Friday, September 6, 2013

Why the Damsel in Distress?

Below I take quotes from Anita Sarkeesian's video series, "Damsel in Distress - Tropes vs. Women" and analyze them.

"The damsel in distress is something that happens "to" a female character"

Yes, and it happens "to" the male character too. The male's whole life is presumably shattered when the female they love is kidnapped against her will, so he goes on a mission to rescue her. According to Anita, an object is "that which is acted upon" so both the male and female would fit the definition of "object" in her "subject/object" dichotomy.

Anita says, "At it's heart the Damsel trope is not really about women at all."

Indeed! If she understands this then why is she so personally offended by it? The damsel trope is highly attractive to lots of men because it is a personal fantasy for them- not because they want to oppress women or relegate them to being inert objects to be acted upon only.  Yet, the more interesting intellectual question of what causes males to fixate on this trope is totally ignored.

"The damsel trope works by ripping away the power from female characters, even helpful or seemingly capable ones."
Right but that's only relevant within games that are geared at MEN who want to live out this fantasy. There have been plenty of games that set women as the star protaganists, but there is still a large market for the damsel trope. These games do not pretend to accurately represent women and are marketed to a specific demographic and is in no way reflective of the gaming community as a whole.

"The plot device works by trading the disempowerment of female characters for the empowerment of male characters."

This is absurd. The male character is JUST AS disempowered as the female, since as I explained before, the male is thrust into a situation in he must save his loved one, he is an object acted upon from the outside. This scenario makes both of the characters helpless.

"A Damsel'd woman on the other hand, is shown as incapable of escaping the predicament on her own"

That's because the fantasy demands it and once again, as Anita said, "is not really about women at all." It is about men who wish to fantasize about proving their strength and value to the woman they love by rescuing her when she needs it. That is an emotionally compelling fantasy for some men (especially those with low self-esteem." WHY???? does Anita say it isn't about women, but then analyze it as though it is meant to be a story about women????

"The trope robs women in peril from the opportunity of being the architects of their own escape"

So because some game uses the Damsel plot, no other games could possibly be created in which a woman escapes peril? One fantasy cancels out all of the others? What about Portal? In Portal, the protaganist is a woman named Chell and she uses intelligence and physical strength to escape peril... did the trope robbed her of that opportunity??? There are plenty of games set with a female lead. What an absurd statement.

"This trope is being used in a real-world context"

Actually, the trope is being used in the context of FANTASY GAMING which is designed specifically to cater to people's FANTASIES.

"The Damsel in Distress trope as a recurring trend does help to normalize extremely toxic, patronizing and paternalistic attitudes about women."

As Anita and I agreed above, the Damsel in distress trope is "not really about women at all." It is about a man's desire to PROVE THEMSELVES somehow and the Damsel in Distress is an emotionally powerful plot that allows a man to do just that.

In fact, it could be argued that the protanganists of Damsel plots could be fighting AGAINST "patriarchy" since they are enemies of the characters who are actually kidnapping and "objectifying" the damsel.  They want to protect the woman from that 'toxic attitude'.

Anyway, that's about all I have to say. I think her analysis is contradictory to say the least. It's a shame that she has spent so much time analyzing every single detail of individual video games instead of trying to answer the important question which is why so many kids look to video games as a way to fantasize and artificially raise their self-esteem.

Because that's really what this is about. People look at these games as nothing but fun ways to temporarily feel better about themselves and go into a happy place. They don't feel good that the princess is weak, they feel good that they were strong enough to rescue her. The Tropes vs. Women series serves only to victimize women when the real victims here are the kids who obsess over these games because they help them to feel skillful and effective.

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