How Sexist Is Your Favorite Video Game?

The various faces of Juliet Starling, the protagonist of Lollipop Chainsaw.<a href="http://theclassicgamer.com/lollipop-chainsaw-review/">TheClassicGamer.com</a>

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Hollywood movies, television, and video games are meant to entertain and transport us outside of our narrow realities, but what if our favorite escapes are perpetuating damaging stereotypes? In her video series, Feminist Frequency—which has garnered her some extreme hateful backlash—pop-culture critic Anita Sarkeesian tackles unflattering portrayals of women in media. You may recognize some of the following tropes. Quotes are from Sarkeesian.

1. The Damsel in Distress

A female character who is “placed in a perilous situation from which she cannot escape on her own and must then be rescued by a male character.” Examples: Zelda in The Legend of Zelda, Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros: The Great Mission to Save Princess Peach, Krystal in Star Fox Adventures for Gamecube.

2. The Ms. Male Character

“The female version of an already established or default male character,” usually identified by long eyelashes, lipstick, hair ribbons, heels, or the color pink. Examples: Ms. Pac-Man, Amy Rose from Sonic the Hedgehog, Minnie Mouse, Peb and Pab from Bubble Bobble, and the pink boulder from Giant Boulder of Death.

3. Women in Refrigerators

A female character’s rape, murder, or victimization is the impetus “to move the male character’s story arc forward.” Examples: The Green Lantern, whose protagonist finds his girlfriend’s body in a fridge; the Max Payne games, wherein Max seeks revenge for his murdered wife and child; and Braveheart, whose Scottish protagonist (Mel Gibson) launches a revolution after the king executes his wife.

4. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

A bubbly, childlike muse who exists to help the troubled male protagonist escape “doom and gloom”. Examples: Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer, Natalie Portman in Garden State.

5. The Evil Demon Seductress

“A supernatural creature, usually a demon, robot, alien, or vampire, most often disguised as a sexy human female.” Examples: Isabel Lucas in Transformers 3, Laura Harris in The Faculty, Natasha Henstridge in Species, Poison Ivy in the Batman series, the fembots in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

6. The Straw Feminist

“A deliberately created, exaggerated characterization of a feminist that is used to undermine and ridicule the feminist movement.” Examples: The villains in the last season of Veronica Mars, Marcy Darcy in Married with Children, Phil and Lil’s mother in The Rugrats, Femme Fatale in The Powerpuff Girls.

7. The Mystical Pregnancy

A female character is impregnated by supernatural reproductive technology. Examples: Skully in The X-files, Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, Deanna Troy from Star Trek, the Next Generation (who is impregnated by a ball of space energy).

8. Women as Decoration

“Female bodies exploited to infuse gritty or racy texture into game-worlds…These virtual women are often programmed as minimally interactive sex objects to be used and abused by the player.” Examples: Popular franchises like Hitman, Need for Speed, Assassin’s Creed, and Grand Theft Auto.

8. Women as Reward

Wherein the successful game player is rewarded for accomplishments with “unlockable hyper-sexualized costumes for female characters” or racy “cinematics and/or hidden items or artwork.” Examples: Especially prevalent in combat-heavy series’ like Dead or Alive, Tekken, and Soul Calibur.

9. The Fighting Fuck Toy

This “hyper-sexualized, hyper-violent female character presents the illusion of female empowerment but is designed as a sexual fantasy.” Examples: Tomb Raider‘s Lara Croft, Juliet Starling from Lollipop Chainsaw, and the title character in the game Bayonetta.

Click here to read our chat with Sarkeesian.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate