Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Am Angry About Grand Theft Auto IV

I am angry.

I am angry about a 'game' called Grand Theft Auto IV. I am angry because this 'game' romanticizes, decontextualizes and glorifies male violence against women and against other men. 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). I am angry because this is the result of living in a patriarchal, ethnocentric, xenophobic, homophobic and, yes I'll say it, woman hating culture. I cannot understand this 'game' as anything other than that.

I am scared to live in a culture where this is considered a viable form of entertainment. 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. Bear in mind, of course, that 'he' is controlled by the player. Young men all over the country (and beyond) will learn that the value of women is their capacity to provide male orgasm. That is all.

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.

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 a Bosnian immigrant in search of "The American Dream." I think it is relevant that in a game produced and developed by plenty of white men, 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!"

In a time when immigration is such a heated issue, Grand Theft Auto IV must be placed within its proper cultural context. It is not an accident that Bellic is a violent, over sexed, thuggish immigrant.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I am Disappointed with Stephen Colbert

Today I am going to wag my finger at Stephen Colbert. Hell, I might even put him on notice.
I love The Colbert Report. I do. It is hilarious and sometimes subversive. It is a wonderful political satire with a progressive edge. But as I have mentioned before, these progressive television personalities are often blinded to their own male privilege. On the April 16th episode, Colbert had the Philadelphia Eagle's Cheerleaders dancing around his stage while he oogled them. Now I understand that his show is a satire but I have to say, I don't see anything funny about women being treated like objects. Especially in light of this post from Shakesville.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Institutionalized Racism and My Very Favorite Show

Image Via

As I have probably mentioned before and almost certainly will mention again, sometimes being a feminist cultural critic means recognizing the sexism/racism/classism/agism/ethnocentrism/etc in the things that you love. I guess I couldn't do what I do if I didn't love popular culture as much as I sometimes hate it.

The X-Files has been my favorite show since I was in seventh grade. I was a devoted fan right until then end. Every so often I have a renaissance and I spend a few weeks re-watching them all. I love the show so much that I have never really been critical of it because it is my private guilty pleasure. I watch it when I am sad or lonely or sick or just procrastinating and I don't want any pesky analysis to get in the way of that pleasure.

All of that being said, I have noticed something very upsetting about the portrayal of non-white people on the show. First of all, most of the characters and certainly all of the main characters are white. When we do see non-white people they are almost always men and they are almost always perpetrators of violence. Most disturbing though is the eerie pan flute music that always seems to be playing when non-white people are on the screen. It is most obvious in episodes about Native Americans but is very clear (at least in the first few seasons) every time a black man is the perpetrator. What is most disturbing about this is that in the episodes "Fearful Symmetry" and "Shapes" (and others I am sure) the same music is played when wild animals, especially dangerous ones like cougars and wolves (or werewolves), are on screen.

Now I am no ethnomusicologist (maybe someday...) but the racism implicit in this portrayal is palatable. This is pretty much the definition of institutionalized racism and dehumanization. It isn't immediately obvious and many media consumers wouldn't think twice about this very clear correlation because it isn't as obvious as a "coloreds only" sign. But it is just as dangerous, if not more so, because it doesn't evoke the passionate response that overt racism does.

Also, OMFG!, in the process of researching this I discovered that an additional X-Files film is in production. I am so there on opening day!