Monaco and Feminism, or, Give Me A Female Cleaner and A Smashburger and You Can Have All the Redheads You WantApril 19, 2013
Okay, I’m'a get real feminist for a minute, because God knows I don’t get enough death threats and people telling me I’m ugly.
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I just preordered Monaco, a single-player/co-op heist game that I am SUPER excited about. Then I checked out the development vlog, hoping to find more info on the various classes and how they played. What I found was this very motion-sicknessy video in which Andy Schatz attempts to defend the redhead class from accusations of misogyny and does kind of a terrible job.
I’ll back up and provide context. There are eight classes in the game, all based on classic heist tropes. You have your locksmith, your pickpocket, your computer hacker, your guy who comes in and basically mows everybody down with a shotgun and they turn into skellingtons (can you tell which class I am most excited about?) Then you have the redhead, whose power is seducing men as a distraction, a la Cinnamon from Mission: Impossible, etc.
There is an argument to be made in defense of the redhead, and it goes something like this: “Look, these characters are not supposed to be three-dimensional, they are supposed to be classic heist tropes. The pickpocket is a frigging hobo with a monkey! A hobo with a monkey! I also have a dumb guy who is good with locks and a dumb guy who is good with a shovel. What more do you want from me?”
(The counter-argument you could make to this is “Yes, but you had an opportunity here to come up with creative takes on these classic stereotypes instead of perpetuating them whole cloth,” the counter-counter-argument to that is “Sure, but I didn’t. Oh well! Game’s still gonna be fun,” and the response to that is “Yes, and I am still very excited about it! I will shut up now!”)
Schatz touches on the classic tropes defense briefly, but spends most of the video arguing various other things rather unconvincingly, as though he’s hoping something will stick and Anita Sarkeesian will call off her squad of death muppets and he will be able to go outside again and see his family. And get a Smashburger, he really misses Smashburger. (Okay, I will stop making shit up about Andy Schatz for no reason.)
His arguments as I understood them:
1) The redhead is actually progressive, because she uses her sexuality as a tool and um Leigh Alexander wrote an article about Bayonetta and it probably also applies here. God, I hope so. (Maybe tonight I will try to sneak past the feminists and see if my dog is okay.)
I didn’t read Leigh Alexander on Bayonetta, or play Bayonetta, so I can’t speak to that bit, but whenever someone makes the argument that wielding your sexuality as a weapon necessarily empowers you as a female, I am like “oh dear God I was with you before you said that please stop talking.”
The kind of power that women want — I’m'a just speak for all women quick — involves shit like being treated as a fully equivalent human and being taken seriously and just maybe, sometimes, being the one who gets to do all the cool shit. Being able to distract guys with our tits so other people can do cool shit is down there with being Aquaman, on the big cosmic list of superpowers.
(We are also, especially since the redhead is defined as a manipulative character, getting a little too close to the idea that women are all evil bitches who use their cunts to get what they want. This is in my personal opinion the absolute most offensive thing you can say about us as a gender, and I have heard plenty of dudes on the internet saying it as though it were a proven fact. I don’t think that’s at all where Schatz was going with this, I don’t think he’s a bad dude, I also love Smashburger, I’m just saying.)
2) It is okay if the redhead is problematic, because there is another female character, the lookout! Did you know she was female? Is that made clear in the marketing materials, that the lookout is female? Let me quick make that really weirdly explicit in all the marketing materials, that the lookout is female. (Please, will you just tell my mom I’m still alive?)
So, okay, two out of eight characters are female. One is real good at distracting guys so the others can do cool shit elsewhere, but the other one is much more of a badass, in that she is real good at, um, looking out for guys so the others can do cool shit elsewhere.
I’m a little bit reminded of a boy playing a heist game with his friends. The only girls there are his crush and his little sister, whom he relegates to support positions so they don’t get in the way of the Big Important Fun Stuff, which everyone knows only boys are physically and psychologically equipped to deal with. Maybe his crush enjoys being a seductress (I know I was super sold on the idea of having boobs before I got them), but I’ll bet you a Smashburger his little sister would rather be the hobo with the monkey.
(Side note: The description of the lookout in the video is “Trained from youth to see danger around every corner.” This is actually really relevant to the female experience!)
3) It’s hard to do a female character, because either they are a damsel in distress, or they are a fake damsel in distress who turns out to be a badass, and that second one is actually pretty sexist because it shouldn’t be funny or punchy that a woman is a badass, she should just be a badass. (Oh God OH GOD put the hammer down I swear I won’t touch your penguin ever again)
The fake-damsel-in-distress reversal gets more of its punch from people being sick of damsel-in-distress tropes, I think, but I absolutely agree that a woman who is a badass should just be a badass. (See: that chick from that dumb Priest movie, basically anyone from Kill Bill, Samus, FemShep, etc.)
You know what else is badass? Remember that sociopath I was talking about earlier who just kills the shit out of people with a shotgun? Make him a lady. Or the computer hacker, “a modern-day wizard!” That’s pretty badass! He could be a lady! Angelina Jolie did it! Come on, Andy Schatz, you like lady badasses, right?
I bet a female Cleaner would be just the thing to convince Anita to sew your legs back on, or at least tell you where she put them!
This gender stuff isn’t a dealbreaker; I am still really excited for Monaco. You learn pretty early on as a chick who plays video games that if you insist on being a lady badass or a lady not-sex-object, or even just a lady, you do not get to play nearly as many video games, so you suck it up and deal.
I look forward to a future in which our granddaughters get to stop friggin’ having to do that, though, and I’m a little sad that Monaco missed an opportunity to do something cool and subversive along lady badass lines.
(I’m also sad to have gotten absolutely zero free Smashburgers for having written this. I gotta stop writing feminist diatribes hungry, they go to some weird places.)