IT IS A BIG DEAL. IT IS A VERY, VERY BIG DEAL.
October 20, 2011 10:51 AM   Subscribe

...IN THE MIDNIGHT LINE THE OTHER NIGHT THERE WERE ABOUT 90 GUYS ALL STANDING AROUND READY TO BUY. AMONG THEM, A FEW RANDOM GIRLS INTERSPERSED WHO RIGHTLY LOVED THE LAST GAME AND ARE NOW GOING TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH A REALLY, REALLY STRANGE TONE. OH SURE, CHANCES ARE THEY’RE USED TO MOST OF THE SEXISM IN VIDEO GAMES, BUT THIS IS A SPECIAL KIND OF ORNAMENTAL. THIS IS STEALTH SEXISM. SOMETHING FAR MORE INSIDIOUS THAN THE NAKED PANDERING OF DUKE NUKEM.
Gender roles among contemporary comics characters has been scrutiized in the wake of DC Comics' rebooting of its product line (previously), as well as in its prior days of stuffing damsels inside refrigerators. But the latest writeup on the Male Gaze's role in superheroics has emerged from the irradiated brow of...The Hulk. And not Feminist Hulk, nor Drunk Hulk but...well, the one who analyses movies.
posted by Smart Dalek (168 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
[Eh, Scrutinized.]
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:52 AM on October 20, 2011


Also from Kotaku: Arkham City's Weird "Bitch" Fixation
posted by naju at 10:54 AM on October 20, 2011


I love FILM CRIT HULK! I meant to do an FPP but forgot.
posted by kmz at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh. He apparently used to be a Mefite but hasn't been around in a while. Pity.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm loving how much attention social issues are given in the gaming world these days. Just yesterday, I watched Penny Arcade's Extra Credits' tear down of Call of Juarez: The Cartel.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Isn't the schtick of The Hulk speech that it uses the 3rd person and incorrect English ("Hulk mad! Hulk SMASH!") Making everything in caps just makes it a chore to read.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:57 AM on October 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


No, I'm not going read something in all caps.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:57 AM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


And in previous (She)Hulk Video Game Review: WHY HULK-MARG MAD AND THEREFORE SMASH
posted by filthy light thief at 10:58 AM on October 20, 2011


Not that it is any excuse, but guys who write storylines for video games are really easy targets.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:58 AM on October 20, 2011


No, I'm not going read something in all caps.

BUT HULK ONLY TALK IN ALL CAPS.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:59 AM on October 20, 2011


hulk should talk in short bursts of allcaps, like the glorious FEMINIST HULK.
posted by elizardbits at 11:00 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And if you'd like to 1) read this without ALL CAPS and/or 2) look like you're reading a MS Word doc, you can copy the text to Notepad (to strip formatting and images), then copy the text again and paste it into a MS Word doc. Select all text, and hit Shift+F3 once (for all lower case) or twice (for Sentence caps.)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:02 AM on October 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


The reason why "bitch" comes up so often in dialog is rather pedestrian: it's one of the few words they can use liberally and keep a "T" rating.
posted by Oktober at 11:04 AM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


filthy light thief: “Making everything in caps just makes it a chore to read.”

Brandon Blatcher: “No, I'm not going read something in all caps.”

Okay, that's fair. Here is the whole article translated into sentence case, just for those of you who refuse to read something in allcaps. Go read the translation, and then we can talk about it.
posted by koeselitz at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


or do what filthy light thief suggested
posted by koeselitz at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2011


The word "bitch" is overused these days.
posted by Xoebe at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2011


it's one of the few words they can use liberally and keep a "T" rating.

Shouldn't something be done about that? Who's setting these rules, and why do they think it's okay that teens are exposed to endless gendered insults against women? I'd rather they replace bitch with "fucking fuckhead" or whatever else is verboten.
posted by naju at 11:09 AM on October 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


The Hulk is right about all topics, in all media.
posted by Sternmeyer at 11:12 AM on October 20, 2011


I'm going to blame the worst bits of the DC reboot on Arkham City too, in that they emulate it's intense use of the ANGRY GRAR-Y TEENAGER aesthetic, with all the bro-ey language and casual sexism that entails.
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


BUT HULK ONLY TALK IN ALL CAPS.

BUT HULK ALSO TALK IN HILARIOUSLY MANGLED ENGLISH.

IF HULK AM CALL SELF HULK, HULK MUST COMMIT TO HULK SPEECH PATTERNS.

OTHERWISE HULK AM JUST WANKER TRYING TO GET LEVERAGE FROM CHEAP GAG WITHOUT FOLLOWTHROUGH ON CENTRAL CONCEIT.

And just in case you're thinking it, Peter David’s “Professor Hulk” spoke in mixed-case.

All caps does not a Hulk make, my friends.

IT ALSO AM NOT MAKE NO BIZARRO, JUST IN CASE YOU AM NOT THINKING THAT.
posted by Shepherd at 11:16 AM on October 20, 2011 [23 favorites]


(Or Arkham Asylum. Whatevs.)
posted by Artw at 11:16 AM on October 20, 2011


Perhaps he is the more intelligent iteration of the Hulk from the Peter David years - not the Grey Hulk, but the integrated Banner Hulk.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:17 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shepherd: “All caps does not a Hulk make, my friends.”

The article. It is good. Read it.
posted by koeselitz at 11:18 AM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Maybe I'm just feeling contrary this afternoon, but I'm more offended by the laziness of repeatedly using bitch than the sexism.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:19 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Film Critic Hulk's points, valid though they may be, continuously drowned out by voice in back of head saying "Hulk not talk like this. Hulk not use pronouns; Hulk have trouble with proper use of any tense not past. Hulk idiom not just typing all-caps."

Fiilm Critic Hulk should drop Hulk schtick or do Hulk schtick right. Half assed Hulk schtick make want smash.
posted by egypturnash at 11:19 AM on October 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Shouldn't She-Hulk be handling this?
posted by jonmc at 11:20 AM on October 20, 2011


Maybe I'm just feeling contrary this afternoon, but I'm more offended by the laziness of repeatedly using bitch than the sexism.

I suspect the two things may be related.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:20 AM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Was looking forward to Arkham City, haven't managed to buy it yet though. Am I still allow to play it If I promise to hate every minute?
posted by Ad hominem at 11:23 AM on October 20, 2011


Shouldn't She-Hulk be handling this?

No!
posted by SharkParty at 11:24 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quit your bitching.
posted by jonmc at 11:24 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay so what's the line "between edgy dialogue and forced overkill"? There's a fair amount of people out there, many of the criminal type that hang out in the Arkham City world, who basically use 'bitch' as a substitute for 'woman'. Maybe they should intersperse a wider variety of misogynist nouns to make it realistic I guess
posted by the mad poster! at 11:24 AM on October 20, 2011


I don't say this cause I'm interested in leaping to the defense of people who say "bitch" but just saying, if you're going to call it "forcing", what's the forced aspect
posted by the mad poster! at 11:25 AM on October 20, 2011


Masculinist Bizarro think previous Arkham game severely underrated: make boring Batman villains and universe totally exciting and fresh! Bizarro easily able to comprehend what seemingly entire videogaming world see in not-at-average game. Bizarro think sequel appear to understand appeal of Batman completely and can't wait to buy!
posted by emmtee at 11:29 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to blame the worst bits of the DC reboot on Arkham City too, in that they emulate it's intense use of the ANGRY GRAR-Y TEENAGER aesthetic, with all the bro-ey language and casual sexism that entails.

Isn't it a bit chicken and egg? It all feeds into each other. There was plenty of similar dumb shit in DC before the reboot. See, e.g., anything Frank Miller did for DC in the 2000s.

The really disappointing thing is that Paul Dini is heavily involved with Arkham Asylum/City, and Batman: The Animated Series was largely devoid of this idiocy. See also, Harley Quinn's outfit in B:TAS vs. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.
posted by kmz at 11:32 AM on October 20, 2011


When in doubt, pick apart the presentation to avoid discussing the content.
posted by hermitosis at 11:33 AM on October 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


I really liked Arkham Asylum but yeah, Harley Quinn's outfit in it was completely stupid and unnecessary. Sad that the problem persists into the sequel. I'm sure I'll play it sooner or later, but really. That sucks.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:34 AM on October 20, 2011


what's the best gender neutral insult? make it really good, please.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:34 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, awesome, that's one game this Batman fan and gamer won't buy. No, not even if they dangle the promise of having Nightwing as a playable character in front of me. /sob
posted by lydhre at 11:35 AM on October 20, 2011


what's the best gender neutral insult? make it really good, please.

Assclown.
Fuckstick.
Buttmunch.

gimme a minute, I'll think of more.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


There sure are a lot of Hulks.
posted by Zed at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2011


How is fuckstick not gendered?
posted by hermitosis at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]



what's the best gender neutral insult? make it really good, please.


I like fuckhead, personally, but there are only nine million of them to choose from that aren't gender specific. The only reason you think most of the "good" ones aren't, is that we're condition to treat gender neutral insults as insults to men and gendered insults as insults to women.
posted by lydhre at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


what's the best gender neutral insult? make it really good, please.

Shitsergeant
posted by Navelgazer at 11:38 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth what's the best gender neutral insult? make it really good, please.

Ahh, another excuse to bring out this old gem: Metafilter Insult Jazz
posted by jozxyqk at 11:38 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I was actually really looking forward to playing this, and it has fantastic review scores, but I don't think it's worth the frustration now. I hope it was worth turning off lots of gamers in the 18-35 demographic to appeal to immature teen boys...
posted by naju at 11:39 AM on October 20, 2011


what's the best gender neutral insult? make it really good, please.

Dipshit.
Shit-for-Brains.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:41 AM on October 20, 2011


How is fuckstick not gendered?

.....How IS it gendered?....

(That's a sincere question. Both genders fuck, and sticks are....made of wood, so they're neuter.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:41 AM on October 20, 2011


How IS it gendered?

It's "le fuckstick" in french.
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on October 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm rather fond of nebulawindphone's suggested "Buttpuzzle."
posted by troika at 11:44 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


.....How IS it gendered?....

It's a phallic object, used for fucking. How is that not gendered?
posted by hermitosis at 11:46 AM on October 20, 2011


....Wait.





*A tiny little lightbulb goes off over Empresscallipygos' head*

OOOOOOHHHHHHHHH. You thought that by "fuckstick", I meant --

OOOOOHHHHHHHH.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:46 AM on October 20, 2011


I'll take one for the team and play it. I can handle that Harley Quinn outfit. I see women dressed like that in bars, I think the skin tight unitard is worse.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:46 AM on October 20, 2011


a penis is a fuckstick. therefore, fuckstick is gendered.
posted by spicynuts at 11:46 AM on October 20, 2011


what's the best gender neutral insult? make it really good, please.

This question has already been answered.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:46 AM on October 20, 2011


It's a phallic object, used for fucking. How is that not gendered?

I was thinking this kind of stick and totally didn't get the connection until just now. Because I am a puddinghead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:47 AM on October 20, 2011


Well this is neat... :)
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:50 AM on October 20, 2011


These are the bad guys. They, naturally, are saying bad things. The makers are not glamorizing the word; if anything, they are de-glamorizing it by have it used by the bad guys. Get upset when Batman says it, but you should expect it from Two-Face (and really, you should expect a lot worse from him than that).
posted by BurnChao at 11:51 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm about 8 hours of play into Arkham City right now and honestly I'm in the camp that the repetitiveness is more unfortunate than the general use of the word. I've camped out over a group of thugs who have done the same routine about whether or not they want to fuck Harley three times now.

The reality is, as others have noted, it's not as much misogyny as it is laziness. The coders clearly wanted to have dialogue that used negative euphemisms about female characters, and "bitch" was probably all they could think of since "cunt" would be an instant AO rating. I've heard "whore" and various levels of puns using "kitty" or "cat" (but not "pussy"... see AO noted above) and I think it's just that "bitch" sticks out more because it's used so often.

If you want to talk unfortunate female character treatment though... let's get back to Harley. (Doing my best to make this spoiler-free, plot wise at least.) You know what I've seen so far that stands out even MORE than "bitch?" That Harley's first appearance in the game... the first thing she says when she shows up... is a self-reference to her new outfit in the game.

Which is... the first thing she said in the first Arkham Asylum game. In other words, In both Arkham games, the very first thing they have one of the major villains of the game and perhaps at this point DC universe in general say is... "check out this outfit that shows off my tits."

Not a single other character in the game takes time to point out they are wearing particular clothing. Batman's suit gradually wears and tears throughout gameplay to show time progression, and no one mentions it. But it was apparently of vital importance to point out that Harley Quinn is now in skintight leather.

I found this epically more misogynist and deliberately offensive to women and female gamers than the concept of convicted killers and rapists not being sensitive to women.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:53 AM on October 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


So you are arguing for edgy, misogynistic realism in a game where the main character is dressed like an anthropomorphic bat, fighting a guy in clown makeup? This ain't exactly Scorsese material.
posted by hermitosis at 11:53 AM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


(My comment was directed toward BurnChao)
posted by hermitosis at 11:54 AM on October 20, 2011


dude you know if the bad guys were hurling ethnic slurs like there was a 5 slurs/99 cents deal on at slur-mart it would bear examination.........
posted by beefetish at 11:54 AM on October 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


hermitosis calling people bitches is literally the most real thing you can do it is the realest
posted by beefetish at 11:55 AM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also from Kotaku: Arkham City's Weird "Bitch" Fixation
posted by naju at 10:54 AM on October 20 [+] [!]

Should be mentioned that the kotaku article linked back to the film crit hulk article (but in a weird sorta way where it didn't make it seem like the inspiration).
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:56 AM on October 20, 2011


These are the bad guys.

No, you missed the part where it wasn't just the bad guys. The point of the article, and it takes a bit to get there, is that it was everyone calling Catwoman bitch.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:58 AM on October 20, 2011


Okay so what's the line "between edgy dialogue and forced overkill"? There's a fair amount of people out there, many of the criminal type that hang out in the Arkham City world, who basically use 'bitch' as a substitute for 'woman'. Maybe they should intersperse a wider variety of misogynist nouns to make it realistic I guess

Yes, because Batman has always been about an accurate portrayal of the criminal class.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:58 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, because Batman has always been about an accurate portrayal of the criminal class.

Wait, you mean they're not a cowardly and superstitious lot? Well fuck me, I am throwing out this stupid suit.
posted by The Bellman at 12:01 PM on October 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


The coders clearly wanted to have dialogue

Whoa, let's not blame programmers for dialog here. Bad dialog is clearly the writers fault. Just gotta defend my peeps.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:03 PM on October 20, 2011


The point of the article, and it takes a bit to get there, is that it was everyone calling Catwoman bitch.

SPOILER WARNING





Actually I think it's kind of funny that in a sequence consisting of Catwoman and Poison Ivy- two of the three main female characters in the game- no one seems to call the other anything mean at all.

....One just tries to force into the other one's body millions of living spores.

END SPOILERS
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:03 PM on October 20, 2011


Balls. I really meant to have more break tags at the end to make avoiding the spoiler easier. Argh.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:05 PM on October 20, 2011


TL;DR: If the medium casually uses sexist, racist, etc. language as a basic descriptor, then the message is sexist, racist, etc..
posted by P.o.B. at 12:05 PM on October 20, 2011


Actually, context would also matter.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:07 PM on October 20, 2011


Evidently video games ARE serious business. Who knew?
posted by ShutterBun at 12:08 PM on October 20, 2011


Yes, because Batman has always been about an accurate portrayal of the criminal class.

Well agree it's not aiming for verisimilitude but you know, thugs are thugs. You can make them all mefite-like in their political understanding of language which is fine too but then you've made

I think people really underestimate the extent to which some people's language (even mainstream-integrated people who're successful in personal relationships etc.) for women they don't like uniquely consists of bitch, ho, sidepiece, slore, hoodrat, etc.

So you can take pointless pointshots for mefi faves or you can just respond to what method of language would make it less 'forced'. If half the time they said 'that girl' instead?
posted by the mad poster! at 12:09 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


sorry, to finish that first paragraph 'then you've made a particular choice of character construction and environment that isn't necessarily more valid'
posted by the mad poster! at 12:10 PM on October 20, 2011


I haven't played the game though, if it just grates as odd then I'm quite willing to accept that it just seems unnaturally repetitive even among a misogynist language environment
posted by the mad poster! at 12:13 PM on October 20, 2011


it's not like ba'man is a scrupulously accurate portrayal of lots and lots of things. i continue to beat this tiny bongo that i have labeled thereupon "MAN ISN'T IT INTERESTING, THE THINGS WE FEEL WORTH DEFENDING AS TRUE?" why not worry about how the violence in video games is usually inaccurate styles for the sake of making the game playable? or fanciful weapons, or health packs or whatever. that's inaccurate too.
posted by beefetish at 12:14 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Weird argument. We have lots of examples of successful, non-forced Batman-related dialogue where the villains aren't all "BITCH... BITCH... THAT BITCH... GUESS WHAT I'D DO TO THAT BITCH HUH-HUH". In fact, this recent Batman is the only one with that particular style.
posted by naju at 12:14 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think people really underestimate the extent to which some people's language (even mainstream-integrated people who're successful in personal relationships etc.) for women they don't like uniquely consists of bitch, ho, sidepiece, slore, hoodrat, etc.

Being a writer is about making choices. Every word that comes out of a character's mouth, no matter how major or minor that person may be, can be whatever you want it to be. And you make those choices based on what is true, what is interesting, and what is appropriate.

Not very much thought seems to have been put into this writing. Trying to defend it based on the fact that it might be somewhat true to life is pretty flimsy, because that only scratches the surface of what the writers' job was.
posted by hermitosis at 12:14 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Adding in... the thugs in AC are, you know.... thugs. Maybe you can argue whether or not some of the line of their conversations with each other were necessary or not, but I should probably clarify what I said earlier about the "talking about how they want to fuck Harley" comment... in one conversation they are clearly talking about how they want to rape her.

Again, your thoughts on the necessity on this may very, but my reaction to that was twofold: 1. I can see how in whatever sense of "realistically" you can assign to a game like this, moral degenerates trapped in a rotting city would have desires to force themselves on the only female in sight and 2. it felt really, REALLY good to beat the shit out of rapists.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:18 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it more important that the random thugs are presented as non-sexist, or that the female characters do not reinforce this worldview?
posted by modernserf at 12:22 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well agree it's not aiming for verisimilitude but you know, thugs are thugs.

Here's maybe a better angle of approach for the problem you seem to be having:

I think we agree that suspension of disbelief in one area does not automatically lead to total suspension of disbelief in everything.

Batman is a very rich man who has trained himself to the peak of human potential, outfitted himself with impossibly high-tech equipment, and lives in a world where people with extraordinary abilities either commit crimes or attempt to prevent them.

That's the bracket. That's what we have to accept to deal with Batman as a concept.

If Batman goes for a cold refreshing glass of water and it suddenly turns out that all water is made of cheese, that's weird. It is outside the bracket.

So the defense of "bitch bitch bitchy-bitch" seems to be that "but that's how bad guys really talk!"

Which is not entirely wrong. Just because a man dresses in fetish gear and beats hell out of muggers is no reason for everybody to suddenly not swear.

But there's something that's not being considered in that argument.

Any comics properties also live inside a metabracket: 50+ years of history of being (for the most part) family-friendly entertainment.

In the Batman bracket, we have 60+ years in a world that is relatively cuss-free, violent-but-not-gory, a-bit-sexy-but-not-pornographic.

Things like The Dark Knight Returns were/are successful because they push the edges of the bracket in creative ways: a tetch more cussy, a tetch more violent, a tetch more "realistic," and that's cool, because there's a central conceit -- a new bracket -- that serves all of these things. Batman's too old to cut the mustard, but he's still crazy, so he has to adopt new tactics and approaches to pursue his mania.

But here, you've got something that shoves itself outside that 60-year metabracket for no narrative reason.

There is a 60-year tradition of Batman happening in a PG context, and one where maybe there are mass murderers, but people are often less generally shitty in terms of casual racism and sexism than the world we live in.

Suddenly, we've got all that shitty casual sexism, but without any rationale for why this should be. We're outside the bracket, which makes anybody who is in any way comfortable with the usual Batman context uncomfortable. And there's no good reason for it, which makes most people who care at all about either the integrity of this world, or about, well, women, angry.

Angry because the writers of this game have a perfectly plausible reason to indulge in being not shitty. And they chose, instead, to turn the Shitty Dial up to 11 in a way that violates the whole context of the thing they're working on.
posted by Shepherd at 12:23 PM on October 20, 2011 [41 favorites]


Is it more important that the random thugs are presented as non-sexist, or that the female characters do not reinforce this worldview?

what
posted by beefetish at 12:24 PM on October 20, 2011


what's the best gender neutral insult? make it really good, please.

Keep it simple. I like jerk, asshole, dumbass, idiot, big dummy, things like that. Nutjob, psycho and freak are okay too. Smelly, crazy and stupid are good adjectives.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:25 PM on October 20, 2011


Which is not entirely wrong. Just because a man dresses in fetish gear and beats hell out of muggers is no reason for everybody to suddenly not swear.

I feel like I'm spamming so I need to stop, but to be devil's advocate on this, again with the 8 hours of playtime I've put in, the reference to Catwoman/Harley as a bitch has been exclusively to the thugs and Two-Face, who just happens to be in the first scene of the game. (Only referencing announced characters here to avoid spoilers) Everyone else I have encountered: Penguin, Riddler, random Arkham nurses and/or guards... they have a language all entirely their own that does not include misogynistic wordplay in the vernacular.

Not the best defense I can muster, but just being fair here: no, everyone in the game does not say "bitch." I have encountered three major characters already who's eloquence and/or lack of emotion in their dialogue is sort of their major attribute.


There is a 60-year tradition of Batman happening in a PG context

This is just all kinds of incorrect but there's no way to provide appropriate detail without derailing the thread completely. Read more about Batman. that is all.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:30 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


with the 8 hours of playtime I've put in, the reference to Catwoman/Harley as a bitch has been exclusively to the thugs and Two-Face,

I still don't understand why this makes it a defensible inclusion. Yeah, it would be even worse if the language were universal among the male characters. But even if it's just thugs and underlings, that's lazy, shortsighted, unimaginative writing -- which, in combination with other aspects of gameplay, such as Catwoman's porniness, is going to read pretty rawly sexist to a great number of people.
posted by hermitosis at 12:35 PM on October 20, 2011


Nutjob, psycho and freak are okay too.

Actually those aren't great, insofar as they turn mental illness into a pejorative.

But everybody's got assholes, and assholes are full of shit, and shit pretty much always stinks.

Thank god for you, asshole.
posted by pts at 12:35 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand why this makes it a defensible inclusion.

I'm not defending its inclusion. I'm defending against the implications that the entire game is 40+ hours of people saying "bitch" non-stop. It's not. Hence, devil's advocate.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:37 PM on October 20, 2011


Silly writers. A "bitch" is a female dog, not a female cat.
posted by Brackish at 12:38 PM on October 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Not very much thought seems to have been put into this writing. Trying to defend it based on the fact that it might be somewhat true to life is pretty flimsy, because that only scratches the surface of what the writers' job was.

I haven't played the game so I haven't seen this first-hand, but it could also be effective writing in the sense that the characters using this language are meant to be dim-witted thugs and their choice of words speaks to their character. Although it sounds like there is a repetition problem too, so it could be lazy writing.
posted by Hoopo at 12:40 PM on October 20, 2011


Who’s Behind the Mask of Feminist Hulk?
posted by homunculus at 12:41 PM on October 20, 2011


I'm not defending its inclusion. I'm defending against the implications that the entire game is 40+ hours of people saying "bitch" non-stop. It's not. Hence, devil's advocate.

But no one is reacting that hyperbolically. I don't think anyone (whom actually read the links, anyway) thinks that sort of situation is what's being discussed. However, based on the information, people do seem to think the actual language involved is excessive and problematic. In fact, that's the discussion that is currently being had. Welcome!
posted by hermitosis at 12:44 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


If nothing else, Arkham Asylum/City are a love letter to the post-1986 Batman, and everything that entails: Dark Knight Returns, the Burton movies, Grant Morrison, BTAS, and the Nolan movies. Foul-mouthed thugs (and Two Face, in his "Bad Harv" persona) are perfectly cromulent in this context.
posted by Oktober at 12:45 PM on October 20, 2011



I still don't understand why this makes it a defensible inclusion.

I'm not defending its inclusion. I'm defending against the implications that the entire game is 40+ hours of people saying "bitch" non-stop. It's not. Hence, devil's advocate.


It's also the whole point of the article. I haven't played the game, so if what XQUZYPHYR is saying is true to form, then essentially the writer of the article doesn't really have a point.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:46 PM on October 20, 2011


Nutjob, psycho and freak are okay too.

Actually those aren't great, insofar as they turn mental illness into a pejorative.


You're right. I got caught up in the whole "Arkham Asylum" thing and was kind of thinking in context.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:49 PM on October 20, 2011


a female dog, not a female cat

A female cat is a queen. Which would have made for a more interesting pejorative.
posted by Zed at 12:49 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


However, based on the information, people do seem to think the actual language involved is excessive and problematic.

Yes, and what I'm saying is that the information this seems to be based on is the first few hours of a forty-hour-long game.

It was released on Tuesday. I doubt anyone has had the time to both play it to completion AND prepare a thorough analysis of it through a feminist objective lens. Myself included. When I fully play through the game I will have a fairer and more accurate assessment of how "excessive" and "problematic" the language seen so far is to the overall game but at the rate I'm playing the thread will likely be closed. MeMail me in about two months if you're still interested in my thoughts. I'm being serious.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:50 PM on October 20, 2011


really? i thought that the article was calling out what they viewed to be the pointless inclusion of sexist language as "grim-n-gritty" in a way that might be insulting or alienating!
posted by beefetish at 12:50 PM on October 20, 2011


jabberjaw: Good point, hadn't thought of that. I think the Joker is allowed to reclaim "nutjob" for himself if he wants to.
posted by pts at 12:50 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Foul-mouthed thugs (and Two Face, in his "Bad Harv" persona) are perfectly cromulent in this context.

Yeah, except the overall point of the article is basically that the female characters -- including the playable character that is sort of a good guy -- are dehumanized at pretty much every opportunity. The language is just part of the whole package. What sort of gaming experience does that provide for female players? What sort of impression does it give to young male players?
posted by hermitosis at 12:51 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


more offended by the laziness of repeatedly using bitch than the sexism.


This a thousand times. it's sexist for sure, but holy hell is it lazy writing. Everyone, from lowly thugs, to the genius villains, and the best insult they can come up with "bitch". I've not gotten far, a couple hours last night, and it's a fantastically fun game (which as i get older, i truly suck at), with otherwise good writing, but to hear "bitch" so often, starts to feel like someone did a find and replace with punctuation too make it sound edgy or something.
posted by usagizero at 12:51 PM on October 20, 2011


BTAS

BTAS was mature and intelligent without resorting to hypersexualizing and demeaning the female characters.
posted by kmz at 12:52 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does the presence of porny Catwoman-as-pure-titillation continue throughout the whole game? Making out with the thugs who call her bitch, camera lovingly focused on her ass, etc.
posted by naju at 12:53 PM on October 20, 2011


yeah lazy writing is worse than sexism JESUS CHRIST YOU PEOPLE THIS IS WHY I HAVE GROWN WEARY OF COMIC BOOK ASS NERD SHIT
posted by beefetish at 12:53 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like the implication that the length of the overall game somehow mitigates the inclusion of some heavily problematic shit.
posted by SharkParty at 12:54 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wish I had time to play the copy of Arkham City I bought so I could weigh in on this.

One thing I noticed is that one of the objections appears to be that Batman shoves/moves Harley out of the way to get to the Joker (or whatever). While I am absolutely 100% not OK with male-on-female violence, doesn't the narrative and the Batman mythos explain this a bit?

Let me elaborate. You're Batman. The Joker and Harley have tried to kill you approximately 100 times. This month. Hundreds of thousands of times if you extrapolate. And not just you. Innocent people. Husbands, wives, sons, daughters. And you have to deal with these two ALL. THE. TIME. And Harley, like her boss/lover/whatever the Joker is, is not a shrinking violet. She will probably stab you in the eye if you give her half a chance. What are you expecting Batman (or anyone) to do, lightly tap her on the shoulder and ask her politely to step out of the way please?

...OK, actually, I would love that. But I digress. From what my friend who HAS played the game tells me, he actually asks Harley to move. Several times. For whatever difference that makes. I assume it has to make some difference.

The "bitch" thing is lazy and sad. But to the cynical part of me, it feels like with all the (much deserved) furor over feminism and comics lately people are writing articles on this game so they can get page views and capitalize on a trend. Maybe that makes me a bad feminist. I certainly was disgusted by the New 52 comics that made characters like Starfire and Catwoman into lust-crazed sex dolls. To me, at least, this doesn't really register to the same degree. Those were instances of removing any real sense of agency or value from the characters and making them masturbatory fantasies. At least in this one the characters get a chance to fight back and control their situation, as does the player.

Anyway, as I was saying, this is all without having had a chance to play the game. Hopefully I'll be able to this weekend.
posted by HostBryan at 12:56 PM on October 20, 2011


Here's a pull quote that almost sums up the view:
HULK BET THAT SOME PEOPLE MAY TRY TO DEFEND THIS HORSESHIT DISPOSITION BY SAYING IT’S OKAY BECAUSE THE ONES SAYING IT ARE THE “BAD GUYS.” WHICH ISN’T ACTUALLY TRUE BECAUSE LOTS OF THE SECURITY GUARDS AND A GOOD GUY FROM LAST GAME ALL CHIP IN WITH THE “BITCH” TALK JUST AS MUCH AS EVERYONE ELSE.
Opposed to what some people think here, it is the overuse of specific terms that is the underlying point. Argue away folks but some of you may want to RTFA.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:58 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Also I want to point how hilarious it is that Kotaku - of all websites! - is the one complaining about the objectification and dehumanization of women in between their latest article on a Japanese porn idol.)
posted by HostBryan at 1:03 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


it feels like with all the (much deserved) furor over feminism and comics lately people are writing articles on this game so they can get page views and capitalize on a trend.

Why is it so much easier to dismiss people's opinions as PC-policing or trend-chasing than it is to try and understand this deep-seated issue that people are actually upset or frustrated about, or how it feels to run into this sort of thing at every turn, even in media that is theoretically put out there for mass-enjoyment?

The reason there is so much feminist backlash out there lately is that more and more people (not just women) are calling shit out. It's easier to do than ever, and people are braver about it than ever. That's not a trend, and it's not a bad thing. I mean, do you want an egalitarian society, or do you just want to reap the privilege-benefits of pretending to live in one?
posted by hermitosis at 1:05 PM on October 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


What sort of gaming experience does that provide for female players?

I don't mean to be a snit about this but perhaps some female MeFites who have played the game could weigh in about this instead of all of us hypothesizing in the thread. If I missed any comments like this upthread I apologize.

BTAS was mature and intelligent without resorting to hypersexualizing and demeaning the female characters.


For what it's worth, you can change the settings so Catwoman appears as her animated series version. You can also play in her purple-and-black outfit from The Long Halloween.

Does the presence of porny Catwoman-as-pure-titillation continue throughout the whole game? Making out with the thugs who call her bitch, camera lovingly focused on her ass, etc.

The camera no more focuses on Catwoman's rear end than it does Batman's--the game is played from behind-the-player perspective. Harley gets more gratuitous ass shots in cutscnes than Catwoman does in gameplay (and yes, the lack of subtlety is laughable). If there's a scene where she actually makes out with a thug I haven't reached it yet; otherwise you are likewise using hyperbole here. She has playable levels in the game that are pertinent to the overall story rendering your argument that's she's "purely titillation" invalid. I don't really know what else to say here since I simply find this comment factually incorrect in many, many ways.

I like the implication that the length of the overall game somehow mitigates the inclusion of some heavily problematic shit.

If people are implying that the game is all-misogyny all the time and I'm pointing out it's, you know, not, what the hell else am I supposed to say? Christ.

I hate that I'm being forced into some kind of public defender role here because I agree with the major points about the over-absurdity of Catwoman's dialogue and the use of epithets against women but at the same time it's getting increasingly frustrating to continue this conversation about a game where some people are saying things that aren't true and in some cases people haven't even seen for themselves.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:05 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


people are implying that the game is all-misogyny all the time

cite?
posted by hermitosis at 1:07 PM on October 20, 2011


Masculinist Bizarro think previous Arkham game severely underrated: make boring Batman villains and universe totally exciting and fresh! Bizarro easily able to comprehend what seemingly entire videogaming world see in not-at-average game. Bizarro think sequel appear to understand appeal of Batman completely and can't wait to buy!
posted by emmtee at 11:29 AM on October 20 [+] [!]
HULK CHALLENGE FIRST LINE OF PUNY POST! QUESTION BEGGING MAKE HULK WANT SMASH!! ARKHAM ASYLUM CRITICAL DARLING!!

HULK REGRETFULLY ACKNOWLEDGE HULK NOT ABLE TO PLAY AS FINGERS HUGE AND GREEN.

HULK SAD.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:12 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm disappointed that no one's talking about the best part of the article by far, the link at the end to this hilariously painful video.

It was worth reading just for that.
posted by Nixy at 1:13 PM on October 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I find it strange that the words fuck and shit are considered more offensive than b****. They're coarse, but they don't come with built in misogyny.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:15 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why is it so much easier to dismiss people's opinions as PC-policing or trend-chasing than it is to try and understand this deep-seated issue that people are actually upset or frustrated about, or how it feels to run into this sort of thing at every turn, even in media that is theoretically put out there for mass-enjoyment?

It's because I understand it's a deep-seated issue and a very important one. And I think these are conversations we need to have. I fully understand the issue and why people are upset, which is why I said several times throughout my initial post that I haven't had a chance to play the game and cannot comment on it in a fully educated manner. It's very likely when I have a chance to actually play the game I will have a different perspective.

But I also know how blogs and bloggers think. You need to engender controversy to get pageviews. We've seen this time and time again (do we need to go into the Magic: The Gathering date article again?) And I am afraid that this issue is being trotted out cynically to drive up hits on people's websites. And I don't want it to be just a way to get people to click on ads. . Maybe I could be clearer about that.

The reason there is so much feminist backlash out there lately is that more and more people (not just women) are calling shit out. It's easier to do than ever, and people are braver about it than ever. That's not a trend, and it's not a bad thing. I mean, do you want an egalitarian society, or do you just want to reap the privilege-benefits of pretending to live in one?

I'm ecstatic about all these points. I want this stuff to happen. As I said, these are conversations we need to have, and they are important to work towards an egalitarian society. I just don't know if I agree that everyone putting these articles and comments out is doing it solely because they are legitimately concerned about the issues. Likely the majority of people are. But to say that all bloggers and commentators are doing it for altruistic reasons...I don't know if I can go that far. Maybe Film Critic Hulk is. I doubt Kotaku is.

And I don't really like the implication that by questioning profit-driven blogs I am somehow trying to secretly strengthen patriarchal hegemony. But c'est la vie.
posted by HostBryan at 1:17 PM on October 20, 2011


The apparent sexism in this game has been bugging me ever since I saw the promotional posters that feature Catwoman draping herself over Batman and Harley Quinn...looking like she's trying to seduce Batman. Honestly, I wouldn't mind the weird 'bitch' stuff if not for the fact that the two major female characters in the game are sexualised to a ridiculous degree. When Catwoman's cleavage is on full display in her default outfit, and when the developers release screenshots of cutscenes that focus primarily on her ass, it's extremely difficult to shake the feeling that the player is being asked to become a willing participant in her objectification.

In other words, it wants you to side with the thugs that constantly refer to women as 'bitches'.
posted by anaximander at 1:18 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't really know what else to say here since I simply find this comment factually incorrect in many, many ways.

FWIW everything I mentioned, including the making out with a thug, gratuitous ass shots, and general concept of Catwoman as flirty masturbation material can be found in the official Catwoman trailer.
posted by naju at 1:20 PM on October 20, 2011


It takes work to make a computer generated character do anything... jump, talk, scratch their ass... whatever. So if you have a bunch of NPCs standing around all "yeeeeah I'd hit that shit" well... someone put WORK into that! So to me, if a creator put several hours or even days of effort into including weird misogyny in a game when alternative methods of portraying nefarious characters exist, it kind of paints a bad picture regardless of how sweet the rest of the game is!
posted by SharkParty at 1:21 PM on October 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


It takes work to make a computer generated character do anything... jump, talk, scratch their ass... whatever. So if you have a bunch of NPCs standing around all "yeeeeah I'd hit that shit" well... someone put WORK into that! So to me, if a creator put several hours or even days of effort into including weird misogyny in a game when alternative methods of portraying nefarious characters exist, it kind of paints a bad picture regardless of how sweet the rest of the game is!

See, this makes sense to me.
posted by HostBryan at 1:22 PM on October 20, 2011


Nixy: "I'm disappointed that no one's talking about the best part of the article by far, the link at the end to this hilariously painful video.

It was worth reading just for that.
"

Wow. Just... wow.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:27 PM on October 20, 2011


So you are arguing for edgy, misogynistic realism...

Uh, not at all. Not one of those three.

You're okay with a character planning a killing thousands of people, no problem, no big deal. But if that character cusses at a lady, that's where you draw the line? Murder is acceptable, but swearing isn't? The characters have much worse character traits than their manners. No wonder Arkham patients have such high rates of recidivism, everyone is trying to make them polite instead of trying to make them stop killing people.

posted by BurnChao at 1:27 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


FWIW everything I mentioned, including the making out with a thug, gratuitous ass shots, and general concept of Catwoman as flirty masturbation material can be found in the official Catwoman trailer.

Fair enough; apologies. I honestly never saw that trailer. But I guess then the answer to your question would be no, that doesn't continue in the game, because the music and frame of shots in the trailer aren't in the game and the close-up shot of her briefly kissing a thug before slamming him into the ground isn't a move I've encountered either. And as far as "sexual tittilation goes," well, foul play on whoever cut that trailer but in-game I don't really find Catwoman bloodying eight guys with her fists to be sexually enticing. I also don't consider kissing someone "making out" with them but I don't plan to die on that hill and would be completely on your side in saying anything involving Catwoman sexually assaulting someone as a combat move is pretty fucking dumb.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:31 PM on October 20, 2011


man i love entitled dudes telling me what i can and can't be offended by in their puerile-ass entertainment.
posted by beefetish at 1:36 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


It takes work to make a computer generated character do anything... jump, talk, scratch their ass... whatever. So if you have a bunch of NPCs standing around all "yeeeeah I'd hit that shit" well... someone put WORK into that! So to me, if a creator put several hours or even days of effort into including weird misogyny in a game when alternative methods of portraying nefarious characters exist, it kind of paints a bad picture regardless of how sweet the rest of the game is!

That is one possibility. Or maybe the NPCs came up with that on their own. It could very well be emergent intelligence. The computer may have finally figured out that hot bitch deserves whatever she gets. People who assume Skynet will be a feminist are delusional.
posted by pjaust at 1:36 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it's true that you can use "bitch" in a Teen rated game, but not "bastard", then I suspect that would have more to do with dialogue choices than any misogynist agenda from the writers.
posted by MattWPBS at 1:39 PM on October 20, 2011


Feminism and video games is always an interesting conversation around here.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:41 PM on October 20, 2011


I just appreciate that the convo seems to be easier (here) these days than a few years ago. A bit safer to just hash things out
posted by the mad poster! at 1:44 PM on October 20, 2011


I've got to go with HostBryan's thoughts here, that one of the really jarring aspects of this is that "bitch" isn't really a word you come across elsewhere in Batman mythology. And the Nolan movies proved how far you can take that universe into gritty realism and still never had the need (probably never had the thought) to do that with it.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:49 PM on October 20, 2011


I guess what I want to know is, if Catwoman had not been portrayed quite so lasciviously, and if all the woman-hating language hadn't been included, would ANYONE have complained that the game was missing something -- some realistic or important thematic quality? Would it even have registered?

If not, then why add (or justify adding) it?
posted by hermitosis at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I almost never play video games these days, but when I do I get this squirmy uncomfortable feeling if my girlfriend is watching. Like suddenly I'm responsible for the depiction of gender in some very literary piece like Gears of War.

That's very anecdotal and probably says more about me than the games, but sometimes I find it very necessary to look up and say, "Before you say anything, I understand exactly how ridiculous this is, and yes, it certainly is possible that a room full of fourteen year old boys designed this masterpiece."
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:55 PM on October 20, 2011


Batman is a very rich man who has trained himself to the peak of human potential, outfitted himself with impossibly high-tech equipment, and lives in a world where people with extraordinary abilities either commit crimes or attempt to prevent them.

"Batman is a grown man who lives in his parents' basement staring at computers all day. Then he dresses in a bat suit and has sex with someone dressed as a cat."

"You know what that's CALLED? You know what they CALL those people?"
posted by happyroach at 1:58 PM on October 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


happyroach - I love Wonderella in general and especially that comic.
posted by HostBryan at 2:04 PM on October 20, 2011


"You know what that's CALLED? You know what they CALL those people?"

Ehhh, her neckline is awful low. Was that necessary for the joke?
posted by Ad hominem at 2:12 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nixy: "I'm disappointed that no one's talking about the best part of the article by far, the link at the end to this hilariously painful video.

I... I... I don't know. I'm pretty sure the human race is doomed now. What the fuck is wrong with these guys? One of the judges is a woman, for crying out loud. you would think that would motivate them to dial it back a bit.

But no. They basically pitched Mario-vaginadentata-rape-kart, where Mario is all mad that the sluts won't fuck him 'cos all those feminist bitches be dykes, yo.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:48 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


So... I just finished the main campaign. I spent a bunch of time as Catwoman. There are brief faux-flirtations moments - "Hey boys, looking for me?" kind of things - but the camera does not dwell on her ass, she does basically nothing but kick ass and steal shit, and at one point she rescues Batman. Various thug types do regularly talk about how they'd like to have sex with her and/or Harley Quinn; they also remind each other that Harley is an insane psychopathic killer, and that this would be a bad idea. They're thugs! They are not great at planning or sympathy or respect. I'm not sure why we're horrified by this. It's not like this is a girlfriends-in-refrigerators kind of game. Our female characters are - micro-spoilers within:

* Oracle, who is a behind-the-scenes advisor and appears only as a voice;
* Catwoman, who you can play as, and whose camera never aims at all at her ass;
* Poison Ivy, who has a cameo in a Catwoman level;
* Harley Quinn, who reprises her role as "Hot chick who Joker's thugs are mostly terrified of;"
and
* Nora Fries, Mr. Freeze's wife, who is frozen in a block of ice.

So... okay I was wrong. There is a girlfriend in a refrigerator. But technically she's a wife in cryogenic suspension. And her only defining characteristic is that she's a "talented dancer," and that actually bothered me a lot more than all the "bitch" talk, considering that she's so beloved by Mr. Freeze that he turned supervillain on her behalf.

(There are also a couple of assorted hostages, some of whom are women who need rescuing, and some of whom are men and need rescuing; the men are just as helpless and terrified and such as the women.)

And for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure the Catwoman-Ivy dialogue technically passes the Bechdel test.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:52 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think anyone is telling anyone what they should be offended at. Except me. I'm telling you all that you *should* be offended by this comment.
posted by seanyboy at 3:04 PM on October 20, 2011


I blame the overuse of the word 'bitch' on Jessie Pinkman
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 3:11 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So we have established that it is horribly offensive. The question is, is it illegal.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:18 PM on October 20, 2011


I am throwing out this stupid suit.
posted by The Bellman at 12:01 PM

Eponysterical!

(At least, I wore a stupid suit when I was a bellman...)
posted by Gelatin at 3:20 PM on October 20, 2011


So we have established that it is horribly offensive. The question is, is it illegal.

Wait, I thought Scarecrow wasn't in the game? Where'd that straw man come from then?
posted by kmz at 3:21 PM on October 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Scarecrow isn't in it? The scarecrow levels were the best part of Arkham Asylum
posted by Ad hominem at 3:34 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess it's because I'm a guy but I honestly can't get my head around a lot of these complaints, though I'm not doubting their veracity or defending anything in particular, and haven't played City yet so my perspective might change, but when I sit down in front of a game I go completely blank inside my brainmeat and suspend all disbelief and just muck around in the world as it's presented. With looping dialogue I get frustrated, not because of what's being said, but because I've heard it six, twenty, forty-nine times before. But by the point that I've heard "What a bitch" for the twentieth time it's become a joke and by the 49th time it's just white noise.

If Harley Quinn is dressed in a sex suit, well, it doesn't matter in the context of this game because a) she's a bad guy and b) I'm not playing the game as her and c) I'm probably going to be beating the shit out of her later (I don't remember if Batman fought her in the first game. I don't think so. I think I'm thinking of Lego Batman [which is awesome]). And Harley has obviously got some pretty major self-esteem issues if she's hanging out with a feller like Joker and maybe she just dresses that way to feel better about herself? I mean, most of the male thugs are going around with their tits out too, and both Joker and Two-Face wear suits, which are traditionally associated with male "handsomeness". Batman doesn't have much of a crotch bulge though, I had hoped for better. I guess what I'm saying is why can't we all just get along?
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:44 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh and maybe Catwoman really is a bitch. Did anybody think of that, huh? If you're walking along in an alleyway and suddenly Catwoman drops down and roundkicks your face off and takes your necklace of course you're going to wake up and go "O.M.G! WHAT. A. BITCH!" Maybe all the thugs had their things stolen by her? Maybe she's really rude to baristas? YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW!
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:47 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


And they chose, instead, to turn the Shitty Dial up to 11 in a way that violates the whole context of the thing they're working on.

The "whole context" includes works like The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, released in 1986 and 1988, respectively.

In other words ... more than twenty years ago. Violent, dark and fetish-influenced imagery is not at all a new thing.

Moreover, in the first appearance of Batman, in 1939, "Batman was originally written in the style of the pulps," and this influence was evident with Batman showing little remorse over killing or maiming criminals."

Saying this is out of context is not recognizing the fullness of the context being talked about.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:48 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would enjoy it if there was some sort of script that would replace every use of "bitch" in this game with some sort of anachronistic insult read by a "Comic Book Guy" style voice, no matter who is talking. This set of words would include:

Lummox
Oaf
Bumblepudding
Schmuck
Crank
Kook
Ol' Soft-in-the-head
Twonky
Land Lubber
Hulk
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:48 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]



I'm ecstatic about all these points. I want this stuff to happen. As I said, these are conversations we need to have, and they are important to work towards an egalitarian society. I just don't know if I agree that everyone putting these articles and comments out is doing it solely because they are legitimately concerned about the issues. Likely the majority of people are. But to say that all bloggers and commentators are doing it for altruistic reasons...I don't know if I can go that far. Maybe Film Critic Hulk is. I doubt Kotaku is.

And I don't really like the implication that by questioning profit-driven blogs I am somehow trying to secretly strengthen patriarchal hegemony. But c'est la vie.
posted by HostBryan at 1:17 PM on October 20 [+] [!]


Good points and so let's just put this out there.

I know for a fact Film Crit Hulk didn't write this for controversy or page hits. You are indeed right on.

Cool?
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 4:06 PM on October 20, 2011


I know for a fact Film Crit Hulk didn't write this for controversy or page hits. You are indeed right on.

Cool?


Aight.
posted by HostBryan at 4:38 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The correct answer, dear video game writers, is to use your own made-up words as insults. Stupid taffers.
posted by mstokes650 at 5:13 PM on October 20, 2011


Here's the thing - if you keep saying that you have to put the sexism in because sexism exists, and you have to portray reality is it is, then SEXISM WILL ALWAYS EXIST.

Art is the perfect place to eliminate sexism, because that's the easiest place to do it. The creators control everything, including the thoughts and intents of the characters. It's not like being sexist is a precondition to being evil or thuggish.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:41 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


The correct answer, dear video game writers, is to use your own made-up words as insults. Stupid taffers.

Go frak yourself, you frelling b'tak!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:42 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Batman games are unrealistic in lots of ways. There's no way a man could take the beating Batman does without permanent, debilitating injury. There's no way Batman could deliver the kinds of beatings he does to all those thugs without killing some of them.

But that level of realism wouldn't be fun, so it's not in the game. The only reason to include realism in a game is if it's fun.

So apparently the developers of Batman Arkham City think hearing these "realistic" sexist insults, listening to thugs continuously yell "bitch" at a hyper-sexualized female character is fun.
posted by straight at 8:07 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I am grateful to this particular incarnation of Hulk (HULK FIND YELLOW KRYPTONITE. IT NOT HURT BUT NOW HULK FEEL STRANGE, WANT TO UNDERSTAND ART IN CONTEXT AND EAT ONLY BUS DRIVERS) and to this FPP. I kind of enjoyed the first Batman game -- although I think it's incredibly overrated -- and the breathless gasps of joy emitting from gaming websites all over about Arkham City had me adding it to an already-overloaded list of games to buy.

But this sort of thing makes me tired. When AA popped up originally I thought the rubbish new costume for Harley was just the usual nerdbro game designer shit where they can't put in a woman character who isn't also their own personal fleshlight, and then when the new 52 arrived I wondered if maybe her costume change actually was mandated by DC, who wanted to see if it made the right people sweat in exactly the right kind of awkward way. And now there's this, and I don't know what to think, except that I won't be buying it so I don't have to spend my leisure time immersed in the usual head-exploding "I love women!"/"Yeah, I fucking hate women!" IT'S JUST LIKE THE REAL WORLD GUYS THAT'S WHY I'M STAMPING ON YOUR FACE WITH MY COCK OUT tedious bullshit.

So, money saved! And more time for Skyrim and Dark Souls. Have you played Dark Souls? It's very good, and so far no women have shoved their tits in my face to a rousing chorus of the bitch song.

Incidentally, if anyone has any recommendations for women-dominated game review websites, I'd love to know. Generally I rely on Eurogamer, RPS and Ars, who are all very good but they're kind of sausage fests and tend to miss this kind of thing.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:25 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was really stoked about showing this game to a kid I babysit, but not so much anymore. I feel like I can explain away shit like "You know swearing isn't nice" and I know he's smart enough about violence and whatnot, but Catwoman is just too badly written. It's so much easier to say "Don't swear" than to explain that women aren't really like that.

I hate Harley's new look because in TAS she's more childish and tragic than sexy. That's one of the reasons I think she got so popular in the first place.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 12:49 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm disappointed that no one's talking about the best part of the article by far, the link at the end to this hilariously painful video.

From the slides they showed:
posted by XMLicious at 3:49 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wish I had time to play the copy of Arkham City I bought so I could weigh in on this.

Don't worry; most of the people here haven't played it either, and it's not stopping them.

Art is the perfect place to eliminate sexism, because that's the easiest place to do it.

It's also the least consequential place, in contrast to "the work force," "on the streets," or "in legislation." And of course, determining what should and should not be allowed is detrimental to "art" as a whole, but otherwise, yeah: the perfect place.
posted by Amanojaku at 8:31 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess we're using the word art loosely here, as this is a very commercial product that doesn't make any real claim to expression or creativity.

But okay. Let's call it Art. Are you suggesting that we should enshrine the freedom of artistic expression, but quash criticism of said expression? This isn't a censorship bureau, it's a debate about sexism in media.

And while we're at it, "why aren't you guys wasting your time discussing this sexist game, when you could be out legislating for equality in the workplace" is a very silly argument.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:38 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The article now has a part 2.... http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/hulk-vs-arkham-city-round-2-bitches-be-trippin/
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:23 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


That response is AWESOME.
posted by naju at 11:42 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess we're using the word art loosely here, as this is a very commercial product that doesn't make any real claim to expression or creativity.

I did put "art" in sarcasm quotes, but the distinction is really irrelevant anyway. Something being commercial entertainment doesn't preclude it from expression or creativity. It can certainly succeed artistically as a game, if not as a polemic displaying only politically appropriate usage of symbols.

But okay. Let's call it Art. Are you suggesting that we should enshrine the freedom of artistic expression, but quash criticism of said expression? This isn't a censorship bureau, it's a debate about sexism in media.

I'm no more saying it's a censorship bureau by calling out one part of a comment than everyone else is saying the game should be censored by criticizing it. However, saying "Art is the perfect place to eliminate sexism" does, to me, suggest that eliminating sexism from Art is a goal, does it not?

And while we're at it, "why aren't you guys wasting your time discussing this sexist game, when you could be out legislating for equality in the workplace" is a very silly argument.

Not what I said. I'm fully aware it's not a "one or the other" situation; people are perfectly capable of attending to both matters at the same time. But if one is going to suggest that Art is the perfect place to eliminate sexism because it's easy, I'll simply suggest that instead, maybe the Law is actually the perfect place to eliminate sexism, since the ramifications there are rather more severe. I fail to see why one statement is more contentious than the other.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:10 PM on October 21, 2011


SO WHAT BOTHERED HULK WAS THAT THE INTENTION AND NUANCE OF HULK’S MESSAGE WAS LOST! HULK SMASH!
posted by straight at 4:45 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's also the least consequential place, in contrast to "the work force," "on the streets," or "in legislation."

Moral relativism. It's not a zero sum game. You can object to sexism in the workplace and in video games AT THE SAME TIME. Games are part of pop culture, sexism is a cultural issue, and every little bit counts.

And of course, determining what should and should not be allowed is detrimental to "art" as a whole, but otherwise, yeah: the perfect place.

I didn't say that it 'shouldn't be allowed'. I didn't call for a boycott. I didn't argue that it should be censored. I said that the sexism could have been easily avoided, if the creators were minded to do so.

However, saying "Art is the perfect place to eliminate sexism" does, to me, suggest that eliminating sexism from Art is a goal, does it not?


Well, I think sexism is bad. I would like to eliminate it.

I don't want to get into the video games 'are/are not art'. But I, personally, would like to see unnecessary and pointless sexism eliminated from video games. If there's a reason for it - if it's necessary to the character or the story - then I have no problem with that. But if it's just thrown in for the hell of it, I do not see the difference between having your characters call all women "bitches" as a matter of course, and having your characters regularly saying "you know what I hate? Niggers". And the latter would be unlikely to with the players of Arkham City. Can you imagine anyone trying to make the argument "but the bad guys are BAD. And bad people are racist! So it's REALISTIC".
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:14 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even if the game developers thought that the language was properly representative of the characters, or the gaming audience, I think they should consciously attempt to avoid it, especially given the audience. Before crying "censorship," I think the issue is that nothing, nothing at all, would be lost or compromised through use of different language. You would never tell the difference.

As Film Critic Hulk noted, Nolan does just fine creating awesome Batman without overt sexism.

(If you watch the show Pan-Am, set in the Mad Men era, you'll notice that nobody seems to smoke cigarettes, and womanizing has been toned down; but the story doesn't suffer from it, and you don't even notice it is missing.)
posted by jabberjaw at 6:19 PM on October 21, 2011


I was really impressed by the lack of sexism in Dark Knight. When a female character (Spoiler? Has anyone here possibly not seen Dark Knight?) dies, it happens onscreen with her as a POV character, nothing about it is sexualized, and basically it's exactly the same way a man would die heroically in a film. And that was a mainstream movie aimed at pretty much the same audience as Arkham Asylum.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 1:15 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


That Film Crit Hulk response was excellent and I can't help but feel if he (she?) would have made those points the first time the tenor of the conversation would have been different.
posted by HostBryan at 12:46 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just read this, and its amazing.

Oddly enough, it makes more more likely to buy Arkham City, since I was worried that my lack of an Internet connection would mean I'd miss part of the game. Now I know it's scalping out the worst bits. I still feel uneasy about what was previously a guarnteed purchase.

That Film Crit Hulk response was excellent and I can't help but feel if he (she?) would have made those points the first time the tenor of the conversation would have been different.

Calling out geeks and gamers on sexism is always going to cause them to get angry and defend their privilege.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:21 PM on October 24, 2011


I did play through Arkham Asylum, and I was bothered by how marginalized Harley was. That stupid outfit, the way she got smacked aside without even a boss fight... even Poison Ivy was somehow even MORE sexualized. The whole thing just felt skeevy.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:29 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting for David Lynch's ARKHAM EMPIRE.
posted by Eideteker at 10:03 AM on October 26, 2011


also waiting for Film Critic Puny Banner's take.
posted by Eideteker at 10:04 AM on October 26, 2011


Passing the Buck in a Culture of Dismissal
posted by Artw at 3:17 PM on November 3, 2011


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