Though I have made an unofficial rule not to respond to commenters who lodge personal attacks against me, Lost Turntable makes some reasonable arguments. Of course, that does not mean that I agree, but these are criticisms that I anticipated. I was going to just post this as a response in the comments section, but since it is so long and I spent so much time thinking it all out, I am going to post it here along with the original comment. I also hope to generate a larger dialogue.
The Lost Turntable's original comment:
I really wish people would do a little research before criticizing this game, especially since if there is plenty to criticize if they just did a bit of damn research.
First of all, stop calling it a 'game' in quotations. You not liking its subject matter doesn't make it any less of a game. I don't call a movie I hate a 'movie.' It does make you look like a pretentious jerk though.
Now to address your other points one by one:
1. I am angry because this 'game' romanticizes, decontextualizes and glorifies male violence against women and against other men.
Well, at least you mentioned that it has violence against men too.
I think playing up the violence against women aspect is a cheap shot. It romanticizes violence...period. Women are rarely singled out as targets in this game and never because they are women.
2. It portrays women as the sex class (willing and available) and men as autonomous agents with full subjectivity (as long as they are hegemonicly masculine).
This is partially on target. But while women are portrayed in an overly sexual manner, the men are portrayed as overly violent. If you are arguing that the game only views women as women if they are engaging in submissive sex acts, then you must also say that the game says a man must be violent in order to be a real man. Neither are good.
2. I am scared to live in a culture where this is considered a viable form of entertainment.
Don't know what to tell you there. There's worse than GTA out there, sorry to burst your bubble.
3. The protagonist of Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko Bellic, fucks women, seemingly all prostituted women, and then brutally murders them immediately afterward if he so desires.
Enough with the killing prostitutes shtick. Yes, you can have sex with hookers in GTA. You can also murder anyone on the street. Ergo, you can kill hookers. Reading any more into it is kind of silly. Also, whenever you do have sex with a hooker Niko immediately says to himself what a disgusting, worthless scumbag he is. It's not a rewarding experience.
Furthermore, Niko Belic actually goes on several dates in the game, and often they do not end in sex. He never forces himself on anyone and the sex with these women is always consensual. Conversely, if the gamer treats the women like shit they stop talking to you. Saying that Niko only has sex with prostitutes is wrong.
4. Young men all over the country (and beyond) will learn that the value of women is their capacity to provide male orgasm.
Any guy who plays this game and comes to that conclusion is already fucked in the head. If anyone sees the hookers and strippers in GTAIV and is then enticed to pursue them in real life, they're going to be in a for a real letdown when they discover just how gross, sickening and depressing both those worlds usually are. The idea that young men will take away any ideas like this from this game is an insult to the intelligence of the human race.
5. I am angry that abuses of women are not taken seriously; are not seen as major social problems. In this culture of domination the murder of a prostituted/raped woman cannot be taken too seriously. Yet in video game culture it is not seen as a problem. Stamp an "M for Mature" rating on it and move on.
Wow...um...wow. Get a grip. Yes, violence against women (or anyone for that matter) is wrong and should be taken seriously. But the idea that this game encourages it or even dismisses violence against women in the real world is about as accurate as saying that it will cause an increase in violence against pigeons (a sidequest in the game is to shoot pigeons, much like a scavenger hunt).
6. It seems worth examining the otherness of Bellic here as well. Admittedly, I am no expert in gaming or gaming culture, I have only played a few in my life and have never been amused by their seeming androcentrism, exclusivity and extraordinary violence...Bellic is depicted as 'foreign' and/or not white. It enables white American men to play the game and distance themselves from the extraordinary violence that they are enacting upon women and other men. "Oh American men do not murder, rape or pay for sex!"
Okay, nearly everything you say here is flat out wrong, and there's so much misinformation and all-out insanity here I don't even know where to begin.
First of all, not all games feature "androcentrism, exclusivity and extraordinary violence." Pick up a game of Sonic The Hedgehog, or better yet the genius Portal (which features a strong, intelligent female protagonist) to see the error in that statement.
As far as the "otherness" of Belic, it's only an issue in that both his past and the fact that he is not familar with America are major story points. The past three GTA games have featured American protagonists who were all just as violent as Niko, and Tommy Vercetti, the main character of GTA: Vice City was more violent, misanthropic and just plain morally repugnant than Niko ever could be. Niko's actually a fairly complex character.
Your argument that the game uses foreign "otherness" as an excuse for violent acts is without base and unequivocally wrong. Like it or not, there's nothing Niko does in this game that is worse than anything the American characters in previous games have done in the past.
It's amazingly obvious that your knowledge of this game, and gaming in general is based almost entirely on what others have told/shown you. Because throughout your poorly written diatribe holier-than-though manifesto you fail to mention the biggest point about the GTA series, which is that they are all broad satires, poking fun at everything from our country's fascination with gangland culture, reality TV and even the music industry. If you took the time out to play the game you might find out that there is some pretty bold pro-feminist commentary in it. For example, there's a radio commercial in GTAIV for a reality show called "America's Next Top Hooker" which brilliantly lambastes our culture's obsession with reality television in a way that also exposes the outright sexism that seems to run rampant in it.
All that being said, there is plenty to dislike about GTAIV. I am uncomfortable with some of the racial stereotypes in the game, and the fact that all the game's homosexual characters seem to be out of a 1970s sitcom also bothers me. However, I am also aware that it is a game. And I don't worry that anyone playing the game will walk away from it more racist or homophobic than they already were. They might actually laugh, see the ridiculousness of the game's stereotypes and walk away from it less prejudiced than they were before. I do hope that in future installments the game continues their critique of cultural stereotypes by turning it on its head (i.e. having a macho gay gangbanger or a female gang leader who takes advantage of her men).
Finally, know that unless you actually sit down and play the game, most gaming fans will refuse to take you seriously.
And rightfully so.
1. I refer to GTA as a ‘game’ in quotation marks not because I think that it does not possess the inherent qualities of a video game by our cultural definition of that concept but because I am displeased that such a violent, misogynistic activity is considered to be a viable mode of entertainment!
2. I made sure to mention, more than once, that I am not an avid gamer. In fact, I have never actually played GTA IV, though I have played earlier versions.
3. The difference between men and women in a white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist, patriarchy (that you do not seem to see) is that women are valued only for their sex, as the sex class. This makes violence against us more insidious. In the real world women are raped, beaten, assaulted, etc. DAILY. Put in this context, portrayals of violence against women by men is not just a coincidence or accident; it maintains patriarchal domination by convincing men and women that it is normal and inevitable.
4. I think we are wholly in agreement that hegemonic masculinity and its hyper violence and limited options are not good for men or women.
5. I would NEVER argue that GTA is the worst form of violence against women “out there” but that doesn’t make it any less problematic. Isn’t that the whole point of cultural criticism? I am not trying to pick out the worst representation of gender in ALL of mass media but rather to present a rich tapestry of similarities of those myriad representations and their complex relationships with one another.
6. “Enough with the killing prostitutes shtick. Yes, you can have sex with hookers in GTA. You can also murder anyone on the street. Ergo, you can kill hookers. Reading any more into it is kind of silly.”
Again, isn’t that the whole point of cultural criticism? Yes, you can kill prostitutes and I think that that is a huge problem. And it isn’t just me. Murder, assault and violence against women are very serious social problems. I cannot even keep track of the numbers but according to RAINN, nearly 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes (the number is no where near that for men). I don’t feel the need to go into the whole significance of cultural context and gender terrorism again. Please, read this post.
Assault and violence against prostituted women is also rampant in the real world. Normalizing it by turning it into entertainment can only add to this problem.
7. If it is true that Bellic does not exclusively have sex with prostituted women, then I gladly retract that statement.
8. “Wow...um...wow. Get a grip. Yes, violence against women (or anyone for that matter) is wrong and should be taken seriously. But the idea that this game encourages it or even dismisses violence against women in the real world is about as accurate as saying that it will cause an increase in violence against pigeons (a sidequest in the game is to shoot pigeons, much like a scavenger hunt).”
Again, I am not saying that GTA is the cause of all social ills, only that it contributes to them by normalizing the propping up of one category of human at the expense of another (and, apparently, animals). Also, I would argue that not enough people take this violence seriously enough and that is why it is such a social ill and not taking it seriously maintains patriarchal rule by making it appear natural and unchangeable.
9. “First of all, not all games feature ‘androcentrism, exclusivity and extraordinary violence.’ Pick up a game of Sonic The Hedgehog, or better yet the genius Portal (which features a strong, intelligent female protagonist) to see the error in that statement.”
I never said “all games,” only the ones I have played.
10. “The past three GTA games have featured American protagonists who were all just as violent as Niko…Like it or not, there's nothing Niko does in this game that is worse than anything the American characters in previous games have done in the past.”
This only serves to prove my point further. That Bellic is depicted as a non-white man at this particular time in American history when immigration is such a particular issue, especially considering that the other protagonists have been white, seems even less coincidental.
11. “You fail to mention the biggest point about the GTA series, which is that they are all broad satires, poking fun at everything from our country's fascination with gangland culture, reality TV and even the music industry.” I sure hope that all of the teenage boys (and girls) playing this game are hip to the oh-so clever satire of GTA. Though in my experience (which, as a high school teacher, is plenty) this is not the case.
12. “I don't worry that anyone playing the game will walk away from it more racist or homophobic than they already were. They might actually laugh, see the ridiculousness of the game's stereotypes and walk away from it less prejudiced than they were before. I do hope that in future installments the game continues their critique of cultural stereotypes by turning it on its head (i.e. having a macho gay gangbanger or a female gang leader who takes advantage of her men).”
Again, I will concede that I have not played the game and do not know the subtleties. I am always glad to hear about characters that defy stereotype and characterization. I am just concerned that such a sophisticated understanding is beyond a significant portion of the players of this particular game. And again, I understand that I can only speak from my experience.