definitive details on who the author was (specifically those retro games since it’s usually only position and score that are used to identify them, which isn’t enough imo). But look at the more specific points: the characters outfit/class, equipment(s)/weapon, and numerical markers such as money, score, time. and health. I’m not the sort of person to believe in happy coincidence.

I was under the impression she was given money to buy games to play, so she could experience them, then deconstruct. So far, there is little to no evidence she has played any of them, which is one reason a lot of gamers aren’t keen about her (and if all she was doing was cutting scenes from trailers and peoples Let’s Plays and Wiki’ing the rest, you’re going to have missed a lot of that ‘big picture’ perspective you’re looking for. Not too dissimilar to a student using sparknotes instead of reading a book to its entirety).

Last edited Aug 06, 2013 at 08:05PM EDT
Aug 06, 2013 at 08:02PM EDT
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Kyntak wrote:

Not too dissimilar to a student using sparknotes instead of reading a book to its entirety).

The smart student reads the book and the notes. But yeah, if she used footage from someone else’s LP, she ought to credit them.

Not in defense of Sarkeesian on this, but in response to the screencaps, I wonder which is lamer: lazily borrowing someone else’s footage without crediting, or combing through YouTube videos to make all those screencaps? What fuels that level of determination?

And on second thought, is it my imagination or does that blog exist almost exclusively as criticism of Sarkeesian’s DiD videos? What sort of person has a blog that exists to specifically nitpick at a specific person’s scholarly work? (I mean, um, other than me…)

Aug 07, 2013 at 02:36AM EDT
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bruckr. wrote:

Not in defense of Sarkeesian on this, but in response to the screencaps, I wonder which is lamer: lazily borrowing someone else’s footage without crediting, or combing through YouTube videos to make all those screencaps? What fuels that level of determination?

Well actually some were from other peoples videos and other blogs, so it’s the work of multiple people compiled into one. Plus, if they follow the same path Anita used it wouldn’t be too hard (look up game title and scroll till you find the most high quality video).

And on second thought, is it my imagination or does that blog exist almost exclusively as criticism of Sarkeesian’s DiD videos? What sort of person has a blog that exists to specifically nitpick at a specific person’s scholarly work?

Well, one persons obsession is my goldmine. I can’t criticize them when they’re making my argument for me :D And they make some good points, the spin off of ‘A man chooses, a slave obeys’ on female mercy killing was rather ingenious. Also, this person might not have needed to vent so much on their blog if they could have expressed themselves on the original forum.

(I mean, um, other than me …)

Oh dear. Defending the contradictions and quirks of the bible, this I might have to look into :P

Last edited Aug 07, 2013 at 07:17AM EDT
Aug 07, 2013 at 07:15AM EDT
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..I wonder how she’ll react once she finds out about Touhou? (I bring Touhou up because all the named humanoid characters (except one as of HM) to appear in the games are female. (Note that I am specifying the actual games here.) That is well over 100 characters at this point. There are two more undeniably male characters to appear in the games, of course – one’s a turtle and the other’s a pink cloud (I am serious. And he tries to PUNCH the opposition. in a bullet hell game. Whoever says pink can’t be manly has not met Unzan.)

Aug 07, 2013 at 07:37AM EDT
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Kyntak wrote:

Also, this person might not have needed to vent so much on their blog if they could have expressed themselves on the original forum.

Wouldn’t it be weird if it was Sarkeesian’s secret strategy to refuse to allow direct criticism in order to force debate on her content to spread out to a variety of places on the web? I seriously doubt it, but dang, look at the shitstorm she’s managed to stir up just by disallowing comments.

Oh dear. Defending the contradictions and quirks of the bible, this I might have to look into :P

I thought I’d already linked you to that in my religion thread a few weeks back? No matter; even there it was off-topic.

TARDISES wrote:

..I wonder how she’ll react once she finds out about Touhou?

I’ve never played any of the Touhou games, but I’ve certainly heard of them and their female-dominated cast of characters. No damsels in that series, right? But I wonder how it fits into the bigger picture of feminist issues in video games in the end.

Aug 07, 2013 at 03:29PM EDT
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