That moment when you, a feminist, read an article by another feminist who is criticising sexism in a videogame, and think “this is so full of shit.”
And you feel conflicted between the fact that you really, truly just can’t see their point, and the knowledge that expressing even the mildest, most correct concrit on sexist tropes makes you a target. It doesn’t matter if you very politely suggest that maybe a trope might possibly be sexist and respectfully explain why with facts and logic, you’ll always be a “feminazi c*unt” to people who have already decided that feminism is the enemy.
On the one hand, you agree with the technical content of what the other side is saying (the article really is quite bad). On the other hand, you completely disagree with HOW they say it (screaming vile insults and claiming that feminism is the enemy of gaming).
How do you deal with that?
The article in question is this one: http://www.themarysue.com/remake-final-f…
Frankly, it’s downright dishonest, putting things completely out of context to make them appear so much worse than they really are.
For example, their criticism of Cid.
“Lastly, and most offensively, is the treatment of women in the game. Cid is an alcoholic (what do you think he meant by “tea” in that notorious scene?) abuser of his assistant, Shera, and there’s a silent endorsement on the part of the other characters when they refuse to acknowledge or confront him about his disgusting actions.”
Cid is an alcoholic because all his hopes and dreams were brutally crushed when he chose to put his conscience over his own happiness, and destroy the rocket to save Shera’s life (he was going to space, but right when the rocket was about to launch, Shera wandered into a place that would have been destroyed by the explosion. The only way to stop the launch and save her life was to destroy the rocket). Everything he had been working hard for his whole life, everything he had been making sacrifices for, disappeared in a puff of smoke, all because Shera ignored the warnings and entered a dangerous zone. As a result, he fell into severe depression, and started deeply resenting Shera and verbally abusing her.
The characters don’t confront him about it, partly because Shera herself insists that they don’t (she feels guilty for basically ruining Cid’s life and believes that she deserves the verbal abuse), partly because they are busy fighting both an evil organization that controls the world and a madman with the power of a god so they kinda have their hands full. Nevertheless the game presents the situation as tragic and unfair, and takes time to show Shera’s point of view and her own pain.
Eventually Cid learns the truth: Shera had wandered into that room because she suspected that the rocket was damaged and the launch would have been a disaster, and her suspicions turned out to be right. He has a massive Heel Realization, acknowlegdes that he has been a huge tool to Shera and practically kicks himself for the way he treated her. She shows up to save his skin again, and he sincerely apologizes to her, completely changes his behaviour and, when he gets a ship in the sequel, names it after her.
Cid is a good person who throws away the work of a lifetime to protect a rookie who seems to be just stupidly ignoring the most basic safety measures. He gets furious with her about it because honestly, who wouldn’t? If some random kid fucked up your entire career, wouldn’t you call them a goddamn idiot? But he goes through a lot of character development and, when he finds out the truth, he immediately expresses sincere regret and works extremely hard to atone for his bad behaviour.
It’s an interesting, “human” character arch about hidden truths, misplaced anger and redemption. Dismissing it as just “Cid is an abuser who hates women” is misleading to say the least. And if they took it out of the remake, I’d be pissed.
Then there is their criticism of Tifa.
“I look at Tifa and realize now how over-sexualized she is; less a character and more a caricature of womanhood made to pander to teenage boys that can’t appreciate a fighting woman unless she’s also a sex toy.”
Tifa’s character design is indeed quite sexual: http://tinyurl.com/gle8jkj . She is also involved with a subquest where she disguises herself as a prostitute to infiltrate a brothel.
But writer neglected to mention a couple of things.
One, that Tifa both has a strong personality and accomplishes many plot-relevant things in the story. So calling her “less of a character and more a caricature of womanhood” is enormously overblown.
Two, the game offers a good deal of fanservice both to fanboys and to fangirls. Sephiroth is a constantly-posing pretty boy with Rapunzel-like hair with an outfit that wouldn’t look out of place in a fetish club (http://tinyurl.com/zhbzhem). And the beautiful male protagonist also disguises himself as a prostitute to infiltrate the brothel (in fact, the subquest is about fetching items like ribbons and jewels to make him look so pretty they’ll immediately let him in).
Then there is the criticism about Aeris:
“And Aerith? Probably gaming’s most celebrated and best-known refrigerator trope. One of the few female characters in the game who is not sexualized, whose powers are non-violent, who has a respect for culture and growth, and who has actual character development is killed in an extremely brutal way just to serve as a motivation for Cloud, who is a literal blank slate in the game.”
First of all, while technically her powers are non-violent (she is the Healer of the party), she beats people to death with a stick. Rather gleefully at that.
Second, stop denying that the other characters have character development omg. A character you don’t like is not necessarily the same as a shallow or badly written character.
Third, there are actually more non-sexualized female characters in the game than sexualized ones (Tifa and Scarlet vs Aeris, Yuffie, Elena and Lucrecia).
Fourth, she doesn’t die just to motivate the male hero. She dies to enter the Lifestream (FF Heaven, more or less) so she can use the Holy spell that saves the world at the end of the game. Turns out the macguffin the heroes needed to save the day could only be accessed by dying, and it’s implied Aeris knew that and chose to die for that reason. Cloud dying wouldn’t have accomplished anything because he can’t use white magic.
I’ve been seeing tons of posts on my dash shredding the article to bits and claiming that all feminist concrit of videogames is built on similarly shaky grounds, and it has been frustrating the hell out of me. I don’t want to support an article that I completely disagree with, but the constant barrage of “THIS IS WHY FEMINISM IS BAD FOR GAMES!!!” is making me angry and defensive.