Posts Tagged 'gaming'

Badass Women & Soothing the Male Ego

                Since the (relatively) recent Lara Croft “attempted rape” fiasco at last year’s E3, I’ve been in a permanent state of rage. They’re taking a well-established, strong, wealthy, educated, sexy-but-owns-it female videogame character and insinuating that an (assumed male) audience wouldn’t want to play as her unless they felt protective of her after an attempted sexual assault.  Even if that wasn’t what Crystal Dynamics really meant; that’s sure what it looks like. So it’s taken me close to a year to be able to write anything about it.

                Not taking into account the fact that the entire games industry all but ignores female gamers, making Lara Croft into a vulnerable character basically just serves to ignite the “White Knight” syndrome in the (again, male) audience. As a female playing the game, I’d feel a lot more empathetic than sympathetic, and honestly it’ll just make me feel uncomfortable. Not to mention, do we really need to see the story of how Lara Croft became Tomb Raider? We’re not about to get a heartfelt and insightful prequel to the Duke Nukem franchise, are we?

                This representation of women isn’t isolated to this one instance, nor just the games industry. It’s the kind of attitude you get in comic books, films and even television to some extent, in which strong, formidable women have to be vulnerable in some way related to their gender in order for the ever-coveted male audience to accept their “masculine” traits of badass-ery. “In Batman: Year One”, for example, Catwoman is a somewhat damaged prostitute — so her mental and physical strength obviously come from years of having to stand up for herself on the streets. In “Kill Bill: Vol 1”, The Bride is both raped (whilst unconscious — passive female much?) and believes she has lost her unborn baby. These are obviously very exclusive experiences to the female experience. (I don’t know of any male equivalent who is a prostitute and/or gets raped and then just turns into a badass because of it — perhaps we need an “I Spit on Your Grave” spinoff?)

                Weirdly, even when male characters need a heartfelt backstory, it’s still the women who suffer. Frequently it is the character’s daughter/wife who is in some sort of peril and serves to provide the male character with some semblance of a plot. Take Max Payne’s back story for example, his wife and child are murdered, and it falls on his hypermasculine pride to “avenge” them and himself. This particular story is used a LOT in action movies as well — “Taken”, for example. Couldn’t Liam Neeson have been the victim of a sexual assault and then gone after the perpetrators? (The short answer here is no, because after “allowing” that violation to happen to him, other males wouldn’t want to empathise, nor would they take him seriously as a “strong” lead male character, as he has been “feminised” by the act. See how it works with the ladies now?)

                It basically boils down to either providing a male character with a reason to go up against other male characters and prove himself as the alpha, or reducing a strong female character to her most vulnerable moment in order to assure male viewers/players/readers that she is still definitely female, and their patriarchal power has never really been threatened. On top of that, these kinds of narratives imply that these women have been forced out of their femininity, and that had they been given the choice, they’d be back in the pink glitter default the rest of us apparently exist within. (No-one can just decide to take on some traditionally masculine traits apparently.)

                So I ask, where is our Duke Nukem? Where is our Jason Statham? WHERE THE FUCK IS OUR JUDGE DREDD?! It is a sad world we live in that after 19 years, one of the strongest women in new media just can’t be accepted until she lives in fear of male sexual violence like the rest of us.

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