Anita Sarkeesian, the Damsel in Distress and why I’m embarrassed to play video-games

The other day, I was talking on the phone with a girl I had spoken with for a while. She had gotten off work and wanted to talk before going to bed and I was happy to hear from her.

“So, what are you doing?” she asked me.

“I’m messing around on the internet,” I said.

Except, I wasn’t. I was playing Far Cry 3.

I lied because I was ashamed. I don’t like being a white, heterosexual male gamer because as a group, we seem pretty awful. We act like we’re victims because we’re fans of a medium that caters to our basest instincts and when someone calls us on our generally misogynistic, insular shit, we get all up in arms and it’s terrible.

Anita_Sarkeesian_smilingFew people have stirred up a shit-storm amongst the gaming community as much as the late, great Roger Ebert and Anita Sarkeesian, the host of Feminist Frequency’s fascinating “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” web-series, hosted on YouTube.

I think Sarkeesian scares gamers because she’s a woman and that hurts more than anything else. As I previously stated, gamers much like comic book fans, are an insular group, one dedicated to a very specific fandom which attracts a very specific fan and not one that’s welcoming to people who are willing to join or comment on the fandom itself.

I wish it wasn’t the case because Sarkeesian has a lot of interesting things to say in the first two parts of the “Damsel in Distress” series so far. The focus of both parts is more on the proliferation of the trend and less on reasoning behind said trends. There’s no stopping either of the tropes because they’re so embedded into our culture and pop appetites. It seems as if Sarkeesian realizes this and she more than anything else hopes that developers realize the power their products can have to change perceptions of women in pop culture. She also brings up the notable and incredibly interesting issue of the trope speaking just as much to the motivation of male characters as it does to the objectification of females, with characters such as Max Payne in “Max Payne 3” and Kratos in the “God of War” series are motivated less by the rescue of the women than in reclaiming their manhood and regaining their traditionally prescribed masculinity.

But not everyone seems to want to listen. Before the first entry of the series was published some dick made a disgusting flash game about viciously beating Sarkeesian and the abuse didn’t stop there. Her previous video on the trope attracted an unbelievable amount of replies, from nebbish, angry assholes who describe her as having “eyes that make you want to punch her in the face,”to some guy who loves taking quotes out of context and misses all the subtlety, to noted “that guy in your freshman dorm who’s never showered or fucking shut up since we moved in” male rights ass-hole and patronizing YouTube personality, The Amazing Atheist. It was all embarrassing but inevitable and I was ready to expect the worst when her next entry dropped.

It went worse than expected. The new video, released May 28 and embedded at the top of this post, was briefly taken down by YouTube after it was repeatedly flagged by harassers. It’s been brought, thankfully, back but the criticism hasn’t stopped. Gawker’s video-game arm, Kotaku, has hosted one of the liveliest, most ridiculous debates of Sarkeesian’s work and is the host of some of the most gruesome misogyny I’ve seen on the site.

Picture 2 Picture 4There’s a defensiveness to many of the comments that isn’t uncommon when this sort of debate occurs and it’s something we’ve seen before in things such as the “Fake Nerd Girl” and cosplay discussions several months ago.

I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with Sarkeesian, feminists or any critic of a work. That’s a person’s right. I was a little uncomfortable with the way she seemed to target Shigeru Miyamoto for Nintendo’s early use of the damsel in distress trope but I understood her point, accepted her view and didn’t feel the need to attack her point or claim she was trying to destroy my precious toys.

Picture 1I’ve asked far too many people far too many times to be more accepting of new people into video game and comic book fandom. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to ask people to consider their privileges, their prejudices and their preconceived notions of gender. I’m sick of doing that. I’ve done it for too fucking long. I just want people to listen, to think and to be respectful, to consider the perspective of someone who may have a different opinion or experience of themselves. Don’t attack, don’t redefine the argument, don’t question intentions, just consider. And act like a fucking human.

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“We just took out the Avengers without lifting a finger. How do you think you’ll do?” – Marvel Now leans into the home stretch

DN_UXM2_1Marvel Now is approaching the end of the relaunch with only Brian Wood’s awesome sounding all-female X-Men launching later this month. Before we get into one of my most anticipated titles of the year, let’s go through the last batch of new and relaunched titles. With the relaunch nearly done, after the release of “X-Men,” we’ll get one last review and a look back to see if any series have changed from when I first took a look.

Guardians of the Galaxyguardians_of_the_galaxy_001_2013_01I was extremely impressed by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven’s awesome Point One issue of the series and it’s been a hell of a fun ride since. With only two proper issues of the story out, Bendis’ influences are clear. His Guardians are one part Star Wars, one part Star Trek, a whole lot of angsty father-son drama and a core cast of hyper-violent shit talkers.

Between Iron Man’s retorts and Rocket Raccoon shouting, “Blam! Murdered you!” after every kill, it’s a fun group of characters, even when Peter Quill’s “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME, DAD” drama gets a little too heady. Add McNiven’s wide-screen sensibility to the awesome orbital action sequences and this is a summer popcorn comic of the highest order.

The Verdict – “The Guardians” are a hell of a lot of fun, one of Marvel’s standout action comics and a perfect fit for Bendis’ chatty dialogue. Definitely give this one a try.

NovaNova_2_Preview2“Nova” suffers quite a bit in relation to “Guardians.” With another abandoned child finding himself to be a potential savior of the cosmos, Jeph Loeb is giving it is all to make protagonist and future Nova Corps hero, Sam, stand out.

It’s a classic origin story and it has a real cartoony style that makes the whole thing a lot of fun but it just doesn’t feel unique. Where Rocket Raccoon is a fun, pivotal character in “Guardians,” here he feels superfluous and forced. It’s clear big things are coming for the series, what with a  Chitauri invasion and a double cross from Gamora, but wake me up when that happens.

The Verdict: If you were asking to read the early issues of Ultimate Spider-Man but in space, this is pretty much exactly what you wanted, you weirdo.

Secret Avengerssecretavengers1You really have to give it to Marvel, they know how to cross promote the hell out of their movies but “Secret Avengers” may be the most blatant example of this. It’s clear the only reason the characters were chosen is to follow up on interest from the movies and that laziness shows. Here, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Agent Coulson and Director Maria Hill do secret missions that have to stay super secret for entirely unexplained reasons. SHIELD tries to destabilize a group of villains trying to rule a country, pull off recon in Madripoor and fight AIM scientists but the nature of the world’s dumbest plot device means none of the agents remember the mission.

The first three issues are incoherent messes, filled equally with characters who behave like ciphers and twists that were both inevitable and unexplainable. Why does Fury shoot Hawkeye in the first issue? Did they really need to use Taskmaster to overthrow the Axis? How is AIM not in trouble for blatantly murdering government officials at an international expo? I don’t know and we shouldn’t care.

The Verdict – “Secret Avengers” is right at the bottom of the Marvel Now barrel next to “Cable and the X-Force.” I’d rather take a memory erasing bullet than pick up another issue.

Uncanny X-MenUncannyX-men1_04bendisIf “All New X-Men” is the homage to the X-Men at its soapiest, “Uncanny X-Men” is Bendis’ take on Chris Claremont at his preachiest. Cyclops’ inner circle start aggressively recruiting new members and prepare for what Scott sees as an inevitable need for mutants to defend themselves. It’s a reasonable basis for the book and it provides an interesting counterpoint to the optimism of “All New X-Men,” and “Wolverine and the X-Men.”

It’s a very chatty book too, which does a bit of a disservice to the exceptional Chris Bachalo’s manga inspired super heroics. It’s a stunning, stylistic book and when Bendis’ political grandstanding meshes with Bachalo’s pencils, like it does wonderfully when Cyclops sees that his new team can tangle with Earth’s mightiest heroes, it’s like no other super-hero book on the market. Still, a lot more work needs to be done building up the book’s teenage supporting cast and it’ll be interesting to see if Bendis can pull it off.

The Verdict – Definitely worth a try. There’s a lot to love and it’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

Wolverinewolverine-v5-001-2013-digital-nahga-empire-13I like Wolverine as a character but I understand the criticism. His backstory is silly and ridiculously angsty, he doesn’t bring any natural drama to a story with his healing factor, he’s over exposed; all that’s pretty reasonable. It had never really bothered me until now though in Paul Cornell’s action-mystery story.

With only two issues on shelves, it’s a bit of a hard title to judge but it doesn’t feel necessary or all that interesting. Logan’s tracking down a kid who’s maybe a robot or possessed or something and SHIELD is trying to figure out what in the hell is actually going on. Where “Savage Wolverine” is a pulp-action ride, “WaTXM” is a stylish, fun look at the X-Men through the ages and “Wolverine MAX” gives a gripping, mature look at a man who’s haunted by his past and battles his demons for every piece of his fractured identity, this book puts our hero into a place that gives him no identity and no spin on the hero we all know so well.

The Verdict – Cornell put out one of my favorite books of last year and I’m sticking with it to see if the recently announced “Killable” arc will bring any new style to a flavorless series.