April 19, 2004

Video Games and the Male Gaze

Yes, I finally figured out what it was that got me about Rachel's presentation, aptly titled "They Have Breasts, So What!?" Not only do I think that it's unacceptable for people, especially women, to say "oh well, you'll have this" to gender stereotyping, but I also had a slight problem with the idea that volleyball players wear skimpy bathing suits like in the video games. Here's a tidbit from Rachel's presentation:

Feminists not only have a problem with action/fighting games but also sport games. Beach Volley Ball has girls in bikinis, so what? That's what you see human female players wearing. Most professional female volleyball players wear two pieces. (Two pieces allow more mobility than one pieces.) Should we protest them? Some have large breast and tiny waist. This game is an image of the actual sport. Beach Volleyball is played on a beach, so you're not going to wear sweats, but a bathing suit that YOU feel comfortable in and allows to play.
Dare I be the one to say it, but beach volleyball players usually wear athletic swimming suits with a little more support, even if they are two pieces. For substantiation, I asked one of my friends, a volleyball player who witnessed a huge beach volleyball tournament in Florida....she made this comment: most volleyball players aren't exactly....well endowed. In other words, the cantaloupe sized breasts featured in Xtreme Beach Volleyball wouldn't be wearing suits like that in real life.

But, back to my point about the representation of women in meat games like the volleyball one. The reason why the players look like that is because of the "male gaze." Dare I bust this one out from past classes, but it seems to me that those volleyball players are what men "want" to see, thus they have made it so, no matter how unrealistic it is. Second of all, players like Rachel are okay with seeing it, because she even said (loosely quoted) "don't we all want bodies like that?" (Okay, I don't, that's too top-heavy. But whatever.) That is because women have adopted this "male gaze" and turned it on themselves, so they can shape their identities to fit it. Worse yet, they aren't disturbed by it, because "so what, they're just breasts."

In real life, it matters. Not just because this is what kids are seeing, but because this is what women and men are seeing, and worse yet, expecting.....hence, shows like Extreme Makeover. Anyway, it's late, and I didn't do this blog entry justice. I was thinking of an all-out fisk of Rachel's entry, but I didn't want to appear overly aggressive. Dare I be rabid. ;)

And, in honor of all good things, the extended entry has a feminist goody for you.

Dar Williams
Singer, songwriter
"And now I'm in a clothing store, and the sign says less is more/More that's tight means more to see, more for them, not more for me"

Posted by Julie Young at April 19, 2004 12:12 AM

Julie, as I understand it, the female characters in the beach volleyball game are taken from other computer games, they aren't designed to represent "real" volleyball players. And the fact that men get to control the actions of the on-screen women is significant, too... the clips I've seen of the game feature women stretching and sort of prancing around, in addition to the typical action shots you'd expect in a sports game. Maybe that's just the way the TV commercials edited the in-game sequences, though. I'm wondering... would these characters, in these costumes, be any more or less acceptable in a sports game rather than a fighting game? Just wondering.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at April 19, 2004 12:58 AM

I didn't hear Rachel's speech, so I can't comment on that, but it's a truism that sex sells -- especially if the target market is a geeky male teenager. Would a boy buy a volleyball video game if it DIDN'T promise such 'eye candy'? Please. You hit the nail on the head with the trend in games toward showing more 'eye candy,' Julie: from what I can tell, these 'extreme' games are little more than technologized voyeurism, wearing the veil of 'extreme' sports. Dr. Jerz mentioned that a player might be able to control these women characters -- which is, of course, a realization of what undergirds the fantasy of the voyeur -- the one who can see without being seen, and thereby fantasize that he's pulling the strings. Good call.

Posted by: Mike Arnzen at April 19, 2004 09:30 AM

I've actually played this game, and when I played it, I didn't see it as actual volleyball, of course, as that would take a hint of athletic ability. However, when I did play it, it seemed more like peppy music and movable Barbie dolls that giggled and pranced around.

That game isn't "an image of the actual sport" as Rachel contended, it's a poor representation of it. And, I wonder if it is really men pulling the strings on this game. I actually think, due to the overabudance of perky pop music and the fact that brand-name volleyball players in the US are female, that this game has a larger female audience than one would expect. So, I wonder what the deal is with women playing a game that represents the female "dream" body that everyone claims men want, and saying, oh, so what, those are just breasts.

Maybe a boy wouldn't buy the game if it didn't include large doses of female eye candy. Call me idealistic, but they don't seem to care about the "eye candy" invovled in Madden football, and frankly, I bet they'd still be captivated by breasts, even if they were just orange-sized and still in a two-piece.

Posted by: Julie at April 19, 2004 10:57 AM

First of all, to add to the feminist view of Lara Croft, while she is climbing on walls and when she gets "hurt," she lets out grunts (of probable sex appeal). This is potentially what makes the males who play the game think of her sexually. Without the sexual grunts, Lara would just be another action hero, regardless of looks.

But then you have to take into consideration that she is a "heroine." Male heros incorporate Superman, the Rock (for those WWE fans), and even the Punisher (now out in theaters). These people are built and portray the ideal image. I think that the problem with society is where the heros come from.

The heros/heroines, those people that kids grow up idolizing, are idealistic looking, so that is where the problem first hits the society. When little boys and girls start idolizing Ruben Studdard and Mimi from the Drew Carrey Show, then we will have more hope in changing this image. So Feminists should aim their educative powers at the children because the adults of society have already grown up knowing "what they want." Perhaps it would be better to target the kids who don't know what they want, YET.

The video games industry is just banking on their audiences wants. You can't blame them for giving them what their audience wants.

Posted by: Brian at April 19, 2004 12:49 PM

Good, then I'll blame them AND their buyers. ;)

Posted by: Julie at April 19, 2004 01:42 PM

PS - Why should it just be the feminists solving this huge problem? Everyone should care what their kids learn.

Posted by: Julie at April 19, 2004 01:43 PM

"You can't blame them for giving them what their audience wants." That's what the Romans said, too, when they threw slaves into the ring with lions.

Posted by: Mike Arnzen at April 21, 2004 08:10 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?