There Is Nothing Sexist About Quantic Dream's Kara Demo
This is exactly what happens when sensitivity reaches a critical point and begins to crush artistic inspiration.
Patrick Garratt's article concerning the problem of sexism in video games has struck a sour note with me, because it only proves just how insidious and counter-productive extreme sensitivity can be.
Firstly, just to clarify- There is no doubt that video games have been guilty of stereotyping and over-sexing female characters. Whether or not it began with Lara Croft's chest is subject to some debate (Garratt does mention that Princess Peach "always had to be rescued"), but such glaring instances are obvious. It's also true that with a mostly male audience ranging in age from 13 to 35, titillating the typical game consumer is bound to happen. But that's about where my agreement with his rant ends.
The Quantic Dream Kara tech demo is being attacked because of the supposedly sexist way in which the robot character was presented. "Do the cooking, mind the kids," her pleasing shape, her overall tone of submission and obedience, etc. Now, artistically speaking, the focus should be squarely on the gravity of the situation, a situation everyone from H.G. Wells to Isaac Asimov has addressed in human history. It involves the danger of artificial intelligence and what we lose when we go down that road. It involves the gray area between consciousness and unconsciousness. It tackles a relevant, complex, and intriguing concept.
But of course, all that gets buried under the hypersensitivity from which we suffer on a daily basis. Common sense disappears. Kara is a commercial product. The scene was not meant to show that women are supposed to be seen as property, or that women only serve a specific set of roles. If that's all you're getting from that presentation, and all you do is strive to find the politically correct issue, you're missing the deepest, most important aspect of that piece. Kara is a consumer product obviously designed for men, and what's to say in that era depicted, there aren't male robots for women? What then? Can't have that, either?
And then the idea that all women are always positioned in sexist roles- To the question in the article, are there any men that are deemed "sexy" in video games? It was supposed to make the point that only women are sex objects in games, but that is completely invalidated by the fact that the very nature of the traditional hero (muscular, cocky, powerful, etc.) is very often seen as sexy by females. Duke Nukem isn't sexy? I'm no woman but I'm willing to bet that guy would hit the hot charts for girls if he were real. Not all women go for that type, but to say that only women are sexualized in gaming is utterly one-sided.
On top of which, we are starting to see some extremely strong female characters in games that are exactly the types feminists would appreciate: Independent, not strangely shaped, intelligent, capable, etc. Trip in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a good example of that, as is numerous female roles in major game productions today. On top of which, are we to forget that this is mainstream entertainment? Movie stars aren't exactly ugly, are they? Appearance matters in this hedonistic world and gaming is no different; nobody wants to see and control unappealing characters. Yeah, sorry, that truth always hurts.
We are in a dangerous situation right now. We are in danger of squashing truth for stuff that, in the long run and in the bigger scheme of things, does not matter. We are in danger of producing the best play in twenty-five years, only to have it denounced because it doesn't have any minority roles in it. We are in danger of constantly preaching without ever understanding the intrinsic human natures that have defined masterful literature and art since the dawn of our existence. There is something beyond our petty "role" squabbling; there is the fact that men and women are different, chemically and biologically. If you'd like to make us all the same, I'd be interested to see how that society functioned.
Art is about exploring humanity. It's about exploring the depths of ourselves and the endless, intricate questions surrounding time, love, death, and anything else that kept the philosophers awake nights. Blatant sexism and racism should not be tolerated simply because both are nothing more than ignorance. But quelling any possibility for advancement in the arts - Quantic Dream is well known for artistic progression - is dangerous. And depressing. If we are honestly going to condemn the Kara demo because we're so outrageously shortsighted that the only thing we can see anymore is sexism and any other "ism" everywhere we turn, we're in trouble.
4/13/2012 10:27:31 AM Ben Dutka