Tropes Vs. Women Vs. “Research”

Tropes Vs. Women Vs. Research

“I’m sorry. I tried to find the time to be outraged at all of this, but I got sidetracked into saving the Galaxy. My bad.” Image by Sailor Coruscant

I want to open this up first off with saying “calm down,” because I remember how this went the first time we talked about tropes and women and video games all in the same place. Granted, my original idea was to entitle this “DiD2: Lie Harder with a Vengeance,” but then I realized that a good portion of you already had your pitchforks and torches at the ready. I’m really not trying to pick a fight. What would the point of that be, hmm? Get you all riled up and then let you down when you’ve got nothing meaty to really hold onto? Pfft.

If you haven’t heard of the Feminist Frequency video entitled Damsel in Distress: Tropes Vs. Women in Video GamesI did a write-up about it as well as included the video. You should probably go read that and give it a watch before diving into this because, if you don’t, this all seems anti-climactic in the first place.

Don’t worry, kids. We’re not going to get too rowdy here. I know you’re still clutching those torches in your meaty fists, ready to set fire to the rain — but we’re good. All good. Hear me out, okay?

Tropes and Trolls

Why in the sweet Hell did she not open with this kind of dialogue? Yes, by she I mean Anita Sarkeesian, the allegedly free-loading (yes, I alleged; deal with it) video host who drummed up a lot of support for something but then gave us little more than trolling with that first video. She infuriated the masses, and she disappointed a large group of gamers and enthusiasts by giving broad strokes through a very, very small canvas without really covering the spread. It was a mess. What she did was incite riots in the community by calling out something that, honestly, I don’t think needed calling out. She started a campaign to fund raise a research and development project for a series of videos about video games and their atrocities committed to the feminism community. How come she didn’t open up the series with that level of interesting backstory? The second video comes off far more involved than the first and it actually kept me watching it for more information, rather than with eyes ready to roll from irritation.

Yes, you read that right.

So, people contributed and paid towards this cause (it is important to note she made well over 100k for this Kickstarter project that went toward video games for “research” and production), and I kind of hoped this meant that she would play these games and realize there are common themes. Oh, she found common themes, but they were not the ones I had hoped for. In the second video, she discusses common themes that are troubling to women without actually visiting the tropes themselves that actually started this trend.

Research, Shmesearch

Within 20 minutes of “research,” unfunded by the way, I found that these tropes come from someplace real and heavy: history. As I covered in my first article, these stories came from a place of real, honest fear of losing the one you loved. We told these stories to girls to give them hope in a time of actual oppression for females altogether and we told these stories to men to make them take charge and save the oppressed females. Yes, a long time ago — we had no choice — we told our tales in a way to hope for our savior to come in any possible form or shape because that’s all we had. In other countries, women are actually thwarted by a patriarchy and live shrouded on a daily basis. Here, in America, Anita Sarkeesian will doll herself up in makeup and get on YouTube to tell everyone how oppressed she is. No, the makeup has little to do with the argument, but I find it personally amusing and wonder if she ever finds it funny that she’s dolling herself up before going on the Internet Chopping Block.

The theme of this: First World Problems.

First World Tropes and Real World Problems

At the time that this video came out, an actual friend of mine had gone missing. A gaming community member, Knuckles Dawson, had disappeared. While I was beside myself with worry, I had a lot of readers asking me to cover the second video in the series. It wasn’t the right time, I felt, to delve into something so trivial just to please the folks who were chomping at the bit for more trouble. To be honest, it still isn’t the right time. Folks, this is Turkey right now. Yeah. It’s on fucking fire. Actual problems in my everyday life are far more of interest to me than some girl making troll videos on the Internet.

See? I can reduce a theme to make it sound trivial, too.

The point is, despite what Anita is saying in the second video, it’s tempered with a lot of “so what?” because I know the honest-to-God reason why these stories are written, and it isn’t about the patriarchy. No, it is in fact because we were raised with tales of the same in our minds and this is how we show the triumph of love and the human spirit. It’s about saving who you love, doing the unthinkable by ending their life if only suffering will be in their future, or possibly freeing their soul from eternal damnation. Not us, mind you, but our characters. Yes, there is a distinction and you should probably recognize that and grow up.

Lazy Storytelling Vs. Lazy “Science”

What I can appreciate in this video, however, is that she gave a lengthy amount of examples to her theories. They showed not a feminist agenda, but a lack of creativity, if anything. Yes, sometimes recycled concepts are over the top and sad because we’re paying to be told the same story over and over again — but we know the story. It’s not ludicrous, but it is a beaten path. All of us want originality in storytelling, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to bash a storyteller in the head with claims of patriarchal hidden agenda; sometimes it’s just a matter of being lazy and telling a familiar story from your own perspective or using your own characters.

Look, it’s wonderful that she “researched,” but even that term is misused. Scientists research in order to come up with a definitive conclusion to a… I believe the scientific term is “hunch,” and I have a feeling she wasn’t open-minded at all about this concept. That would defeat the purpose, right? Nobody is going to fund an honest, open-minded research project that might not support their own agenda or way of thinking. It won’t happen, you know? Not on the Internet. So you walked into every single one of these games and sought out tropes and didn’t research their honest origin points but threw in a few key terms that are used in order to simplify repeated themes? Bravo. People paid you and your cause over one-hundred-thousand dollars so that you could do something I did in 15 minutes and make a video about it.

Viewing the Audience Through the Trope Scope

Check it out: after watching the follow-up to Anita Sarkeesian’s video, I realize I’m the only one at a loss now. The first video seemed like a major trollface in comparison to this second one, and perhaps she’s laughing herself all the way to the bank, you know? Taking a year to comprise one video and then a couple of months to develop another in which she takes clips out of context of games, repeats them back over and over again, as if to state her “point,” and then says them in such a way that we’re supposed to illicit shock and awe. I’m not shocked, I’m not in awe, and I honestly do not care anymore.

I had truly hoped that she would return with the follow-up to her first video and it would be something honest, balanced, and maybe even give reflections on why these tropes exist and where they come from, but it’s not turning out that way. No, she just wants to bury the point so deep into the ground and make you watch those videos in hopes she’s not just selling the drama. She is, though. She knows she is, too, because she took those marketing classes for a reason, folks. Know your audience.

In the end, I feel like I was fooled into engagement. I am one of those actually open-minded people who wants to find out about new concepts and ideas and hopefully learn something new. I was fascinated to see how many games used the same tropes and storylines because, as a gamer, it’s interesting to me. I’ve played a decent amount of the games listed in her video and have actually really enjoyed them.

I enjoyed those games as, gasp, a gamer. A gamer. Not a female, not a single mother, not a racial minority, not a low-income baby-mama, but as an actual, honest-to-God gamer. That is why these games are made, actually, you know? Not to appeal to one subsect of who I am, but to the masses, and it’s extremely arrogant to say that one deserves more over the other. I’m tired of this argument now; I’m exhausted from hearing about this woman who is trolling the masses into watching her videos and frothing up because it just isn’t that important when you think about the world at large anymore.

More Harm Than Good?

She is doing more harm than good. She’s damning the candy instead of offering a carrot and shooting the horse before attaching it to the cart. We, as a mass, are needed in order to carry on her concepts and talk about them, opening up dialogues, and she will readily take credit for that because it was her video inciting a riotous amount of commentary.

That is what she will take from this. Not that she is flawed in her concepts and that her theories are crackpot and irresponsible, but that she started a conversation.

So this will be my last documented article about the Feminist Frequency videos, because I actually don’t even see these as being anything more than fluff without credible substance anymore. I feel duped by the idea that “research” entailed actual research and my hope was that she’d come in with some actual science this time instead of more pomp. I’m not engaging further, but I’m damned interested in finding out what you folks think about this. Sound off!

Article Written by

Mouthy with a broad vocabulary and a large imagination, I come in from a rather lengthy (7+ years) stay in video game journalism. While tech, gamer and geek culture has always been my strength, I tend to be right at home with whatever topic is thrown my way. I'm a mother, a multi-tasker and a maverick. ♥

  • MegatronScythe

    Initially I liked how Anita presented her case and how her rhetoric (compared to previous videos staring her) has made a conscious effort to remain more or less neutral. I think this was a very wise decision. My real disappointment with the video series so far is that there appears to be a lack of research being integrated into this project. I work at an academic institution, Anita was a graduate student who would have experience in researching topics such as this one. So when Anita identifies herself as a pop culture critic, I’m really hesitant to take this project as an academic endeavor.

    I personally did not donate to the kickstarter project since I always want to know where my donation is going and how it will be used. Therefore, I could not in good faith determine whether my money would be spent wisely given the available information. From what I have read about her project it is behind schedule and there has been a dearth of communication between Anita’s backers and the project team. Since Anita has stated that she would like this material to be utilized in higher education and given her graduate education I was excited to learn more about her sources, research methods, and collaborators. As far as I can tell though there have been no sources published anywhere, I’m unaware of how she is reaching her conclusions, and it honestly seemed that this project would involve whether directly or indirectly the gaming industry. Focused solely on the research methodology of this project so far how can Anita’s research be taken as fact without any sources? This in no way is meant to minimize what Anita is doing, but facts are facts, and it appears that this project is presenting observations and well crafted opinions which in turn are creatively edited in her video series to infer facts. This is not only inaccurate and inappropriate, but would be deemed unethical in reputable academic institutions.

    Personally I feel that academia should be a place to promote healthy discord in order to further learning. That’s why it appears to be a shame that this series is neither impartial, nor objective. Is this project research based, journalism, a critique, or documentary? I really can’t say other than it would seem to me that Anita’s project is not truly research based. I really hope that the project team turns it around and clarifies what they are basing their findings on, otherwise it appears to be a non-factual project.