October 20, 2011

Makes us women and Batmen

A somewhat healthy discussion on the level of misogyny in Batman: Arkham City made its way to MetaFilter today. I've been, let's go with "psychotically obsessed" about getting this game for months and I'm about 8-10 hours into it since it arrived Tuesday. Consider the rest of this post a big spoiler warning but again, I haven't played much of it either so I'm going with what I know so far. So please don't email me anything with spoilers either unless you'd prefer to never have me read anything you write again. I also feel like I should point out, perhaps hypocritically, in advance that none of this changes that I love the game. I just feel like it's a valid point worth highlighting and hope that mistakes can be corrected in the future.

To be honest, I didn't really notice the main argument being raised here--that the word "bitch" flows like a comma throughout the game--and I imagine now it's all I'm going to hear as I play it. Or maybe I won't. I understand and appreciate the points being made here but while this comes off as a cop-out I really don't see how anyone could have fully played a game that came out two days ago and carefully prepared a comprehensive feminist examination of the game based on its entirety. Myself included.

What I am seeing here, however, is an (understandable) assessment of the first few hours of gameplay and the previously-released promotional material for the game. For example, I only saw today a pre-release trailer that revealed Catwoman as a playable character and everything about it is more sexually evocative than the gameplay so far. The music, the ass close-up shots--they're just not in the game anywhere to that extreme. I haven't seen the "kiss, followed by body slam" move yet, but if that's really in the game I'll be surprised and kind of disappointed. It's sexual marketing and I don't mind if and when a handful of teenagers get disappointed.

That said, the constant "bitch" references are there. As are conversations between thugs throughout the game that have already gotten repetitive. Maybe it's understandable in the sense of the plot (lots of criminals locked up in an abandoned city with little else to do) but man, do these guys talk about how they want to sleep with, or in some cases flat-out rape, Harley Quinn. They talk about it a lot.

I honestly see both sides of the argument here, which mostly boil down to "this isn't necessary" and "that's what evil rapists and murders would actually say." And yeah, the truth is, "that argument" vis-a-vis there are also people in the game who murdered hundreds of people sort of still applies here. But as far as what I don't like in the game in terms of sexualizing characters, it's this:

I have reached the point in the game (it's early on) where Harley Quinn first shows up. If you've seen any of the promotional material, you'd know she is wearing a different outfit than the first game, which itself was different from her original attire in the cartoon and comics. So the very first thing Harley Quinn says in the game--her very first line-- is a comment about her own new outfit.

Which is the first thing she said in the first Arkham Asylum game. In other words, In both Arkham games, the very first thing they have one of the major villains of the game and perhaps at this point DC universe in general say is... "check out this outfit that shows off my tits."

Now, you can ascribe the constant "bitch" talk to sloppy writing or following the same group of thugs for too long or any other combination of coding and laziness, but with Harley, this is just deliberate. Not a single other character in the game (or for that matter, the first game) takes time to point out they are wearing particular clothing or look different than how they might have looked in the comics. Batman's suit gradually wears and tears throughout gameplay to show time progression, and no one mentions it. But it was apparently of vital importance to point out that Harley Quinn is now in skintight leather. I found this epically more misogynist and offensive to female gamers and fans of a previously-awesome female comic character than the concept of convicted killers and rapists not being sensitive to women.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:05 PM

A blasthole from the past

Oh man, I was surprised to hear a name this morning I hadn't heard in years, and that it was still a name attached to a gaping asshole.

So, my fun little Inside Baseball story: when Campus Progress (the nonprofit I used to work for in DC) first launched in 2004, one of the first things we did was try to promote a campus tour of a small documentary film made by Steven Greenstreet. We sent him to college campuses across the country to do a Q&A with students and put him up in hotels and expensed him. The relationship went sour when we started getting expense invoices back from him with hotel bills that included charges for pornographic movies. Then he called one of my female co-workers a "F___ C___" during a phone call. And that's the last time anyone at a major progressive organization ever worked with Steven Greenstreet again.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:29 PM

October 17, 2011

"View: Paul"

Latest comic - click here!

This week's comic is in no way an endorsement of Ron Paul, who as noted in the first panel is a lunatic. I do however think he serves as a great example of the one-sidedness of the Occupy Wall Street coverage, which decided very quickly that left-leaning people plus cardboard signs equals let's kick hippies on the teevee for a week and a half.

The coverage of OWS is akin to picking the craziest and most fringe of the Republican candidates and declaring that they universally embody the wide range of the leading thoughts available to primary voters. That is unfair to the diversity of the GOP field which actually offers a range, anywhere from "hate Mexicans" all the way to "hate Muslims." Look, I realize that complaining that one bad apple pooping on one police car ruins the bunch is the shocked-that-gambling-is-going-on-here of the century, but when the media condescendingly asks "what are you protesting about?" and they get a coherent, educated answer, can they at least pretend they actually heard it?

Now some of you may argue that Ron Paul might not have been the best choice as a metaphor for the most crazy of the Republican candidates, but I figured it works because 1. Paul is all but ignored on television and 2. I'm pretty sure he's okay with the idea of being an inappropriate symbol for something that probably doesn't make much sense in the first place.

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Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:58 PM