Let’s not insult our collective intelligence by stating that misogyny doesn’t exist in gaming; it’s more a question to what extent? How much of it can be attributed to conditioned ignorance as opposed to deliberate female antithesis? Are many merely differentiated by inadvertent preferences to what accurately depicts a hero/heroine? Is there a collaborative plot by male driven studios to subvert female heroism? If a tree falls in the woods and there was no one there to hear it, who would care less? A male or female? These are all probing and pertinent areas for lamentation, but largely inconclusive queries that I couldn’t possibly answer with any considered brevity. All I know is that many bloggers better suited to this kind of combustible subject have discussed with great detail the particulars with far more earnest analysis than I can produce, so instead I’m going to discuss a female character I feel has been largely successful in contradicting the trend. I don’t want to get bogged down in the semantics of overused masculinity, the permissive attitude towards female representatives in games or pathological interpretation men present in their depiction of female characters……But I probably will, so for that I apologise.
Resident Evil always had a fair representative ratio of females, bolstered by the likes of Jill valentine and Ada Wong. However speciously absurd the conceived plots became, with Resident Evil 6 deserving its own trial, as well as the scantily absent clothes many were attired in there was always ample commodity for gender equality. Resident Evil 2’s Claire Redfield was a truly balanced deviation from the naturally persistent troupes. She arrives into an inhospitable environment teething with orally reliant assailants, desperate to establish the location of her absent sibling, isolated and under-prepared. She’s scared, vulnerable and confused. Does that diminish her as another helpless female desperately seeking the solace of assertive masculinity? You must be joking! Anyone under such severe circumstances would be just as terrified! Difference being is that she adapts to the irrational situation with surprising rationality. Attired in self crafted jeans shorts and leather jacket that was hardly conservative, but nor was it salacious inditement of the female form. It’s surprising practicality and badassery (a word my spell check doesn’t seem to agree with) was only exemplified by her adeptness with guns and her extreme versatility, and not exploiting explicitly. I couldn’t have done what she did. I would have wilted, hidden in the debris, searched for a way out of the city muttering that “I didn’t like my sister that much anyway!” or just casually ventured to the Winchester and waited for all this to blow over. The ubiquity of its female characters in Resident Evil is so nonchalant that a game consisting entirely of female protagonists would be met with a shrug. But if GTA were to introduce one, it’d be a media cluster sponge. It’s all relative I guess.
“I just don’t get this at all?! I mean how didn’t she stub her toe or something on the concrete?”
There’s a natural assertion that a character, typically female displays overt signs of distress or fear is somehow a derogation of her ability to cope. But just because they are scared shouldn’t precipitate that they are weak. You can have a vulnerable female character without it inducing a chauvinistic characterisation, just as long as it doesn’t diminish someone like Clair’s individuality just because she remarks on how difficult a situation is, any more than it would do if it’s a man. Or even the regressive malady that arbitrarily compounds the systemic misogyny afflicting male represented females, but rather something that undercuts the negative affiliation with the two separate extremes. I can empathise with misrepresentation. When you have the arresting masculinity as false as depictions such as Nathan Drake or Dante, with your spouse suggesting how attractive they are, there is a sedating sense of insecurity that I feel from that. You have Disney movies convey palatial princesses as merely the conduit for a masculine prince with suave troupe to save the helpless feminine. So perhaps it’s not about the instigation of realistic representation of a female gamer, but a fairer reflection. When I see a female like black widow, a 5ft, 9 stone assassin hurling assailants like they were paper air planes I don’t think “Well, she wouldn’t be able to that?!”. You just think, “wow, she’s kicking ass and looking good doing it!” And before you start criticising me for admiring Scarlet Johanson’s ample butt, the emphasis of cosmetically enhanced anatomy is an overture of gaming customisation we all subversively do, even if we don’t know it. I’ve never met someone that’s aspired to be the hunchback!
“For the longest time I actually believed “Knuckles” was a girl!”
There are moments that determine callous examples of misogynistic disparity and every week there are further instances that provoke these often refuted claims. Presenting the female anatomy as some kind of rarefied, hyper sexualized implement, a kind of naturally occurring weapon against highly suggestible males is one thing, but having such pronounced aesthetics as depicted in MGS V with the quiet is representation of exploitation of the female form. “Expose your cleavage, hold a gun, bite your bottom lip and let the money roll in!” seems to be Konami’s, perhaps even Kojima’s philosophy. Perhaps it’s more misrepresentation as opposed to misogyny, and I certainly believe that significant strides have been made not to endorse these chauvinistic displays of exploitation, indicating a legislation that promotes tolerant and equal representation of femininity, not helpless damsels or androgynous portrayals such as in the Metroid series. For me it’s about equality. Adapting policies to accommodate more rounded characterisation that better reflects the number of female gamers. It’s high time that companies began making a concerted effort to prioritize diversity, I mean what difference would it make to alter a traditionally white male protagonist into Hispanic female? Or any ethnicity for that matter?! Knuckles is the closet thing to a black character the Sonic series has. And he’s red? How about a homosexual character? There are so many dimly illuminated avenues in gaming despite the litany of technical strides made, that it’s strange that culturally gaming really hasn’t progressed as well as it should.
What female characters do you think hold up well? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below. Cheers.