Forums - Politics Discussion - OK, so what is a "feminist game"?

Megiddo said:

That's not what I understand feminism to be though. I would think the recent Star Wars sequels where female characters are shown to be wholly superior to the male characters in practically every way would be more the kind of feminism OP is asking about. To which I would say that Horizon Zero Dawn is actually a pretty good case. Since other than the father figure, pretty much every male character in that game is either completely incompetent or fully dependent on Aloy or both. That's the sort of "women power, rah rah rah" feel that I understand feminism to be all about.

I don't think you're really understanding either of those pop culture products. In my view of it, The Last Jedi is a feminist-friendly movie, but is it really about like sisterhood and the relationships between women? I dunno, I don't see that as a thematic focus. Like all of the mainline Star Wars movies, The Last Jedi is about the eternal quest of Jedi to restore balance to the Force. Family and balance is the real themes. For example, there are three main sources of conflict between the young and the old in this movie, with, in each case, the older party representing more caution and the younger more boldness: that between essentially Leia and Poe, that between Luke and Rey, and that later between Luke and Ren. The first is essentially a case of the younger party having to learn from the older. The third case is one of the older clearly being in the right. And in-between these poles you have the relationship between Rey and Luke where each learns something from the other. And I don't think I really need to explain the whole family thing in the context of the Star Wars franchise and where the relationship between Rey and Ren is likely headed in that connection, do I?

Yes, many feminists were excited about The Last Jedi, as well as about The Force Awakens, but that's not because Star Wars has become the epitome of feminist thought ideologically or something. It isn't. The Last Jedi offers a couple of subjective lines that one can interpret as saying something feminist if you choose to read them that way. That is all. Star Wars, like the company that owns it, is a deeply, deeply centrist film franchise and will go on being so. The reason that many feminists (myself included) have appreciated these two films more than others in the franchise is because the Star Wars universe has traditionally very one-sidedly male and is now almost balanced in its demographic composition.

If one examines the earlier two Star Wars trilogies, one observes that, in both cases, there are very few women in them, and the leading ones, by the end, have been relegated to the background and heavily degraded. By the end of the original trilogy, Luke is rescuing his stylishly bikini-clad sister from sexual enslavement and by the end of the second, prequel trilogy, Padme has been reduced to the suicidal forbidden love interest of our hero-turns-villain protagonist. In this context, I find it difficult to sympathize with, or really even understand, the objections that people have to characters like Rey or the role of women in the new current trilogy of mainline installments.



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RolStoppable said:
 

The point is that you are overthinking things. Seinfeld works as supplement to strengthen that point, because it was a sitcom built around humor that was overthinking pretty much everything.

You provide us with threads about things that this community wouldn't even think about, and it's pretty crazy. The quote AngryLittleAlchemist picked out of your original post... I've never even remotely imagined that there is such a thing. *insert my current profile picture as supplement for this paragraph*

Sorry if I've weirded you out. It appears that I am coming from a very different view of the world than people here (or most places really) commonly are, and I'm really just meaning to establish communication that's not entirely superficial, not to make people uncomfortable.



Jaicee said:
EricHiggin said:

Based on what I've played, I agree that Lost Legacy, Last of Us, and Life is Strange focus more so on the female point of view and have a touch of feminism in them, but it's quite tasteful and not what I would call radical by any means. In terms of HZD, the only 'feminist' plot point you could point to is the fact that it's a woman that's portrayed as the good 'guy' and the bad guys are certain males. Otherwise she's just an intelligent curious rebel who breaks the rules, but rules that hold back everyone in the tribe equally.

To me, the reason these are seen as feminist games, is because typically in the past, you would expect only strong main male characters. Sure, Tomb Raider is an exception, but clearly there is a push to get more strong female characters into the limelight, in all media, and so that change is seen to be connected with the more radical feminist movements in everyday life. I would agree that no doubt it's part of the reason, but that doesn't automatically make those games themselves feminist per se.

Last of Us 2 will be interesting to see how it actually turns out. It looks like it could actually go full out feminist, but even if they want to, I get the feeling they will play their cards extremely carefully with all the controversy around the topic right now. I don't see them pulling a Nike, but we'll see.

There are a couple of things that I think are worth clarifying. In the OP, I listed two categories, not one, and that was meant as sort of a thematic hierarchy of feminist qualities, as I see it. The games in the second category are somewhat less compatible with my idea of what feminism is than those in the first category, but still have many pro-feminist elements in my view.

With that said, lesbian feminism (the small school of thought I subscribe to) is considered to be a branch of radical feminism and I would have to agree that there aren't really any video games that clearly and specifically qualify as radically feminist. What I was gauging were like degrees of compatibility with lesbian feminism. I think you will find that feminist ideas exist in the following spectrum...

separatism <----------------------------------------------> integration

...with degrees of radicalism being measured essentially in degrees of female separatism. In this spectrum of ideas, female-only communities obviously represent the most radical end of the spectrum, while intersectionality theory and gender identity politics conversely represent the liberal, more mainstream end of the spectrum. Liberal women want admission to the existing society, radical women are more inclined to try and form their own because they view the existing society as structurally masculinist, i.e. ultimately non-reformable. It's essentially a question of on who's terms positive change for women can be best realized: can we persuade men to afford us an equal station or can we achieve liberation from a male-dominated societies and cultures only on our own terms?

I highlighted the games I did as compatible with my way of thinking on these matters because they focus narratively on relationships between females, and essentially on the cultivation of positive ones; on a sense of sisterhood, if you will. Very few video games (even ones that technically center a woman as the protagonist) actually do that. Strikingly, even many games that use female lead characters won't have any other female characters at all, for example, or might utilize some kind of reverse-traditional trope like the dude in distress scenario or revenge for a murdered brother or husband or boyfriend as their main story arc. Games that actually focus on like promoting positive relationships between females, or just don't include male characters, are rare; far more so than their logical opposites. (In keeping with this, the reason, for example, that Life is Strange falls into the second tier rather than the first with me is because, while the bulk of the story that it tells is about the cultivation of female friendship, the game concludes by portraying that friendship as immoral. In say Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, by contrast, the narrative structure moves along the opposite trajectory, where a pair of seemingly incompatible women learn to work together and become friends.)

If there is one game that I would say is like THE most compatible with my way of thinking about these issues, it would be Gone Home. With its open celebration of early '90s riot grrrl culture (which was generally considered to be on the more radical end of the feminist spectrum ideologically, with its thematic emphasis on universal sisterhood, female naturalism, anti-corporate do-it-yourself culture-building, revolutionary change, and significant degrees of female separatism) and narrative focus on romantic intimacy between girls, I find that game to be especially compatible with my worldview, thematically speaking. That would be really the ultimate existing example of a feminist game, IMO.

ah wonderful, so you subscribe to the form of feminism that wants to deny men the ability to form their own male only business groups and clubs, but that allows women to create their own.



Megiddo said:
 

I mean, in some ways, how? I can't think of a single time in the Portal games where the protagonist being a woman had any sort of effect on the story.  If all that's needed for feminism is a female protagonist then I guess I could see your point. I would think there'd have to be some sort of substance behind it though.  I'd say there's a heck of a lot of enmity at the end of Portal 2. The ending theme is literally "Want You Gone".

Well what that shows is that you know nothing of what it is to be female. I don't know if you remember the old PBS Game/Show program or not, but back when it was around, I thought actually the host, Jamin Warren, did a pretty good job of laying out its pretty extensive feminist narrative credentials (though, as I recently explained in another post on this thread, I don't go as far as he does in proclaiming the Portal games to be like THE feminist masterwork of gaming; that title, as I explained in that post, belongs to Gone Home, I believe). I've done a fair amount of writing on this thread today already, so I'll just refer you to his IMO pretty smart video on that subject if that's okay:






contestgamer said:
 

ah wonderful, so you subscribe to the form of feminism that wants to deny men the ability to form their own male only business groups and clubs, but that allows women to create their own.

Personally, in my view of it, for-profit business corporations don't have any natural rights and, if they must be allowed to exist, should be treated as public utilities. (You will find me to be an opponent of the profit system.) As to non-profit private organizations like clubs, shelters, and so forth, I certainly have no objection to male-only ones existing.



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I mean, yes, I know nothing of what it is to be female. I watched the Youtube video. There is nothing in Portal that makes the game any different as a female protagonist than it would if it were a male protagonist. If being a blank slate mute protagonist is a win for feminism then hooray for it? I would have thought something that actually championed women would be considered a 'feminist masterpiece' for gaming but apparently not. I admit I was wrong. Funny that people theorize Caroline/Glados as Chell's mother though. Mothers typically don't try to kill their children after all. But maybe that's also viewed as a positive by women?

Last edited by Megiddo - on 11 September 2018

Jaicee said:

...

I think you can have certain subject matter without needing to sort it into a certain genre based on content.  Where others see agendas, I see plot.  I'm of the mind the mind that as a creator, you can make whatever you want.  There is tact involved with telling a story and beating someone over the head with your message.   However simply covering a specific subject matter with your story is just that.  People are too sensitive.  I am a black guy who loves guys.  I never have an issue with viewing a story that isn't explicitly about me.  That is why it is so difficult for me to understand folks who have problems with women, men, blacks whites,  gays whatever.  Its a game.  You are stepping into shoes of another character.  I tend to take the content for what it is.



Megiddo said:

I mean, yes, I know nothing of what it is to be female. I watched the Youtube video. There is nothing in Portal that makes the game any different as a female protagonist than it would if it were a male protagonist. If being a blank slate mute protagonist is a win for feminism then hooray for it? I would have thought something that actually championed women would be considered a 'feminist masterpiece' for gaming but apparently not. I admit I was wrong. Funny that people theorize Caroline/Glados as Chell's mother though. Mothers typically don't try to kill their children after all. But maybe that's also viewed as a positive by women?

Okay, there were quite a few points to that video actually, not just that Chell is female.

I can see now that you have no interest in having a productive conversation so much as in "winning" this debate, so I will leave you be. Later.



leedlelee said:
Megiddo said:

Gotcha, so there not being any men present makes it a feminist game. Appreciate the insight.

I honestly can't think of many video games where a female protagonist is dominated by their struggle with their father/husband/children.  I would think the more tropey thing to do would be that women only exist to get rescued by the male protagonist, like Zelda or the various Mario princesses as that's something that seems far more common to me.

Now I'm wondering if the various Japanese "yuri" erotic games would be considered feminist because they do not have any men present.

It's not that men are not present, it's that they are not there to create a dynamic where the focus is on the woman's sexuality or fertility...

The damsel in distress is most certainly THE trope of all tropes; I bring up the other tropes not because thy are super prevalent in video games, but because you will commonly see them in books, movies, and TV...

A good feminist character who interacts with men would be Bayonetta...

Yes, she's extremely sexual, and male gamers may find it appealing, but she is in control of her sexuality; she is not sexual in order to get gratification or validation from men, she's constantly "feeling her oats" as a drag queen would say...

She loves her body and her sexuality but it's not central to the story or driving the story forward in a manner that makes the plot unrelatable; basically, she's more than her sexuality...

i would say the overconfident woman that for some strange reason manages to look extremely sensual but still overpowering all the men around her is quite a common trope in media. 

these tropes exist for a reason, usually as a form of escapism to a common, relatable fantasy that portions of the population share.

the ones you mentioned previously in which somehow a woman's sexuality (i would say affection) is a driving plot point would come from men's innate desire to be protective of their partner or desired partner.

all these and many other are plot devices, tried and true, that work for a reason. enough people review themselves in them to make them meaningful for the collective subconscience of the population.

these are especially prevalent in story heavy games where hopefully the point is to generate some emotional response from the target audience. 

 

to sum it up, i see these tropes mentioned with a certain air of desdain, like for some reason a work of art will be better for not using them. while I would agree a too heavy reliance on them can sometimes be a cover for lazy writing, when used effectively they are probably the best mean to convey an idea to another human being that may then more easily "put on the shoes" of whatever character being portrayed. 



Jaicee said:
Megiddo said:

I mean, yes, I know nothing of what it is to be female. I watched the Youtube video. There is nothing in Portal that makes the game any different as a female protagonist than it would if it were a male protagonist. If being a blank slate mute protagonist is a win for feminism then hooray for it? I would have thought something that actually championed women would be considered a 'feminist masterpiece' for gaming but apparently not. I admit I was wrong. Funny that people theorize Caroline/Glados as Chell's mother though. Mothers typically don't try to kill their children after all. But maybe that's also viewed as a positive by women?

Okay, there were quite a few points to that video actually, not just that Chell is female.

I can see now that you have no interest in having a productive conversation so much as in "winning" this debate, so I will leave you be. Later.

There honestly were not.

The points brought up in that video were.

1) Chell is a badass female

2) It subverted expectations (Because female protagonists are rare and every other character in the Orange Box was male [except for Alyx but I guess HL2 doesn't count])

3) Something about Glados being in captivity because scientists thought the AI was too dangerous.

4) Rat man

5) A baseless fan theory about how apparently Glados/Caroline is Chell's mother.

6) Turrets singing!

I don't think I could come up with an argument lacking more substance on a topic if I even tried.