Feminist Frequency, “Damsel in Distress: Part 1 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games“
The Tropes vs Women in Video Games project was funded by almost 7,000 backers on Kickstarter, founded by the video series’ host, Anita Sarkeesian. The series “aims to examine the plot devices and patterns most often associated with female characters in gaming from a systemic, big picture perspective,” and in the process, deconstruct the sexist systems behind common tropes.
As she states in the video:
The pattern of presenting women as fundamentally weak, ineffective or entirely incapable also has larger ramifications beyond the characters themselves and the specific games they inhabit. We have to remember that these games do not exist in a vacuum, they are an increasingly important and influential part of our larger social and cultural ecosystem.
The reality is that this trope is being used in a real-world context where backwards sexist attitudes are already rampant. It’s a sad fact that a large percentage of the world’s population still clings to the deeply sexist belief that women as a group need to be sheltered, protected and taken care of by men.
The belief that women are somehow a “naturally weaker gender” is a deeply ingrained socially constructed myth, which of course is completely false- but the notion is reinforced and perpetuated when women are continuously portrayed as frail, fragile, and vulnerable creatures.
This is something that is finally starting to be addressed in various mediums, and this video series is a great example of the type of critical analysis that has been sorely lacking.
Just to be clear, I am not saying that all games using the damsel in distress as a plot device are automatically sexist or have no value. But it’s undeniable that popular culture is a powerful influence in or lives and the Damsel in Distress trope as a recurring trend does help to normalize extremely toxic, patronizing and paternalistic attitudes about women. […]
The good news is that there is nothing stopping developers from evolving their gender representations and making more women heroes in future games. It would be great to finally see is Zelda, Sheik and Tetra as the protagonists at their own games… and not just mobile DS games, I’m talking full-on console adventures.
This needs to happen. Like, yesterday.