Your Positive Female Character Sucks, Part 1 (A response to Anita Sarkeesian)

Since Sarkeesian decided to abandon all the promises that she made with the Kickstarter-funded project “Tropes vs. Women,” Anita has started a new series of videos, that she also asked money for.  Now, I’m not one to point out the fact that it’s so hypocritical that she asked for money for a new thing, when she didn’t finish the old one (that she got $160,000 for) and keep a single one of her Kickstarter promises.  It just adds fuel to the never-ending fire that Sarkeesian is a con artist and a terrible person.  And that’s as objective as it gets.  How your endless apologists can rationalize this is beyond me.  Oh, right, the “research” she did for her videos.  I hear that one a lot.  Like when she took people’s Let’s Play footage without asking them or crediting them, making us think that she played these games?  I see some holes in that story.  The first of the new series of videos has debuted, and Sarkeesian has decided to make this series of videos (the next of which I’m assuming we’ll see either at the end of this year or the beginning of next, because Sarkeesian can’t keep a schedule to save her life.  Doesn’t hurt her bottom line, what with the money that now constantly flows in) where she lays out what is a positive female protagonist.  Alright, Anita.  I’m all ears.  Give me your best shot.

First, I am actually legitimately shocked that you do have characters who fit your criteria of positive.  I always assumed that you had impossible standards.  After all, pretty much every Puritan Feminist does.  It’s one of the reasons that I tell people not to play the game of trying to please your type.  Lara Croft’s breasts are too big!  That’s objectifying!  Now they’re too small!  That takes away from her femininity!  See what I mean?  So yeah, this does surprise me.

I can already tell who several of your choices are going to be, based on your intro.  One is going to be Faith, from Mirror’s Edge.  No surprise there.  You’ve already talked about how much you like that game.  You know, if you were an actual gamer, which, by your own statement, you are not (Santa Monica 2010 lecture).  Then there’s the protagonist from Beyond Good and Evil.  Another game whose praises you’ve sung.  But I am kind of annoyed that you picked Ellie, from The Last of Us.  Especially since I’ve already heard feminists decry Ellie as a girl with “daddy issues,” who is only strong until she needs to be saved.  Though I’m sure that you picked her because she’s revealed to be gay.  Or maybe you picked Riley.  That would be a neat twist.  In fact, I am betting that’s where you’ll go.  Especially since you had that little talk where you said that one of your inspirations was “queer women of color.”  When you’re not busy ignoring the sexual attractions of lesbian and bisexual women, it’s nice that you will still use them as a prop to sell your bullshit message.  Oh well, whatever.  It just gives me more ammo to use against this garbage and what a total hypocrite you are.

It’s interesting that your choice is a character in a 16-bit (or 8-bit.  Correct me if I’m wrong) game.  If you look at this character in-universe, she really could be any gender.  The only major identifying feature of her femininity is the way other characters speak to her.  But, just replace pronouns and it’s pretty obvious that this character could go either way.  In fact, you admit that a lot of players did believe that she’s a guy, throughout the game.

Now, this is a solid game, regardless of this character’s gender.  The fact that the gender is so nondescript makes me think that this was a point that makes it so that the player can identify with the character easier.  Or rather, so the player can use the character as an avatar.  After all, most players don’t see video game characters the same way the see film characters.  They see them as being a body for them to inhabit to immerse themselves in the game’s world.  I should note that this is NOT how I game.  I’m a story-seeker by nature.  When I game, I do so with the intent of seeing a narrative play out.  So I see myself as an omniscient overseer.  It’s a dichotomy.

Wait, did you just admit that, yes, she is a blank slate for the player to project themselves into?  I got that right?  That this character’s gender really has no bearing on the character herself, because of the fact that she is silent and that it’s all open to what the player thinks, and that the perspective of the player that she’s a guy isn’t technically wrong.  At least not entirely?  Did I get that right?  Wow.  Good for me!  But this does blow open why any argument for the character’s merits means nothing.

If you are saying, Anita, that this character is literally just an avatar for the player, and that she has no real personality, outside of what the player does – then how the hell is this a character that is admirable, by your feminist standards?!  Is your ideal of a good female character a blank slate that has no real personality?  Don’t say that I’m putting words in her mouth.  This is by her own admission!  Your brand of a positive female character is a person with no character at all.  How can anybody who calls themselves a feminist stomach that?!  I mean, come on!  A strong woman who is able to look after herself and do her own thing?  Fuck that!  I got this female character who has no describable personality and is who you are!

Maybe that’s the secret to this.  Maybe it’s pro-women because it is the woman who plays her’s personality.  If that is an argument that you are putting forth, then I can pretty much just call bullshit on every single other selection you make with positive female characters.  Because any character who has any personality at all doesn’t fit this archetype of a positive female character, by your standards.  This is interesting.  The more I learn about the way you see feminism, the more I realize that, underneath it all, you are full of shit.  I put a bunch of Puritan Feminists in a room and tell them to tell me what a positive female character in a video game is like, you know what I bet won’t be on the list?  A character with no personality, outside of the player’s.

Whenever the next in these series of videos does get made, Anita is going to have to REALLY reconcile how all these other characters are able to fit into her archetype, when her first example of a feminist-approved character is a blank slate, with no motivation, no personality and no back-story.  I can’t see how she’ll do that.  Probably won’t even bring it up.  She’ll just ignore the elephant in the room.  She does that habitually, with every single one of her giant flaws in the things she has said and done lately.  This wouldn’t surprise me.  Unreal.

As for me, I need characters in the games I love to have, you know – character.  The only game I have seen give a silent protagonist character is Journey!  It really is kind of weird that the positive representation of women in gaming is a woman without any identifiable characteristics at all.  Probably says a lot about you, actually.  Though wait, I vaguely remember a game you pitched with a character much like this.  A Mary Sue, who can do no wrong and is just awesome, and has no real character, outside of doing stuff.  I guess we’ll see where the next video goes.

Until next time, a quote,

“As you said, Professor Price, a hero always needs a sidekick.”  -Max Caulfield, Life is Strange

Peace out,

Maverick

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10 thoughts on “Your Positive Female Character Sucks, Part 1 (A response to Anita Sarkeesian)

  1. Crit theory only exists to destroy not to create, therefore no female character could ever live up to all feminist standards. It’s why even though Dame Celeste was written as a love letter to Anita Sarkeesian, it would be easy to shit all over it. “Because she is a woman, and therefore inherently weaker than a male character, Dame Celeste is unable to defend herself when confronted by the soldiers of a literal patriarchy”.

    Meanwhile, I’m playing Witch Hunt on Congregate, which features a super powerful female character who is slaughtering tons of monsters (all male), but she’d get shit on because she has big boobs (and the game has a ‘fanservice’ toggle, but hey, that means that people who are upset over fanservice could still play a game with a tough no-nonsense female hero without seeing a boob bounce when you beat a level).

    I know there are still some folks out there who have a beef with Liana K, but one of the most insightful points she ever made, I think, was when she pointed out that if developers are afraid to include female characters in games because no matter what they do with them someone will come and take a dump on them because it didn’t meet this or that standard of acceptable feminist decency, what ends up happening is no one wants to include female characters in their games. Railing against female characters doesn’t result in better female characters, it results in LESS female characters.

    Also, if Sword & Sorcery’s protagonist the Scythian just an homage to the Legend of Zelda doesn’t that just make her a male hero with breasts?

    At least Anita has finally said “Here’s something I like” even if what it is is a completely depersonalized character whose gender is entirely irrelevant to the story.

    Could a female character without the same level of abstraction as the Scythian, all other elements aside, still make Anita happy or is the low level of graphic detail the key here?

    • Honestly, I think the low-level of graphic detail is part of it. Any female character with clearly defined femininity irks Sarkeesian. I am interested to see what her future picks are, assuming that the videos don’t come out at the crawl-burn pace that her last series of videos that she had to Kickstart for. I don’t agree with Liana K on everything. Much like several feminist critics, I think that she oversells some aspects of this male culture that she still sees, where I don’t. But I still enjoy her content, from time to time. And she’s absolutely right. The moment developers are afraid to make female characters, because they don’t want to offend the Puritan Feminist types, then the whole battle is lost, because women are no longer seen as equal. They are on a pedestal that nobody wants to touch.

      In the end, though, the Puritan, Sex- mentality infects everything in her view on women in video games. So you can bet that any woman who is even remotely in touch with her sexuality is going to be miles away from Anita’s list. But like you said, if you really examine any character that Anita picks, with her criteria of what the bad traits of a woman in games are, then there isn’t one that could make the cut. I guess we’ll see, though.

      • Yeah. I mean, I even subjected myself to her masters thesis, in which she more or less defines any and all positive traits as being “masculine”. “So, if this character is positive in any way at all, it’s because they’re embodying these traits which you claim to be gendered; wouldn’t the solution be to de-gender positive traits rather than saying that women who are strong, clear headed, charismatic, whatever are embodying male traits?”

        As for Liana, sure I don’t agree with her on some stuff, but I mean she’s friends with Vee Monro; she’s got enough of a sense of humor about stuff – especially stuff that most internet feminists would lose their shit over – that it’s almost impossible not to like her.

        When I wrote my Choose Your Own Adventure Book, it didn’t occur to me at the time, but the reason i wrote it with a female protagonist was because I felt like the expectations for a male protagonist would be different (more ‘kick-ass’ options, rather more passive interaction with the world). I mean, sure, I wanted to have a strong and interesting female lead in the book, but she just as easily could be written off as being a stereotypical weak and ineffectual woman by someone who had an ideological beef.

        So much of it seems to be a case of “I can say that this character is objectively terrible because of whatever reason I can think of”, and it saps and destroys creativity.

        Man, what I wouldn’t give to see Liana debate Anita Sarkeesian about the representation of women in games! Oh, well.

      • Oh my god, I would pay MONEY to see Liana and Anita debate. Liana would mop the floor with her. But Anita will never do that. In fact, she’ll never address criticism from anybody. Because she is a con artist, the moment that someone makes her reflect on her point of view, the con unravels. Like when Colbert asked her to name three games that promote misogyny. That was almost comical.

      • It was almost providence that I saw that interview. I don’t have TV, but I had taken my girlfriend to visit her mom and was watching TV, flipping around when that was on. Seeing her on Colbert and watch Colbert suck up to her was the most surreal shit I’d ever seen. I could NOT have imagined circa 2002 Colbert kissing her ass like that, but the mask of comic brilliance which concealed the progressive apparatchik fell away years ago…

      • Yeah, watching Colbert kiss her ass annoyed. But there was that one moment where he actually had some journalistic brilliance and asked her the most soft-ball question ever. And she couldn’t answer it. It was just awe-inspiring.

      • A decade ago, I would’ve said comic brilliance, but I feel like I could see the embarrassment on his face as he had to cover for her… I mean, yeah, it was awesome watching Anita blubbering and stammering, but it was painful to watch Colbert have to cover for her.

        The wrap reminded me of how I’d gone from thinking that Colbert was one of the most brilliant entertainers of our time to seeing him as kind of a poor man’s John Stewart.

      • Well, to be fair, part of why he kissed her ass so much was probably pressure from Comedy Central. After all, if anyone actually asks her tough questions, then her white knights will call him a misogynist for making Anita-senpai (their view of her, not mine) upset. The whole reason that so many companies are caving to these people is to avoid the bad press. It’s part of a much bigger problem.

      • Yeah. It’s just so damn bizarre. I feel like these last few years we’ve gone so far through the looking glass, we’ll never find our way out again.

        Anyway, you’ve been doin’ the lord’s work over here. Keep it up!

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