Sunday, September 7, 2014

Crescent's Thoughts On: Anita Sarkeesian: Women As Background Decoration Part 2 Or What Was She Suppose To Be Talking About Again and What is With All of These Crappy Arguments!?

Killing Women is Sexist, Saving Women is Sexist, Let's face it the moment a Women is involved it is Sexist.
It's that fun time again. Okay, I am a little slow on the ball of this thing, but with Zoe Quinn's escapade and Anita's video happening ONE WEEK from each other, I wanted a little breather between covering both because, despite the views I get for my Anita posts, I want to keep this blog largely about two things: Video Games and Anime, and if I had to talk about this.... whatever you call it so soon after.... whatever you call Zoe Quinn's quagmire I was afraid that people will lose sight over what was important, like these women. You know that this is about VIDEO GAMES and how video games are FUN! So I reviewed Azure Striker Gunvolt because YES! But now that we have that little diversion, it's now time to talk about Anita Sarkeesian's latest series of cobbled together, barely coherent points about how no matter what, it's always sexist to have VIRTUALLY ANYTHING happen to a women in a game. Otherwise known as "Tropes Vs Women In Video Games: Women As Background Decorations Part 2" (SOURCE)

Apparently, Anita fails to grasp how effective a double meaning is in Marketing.
Like the previous video, Anita starts off talking about her fabricated trope by defining it, and then proceeds to talk about depictions of women in video game advertisements. If you thought I accidentally confused Part 1 with Part 2 of this particular series, then you are forgiven as it is an easy mistaken thanks to the fact that the beginning of Part 2 COVERS THE EXACT SAME GROUND THAT PART 1 DID! It's not even in the form of a recap or a "Previously On Avatar." No, instead Anita recycles the EXACT argument she spouted several times during the previous video about how killing or showing dead beautiful women is somehow sexist because men are suppose to be completely aroused by this, and while I can only speak for myself, looking at a dead woman, no matter how attractive, will not cause me to pop a boner. It is almost as if killing the women, kills my erection. The only difference between the last video and this one is that Part 1 focused solely on depictions of female sex workers, while Part 2 focuses on.... well damn near EVERY SINGLE FEMALE NPC. It is the exact same argument, presented as if this is a new challenge, which is defeated by the exact same counterargument: This happens to men as well. Of course Anita's counter-counterargument is that, somehow, the provocative clothing the women tend to wear "sexualizes" the murder, and thus it is worse and sexist because.... We still haven't gotten to the "because" stage of the argument, but that is what Anita is arguing.

The problem here is that, like with the sex workers, what constituent "sexualized" clothing seems to be left frustratingly nebulous as even clothes appropriate for the occasion before the death of the victim is considered "sexualized." Victim killed in the Redlight district wearing an appealing little number? Sexualized. Victim killed in a fancy restaurant wearing a fancy red dress? Sexualized. Victim killed in their bathroom with only a shower curtain draped over their body? Sexualized. It slowly becomes apparent that the moment a women is harmed or killed, especially by a male aggressor, it doesn't matter WHAT the woman is wearing, Anita will say that it is sexualized.

A woman is killed? SEXIST! A woman is saved? SEXIST!
What the rest of her video seems to boil down to is that any depictions of women being assaulted and/or raped immediately makes the game sexist, regardless of what context the game gives it. The game portrays sex work as normal? Trivialized. Portrays sex work as horrible? Exploitative. Depict Rape? Sensationalized. Let a woman die? Victimization. Avenge the woman? Fridged. Save that same woman? Damselled. It is often suggested that if Anita had her way, there would be no pleasing her since no matter what you do in a game, she will find some way to make it sexist and/or misogynistic. It is often suggested but now Anita blatantly says that this is a "No win Situation" by stating "Regardless of the player’s actions in these type of situations, the result always paints women in a regressive light, as they will end up as either “helpless damsels” or “dead victims”." Save the girl in trouble? That's sexist because you turned her into a Damsel in Distress. Let the girl die? That's sexist because you reduced her to a dead victim. I mean, it seems like the only course of action left for game developers is to have these NPC save themselves, but if that was the case then what is there for the player to do? It's like being the Huntsman from Freakazoid, your a superhero but you have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO! But then Anita said one of the STUPIDEST things I have ever hear in regards to video games, and here I thought "Toadette is the only female Toad" was the stupidest possible thing you could say about a video game, until Anita said that we should have emotional engagement with NPCs.

Dragons and Magic should PREVENT abuse against women according to Anita Sarkeesian.
It starts out promising, Anita finally does something that anyone posing an argument should, address counterarguments, and she addresses simple defense that the games she presents need this kind of element for the sake of their world-building. Anita states "the knee-jerk response I hear most often is that if these stories did not include the exploitation of women, then the game worlds would feel too “unrealistic” or “not historically accurate.” However, it is her rebuttal that just goes off the deep end as she continues, "What does it say about our culture when games routinely bend or break the laws of physics and no one bats an eye? When dragons, ogres and magic are inserted into historically influenced settings without objection. We are perfectly willing to suspend our disbelief when it comes to multiple lives, superpowers, health regeneration and the ability to carry dozens of weapons and items in a massive invisible backpack. But somehow the idea of a world without sexual violence and exploitation is deemed too strange and too bizarre to be believable."

Okay, what Anita is talking about is the Suspension of Disbelief present in all storytelling. In simple terms, it is how willing the audience of a story is to accept improbable or impossible things for the sake of the story's narrative. The easiest example of this is Superheroes, most Superheroes' powers are unrealistic or impossible feats that are often acquired though equally unrealistic or impossible circumstances, be it bad science, impossible technology, improbable genes, or straight up magic. Most audiences know this is impossible or at the very least a man dressing up like a bat would scarcely acceptable means of law enforcement, yet these stories are some of the most popular and endearing tales in our modern culture. It doesn't matter that elements within the story are impossible, the audience, who is willing to suspend their disbelief, will accept it so that they can enjoy the story. This happens in all forms of storytelling, but in Video Games this suspension is split into two different camps: Disbelief for the sake of Narrative and Disbelief for the sake of Gameplay.

In the first half of Anita's rebuttal with the "Dragons, ogres and magic are inserted into historically influenced setting without objection" she is talking about the Disbelief for the sake of Narrative and is essentially arguing that if gamers are willing to accept impossibilities such as dragons and magic that we should be able to accept the impossibility that in a gritty universe inspired by the European Dark Ages there is no raping of defenseless woman in a caste system where the lowest castes are treated like garbage. It's as if dragons and magic should make it impossible for woman to be victimized, as if dragons and magic some how preclude humans from being assholes toward each other. The problem is when you are creating a universe you have to ask a lot of "What ifs" and then play out the results. If those "What ifs" include "A caste system where different races are treated differently and some are treated less then slaves" and "The upper castes can do whatever the hell they want and have impunity" and your intention is to depict a gritty fantasy filled with the worse humanity has to offer, then it would stretch the audience's disbelief to it's breaking point to not have cases where a member of the upper caste rapes a member of the lower caste at some point. It doesn't matter if the universe has dragons and magic or not, in fact in some cases it works BETTER with dragons and magic if you have the upper caste using magic to protect the lower caste from the dragon in exchange for such favors. Again humans being assholes to one another doesn't hing on the nonexistence of dragons. As for historical influenced settings, if those historical settings have rape as a part of life, and your goal is REALISM then your game world needs rape in it somewhere for it to be accurate.

True Fact: Mega Man exists in a 2D universe.
 As for the second half with "Multiple lives, health regeneration, and invisible backpacks" these are all concessions made for the sake of Gameplay, which is usually not taken as canon within the story. To put it another, in nearly every Mega Man game Mega Man (and his various incarnations) can only move left or right and can move up or down by jumping or dropping, but you can NEVER go forward or backward. Does this mean Mega Man's entire universe is 2D? In every Fire Emblem game, wars are waged by each army taking turns moving their entire force across a visible grid and everyone waits patiently until it is their turn to act. Does this mean that Fire Emblem has a really strict rules of warfare? The answer to both these questions should be no, Mega Man does not exist in a purely 2D universe and Fire Emblem does not have metaphysical chess rules woven into it's fabric of reality, as non-playable moments and cutscenes show case each universe in more detail. So why are such things there? Because they are for the GAMEPLAY. Mega Man is a 2D action/platformer while Fire Emblem is a Strategy RPG, and elements like extra lives in Mega Man and Stats in Fire Emblem are there to assist the player in the gameplay aspect, but are not actual elements in the game's narrative and gamers are largely able to split such elements from each other. True, there are some games that try to merge gameplay elements into the story, like the Assassin's Creed series, and some games give narrative reason for the existence of gameplay elements, such as Fire Emblem: Awakening where the player's ability to see enemy stats is explained as the player's Avatar in the game being able to gauge his opponents at a glance, but gamers suspend their disbelief when it comes to such mechanics, like Ezio is NOT a complete screw-up when he fell of that roof and missed the hay and Robin does not actually see numbers floating around people when he looks at them. I always view that such mechanics, such as Mega Man's 2D universe or Fire Emblem turn based tactics, as a filter that I, the player, must view this universe in and interact with this universe through, that such elements are not apart of the lives of these characters within their universe, it is just how I interact with them.

Now there are times where Gameplay and Narrative clash and the Suspension of Disbelief between the two breaks, such as the infamous "Use a Phoenix Down on Aeris" in Final Fantasy VII, but largely most gamers keep a separation between necessary gameplay constrain and the actual narrative. So to compare narrative elements, like the mistreatment of women, with gameplay elements, like multiple lives, is a freakin' apples and oranges comparison. It is a false equivocation and if you are a true gamer, Anita, you should be ashamed of yourself for making such a comparison. I also would like to note the subtle word game Anita played towards the end with "But somehow the idea of a world without sexual violence and exploitation is deemed too strange and too bizarre to be believable." Well Anita there are game worlds like that, it's called Harvest Moon. It's call Animal Crossing. It's called Cooking Mama. It's called Chibi-Robo. It's called Kirby. It's called Mega Man. It's called every SINGLE Mario game regardless of your views about Princess Peach. There are a ton of video games with such worlds, but these are not the worlds that need such elements for their world building.

A game that is now tainted to me.
Amazingly there was one part in Anita's video that was even remotely positive, her brief analysis of Papo & Yo, a view of what she wants games to deal with the issues of domestic violence. Now, I never played Papo & Yo, I never even heard of it until Anita brought it up, so I can't say anything about the game nor Anita's analysis of it, but I can say this: Thanks to Anita I have ABSOLUTELY no interest in playing this game. NONE. Now let me clarify why, it is NOT because I want to be contrarian to Anita and it's NOT because I think every game she likes must be terrible or have some propagandist undercurrent. I'm sure it is a very good game with a very good concept. The problem is that Papo & Yo is now the "Approved" game while every other game mentioned is the "Unapproved" game, and that is part of the problem with doing such a negative series. By breaking down all of these much beloved games and then presenting a game like Papo & Yo as one of the few "Good" examples it creates this impression (intentional or unintentional) that I am some how tainted by playing these "Sexist" games and must play this one "Nonsexist" to be saved. As if I should be ashamed of having Senran Kagura on my 3DS and must download Papo & Yo and praise the hell out of it for saving me from my sexist fantasies. And what's worse is that now that Papo & Yo has been "Approved" by Anita Sarkeesian, you KNOW that if you enjoyed the game you will be placed in the Social Justice Warrior camp and be an ally of Anita's crusade against sexism, and if you didn't you'd be automatically put in the Anti-Anita "misogynist trolls" pile because that is how divisive and polarizing this issue has become. I know that isn't fair to Papo & Yo as it is purely guilt by association, but that is how messed up this the gaming media has become and I will not stand for it. I don't need to play Papo & Yo to show that I'm not sexist nor a misogynist, and I don't need to be "cleaned" of the games I played and enjoyed.

There are other things in this video, but I am ill-suited to go into them because I haven't played any of the games that where the central focus of this video. I'll leave the more in-depth analysis and misrepresentation detecting to other more qualified people, but I will say this: What was this trope suppose to be? The title is "Women as Background Decoration" but was there really any women in either video that could be described as "Background Decoration"? We had NPCs, minor characters, quest givers, and characters who gave perks to the player, but absolutely NOTHING about women who's entire existence was "Stand in the background and look pretty." In fact, this entire series could have easily been called "Women as NPCs" because that's essentially what it was, "Here is what women in video games are like as NPCs." Or better yet here is a more accurate description of what Anita was talking about, "Here is some of functions of NPCs" because, whether you like it or not Anita, EVERYTHING YOU LISTED STILL APPLIES TO MALE NPCS!

This video was worse than her last one, and her last one she threw every single female sex worker under the bus. It seems like Anita's arguments are getting worse and worse and her videos are becoming harder to watch. Yet the gaming media STILL hails her as being a voice of progression for female representation. Yes, females representation, which can't include anything that might be even remotely misinterpreted as a woman having anything that seems like less power than a man. However, it seems Anita's goose is finally going to be cooked. Youtube personalities Jorden Owen and Davis M. J. Aurini have started a Patreon campaign to raise funds for their project, a feature length documentary entitle: The Sarkeesian Effect. Their goal is to raise enough money ($15,000 a month) to begin a 5 month filming period, interviewing experts and people who's lives have been affected by the Social Justice Warrior group and their tactics. As of writing this blog they are just shy under $4,000 and already game publications are crying out against this project calling it a harassment tactic against Anita (SOURCE) and apparently there are efforts to such down the Patreon campaign. The ironic part is that they have received so much vitriol and hate, and they haven't even said anything yet. Sound familiar?

Until next time.

-Crescent, I'm not saying you should support this movie, but I maybe heavily insinuating it.

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