Sunday, November 23, 2014

Somehow Minecraft seems a lot less annoying now....

The video game franchise Grand Theft Auto has long allowed players to have sex with prostitutes -- not without controversy -- but the bar has been lowered now that in the latest iteration of the game (GTA 5) the action takes place onscreen.

In the game clip above, posted to YouTube, a player called "Entertainment" gets an enthusiastic blow job and then gets out of his car and punches the prostitute in the face as she's leaving, knocking her out cold.  Not exactly Pac Man fever.  The comments on YouTube, at least on the first page or so, include these examples: 
 "This is outrageous!!! this game is portraying black ppl like violent ones! racism everywhere!!! see what I did there?? I was trying to be a liberal douche, you know, those super socially correct heroes, I hate those guys. But in all seriousness, this looks great, I always kill the prostitute so I can recover my money... and cuz is a whore, no one cares, she's got no soul."
"I've been in all kinds of shit, and I still think Tumblr feminists are the dumbest shit to ever walk this fucking earth and what angers me the most, is that young women actually listen to them. The "leaders" of those organizations are ugly fat women"
A lot of comments take delight in the assumption that the clip will piss off feminists or, as Rush Limbaugh likes to call them, the "feminazis".  Those dour wimmins!  Always pissing on the parade....

This is disheartening stuff to read, but it's nothing new; the question of misogyny in video games and gamer culture has been in the news quite a lot recently and we discussed it in our latest post, To the Limits of Decency....and Beyond!  Suffice it to say that the hostility towards feminist voices within the gaming community is not isolated to comments on one clip.

As I said in that post, this kind of shit seems unhealthy, at least to these eyes.  GTA certainly didn't create misogynists, but it certainly panders to them; as the first comment (one of many) demonstrates, some gamers find that this clip reflects their own attitudes.  Sadly, it validates them as well.  Given that most of the comments are in agreement, it's hard to chalk it up to trolling; the commenters aren't baiting one another, but cheering one another on.

If free speech is to mean anything, we have to accept that some of the things we come across will be unpalatable to us, especially online!  Maybe I'm just being hopelessly PC or have become a boring, middle-aged father, but this shit is toxic.  What does it mean when our games involve abusing women?  Whatever it is, it can't be good. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

To the Limits of Decency....and Beyond!

In response to the screen-shot above, I wrote a long essay about porn and rape and sex, but it got too muddled and diffuse, finally undercutting my point:  that this pop-up ad seems very, um, unhealthy.  Just imagine the content of the game.

In researching that original post, I came across the story of Anita Sarkeesian.  In 2012, Sarkeesian produced Tropes vs Women in Video Games, a video series that examines misogyny in video games and gamer culture.  The series has received an angry response that, well, pretty much demonstrates misogyny in video games and gamer culture....

The New Yorker
In 2012, the Times reported that Sarkeesian had been sent images showing video-game characters raping her. Her Wikipedia entry was repeatedly vandalized. One man created a Web game called Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian, in which players could punch Sarkeesian’s image and watch her face become bruised. The violent threats have continued unabated; Sarkeesian fled her home in August after a Twitter user posted her address and threatened to kill her.
Just this October, she and a venue hosting her received emailed death threats.  All because she spoke critically about women in video game culture.

Looking at that screen-shot and the response her videos prompted, it's hard no to conclude that yeah, Sarkeesian has a valid point.  My question would then be whether or not video game culture is more prone to misogyny than the culture in general.

Maybe, maybe not.  I found myself thinking of the recent viral video of the woman, walking in NYC, who got cat-called over 100 times during the course of a 24-hour period (watch here).  Leaving aside the issue of catcalling itself, the response to her video is pretty disheartening.  Like the Sarkeesian case, it's hard to argue that what this woman is saying is exaggerated, not when you see the downright virulence of the response to the questions they raise.

Here's a choice comment posted a few days ago to that viral video:  "I'd donate money to rapist group to rape a god's shit out of this feminist hypocritical bitch."

The comment pretty much sums up why women feel threatened by catcalling.  It's all smiley smiley "hey baby" until the lech is ignored, and then it becomes "fuck you you stuck-up miserable bitch" and other forms of verbal, if not physical, aggression.

Brings us back to a recent post, upon which Gid commented: "Interesting how a stare/glare can feel like an act of aggression."


Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Russell Brand has been taking a beating from all corners over his most recent book, Revolution.  Critics have called it naive, muddled, hypocritical, filled with factual errors and -- worst of all -- not funny.  I haven't read the book and probably won't, so I can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of these criticisms.  Except for the factual errors.  That is both demonstrable and pretty inexcusable.  It happens:  I once claimed Josemaría Escrivá was buried in Torreciudad and was corrected in a comment -- he's buried in Rome.  While to my discredit, hell, it happens.  We've written a lot on this blog; stands to reason mistakes will be made.  But a major publishing firm should be better-equipped with editors and fact-checkers and someone who's plunged head-long into attacking basically everything the West stands for -- capitalism and democracy -- should come well-armed with a good grasp of the facts.  Because if the facts are wrong, no one's gonna really listen to your opinions.

I kind of like Brand, and I'm sure he means what he says and just because the guy has "made it", it doesn't mean he's lost his right to critique the culture he's a part of.  That said, he's clearly pissing in the wind and in the clips I've seen of him....well, let's just say he's not doing us any favors. (Which is a pity, because articles I've read by him are pretty engaging).  A suspicious mind might even think that "they" have chosen the most likely candidate to bring discredit upon the large global phenomenon of "occupy"-style discontent....what reasonable person will be swayed by this hyper-kinetic ex-junkie?

I think the photo above doesn't require being an art critic in order to "get".  Brand's beard, flowing hair, beads as vague spiritual accoutrement, his upward, somewhat beatific gaze....ok, ok, we get it.  Just in case we missed it, we've got Jesus over to the left to hammer the point home. 

So, Brand is out to save the world, he's got a messiah complex.  Any message except for that he may in fact have something reasonable to say.

We've discussed the juxtaposition of public figures with Jesus or Christian symbolism quite a bit on LoS.  The list and links at the end of America's Half-Blood Prince of Darkness contains the best summary of these articles; I will avoid repeating myself refer you to that article.  You'll find that this kind of photo is fairly common.