My thoughts on Tropes Vs. Women, part 2: Two interesting examples
I just wanted to point out two examples which Anita Sarkeesian used in her second Tropes Vs. Women video which I found interesting. First is an example from Prey, in which you play as Tommy, a young Cherokee spirit warrior who, along with his girlfriend Tan, is abducted by an alien structure called the Sphere. Ms. Sarkeesian, as part of her point on having the male protagonist “mercy kill” a female in order to objectify them, shows Tan, who has had a grotesque beast grafted onto her torso, begging Tommy to kill her. The way in which clip is shown completely strips out the larger context, which I will explain.
At this point in the game, Mother, the human female (make note of that) who is in control of the Sphere’s god-like powers, has been maniputavely training Tommy to become her replacement, using the promise of Tommy being able to rescue Tan as the means to do so. Even before this point, Tommy has been shooting through hordes of the Sphere’s warriors, murderous spirits, and hostile robots, to find Tan. He continually shows concern for her in his dialogue, and as the game progresses, he is shown to be intensely focused on rescuing Tan – to the point of ignoring his now-immortal grandfather’s advice of training to face the horrors he will encounter physically, mentally, and psychologically. Mother notices this, and uses it to drive him up to the top of the Sphere’s Spire.
Here are two videos, both part of a complete walkthrough of Prey, which shows the actual event and the immediately-preceding events leading up to it.
Before I make my point, let me make one thing clear: having the player mercy-kill Tan, regardless of context, is something I greatly dislike and abhor because it completely ignores the person’s dignity. No one has the right to take away someone’s life in this fashion.
Unlike what Ms. Sarkeesian claims is being done here, Tommy mercy-killing Tan is not being used to objectify Tan to give him power over her. Instead, it is used to show how completely Tommy is letting Mother – a female antagonist, not a male one – control him. She has been using Tan, along with taunting him along, as a means to get to Tommy, twist his emotions, and transform him into her successor – and in this case, objectify his own girlfriend, which he has never done up until this point, in order to justify her death. Mother even blatantly told Tommy she was doing this to him at several points in the game, yet he was so emotional that he dismissed Mother’s words as merely taunts meant to scare him.
There is another example with Ms. Sarkeesian uses in the second Tropes Vs. Women video, this time as part of her point that sometimes damsels are allowed to help the hero, but only when they’re out of danger. In this example, one from Double Dragon Neon, an 80’s style remake of the original Double Dragon arcade game, has martial arts masters Bill and Jimmy sent on a quest to rescue Billy’s girlfriend Marian from the Black Warriors. She claims the final boss was ‘defeated’ by Marian only because he was incapacitated – again, shown in a way which strips it of its context. (Interestingly, someone else used the exact same clip to argue against Ms. Sarkeesian’s first video, also used in a way which strips it of context.)
At the end of the game, you fight the Black Warriors’ leader, Skullmageddon. At the end of the fight, you knock him off a cliff. As the credits roll, he falls to the abyss below. As he’s about to land at the bottom of the abyss, where, given the amount of punishment he took before, you’d expect to have to fight him again – even if he is sparking and smoking. Instead, he is killed via a punch to the groin by Marian, who, at the beginning of the game, was incapacitated by a punch to the gut by a Black Warrior while distracted by applying makeup using her compact. While you might think this shows Marian to have worked out of her “damsel” position and into a strong woman, what happens next completely destroys that thought by genuinely objectifying her. Now that she’s beaten the boss for you, Bill and Jimmy end up fighting each other for Marian’s affection – and the boss battle is entirely player-controlled. Below, you can find the complete video depicting the above-mentioned events.