Disney has a lot of problems. At this point, I doubt anyone’s going to argue with this. While ranging from the topics within their films (such as the possible glorification of Stockholm syndrome in Beauty and the Beast) to issues spanning across many films (most notably the fact that characters of color end up spending a majority of their movies in animal form), many have come to understand that big name animation studios are not infallible, no matter how many wishes on a star they make. Recently, Disney has come under well-deserved scrutiny once more as more information comes to light on their upcoming movies, Coco and Moana. While there are many who are rightfully excited to see Disney branch out, adding a more diverse cast of characters to their repertoire, the machinations behind the scene paint a much more problematic picture—one that they themselves need to take a step back from and recognize is kind of fucked up.
Over the weekend I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy, and despite glowingly positive reviews across most of the interwebs, I didn’t particularly like it. I’ve been a little iffy about Marvel’s Phase 2 movies—I especially hated Iron Man 3—so it made me a little nostalgic for the earlier Phase 1 movies, which I had generally liked.
Enter today’s web crush: MediAvengers.
It’s a sad fact that every minority group in any professional field knows: you can’t be just as good as the majority, you have to be better. Women, people of color, and other minority groups are constantly tasked with “proving” their worth. You can never be just as good as straight white men; you have to be better than them to even remotely gain their respect or attention.
We see this a lot in pop culture when female characters are pitted against male characters who are experts at what they do. Irene Adler in the original Sherlock Holmes stories is one good example. It isn’t enough that she be just as intelligent and cunning as Sherlock; she has to be better than him. She has to beat him in order to prove herself to the audience. It’s the same with physical power as well. Many female comic book characters are mocked by their male counterparts for not being as strong as they are, or the women are warned away from training with the men because they might get hurt. Then, the women must prove that not only can they handle fighting with men, but that they are more competent than them at fighting. This is best demonstrated by Stephanie Brown as Spoiler, Robin, and even Batgirl; she was hardly ever accepted as a “real” superhero by Batman and even on occasion Tim Drake, and had to constantly attempt to prove herself to them. If the female character cannot prove this, then she is deemed unworthy of working with the men, even if it is obvious that she could hold her own.
The message here is pretty clear: a woman must be better than a man in order to be considered the man’s equal. And that’s pretty fucked up when you think about it.
Yet we see the same sort of narrative play out in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels between Freddy, Lawrence, and Christine.
In any type of entertainment, advertising is one of the necessary evils of the trade. In the more indie scenes like YouTube—although I hesitate to call it indie these days—making the decision to monetize one’s channel is almost treated like an offense against the purity of the art. No matter what viewers may think, people do like getting paid for their efforts. And for the most part, advertising affiliates and subsidiaries don’t actually impact the quality or content of the videos they pay for. However, sometimes things can go wrong. In the case of Polaris’s newest venture, dreadfully and horridly wrong.
For fans of Let’s Players such as Game Grumps, Markiplier, and TotalBiscuit, the monetized conglomerate of gamers and gaming news on YouTube known as Polaris isn’t anything new or particularly amazing. It’s almost frightening how quickly the group gained power and popularity, to be completely honest, but not entirely surprising. (With the sudden Let’s Play boom, companies would have to be stupid not to try and capitalize on the audience.) I’m not a fan of the channel itself per sé, but its content is usually good, if not entertaining. In fact, it’s really one of the main places where viewers can see an equal distribution of male and female gamers. And get this, they even interact with each other. It’s fucking amazing.
If nothing else, Polaris is clearly comprised of people that do their damndest to make sure all types of gamers are presented, and given their subscriber count of 500,000, this can have a dramatic impact on the perception of gamers as a whole (it’s not just a sausage fest, isn’t that obvious by now?). The channel doesn’t go out of its way to promote equality; it just happens. So when higher ups at Polaris decided to create a show about indie game development—dubbed GAME_JAM—that happened to include two very talented women in the industry, the point was clearly to showcase these ladies’ talents as developers, not to have token females.
If there’s one thing we gaming reviewers at LGG&F can agree on, it’s that there needs to be more diversity in video games. This isn’t some revelation I’m pulling out of my ass: we’ve been saying it since the start, whether it be more people of color placed in the spotlight, women being allowed to have characterization beyond the easy pitfalls of tropes, or any representation of the LGBTQ+ community. Basically any character that’s not a chiseled, cishet, 5 o’clock shadow-ed white dude. Cries for a wider cast of characters have echoed across the subculture for what feels like eons, but the fact remains that until the industry decides to take up the mantle, the opportunities for change will be limited to break-out indie hits. However, my conscientious readers, we may be on the precipice of a new dawn. That is to say, the industry may have just had a breakthrough.
Just a few days ago at the Games Developer Conference in San Francisco, Manveer Heir, a gameplay designer for BioWare Montreal, took the stage in front of a packed room to deliver a panel entitled ‘Misogyny, Racism and Homophobia: Where do video games stand?’. During the panel, Heir called out the Western games industry for clinging too closely to the AAA game formula of white straight dudes saving the girl and doing cool things, and called for a change in not only how the games industry forms their future stories, but also how they view their audience. In a wise move, Heir reassured his audience that his speech wasn’t made so he could waggle a disapproving finger at his fellow game devs; instead it was to be seen as a nudge to an industry that has grown all too comfortable in their safe little niche. It’s a nudge well-needed, however.
In the past month, two well-known figures in the gaming industry have departed for apparently a similar reason, causing a noticeable disturbance in the force. At the end of July, the producer of the quirky indie game Fez, Phil Fish, halted production on the anticipated sequel, packed his bags, and left. Just like that. More recently (as in last week) one of Bioware’s senior writers, Jennifer Helper, left her position to pursue freelance work. While of course there are many differing aspects to the reasons why they left, I think it’s safe to assume that both occurrences, while not the reason in particular, share one unfortunate similarity: they were both being harassed by fans.
It’s really a double edged sword when an audience realizes how much power they have over content providers. The same audience that can let developers know when and where a game-breaking glitch occurs can also be the audience that tells the developers that their children should have been aborted and that the world would be much better if they killed themselves. But what causes such a disparity? What is it that allows people to think that this kind of negative activity is allowed? I think the problem is two-fold: anonymity and entitlement.
“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”
Around Halloween I tend to hear women say one of two things; either:
I wanna be a sexy [insert costume name here]!
Oh my God, there are so many slutty costumes. I can’t believe anyone even wears these.
Every Halloween women’s costumes become a big deal and it seems that everyone is talking about them. As the Mean Girls quote above explains, Halloween is a time for girls/women to dress like “total sluts.” Now I don’t want to suggest that women who wear sexy Halloween costumes are sluts. First of all, I hate the connotations of that word. Second of all, I am not about to go around slut-shaming other women. If you want to dress in a costume that is revealing, that is fine with me. I can’t say that I have never worn a revealing costume (one year, I was a sexy sailor). Everybody likes looking sexy. There is nothing wrong with sexy.
That being said, I do think society has put more pressure on women to wear sexy costumes than men.