Lucky 13: This ‘Doctor Who’ fan isn’t ‘scared’ of 13th Doctor’s gender

What a time to be alive.

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Truth be told, I haven’t watched “Doctor Who” in years. Once a rabid “across-the-pond” fan, my attention has waxed and waned over the years before declining sharply with the introduction of Clara as “The Impossible Girl.”

Part of my inattention was caused by the increasingly complex (see: ridiculous) plotlines and escapades imagined by series writer Steven Moffat. The other part was a long waiting period and weakening Netflix addiction that was only revived by my foray into college life. But after yet another wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey tale of hijinks ran off the rails into dramatic explosions and cleverer-than-thou Doctor monologues, I had to stop watching the show or start hating the series that I had loved so much in my late middle school and early high school years.

However, with the release of the new trailer unveiling the 13th incarnation of the alien Doctor grabbing attention across the globe, I’m willing to give this classic British series another chance.

It’s no secret that I’m for more female protagonists. Whether they be in video games, movies, TV shows, books or other mediums, I’m of the belief that more female characters — more complex and engaging female characters with realistic emotional definition and detailed character arcs and plotlines — the better.

[READ: 5 things we need more (or less) of in video games]

So it should be of no surprise that I’m excited about this new Doctor. I do have one critique, however.

What the hell took you so long?

This show has been running continually on British TV since the 1960s — barring a brief break during the 90s until the show’s official relaunch in the early 2000s — with twelve, now thirteen, different incarnations of the title character and countless variations of the spunky sidekick role throughout the years.

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Some of the most memorable Doctors include David Tennant (Ten, 2005-2010), Tom Baker (Four, 1974-1981) and Patrick Troughton (Second, 1966-1969) with more great companions than I have room to name in a 800-word blog post. Sources: David-tennant-news.com, Dailymail.com and Pinterest.com

But year after year, Doctor after Doctor, Tardis set after Tardis set, there have been no female Doctors until Jodie Whittaker. And Whittaker has already released a statement urging fans not to be scared of her gender.

You heard right.

Scared. Of her gender.

In a quote in the article “Doctor Who: Fans react to Jodie Whittaker casting” from BBC News, Whittaker said, “I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. This is a really exciting time and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change.”

The tone of this quote is defensive and a little pleading and while I can sort of understand its necessity , I’m a little shocked and a lot pissed that Whittaker and/or her PR agent felt they had to say it.

But she’s not exactly in the wrong to feel defensive. The BBC article went on to compile some of the most memorable fan reactions to the announcement, rom a father tweeting about his 8-year-old pumping her fist in the air to Facebook and Twitter trolls bemoaning the syntactic difference between a Time Lord and a Time Lady.

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Seriously, shut up. Just shut up. You have no right to take this moment of victory away from the female Doctor Who fans who are finally celebrating gender parity in regards to the show’s main role. Source: BBC.com

I could go on and on about how the term “doctor” is gender-neutral and about how the show has already shown us through secondary characters and Moffat-y exposition that there are as many Time Ladies as there are Time Lords and about how everyone criticizing the new direction of the show needs to get real about what year we’re living in, but I’m not.

Instead, I’ll just say that this is the kind of world I want to live in. Setting aside the horror-show that is modern politics, at least some in the entertainment industry are trying to do the right thing by factoring gender into equations of Hollywood and small screen success and broadening the traditional role of women in the industry.

[READ: ‘Wonder Woman’ calls for a reimagining of cinematic feminism] 

In a world where women can be Ghostbusters, and superheroes and Jedi and queens and Doctors, those who stand opposite these powerful women and complain about their successes are in the wrong. Those that complain and bemoan the death of traditionally male-dominated roles in the industry are in the wrong. And those that rail against gender parity, that criticize and demean and condemn the female presence as a mark of equality rather than an object of the male gaze are, undoubtedly, unequivocally, unmistakably wrong.

But to all those celebrating the new female Doctor, keep calm and carry on, as those of the BBC would say, and let the power of Lara Croft (and Diana Prince and Rey and the 13th Doctor) be with you.

gender parity

A brief history of Gamergate and why it’s still important today

We need to remember Gamergate because we need to create a better Internet, one that isn’t defined by hate groups and the vitriol they’re allowed to spread under the banner of Internet anonymity.

My first exposure to Gamergate was in the research I did for my English 105i term paper (the one that inspired this very blog, as a matter of fact). While the paper itself focused more on Lara Croft as a representation of what future female game protagonists could look like, I read a lot of articles, both scholarly and not, about the Gamergate controversy and what it looked like for women in gaming in the initial stages of research.

What first appeared like another Watergate rip-off — incidents likened to the Nixon scandal by the –gate names that have becoming increasingly (see: too) common over the years — morphed into a reactionary flood of antifeminist and anti-diversity sentiments.

It started with Zoe Quinn, an independent game developer, and the 2013 release of her game “Depression Quest.” While some argued that the game drew ire because of its unusual format — it’s extremely nontraditional, a “game” where players read and then choose text “actions” based on an evolving story paired with a moving soundtrack — the closer you look, the more it becomes about gender and about the angry white men that make up the “traditional” gamer demographic.

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“Depression Quest” was based partly on Quinn’s personal struggle with depression, and yet her genuine expression of vulnerability and heart was met with hostility and contempt by many. Source: Vice.com.

Shortly after her game was released, an angry ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, posted a series of blog posts about Quinn’s alleged emotional abuse and infidelity. In a scathing six-part series, he explained that Quinn slept around with industry leaders, including a Kotaku game writer, in order to get ahead, claims both Quinn and the writer, Nathan Grayson, denied.

While Gjoni’s posts can easily be read as the ravings of a mad ex-boyfriend, some Twitter users took his view and rolled with it, spouting off claims of journalistic misconduct and ethical violations. Some took it one step further, making anonymous usernames and taking to Twitter and 4chan to harass Quinn, posting her address online, leaking nude photos on social media and even sending her death and rape threats, some of them so vile and specific she was forced to flee her home.

At the time, most Gamergate supporters tried to minimize the latter part of their “movement,” emphasizing that the real problem was the journalistic misconduct and that the threats were just the protests of a small minority group. But the “minority group” then turned their sights on another independent developer, Brianna Wu, and feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, making the Gamergate conversation less about journalistic ethics and more about gender and inclusion. Or rather, the extreme resistance “traditional” gamers had to it.

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Internet culture allows for a dehumanization of women and other objects of derision, allowing violence to be further perpetrated against them under the protection of Internet anonymity. Source: BBC.com.

It’s important to remember that none of this would have been possible without the protective cloak of Internet anonymity.

Walter Isaacson of “The Atlantic” described anonymity as the “bugs in the foundation, bats in the belfry, and trolls in the basement” of the Internet and online communities.

“For years, the benefits of anonymity on the net outweighed its drawbacks,” he continues.

But if Gamergate has taught us anything, it’s that the opposite is becoming true in an era where claims of alternative facts and fake news dominate information cycles with increasingly regularity.

While it’s true that there are people willing to share their vile beliefs in person, in public, without any regard to who might or might not be listening – the Pit Preacher at my school and the things he screams at passing students is proof enough of that – Internet anonymity makes it frighteningly easy to do so without any of the traditional repercussions the public sphere provides.

Internet culture has created a “boy’s club” environment that is characterized by hostility towards women, gay men and other minority groups. It’s gotten better in recent years, but there’s no denying the fact that while the Internet may provide important and unprecedented avenues for interpersonal connectivity and expression, it has also allowed mean-spirited trolls to flourish anonymously with no real repercussions for their actions.

Which brings us to this: Why is Gamergate still important?

For one, Gamergate never really went away. It just kind of receded into that dank, dark Internet hole trolls and offensive memes hide in, just waiting for the right time to rise and strike again.

You can see it resurface from time to time in anonymous hate directed at female industry leaders, characters and players, and those who critique existing and upcoming games. You can see also it in the number of female video game professionals: 22% compared to a male 75% according to a 2015 international survey. You can see it in the “buxom babes,” “femme fatales” and “damsels in distress,” or the persisting female stereotypes as outlined in “Pixel Pinups: Images of Women in Video Games” by Nina Huntemann.

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These are the statistics about gaming’s shifting demographics, one that frightens many who identify as the traditional straight white males many companies advertise to. Source: Theesa.com

More importantly, you can see it in the larger divisions in our cultural dialogue, beyond just those concerning video games, the male demographic readily involved in Gamergate, and gender and gender harassment.

Caitlin Dewey of “The Washington Post” said it best in her analysis of Gamergate, “The only guide to Gamergate you will ever need.” In her article, she described the movement as a question about “how we define our shared cultural spaces, how we delineate identity, [and] who is and is not allowed to have a voice in mainstream culture.”

“It’s about that tension between tradition and inclusion,” she continued. A tension that is still relevant – and painfully present – in our culture today.

In order to alleviate that tension — or, at the very least, allow us to talk about it civilly and humanely — Internet anonymity needs to be reconsidered and revised. Isaacson suggests a number of reforms in his article “How to fix the Internet,” including a voluntary system of identification and authentication. But any real proposal to reevaluate and rectify our divisive Internet culture would need serious consideration by industry professionals, users, and government officials.

At its heart, Gamergate was a confluence of antifeminist sentiments from a white male demographic afraid of female power in “their” industry and small-minded hatefulness made possible by Internet culture and anonymity. It’s important today because the hateful discourse at the center of the Gamergate storm is still on the Internet, indiscriminately targeting online communities over a variety of social issues from feminism to birth control to abortion to gay rights to #BlackLivesMatter to intersectionality to equal pay to trans rights to bathroom bills to any number of social and political issues.

Gamergate isn’t going away. And it shouldn’t.

It should serve as a reminder to us all about what happens when you allow the very worst of humanity free reign over a powerful and influential media like the Internet. It should also serve as the motivation for a better Internet, one that isn’t defined by anonymous hate groups and their rage.

Until we have that kind of Internet, game on and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

internet hate

‘Wonder Woman’ calls for a reimagining of cinematic feminism

It’s hard to put into words just how much this movie means to me.

When it comes to superhero movies, I’ve got pretty low standards.

I know it. My friends know it. My mom knows it. And my sister, the self-proclaimed film critic of our family, knows it and talks about it with me at length, often disparaging my taste in films while she preaches down at me with the great knowledge of YouTube’s Cinema Sins and Screen Rant behind her.

But this long overdue silver screen interpretation of the most enduring female superhero of all time surpassed my standards and even those of my sister. It also surpassed everyone else’s expectations of a female-led superhero movie associated with a superhero brand that just can’t get it right (and with a female director at the helm, no less).

Right out of the gate, the movie made cinematic history, earning over 100 million its opening weekend, according to the Associated Press. Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman” also has a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of Sunday with close to 250 reviews, higher than any recent DC movie, including “Man of Steel,” “Suicide Squad” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and all Marvel films except the first Iron Man, according to Vox.

But it’s not about the money or the ratings or the number of people who gave it a good score on the “Tomatometer.” It’s about what it represents to me and many other female moviegoers sick of watching the same superhero formula film: hope.

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I legitimately swooned every time she burst into action. Source: Comicbookmovie.com.

[READ: Why Wonder Woman Should Have Her Own Video Game]

Don’t know what I mean? Think about this for a minute.

Two little girls sat down next to me in the theater. One was blonde and generically cute while the other, her sister, was dark-headed and clumsy, tripping (adorably) on her feet. In her hand she held a Barbie doll with jet-black hair, a familiar red and blue dress and two silver bands clasped around her thin plastic wrists. A tight coil of rope at her hip swayed back and forth as the girl held it, gesturing wildly in her excitement as her dad settled her and her sister down with some popcorn.

Whether or not those girls were old enough to see the movie is not in question here – but if it was, I would probably say they weren’t, as the very first preview was rated “R” and the movie itself featured an amount of violence that befit it’s World War I subject matter. What’s important to them and to other little girls across the country is that for the first time in recent cinematic history, a woman was able to fight and kick butt on screen in a genre of movies generally reserved for men. And what’s more, she wasn’t overly sexualized, much to my relief.

In fact, none of the Amazons were. Their costumes and weapons were appropriate for their Greco-Roman origins and the slow-motion cinematography used during the fight scenes only further highlighted their athleticism and ability, something that is distressingly lacking in other movies depicting female fighters. It seems, to Hollywood, when we aren’t whimpering weaklings, we’re over-sexualized she-demons with about as much venom and malice as a pair of boobs locked behind a tight corset.

[READ: Why ‘Sexy’ Modding Isn’t Really Sexy At All]

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Not overly sexualized, but perfectly athletic and able, Diana and the other Amazonians are the strong women we need from our superhero action movies. Source: Ew.com.

But “Wonder Woman” proved that women can be tough and sexy and intelligent and witty and funny, all without being hyper-sexualized or put on display for the infamous “male gaze.” Not only was Gadot’s portrayal of Diana as funny and charming as it was youthful and emotional, she was a Grade A badass. I fell in love with the way she moved, the confidence in her fighting and her looks and the way she held herself throughout the movie: like someone royal, some awe-inspiring and, well, like someone wonderful.

I fell in love with “Wonder Woman” and with Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the timeless character. It was so important to me that this movie do well and I’m absolutely relieved that it did. Not only because it would have been a death sentence for all other female-led superhero movies, according to the tone of coverage surrounding the movie before it was even released – and that’s an issue for another blog – but because it showed girls, and Hollywood producers, that women are capable of kicking butt and looking hot. Of being sweet and funny while also being tough and heroic.

Of being an icon for a new generation of girls and feminists, ones who deserve a stronger third-wave, or a newly defined fourth, and who deserve to play with Wonder Woman action figures and baby dolls and Barbies and toys that don’t fit into the strict gender binary our consumer culture often forces them into.

It’s hard for me to overstate just how much this movie meant to me, and how much it will mean for a new generation of moviegoers. While it’s easy to say that this movie has finally shattered the impenetrable glass ceiling for women in Hollywood, we can’t get complacent. The same thing was said about movies like “Bridesmaids,” “Thelma and Louise” and “9 to 5,” and here we are, still working towards gender equality in Hollywood and pretty much all other facets of life.

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All three of these movies have shattered expectations and cinematic norms, but the glass ceiling has remained firmly intact after each release. Source: Amazon.com and Wikimedia.org.

While I could easily continue to talk about how much I loved this movie and how much more can be done towards making it a truly feminist movie, I think it’s important to remember that these things take time. Yes, “Wonder Woman” is not the magic bullet for female equality in Hollywood some might have wanted it to be, but it can get us there and, if we all work hard enough, we can help it stand for more than just an awesome female superhero movie – which it undeniably is.

We can help it stand representative of a new wave of feminism, or a revisited old one; one that calls attention to the new problems women are facing in our age of social media and technology and one that shakes up the postfeminist narrative that has invaded our media culture.

One last thing. To all those men angry about women-only screenings: Get. Over. It.

Look around a movie theater next time you go to a major action movie like “Fate of the Furious” or “Die Hard” or any Bond movie or the fifth Transformers movie coming out June 21. Those are pretty much all men-only screenings. Besides a brief stint in the silent movie era, almost all of cinematic history has been defined by male movie successes, and even those that flop – “Green Lantern,” “Batman v. Superman” or the Tom Cruise “Mummy” reboot to name a few – are usually given another chance to wow us or, more likely, flop again.

So shut up, sit down, get used to it and let the power of Lara Croft (and Diana of Themyscira) be with you.

Oh and Rocksteady? Don’t think this lets you off the hook. I’m still waiting for a Wonder Woman video game to match your Arkham series.

wonder woman unlocked

 

Top 5 intersectional women in video games

Or why a “color-blind” approach to women in gaming isn’t going to cut it.

It’s no secret that the gaming industry loves the heterosexual white male protagonist. While some steps have been made recently to break the mold (both in the gaming industry and in a larger pop culture context), of the most popular games of 2016, white men were often the featured protagonists.

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Female players make up nearly half of the gaming population, but a paper published in New Media & Society reveals that nearly 90 percent of primary game characters are white males.
Source: Valkymie.tumblr.com

Don Reisinger of Fortune reported on the most popular games according to data from the research firm NDP and the results might not surprise you. Of the top three games – “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” “Battlefield I” and “Tom Clancy’s: The Division” – all of them featured a white male in a main role.

To be completely fair, some had multiplayer or differing story options where players could choose from a variety of characters, but giving players the option to choose from a diversified range of characters is different from actually giving them one intersectional character to play. It’s the same idea behind letting players choose between a male and female character, like many RPGs have done for ages, versus forcing the player’s hand in choosing a female protagonist.

But that’s an issue for another blog.

Setting the issue of diversified men aside, if you’ve kept up with this blog, you probably know I’m in favor of more female protagonists in video games. So I’ve compiled a list of gaming’s top five intersectional women to increase awareness and to advocate for a future where not just more women are featured but more intersectional women are featured as gaming protagonists.

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Aveline de Grandpré ~ “Assassin’s Creed: Liberation”
A mixed race Assassin born of a wealthy French merchant and an African slave, Aveline is a badass lady whose biracial and multinational identity is an integral part of her quest to liberate New Orleans from Templar influence. She recognizes many of the contrasts in 18th century American society and works to correct them, as much as she is able as one lone Assassin against the innumerable and immeasurable forces of injustice and oppression.
Source: Walldevil.com

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Chell ~ “Portal” series
While little is actually known about the “Portal” and “Portal 2” protagonist, the video game canon has generally concluded that Chell is of white European and East or Southeast Asian descent. She is also most likely the daughter of an Aperture Science employee with strong ties to the company as their number one test subject and as one of the only living employees/characters encountered in the game’s universe.
Source: Secondtruth.com

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Clementine ~ “The Walking Dead” series
Simultaneously the cutest and most badass zombie apocalypse heroine I’ve every had the pleasure of playing, Clem is the most notable character out of the entire “Walking Dead” series, one who keeps coming back even when other characters drop like flies around her – or like distressed humans being eaten by their undead brethren. Although the Walking Dead wiki lists her race as African American, I’ve, personally, always believed her to be at least partially Asian. From the first episode of Season One, it’s apparent that she is of a middle class suburban background, but everything about her life pre-apocalypse is either assumed or dropped in hints throughout her interaction with Lee and other characters. Regardless, she’s an emotionally deep and incredibly real girl who players watch grow throughout the Telltale series.
Source: Thatvideogameblog.com

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Faith ~ “Mirror’s Edge” and “Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst”
Another badass gaming gal of mixed Asian and Caucasian descent, Faith Connors is the protagonist of the dystopian “Mirror’s Edge” series. In both games, she makes a living by running from an overzealous police force all while jumping, kicking and flipping her way in style through the City of Glass. Her story changes pretty dramatically from “Mirror’s Edge” to “Catalyst,” but Faith’s appearance and kickass attitude stay consistent. If anything, Faith becomes even cooler in the reboot as her hand-to-hand combat and parkour skills are revamped for the Frostbite 3 engine.
Source: Wallpapersite.com

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Nilin ~ “Remember Me”
I did a lot of scouring to try to uncover the actual racial makeup of Nilin, but as far as I could tell, she was only ever listed as “of a mixed ethnic origin.” While a lot of people on the internet were curious as to her official racial identity, a lot more seemed to think it didn’t matter. However, I say it does matter. While her ethnicity may not have played a large role in the game – as Connor’s Native American heritage did in “Assassin’s Creed III” – I still think it’s important to note racial distinctions because a deliberate diverse choice is better than the vocal equivalent of a shrugging emoji which is passed on as an attempt to minimize the effect of a potentially impactful choice.
Source: Wall.alphacoders.com

Even as I wrote this list, it became apparent to me that nearly all the characters that I chose – based on previous playing experience and critical commentary – were of a mixed racial or ethnic background. While I’m not saying that a mixed racial or ethnic identity is not important, I just think it’s something to note that game developers and designers felt they needed to throw a bit of white in with their diverse characters in order to get players to connect with them.

And if that doesn’t say anything about the state of female diversity in video games right now, I don’t know what does.

This isn’t so much a critique of the women in video games right now as it is a reminder that while we all work towards increasing female representation, we can’t just throw more white women at the problem and assume that fixes it.

If we truly want to increase female representation, then we need to take a long look at the intersectional makeup of our society and try to design and develop characters that reflect our multiethnic, multiracial, multinational, complex and beautiful female identity.

So game on, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

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Condescending casual sexism or gaming’s “Girlfriend Mode”

I find the term “casual sexism” to be a bit of an oxymoron.

 

There’s nothing casual about sexism.

It isn’t a lazy Sunday afternoon spent reading books or lying in a hammock somewhere with a fancy cocktail in one hand. It isn’t a Friday at work where you can wear blue jeans instead of blazers or a flowy dress instead of a tight pencil skirt.

Sexism is men cat-calling women on the way to work, following them down darkened alleys to scream obscenities at them to then get unreasonably angry when those women don’t respond favorably.

Sexism is women being beaten for the mistake of being born female, being paid less on the dollar, and being told they are somehow less than men.

Nothing about sexism is casual and yet casual sexism exists. And it’s more prevalent than you might think.

Sexism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the “prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially discrimination against women” (emphasis theirs). As the definition implies, sexism is often intentional and based on perceived social roles and the violation of them.

What’s different about casual sexism is that it’s sexism that is so ingrained and common that we forget it’s even there.

It happens when women aren’t hired for jobs because their bosses are worried they’ll only work for a few years before popping out babies and draining the company’s paid leave reserves. It happens when men make jokes about hairy lesbians or bright young things that are too pretty to work or too gorgeous to have brains. It happens when women take leadership positions and the confidence they would have as a man is described as having a “bossy” or “bitchy” attitude.

It happens in a hundred different ways every day in our society, our media, our everyday lives and even our video games.

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Alanna Vagianos at the Huffington Post compiled a list of #QuestionsForMen tweets that perfectly describe the hundreds of ways sexism is ingrained in our society.
Source: Huffingtonpost.com.

Examples of casual sexism in video games are all too common. Most of them involve rewarding player characters with women (particularly prostitutes) in games like “God of War” and “Grand Theft Auto,” and violence against women (of which prostitutes are a significant number) in “Red Dead Redemption” and “Bioshock.”

[READ: Stuffed in refrigerators, or why gaming’s number one trope has got to go]

But casual sexism is more than just outright violence. It’s often as little as a thoughtless disregard for female players or their representation in video games of all genres.

Take for example the Gearbox hit “Borderlands 2.” Out of the two female characters, at least one was specifically designed with female players in mind, and not in a good way. Gearbox lead designer John Hemingway wanted to, “make, for the lack of a better term, the girlfriend skill tree.”

Thus the DLC mechromancer, Gaige, was born.

Although Gearbox quickly condemned Hemingway’s description of the character, the “Girlfriend Mode” skill tree, officially dubbed “Best Friends Forever,” still exists in all its condescending glory.

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Called one of the cutest characters ever made by lead designer Hemingway and given a condescendingly named “Best Friends Forever” skill tree with gems like “Close Enough” that don’t require players to aim and a potential reference to women in the kitchen with “Cooking Up Trouble,” it’s easy to see casual sexism at work, once you start paying attention.
Source: Playbuzz.com.

Hemingway presented Gaige’s “Girlfriend Mode” as a way to be more inclusive of non-player audiences, but he actually just alienated women, nearly 48 percent of the gaming population, according to the Pew Research Center.

Nuances of language and meaning aside, there’s a significant percent of the population that definitely did not take issue with Hemingway’s statement. And that’s what’s so scary about casual sexism.

Because it’s an attitude that is generally assumed and co-opted by men that refuses to allow any deviations or changes in belief. Pew did the math, and 60 percent of Americans agree with the statement “most people who play video games are men” with 31 percent disagreeing and another 9 percent unsure if it is true or not.

It’s something I assumed until I started really looking into the demographic breakdown of video game players when I started this blog. And if everyone holds this idea, nothing is going to change and casual sexism will continue to be a problem.

Because it is a problem. Whether you’re violently murdering a female character or “helping” gamer girlfriends play by condescendingly lowering skill requirements in a “Girlfriend Mode” created just for them, casual sexism in video games is a problem because it reflects casual sexism in society.

And if we change our attitude in our video games and other media outlets, then maybe we change our attitude in society as well.

So combat sexism, both casual and not, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

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Stuffed in refrigerators, or why gaming’s number one trope has got to go

It’s a problem common enough to have a name, even if it’s one you’ve probably never heard before.

Even if you’ve never heard of the term “fridging” before, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

Picture this. The main character of your favorite book/movie/video game/what-have-you is a male with a female girlfriend/mom/sister/whatever. Everything seems normal, nothing is out of the ordinary and life continues on in its perfect comic book/movie/video game universe.

Then suddenly, the female friend-with-benefits/sister/girlfriend/mother/etc. is gruesomely slaughtered and left out for the male character to see. Often times, the character is stretched out in a dramatic pose across the bed she shared with her lover, or slumped over the kitchen table where she used to teach her son to make cookies, or dumped in a slummy location with a trail of clues leading the male character to her body where he’ll fall to his knees with grief and vow eternal vengeance on whoever and whatever caused the death of his sweetheart.

This is called fridging and it is one of the more disgusting examples of casual sexism, something that is sickeningly common in pop culture. With the stroke a pen, writers the genre over turn fleshed-out female characters into nothing but a clichéd plot device meant to further the main character’s man-pain.

The term comes from an old-school Green Lantern comic where the one of the lesser members of DC’s Justice League, Hal Jordan, comes home to find his girlfriend literally stuffed in a fridge by one of his enemies.

The term was coined by DC comic writer Gail Simone who read the comic and noticed that the fate of Green Lantern’s girlfriend was only the latest in a long line of dead women used as plot points to motivate male heroes. As a result, she started her own site, Women in Refrigerators, and compiled a list of all the females in comics who had been raped, killed, mistreated or abused in some way to advance the storyline of their male colleagues.

But this problem isn’t limited to comic book heroines with their big boobs and skin-tight costumes. Fridging happens in just about every setting you can imagine from comic books to video games to literary fiction to movies to TV shows and everything in between.

Setting aside the moral and societal implications of this practice of routinely normalizing violence against women, what’s so scary about fridging in video games and beyond is that it happens regularly enough that we often forget it’s there or don’t notice it at all.

And why would we?

We’ve been conditioned to accept women as both a brainless sex object and a simplistic plot device. Starting from games as banal and mindless as “Donkey Kong” and “Super Mario Bros.” women have been used as the carrot on the end of the stick to motivate the player along.

From there, the role of women has snowballed from kidnapping to murder to rape to purposeful, calculated annihilation to leave the male main character vulnerable or incite his vicious rage.

Part of this is the result of early advertising techniques used by game companies to try to entice male customers. But the fact that it has continued into this digital age and is a more ingrained plot device than ever is distinctly worrying.

The examples are nearly endless.

The pointless death of Talia al Ghul towards the end of “Batman: Arkham City.”

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Dead. Source: Heroes-villians.wikia.com. 

Clara and Nicole described as cliché plot devices and living set-dressing  in a “Watch Dogs” review by Cameron Kunzelman of “Paste” magazine.

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Also dead. Source: YouTube.com.

Angel’s martyred death in Borderlands 2.

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Very dead. Source: QuotesGram.com. 

The before-game death of Kratos’ wife and child in the “God of War” series.

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Do you see a pattern here? Source: Paste Magazine. 

Paz’s horrific death via implanted bomb in “Metal Gear Solid,” a death that occurs after the player character has already torn one bomb out of her in one of the most graphic scenes in gaming history.

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And, what’s that? Oh yeah, she’s dead too. Source: YouTube.com. 

The list goes on and on.

If you think I’m exaggerating or putting too much emphasis on something that isn’t really a big deal, put a man in the role of each of those women and see what happens.

In this context, fridging becomes less of a trope and more of a grisly, but necessary part of the literary life cycle – which it definitely isn’t. Tragedy often forces the hero’s hand, but does it have to be this tragedy? And does it have to happen all. The. Freaking. Time.

There are plenty of other micro tragedies that can inspire a superhero to take up the mask or force the protagonist on an epic quest to hunt down the villain. More than that, there are plenty of ways to motivate a character beyond watching their lover die or coming home from a long day of work to find their girlfriend stuffed in the fridge right next to the leftover takeout.

Most importantly, there are ways of motivating characters that don’t normalize violence against women. Because at the end of the day, that’s what fridging is doing. It’s establishing a routine or a cycle of violence that starts with the death/abuse/rape/etc. of a female character that, in turn, leads to male man-pain, which leads to a burning desire to fight crime/kill the beast or whatever mode of vengeance works the best, which can lead to even more violence against whatever woman in the hero’s life is the most vulnerable, and so on and so forth.

It’s a horrible, horrible cycle that needs to end not only for female pop culture consumers, but for the moral health of the writers and companies who are willing to perpetrate this cycle of violence and death.

Until that point, speak out and avoid refrigerators, my dear gamers, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

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Honest review: “Assassin’s Creed” The Movie

I am Ubisoft trash and will be until the day I die. But that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize the flaws in the recent “Assassin’s Creed” movie.

Video game movies never work out.

And neither did this one.

While it wasn’t particularly terrible – it was very much a Common Core action movie complete with the minimal story and significant plot holes that are run of the mill for Hollywood action – it wasn’t quite what I had expected.

And I hadn’t expected much.

This movie had a very patchwork feel to me. While I’m glad they didn’t try to adapt Desmond and his story for the Silver Screen, instead they took the setting of the most popular set of games – Spain from Ezio’s “Assassin’s Creed II” and “Brotherhood” – and combined it with the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, a setting eerily reminiscent of the Crusade time period of the original “Assassin’s Creed.”

The main protagonist, Callum Lynch, goes from adventurous child to hardened criminal in the span of minutes in much the same way Jyn Erso transitioned in the recently released “Rogue One.” And also like Jyn in “Rogue One,” Callum’s criminal past is never really explained except for a brief mention in the tin man exposition towards the middle of the film.

While I liked the action sequences involving Callum’s assassin ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, they were admittedly shallow and superficial, filmed simply for the sake of the subject matter with zero to no dialogue included between crazy acrobatic flips and impressive real-life game assassinations.

Despite that, I liked Aguilar’s parts the most because they were scenes that I could have easily seen in one of the games. Not that there weren’t plenty of nods to the game throughout the 2 hour odd long runtime, but a man falling into a haystack and a heavy handed eagle metaphor/transition/cinematography shot were nothing compared to Aguilar’s quest to protect the Prince of Granada, a quest that could have easily been an in-game mission.

However, I hated the death of Aguilar’s partner, Maria. I’m so sick of bad-ass female characters being killed off to further the male man-pain. But that’s an issue for another blog.

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You don’t deserve a girl like that if you’re going to kill her as a cliché plot device ~ Source: Gamespot.com. 

And finally, the finale.

The last few minutes of the movie, while appropriately melodramatic and epic-looking, were underwhelming to say the least. The lore of the AC games is too much to be crammed into one movie and the last scene made that almost painfully clear.

After Callum assassinates Dr. Rikkin and takes the apple, we see his daughter Sophia whisper a few words over her father’s body before she steps out into the London street vowing to bring pain and death upon the Assassin Order.

Setting aside the improbability of the Assassins actually being able to get into and out of the Templar stronghold with the Apple, and the fact that Sophia may or may not have seen herself as an assassin in the shadowy group hallucination after Callum broke the Animus, the ending was a pale imitation of a grand finale.

I had expected something more dramatic from the self-serious movie that “Assassins’s Creed” tried to be. Maybe a final battle for the Apple, or a grand resurgence of the Assassin Order.

Instead I got three people stealing the Apple while Sophia – whose face remained in the exact same expression throughout the entire movie, I might add – shed a few tears and the other Templars screamed and fled their stronghold like civilians instead of the supposedly feared and badass order they are.

All in all, I wasn’t impressed, but when you try to take a video game that, by its definition, is interactive and engaging even when the storyline is pre-determined, it’s hard to properly translate that into a flat, detached movie.

I would even argue that it’s not possible, but that’s an issue for another blog.

All grievances aside, I’m still tentatively on board for an “Assassin’s Creed” sequel, if only so they can expand upon the story they established in this movie and so they can maybe get Michael Fassbender a shirt that he won’t inexplicably take off.

Until then, game on, deadly assassini, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

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I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the view, I just don’t understand why he took his shirt off in the first place ~ Source: Justjared.com.