Welcome to Stereotype City
By Tara Roth on August 22nd, 2012 (37 comments)
There is a little known land, just a step outside of our world. It is in this place, that everything that has ever or will ever be conceived is born and lives for all eternity. Some have called it Imaginationland, but it really has no name other than what we conceive to give it. Within Imaginationland is a place that I like to call: Stereotype city. Stereotype city is a place where there are white people in American flag shirts that roll along the streets on wheelchairs, drool dribbling down their chins and guzzling gallons of soda while they complain about their Diabeetus. It’s a place where black people waddle around in their sagging pants, eating fried chicken and yelling Ebonics to one another. A place where Asians hide inside their homes, burning candles to save money and doing math problems. Yes, it is the place where all stereotypes reside.
Within Stereotype City is the Sexism district. This is a place where werds r herrrrd, people fuck like rabbits, and there are explosions every 15 seconds. Here all the women are twenty pounds underweight with big tits and long legs. They don’t have jobs, but spend a lot of time shopping and putting on makeup. The men here in the Sexism district are all large, muscled, testosterone fueled meat heads that like big guns, big cars, sex with skinny big boobed women and blowing shit up. They have jobs, but they never go to them and yet still buy a new monster truck every year.
It all seems rather ridiculous but this imaginary land really isn’t that much different from some of the tripe we’re fed from the entertainment industry. The whole sexism topic is coming up more often in gaming news thanks to an increasing number of female developers and gamers entering the field. This is a tough idea to describe but here it goes: My biggest problem with stereotypical portrayals is that there is little to contrast it with. Always showing the same images without providing contrast encourages people to act out those stereotypes because they look like normal behavior. You may think it’s just idiots that would believe that shit, but all kids are idiots and they’re growing up with it.
When I was growing up, I was told: “A woman has to marry a guy who is as smart or smarter than she is otherwise the relationship won’t last.” Or the short version: Guys only like dumb girls. That was the 1990’s, not the 50’s, but the idea was heralded as truth and is consistently reinforced in the media, including games. Let’s look at a common example:
In Lollipop Chainsaw you have a main character that is a scantily clad, just-became-legal cheerleader who’s costumes vary from sexy to how-does-this-not-raise-the-game-rating. The main thing I want to point out here is that Juliet is mentally vacuous. This is a game that feels like a bunch of writers got together and said: “Ok, we’re targeting men. We’ll make a game about barely-legal cheerleaders because guys are sex addicts (particularly when there is untarnished flesh to be had) and will buy anything they can wank to.” If it’s true that they designed Juliet to be appealing to men (just taking a guess here) then they specifically made her an idiot. Why? Because guys only like dumb girls. A sixteen year old girl, trying to attract men, is going to be looking for role models and because there is no variety out there - vacuosity is the only model she’s going to find. Thankfully, Juliet is an extreme example and there are many female characters that don’t follow the idiot model, but nearly all of them operate somewhere in the self-heating, animate, sex-toy spectrum. Not exactly the model you want a 16 year old to be following.
So now lets look at men. In the Sexism district, men have no feelings. If they cry, it is a single, manly tear for their mother after she’s been brutally murdered by 1000 ninja soldiers. As he wipes a dollop of blood off of his bulging bicep he lets out an anguished roar, has some gratuitous random sex, and then he’s off for VENGEANCE.
In Imaginationland, male virility is directly tied to their sense of self worth, but here in reality, sex is controlled tighter than a fat roll in a size 2 corset. If you go by the examples of the media, you’d think that all you’d have to do to pick up chicks is... well... just show up really. In reality I imagine the vast majority of teenage boys learn about the act of sex by watching porn on the internet (boy their first time must be a disappointment) and after the first couple of unsuccessful attempts at picking up girls, I’m sure the whole experience must feel like nailing jello to a tree. Enter the dating sims. Now exit the dating sims because they’re written by nerdy male Japanese game writers which is beyond a doubt one of the worst subgroups to get this advice from. The phrase: “the blind leading the blind” somehow doesn’t convey the idea well enough. Maybe the crippled, blind, deaf and slightly confused leading the blind. So you now have women who are supposed to be sexy, men who are supposed to have sex with anything that breathes, and a society that says “You can’t have sex unless it’s under these specific restrictions.” No wonder we’re fucked up.
There is an easy fix to this crap ye future developers: Don’t be seduced into thinking the player will only like a “sexy” character. I’m not necessarily campaigning for a toon that is so morbidly obese they can roll faster than they can walk (Fat Princess meets Katamari Damacy), but there is such a broad spectrum of body types, personalities and behaviors that it seems almost criminal not to explore them in your characters.
In the mean time, stop it with this shit:
Seriously, just stop it.
Tara is a part time writer and full time scientist living and working in San Francisco, CA.
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