Damsels Need Not Be Distressed

Anita Sarkeesian, feminist media critic, released her third and final video discussing the Damsel in Distress trope:

Prior to launching the Damsel series, Sarkeesian already had a somewhat popular series on her video blog, Feminist Frequency, that studied tropes in the depiction of women in popular culture; but it was when she decided to focus on the representation of women in video games that things really got interesting, resulting in colorful reactions to Sarkeesian’s work ranging from garden-variety rudeness to threats of physical violence. These negative reactions, in turn, drew interest from people who found Sarkeesian’s work interesting and beneficial, resulting in a massively successful kickstarter project to fund the creation of her video game series.

If you haven’t been following along, it is recommended that you check out Parts One and Two in the series. While her videos do seem to elicit strong reactions, there are some good points being made. For example, Princess Peach saving Mario isn’t really a step in the right direction if she saves him using her PMS. I am disappointed, however, that Sarkeesian makes no mention of Super Mario RPG, as Peach becomes a playable character roughly halfway through the game.

Her analysis wasn’t all negative, though. Sarkeesian applauds games such as Beyond Good & Evil, The Secret of Monkey Island, Where Is My Heart, Sword & Sworcery, and Aquaria, for either avoiding the trope altogether or attempting to do something different with it.

This is just the first trope that Sarkeesian has set out to examine. She has plans to create additional three-part series focusing on numerous other tropes in video games:

  • The Fighting F#@k Toy
  • The Sexy Sidekick
  • The Sexy Villainess
  • Background Decoration
  • Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress
  • Women as Reward
  • Mrs. Male Character
  • Unattractive Equals Evil
  • Man with Boobs
  • Positive Female Characters! 

One need not agree 100% with what Sarkeesian is saying, but the series’ potential to begin a dialogue about the representation of women in video games seems a positive development. It is important to remember that it is becoming more widely accepted to view video games as art and, as such, it is sometimes necessary to critique them; Sarkeesian herself notes at the beginning of each video that is possible to critique a piece of media and still enjoy it.

And, if drawing attention to these issues means that someday we could have a Zelda game where Princess Zelda is the primary playable character, in my mind that can only be a good thing.

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