Video Games

Ms. Male Character – Tropes vs. Women – Reaction

Anita Sarkeesian has released another video in her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series, Ms. Male Character, and I take back every horrible thing I’ve ever said about her. Well, almost everything.

The video focused on a specific character design that game developers use to portray femininity to the player. Unlike her last videos, she touched upon games from the 80s and up through modern times, such as Disney’s “Where’s my Water?” and  Rovio’s “Angry Birds” giving this presentation a more relevant message, since this trope is still widely used in gaming today. The most obvious and main example would be Ms. Pac-Man who’s sole existence is a female counterpart to PacMan.

How do know she’s female? “Put a bow on it!”

While the actual character of Ms. Pac-man is somewhat outdated, all the points made in this video can be summarized using this one example. Ms. Pac-Man was created as a sequel of sorts to the original Pac-Man arcade game. *Interesting note: Pac-man was created to appeal to the female gamer, watch the video and find out why* To distinguish her as “female” (because clearly calling her Ms. Pac-Man is not enough) she was designed with stereotypical feminine features, pink bow, long eyelashes, and a mole. This also brings up the point, which Anita executed very well, that the creation of a “female” Pac-Man automatically defaults Pac-Man as male.

These are excellent points that still continue in gaming today. Anita touches upon how “Angry Birds” was, for the most part, genderless, until introducing female versions of characters in their Valentines episodes in “Angry Birds Seasons.” Sporting the pink bow, longer eyelashes, and makeup, these female counterparts are distinctly different, the audience defaults the original characters into the “male” category. It’s not enough to present them with female names, or voices.

 Is the answer to create female characters that look like their male equivalents, or not introduce them at all?

16 thoughts on “Ms. Male Character – Tropes vs. Women – Reaction”

  1. Hmm, that IS a good she brought up, and I think it’s a tricky question to answer. I feel like there is room for female characters that look like their male counterpart, but it has to be done in the right way.I feel like Mass Effect did it the right way with Fem-Shep. Sure, on the most basic levels, she is a copy of Shep but as a female. What made her stand out though, was the energy of her voice actress, Jennifer Hale. She gave her charisma, while also commanding respect.

    1. Mass Effect did an excellent job! I think that the RPG genre, whether it’s Western or Japanese, has always had a good grasp on the gender issue, from having multiple characters of both genders that are equally as powerful, to allowing the player to choose their own gender. I would like to have seen more Fem-Shep in advertising and media material, but the general public, and so marketers, still believe the gaming world is male dominated, even though this seems to be far from the truth.

  2. The vast majority of the stuff Anita Sarkeesian puts out, in my experience, is loaded with faulty logic and cherry picked evidence. That said, I think she has a point here. To use the case of Angry Birds, why do we need to pin a gender to them at all? If we absolutely need to differentiate male and female, then why not add characteristics to the male birds to make them look more masculine, while adding feminine characteristics to the female birds?

    1. I completely agree. I was not impressed with her Damsel in Distress videos. Angry Birds doesn’t need gender, same with a lot of games, but I think adding more masculine features would do the same thing but the other way. Social gender markers are not always accurate and to perpetuate them is a mistake a lot of people (not just game developers, but movies, and tv as well) make. They also portray a certain message to the audience. They also said the white bird had been female all along, from what I understand, and then changed her appearance to more “feminine”, which doesn’t devalue the bird as a character, but perpetuates stereotypes. Why does the bird being marked female need to have pink and eyelashes, when it’s been gender neutral looking this long? On the other side of the coin though, male stereotypes are just as prominent in the gaming industry and I think a discussion can be started about both. Why does the male always have to be “masculine” ?

  3. I am not really a touchy person when it comes to the mass stereotyping of women APPEARANCE-WISE. A lot of our cliche “this is a woman, this is a man” imagery is archaic and bears no real influence in the perception of women or their value today. We use many symbols and imagery from literally centuries ago in all avenues of life to define or identify people, places, things, etc. So while the womans restroom icon sports a dress and the mens sports pants, does this influence anyone to hate on women for not wearing a skirt? Or think less of a guy wearing a kilt? Not at all. It’s just imagery, which I think is innocent. So “putting a bow on it” to give a gender identity to an animation that is anthropomorphic at best, doesn’t upset me in the least. Lol. Course, I’m easy to please. 😉

    1. Excellent points! sometimes we can get caught up in imagery, but at the same time, perhaps this day and age with the technology available to us, there are more creative ways to showcase a character’s gender, if they even have one. I mean does the gender of the birds impact game play? No. So, what’s the point?

    2. I agree 100%. I think some people are too easily offended nowadays. I have nothing against games with strong female leads. Tomb Raider is a good example here and Skull Girls is a bad example ;]

      1. Thank you for the comment! I agree that some people are too easily offended. Although, I was offended by X-2, it was a little too “Charlie’s Angels” for me. My fiance, however, could look beyond that and appreciate the game mechanics and the battle system more so. When the new HD verion comes out in March, I’m sure I will be giving it another go.

      2. FF is a terrible franchise in my honest opinion. The mmo’s aren’t any better. They’re too generic for my taste.

      3. They’re definitely not for everyone, and have lost a lot of their core over the years. Once Squaresoft because Square Enix, a lot of the quality and epicness has gone downhill. I still keep hoping that maybe someday, they will bring it back to the old days.

      4. I doubt it. Look at FF15. The gameplay reminds me of Kingdom Hearts and I’m not a big fan of that series either. It seems like Square Enix is more focused on milking their old games instead of making good new ones. It seems like every year they’re re-releasing old final fantasy games. FF7 just released on Steam and I rolled my eyes when I saw it.

      5. To be fair, XV was supposed to be XII vs…. lol and yes I completely agree, the things I love about Final Fantasy are of the days of old. Now it’s instant gratification and lots of “action” not so much strategy anymore. In this day and age of nostalgia, there aren’t many “new” things out there, and a lot of revamp and relaunches, not even just in video games, but media in general.

      6. Very true. I’ve never been a fan of FF but I do like some JRPG’s. Lost Odyssey was awesome, and I loved Blue Dragon too. If you’re into strategy games I can recommend Dragon Age or Civilization V if you’re into building games :]

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