Ghostbusters (2016) Review

July 18, 2016

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In the 1989 film Ghostbusters II, Peter, Ray, Winston and Egon discover that “mood slime” is being powered by all the hatred and aggression in New York to bring the city to the brink of yet another ghostly apocalypse. If mood slime were a real thing, the male-entitlement-fueled rage directed at the new Ghostbusters reboot surely would have been enough to open a massive portal to the spirit realm and bring the world as we know it to an end. As it stands, that rage manifested in hate-filled tweets aimed at the film’s director, Paul Feig, and the main cast, especially targeting Leslie Jones, while also earning the film the highest number of dislikes on a movie trailer in YouTube history, all because the beloved franchise had been reimagined with an all-female crew.

The onslaught of aggression toward the remake is not at all surprising to anyone participating in online culture these days, where attacks against women remain a daily occurrence. In fact, online misogyny is so tiresomely predictable that the film anticipated it. In one of its most grimly funny moments, Abby (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin (Kristen Wiig) see a comment left on a YouTube video they have posted: “Ain’t no bitches gonna bust no ghosts.”  (more…)

FREQ #5: Sh*t Franchesca Ramsey Says

July 7, 2016

Each month, FREQ will bring you the latest news and updates from Feminist Frequency, as well as interviews with some of the most inspiring women in media. Our latest issue features an interview with Franchesca Ramsey: a writer, actor and comedian whose work has inspired and entertained us on Youtube, MTV and The Nightly Show.

Make sure you don’t miss out on future issues. Subscribe now to get FREQ delivered directly to your inbox every month!

FREQ #5 - Franchesca Ramsey

Anita Sarkeesian on The New Yorker Podcast

June 24, 2016

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Anita Sarkeesian visited downtown NYC to chat with The New Yorker editor David Remnick on the latest episode of New Yorker Radio Hour. The two discuss Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, the toll of harassment, and our upcoming series, Ordinary Women: Daring to Defy History. You can listen to the full interview below or on The New Yorker website.

Anita Sarkeesian’s critiques of sexism in her Web series “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” made her the victim of online harassment and threats from some in the gaming community, and a central figure of the Gamergate controversy of 2014. But Sarkeesian, who runs the Web site Feminist Frequency, hasn’t quit speaking out about sexism in the gaming world and beyond. She spoke with David Remnick about her new series, “Ordinary Women Daring to Defy History,” which tells the stories of neglected feminist heroes.

Gender Breakdown of Games Showcased at E3 2016

June 17, 2016

After last year’s E3, we produced a gender breakdown of the games showcased at the press conferences held by Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and other companies. There was a lot of discussion during last year’s show about perceived improvements to female representation, and while the numbers indicated that things could have been worse, they also showed that they could be a lot better. 9% of games featured last year centered on playable female protagonists, with 32% centering on playable male protagonists.

This year, however, it’s unfortunately clear that whatever positive momentum may have existed on this front going into last year’s E3 has dissipated. Of the 59 games showcased at press conferences held by Sony, Microsoft, Bethesda and Ubisoft, as well as on the first part of Nintendo’s Treehouse stream, only a paltry two feature exclusively female protagonists, and both of these games were returns from last year’s E3: ReCore and Horizon: Zero Dawn. (Bound is a gorgeous-looking game with a female protagonist coming to PlayStation but it was not featured during the press conference.) Meanwhile, 12 times as many featured games–24 in all–are centered on defined male protagonists or groups of men. These games include the newly announced titles Days Gone, God of War, Dead Rising 4, and Death Stranding.

 

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We were encouraged to see, however, that the showcase of Dishonored 2 once again focused on the playable female character, Emily, and that in the trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda, the female version of protagonist Ryder was featured, whereas with the original Mass Effect trilogy, almost all promotional materials used the male version of Shepard. Dishonored 2 and Mass Effect: Andromeda were two of 29 games in which you either choose to play as male or female characters, or in which the gender of your character or characters appears to be unspecified, such as Fe. Of course, the option to choose is welcome. However, a purely binary understanding of gender was once again on display, with no games indicating the ability to choose from a wider range of gender identities and expressions. Furthermore, the fact that a whopping 12 times as many featured games center exclusively male protagonists than exclusively female ones indicates that the video game industry still has an extremely long way to go before approaching anything resembling gender parity.

This massive discrepancy means that for now, games continue to reinforce the deeply entrenched cultural notion that heroes are male by default. We live in a culture that regularly encourages girls and women to project themselves onto and fully empathize with male characters, but rarely encourages boys and men to fully project themselves onto female characters. When players are encouraged to see a game universe exclusively through the eyes of a humanized female character, it helps challenge the idea that men can’t or shouldn’t identify with women as full human beings.

Games can be a powerful tool for generating empathy. But as long as games continue to give us significantly more stories centered on men than on women, they will continue to reinforce the idea that female experiences are secondary to male ones.

Of course, the games presented during these press conferences don’t reflect the sum total of video games or games culture. They are, however, how the biggest developers and publishers choose to represent themselves at the industry’s largest annual event, and as such, they are a strong indicator of what some of the most powerful forces in the industry consider emblematic of the best and most exciting things that gaming has to offer.

How we came up with our data:

We counted only those upcoming games which were given full trailers, announcements, or demonstrations on stage, so games that only appear briefly in montages or sizzle reels or for which only a very small amount of teaser footage is shown (such as the upcoming Star Wars game from Visceral) are not included.

Survey on combat:

Of the 59 games featured, only 11 are nonviolent or appear as if they might not have mechanics involving combat or violence. (The card games Gwent and Elder Scrolls Legends use cards to symbolize battle, but we opted to count these two as nonviolent games.) In other words, about four out of every five games showcased employ combat mechanics, meaning that the player is either required to or can choose to engage in violence as a means of conflict resolution. (Last year, the ratio of games incorporating violent mechanics was closer to three out of every four.)

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This isn’t about passing judgment, or equating the cartoonish pirate ship battles of Sea of Thieves with the far more realistic gun violence of Ghost Recon Wildlands. Rather, the data is presented simply to indicate how prevalent violence remains as an element in games across the board, because when violence is seen as a core component of game design, it limits our sense of what is possible and of the kinds of stories that can be told. There remains tremendous unexplored potential for games as a medium, and it’s necessary that the industry put more effort into exploring new mechanics and storytelling techniques rather than continuing to rely so heavily on established norms if the medium is ever going to achieve that potential.

Lingerie is not Armor

June 6, 2016

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This episode explores the ways in which female characters are frequently placed in wildly impractical, sexualizing outfits specifically designed to objectify them for the titillation of the presumed straight male player. We then discuss the problems inherent in linking the sexualization of female characters to notions of female empowerment, and examine what positive depictions of female sexuality and sexual desire in games might look like.

LINKS & RESOURCES

For more on the use of sex as a reward for player accomplishment:

For more on the sexual objectification of female characters: 

For more on the male gaze:

For more on sexualizing outfits for female characters in games (as well as a nifty female armor bingo card): 

This is the third episode in season two of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. For more on the format changes accompanying season two, please see our announcement here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/566429325/tropes-vs-women-in-video-games/posts/1469466

Press Image for Media Use: https://www.flickr.com/photos/femfreq/27452057366/

ABOUT THE SERIES
The Tropes vs Women in Video Games project aims to examine the plot devices and patterns most often associated with female characters in gaming from a systemic, big picture perspective. This series will include critical analysis of many beloved games and characters, but remember that it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects. This video series is created by Anita Sarkeesian and the project was funded by 6968 awesome backers on Kickstarter.com

GAMES REFERENCED IN THIS EPISODE
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015)
Bayonetta (2010)
Bayonetta 2 (2014)
Bloodrayne 2 (2004)
Dark Souls 3 (2016)
Dragon’s Crown (2013)
Firewatch (2016)
Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 (2013)
Golden Axe: Beast Rider (2008)
Ride to Hell: Retribution (2013)
The Last of Us: Left Behind (2014)
Mass Effect 3 (2012)
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (2004)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)
Mortal Kombat (2011)
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (2009)
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (2012)
Perfect Dark (2000)
Resident Evil: Revelations (2012)
Smashing the Battle (2016)
Soulcalibur IV (2008)
Street Fighter V (2016)
Street Fighter X Tekken (2012)
Ultra Street Fighter IV (2014)
Whacked! (2002)
The Witcher 3 (2015)
X-Blades (2009)

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FREQ #4: Lindy West – Interview with a Loud Woman

June 2, 2016

Each month, FREQ will bring you the latest news and updates from Feminist Frequency, as well as interviews with some of the most inspiring women in media. Our latest issue features an interview with Lindy West: a writer, editor, fat acceptance activist, and now, the author of a hilarious and incisive new memoir called Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman.

Make sure you don’t miss out on future issues. Subscribe now to get FREQ delivered directly to your inbox every month!

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Adventure Bros: Nathan Drake and the Awkward Adolescence of the Action Adventure Genre

May 16, 2016

By Carolyn Petit

NOTE: This post contains major spoilers for Uncharted 4.

“Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable for players. Even the presence of one female in the group will change their behaviour, so that they’ll act differently. So to give the most natural feeling, to make them feel sincere and honest, having them all the same gender made sense in that way.”

That’s Hajime Tabata, director of Final Fantasy XV, discussing why that game’s core party is made up entirely of men. I thought of Tabata’s words when I was playing Uncharted 4, much of which is a globe-hopping adventure featuring the trio of Nathan Drake, Nate’s brother Sam and his old pal Sully. Nate has lied to his wife, excluding her from the group without even giving her a chance to decide whether she might want to participate. So she must finally force her way in, but when she does, she brings with her all sorts of gendered complications, representing things Nathan has to face but doesn’t really want to, and that, as players, we aren’t inclined to want him to, either. Her presence, as Tabata suggests, does indeed “change” Nate’s “behaviour.” It’s all so much simpler when you’re just adventuring with your bros, amirite?

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FREQ #3: The Many Faces of Tatiana Maslany

May 6, 2016

Each month, FREQ will bring you the latest news and updates from Feminist Frequency, as well as interviews with some of the most inspiring women in media. Our third issue features an interview with Tatiana Maslany, the star of the critically-acclaimed sci-fi television drama Orphan Black.

Make sure you don’t miss out on future issues. Subscribe now to get FREQ delivered directly to your inbox every month!

FREQ #3 - Tatiana Maslany

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

May 5, 2016

By Carolyn Petit

Uncharted 4 opens with the quote “I am a man of fortune and I must seek my fortune.” In the three prior Uncharted games, protagonist Nathan Drake has certainly filled the role of the typical man of fortune, someone with adventure in his blood, for whom the pursuit of gold and glory is the only way of life he understands. The latest and, ostensibly, the last Uncharted game is very much yet another globe-hopping adventure full of climbing things and killing people, but while it fulfills the requirements of the action adventure genre and sometimes feels frustratingly trapped by them, there are also some exciting moments when you feel the game pushing up against the restrictions and expectations of the genre, and when it at least tries to make Drake himself and us as players question whether being a man of fortune is really all it’s cracked up to be. (more…)

Shaking Up Shakespeare’s Balance of Power in the Upcoming Game Elsinore

April 11, 2016

By Carolyn Petit

In Hamlet, almost everybody dies. Even those who aren’t too familiar with Shakespeare’s tragedy know this much. It may as well be set in stone; Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude, Claudius, Polonius, Laertes and others will meet the same fate in every production of Hamlet you ever see, the characters powerless to change the course of events that result in their demise yet again.

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