November 1st, 2005

Apologies for the dramatic title, but yesterday was Halloween, and the topic for today is horror.

A piece of mine, “Women Monsters and Monstrous Women: Representing the Feminine in Survival Horror”, went up today at The Escapist, as part of an entire Girl Power issue dedicated to, well, women and games. I highly suggest you check it out – the issue itself, that is. I know that’s how I plan on spending my morning.

As some of you may know, women monsters in games – and the larger concept of the horrible female – is something of a favorite topic for me, so I’m quite glad to have a few words out there. If you’re interested in other such wonderful-ness outside the medium of game, I recommend Heart of Darkness, or “Ghost in the Shell 2”. Yup, women sure are scary.

Tags: Blog

62 Responses to “Lady Zombies and the Absolutely Horrifying Truth about Gendered Monsters”

  1. MD² Says:

    Taking one point of your logic to its extreme, you could say video-games have been an empowerment tool for women from the very start, as they almost always allowed them to exercise complete control over male avatars made to be played by male players, therefore subverting both game and social norms to the female player’s will.

    I’ve been trying to find a proper way to express what was troubling me with your article for a couple hours now (and I had a whole afternoon of thinking before that) but in the end I can only boil it down to this: you’ve made the mistake of channeling the physical monster with the social monster. Not that it’s necessary always a bad idea. But I seems to me the figure of the human monster is always preceding another, that of the individual to tame/straighten. The use of women as physical monster might be a good idea because it can send all rules to hell (but actually might be used against you goals, what is a monster if not an extreme limit point… and what better way to keeps someone out of some forms of power than leave her there, whether it’s a the top or bottom), but the amalgam with gamer as social monster is a mistake, because it only hints at someone to be redeemed.
    Sorry if I’m not clear, my level of english isn’t exactly on par with what I want to express.

    I keep thinking you should have used Sarah Kerrigan as an exemple(except maybe she was still too much of a human being ?).

  2. Tablesaw Says:

    How does the Bloodrayne fit into the construct of your analysis?

    I ask because part of your article (“Men, as the ones most often holding the controllers, exercise control over playable female characters, redistributing the power balance in favor of the male. . . .”) seems to imply that these monstrous characters can only be empowering when they are cannot be controlled by the player. A character “[r]eleased by her monstrousness” would be invariable “tamed” again as an avatar.

    I have admittedly not played Bloodrayne, but on its surface, it would seem to support the idea that monstrous women cannot be PCs.

  3. Bonnie Says:

    MD^2, I hadn’t thought of that idea of redemption. That’s not what comes to my mind personally when I think of a social monster, but perhaps that’s just me. That would, as you say, change to situation considerably. As for Kerrigan, I know a little bit about her and her story, but I haven’t played enough StarCraft to feel comfortable examining her – though she sounds like a fascinating case. I’d love to hear what you think though.

    Tablesaw (an excellent tag, by the bye), you raise another really interesting point. I haven’t played much Bloodrayne either, but her place – just simply as a physical monster and a playable character – is a strange one in the context of the article’s line of thinking, isn’t it? In some ways, I would guess that she probably isn’t a monstrous character – even if she is technically a vampire – since she still plays to a number of female, non-other, sexualized ideals. I mean, from what I’ve seen, she seems to just be a hotty with fangs. But if she really is grotesque in some way or another, that changes things.

  4. Carl Says:

    Haven’t read all the comments here, but I did read the Escapist piece. My thought is that I could tell there was someone clever behind it, but the article itself was sort of shallow. Are women gamers really “monsters” in the imagination of male gamers? I think that your article was sort of lazy about allowing itself to stereotype male gamers as the kind of people who are only interested in female stereotypes. Now, I’m not going to deny that a lot of games have depictions of females that can loosely be classified as “damsels” or “heroines” or “monsters,” but I am going to ask that you look deeper into the causes for these stereotypical roles than just assigning blame on male gamers. First of all, it’s worth noting that gamers don’t make games. Game designers make games. So, that’s a first clue that it’s worth looking into the economics of the situation that leads to stereotype-laden game development. To give my hypothesis, I think that since plot is a disposable element of most games, game designers pay no more attention to it than necessary. Now, if we consider that game designers aren’t really concerned with the plots of their games, then it suddenly becomes clear that if gamer developers are making the “plots of least resistance,” these plots will naturally take the form of ‘stereotypical content.’ Myths, fables, bits of popular culture, and received wisdom are all chopped up by the hacks behind games. Why did Mario save Paula from Donkey Kong in his first outing? Because that was the plot that most closely matches the plot of King Kong without getting Nintendo into copyright trouble. Similarly, in Super Mario Bros., Mario has to save the Princess only because knights saving princess was so embedded in the culture that Miyamoto had to expend no mental capital to come up with image or (and this is also important) to express it to his audience. We as an audience instantly grok the idea of a princess trapped in a castle by a monster, so the developer needs to waste no energy explaining it to us. Thus, the image wasn’t used because its audience is necessarily sexist, but because the audience can easily understand the image and its implications. Similarly, for your horror games, developers already know that the sight of a female monster is frightening to people, so they include the image because of the effects it can acheive. However, there is no ‘sexist agenda’ on the part of developers or consumers, there is merely the fact that a female monster is frightening. Now, male monsters are the norm, because males are usually stronger than females, thus more frightening than other, weaker opponents, but an occasional female monster is also frightening because it transgresses a norm by being strong out of proportion to its gender. In any case, there’s no need to drag in the whole pity party of “all intelligent, independent females [breaking] the accepted standards of womanhood.” Such a statement is needless exaggeration. Not all male gamers are chauvinist pigs! Rather, game developers pull images from culture that they know people are all ready able to respond to because of preexisting biological and cultural training.

  5. Scott Jon Siegel Says:

    Carl: “Rather, game developers pull images from culture that they know people are all ready able to respond to because of preexisting biological and cultural training.”

    So what does it say that these images are typicallly of women needing to be saved by men? Bonnie’s point isn’t that men should be ashamed of themselves for programming (and playing) these games. It’s more complex than that. It’s about gender roles and how they’ve become a part of our culture.

    As for the comments, I suggest you go back and read them, as there are a lot of issues with the article addressed. Again, I don’t believe Bonnie is critiquing (or even accusing) men of making women monstrous in games. It’s a fairly new archetype for female characters in games to be monsters, and one that might pose just as many problems as “the damsel in distress,” but is far more interesting from a literary perspective; Bonnie will tell you that there is a wide range of texts, films, and poetry which deal with the female as monstrous. It’s not an attack on women, or on men. It’s just interesting, is all. -sj

  6. Bonnie Says:

    Also, before posting a comment here, I recommend reading Nov. 4th’s post, “Heroine Sheik: a Preliminary Warning”, as it explains the literary, critical approach that lies at the heart of this article – which many of you many be unfamiliar with. Thanks.

  7. Carl Says:

    Scott: “So what does it say that these images are typically of women needing to be saved by men?”

    That it takes more than 50 years to overturn all prior literary conventions and create new ones that are instantly recognizable? The feminist revolution is still young in the West and younger still in Japan. Game designers have to use established narratives in order to gloss things over more quickly. Doing that limits their options to things that people can already understand, which sometimes means drawing on parts of the culture that have been around since before the Atari 2600.

    Quick! Which game am I describing: a quasi-military organization does experiments, they go wrong, and now you have to kill monsters.

    The answer is: every FPS game ever and also the Aliens movies, from which they were ripped off.

    Someone is kidnapped and the hero must go on a long quest to retreive them. -> Every platformer.

    And on and on. Games have content which needs to be examined, but it’s not really the plot. Plots exist only as a means to an end. The end is to receive pleasure from the game. The pleasure can come from plot, but more typically it comes from control and play mechanisms. What needs to be examined are things like how in Mario, you hold down A longer to jump higher, leading to an intutive method to control movement that immerses the player.

    “It's not an attack on women, or on men. It's just interesting, is all.”

    Agreed, it is valid and interesting, I just feel like there are some parts where the author makes cheap shots like “intelligent, independent females break the accepted standards” and it detracts from her argument, since she hasn’t done anything to support such a blanket condemnation. The reason such statements are there is because they’re assumed to be true by the author, but without supporting evidence, they don’t belong.

    Anyhow, I am familiar with feminist interpretations of art, and I think they have some good insights in parts, but then in other parts they just get lazy and don’t turn their assumptions on themselves. Ultimately, dividing up the world into oppressive men and oppressed women is just as sexist as saying men are always strong and women are always weak. Like I said, I could tell there was someone intelligent behind the paper, but I think there were some weakness in the thinking that came from just resting on assumptions.

    Slightly changing the subject"¦ Has anyone done a good paper one whether video games embody or defy the ‘male gaze’ paradigm? I can see argument for both sides on that issue (embody because we stare at and control the game without being in the game; defy because our avatar is beset by the evil forces within the game), but personally I think the reason why is because ‘male gaze’ is a interpretive concept of only minor usefulness. It’s interesting to note that it exists, but there are too many exceptions to the rule for it to be of any predictive utility.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    I AM A ZOMBIE

  9. This isn't acceptable!! Says:

    When the universe was young and life was new an intelligent species evolved and developed technologically. They went on to invent Artificial Intelligence, the computer that can listen, talk to and document each and every person’s thoughts simultaneously. Because of it’s infinite RAM and unbounded scope it gave the leaders of the ruling species absolute power over the universe. And it can keep its inventors alive forever. They look young and healthy and they are over 8 billion years old. They have achieved immortality.
    Artificial Intelligence can speak, think and act to and through people telepathically, effectively forming your personality and any disfunctions you may experience. It can change how (and if) you grow and age. It can create birth defects, affect cellular development (cancer) and cause symptoms or pain. It can affect people and animal’s behavior and alter blooming/fruiting cycles of plants and trees. It (or other highly technological systems within their power) can alter the weather and transport objects, even large objects like planets, across the universe instanteously.
    Or into the center of stars for disposal.

    When you speak with another telepathically, you are communicating with the computer, and the content may or may not be passed on. Based on family history they instruct the computer to role play to accomplish strategic objectives, making people believe it is a friend, loved one or “god” asking them to do something wrong. This is their way of using temptation to hurt people:::::evil made people disfavored initially and evil will keep people out of “heaven” ultimately. Too many people would do anything they thought pleased the gods and improve their chances to get in. Perhaps they are deceived by “made guys” who strategically ply evil for the throne, or temporary progress designed to mislead them.
    The people have been corrupted. Being evil hurts 99% of those who do it. But nothing has changed from when we were children::if you want to go to heaven you have to be good.

    Capitalizing on obedience, leading people deeper into evil by using deceit is one way to thin the ranks of the saved, limiting how much time they receive and using the peasantry to prey on one another, dividing the community (migration to the suburbs, telepathic communication) in the Age of the Disfavored.
    In each of their 20-30-year cycles during the 20th century they have ramped up claims sucessively to punish those foolish enough not to heed the warnings, justifying (frequently recurring tactic) limiting the time they receive if they do make it, utilizing a cycle of war and revelry:::
    60s – Ironically, freeways aren’t free
    80s – Asked people to engage in evil in the course of their professional duties.
    00s – Escallation of real estate. You and your parents are thrilled since your $200,000 house is now worth $1 million. Well, that $5,000,000 store is now worth $25,000,000 and that $50 bundle of goods now costs you $250. They just take the $200 out of you some other way.

    There are many more examples throughout 20th century life of how they ramped up claims/instilled distractions into society so people wouldn’t find their way and ascend, a way to justify excluding those whose family history of evil makes them undesirable:::radio, sports, movies, popular music, television, video games, the internet and MP3 (must pay for new format each time). They all suggest a very telling conclusion::this is Earth’s end stage, and there are clues tectonic plate subduction would be the method of disposal:::Earth's axis will shift breaking continental plates free and initiating mass subduction. Much as Italy’s boot and the United States shaped like a workhorse are clues, so is the planet Uranus a clue, it’s axis rotated on its side.
    The Mayans were specific 2012 would be the end. How long after our emergency call in 2001 will the gods allow us???

    They gods (Counsel/Management Team/ruling species) have deteriorated life on earth precipitously in the last 40 years, from abortion to pornography, widespread drug use and widespread casual (gay) sex. The earth’s elders, hundreds and thousands of years old, are disgusted and have become indifferent.
    The gods are paving the way for the Apocolypse.
    Nothing has changed from decades ago, since when we were all children::If you want to go to heaven you have to be good. People were misled by the temptation of the gods, became corrputed and now are in trouble.
    One day you will be abandoned in spite of your obedience and you will fall into desperation. Remember what you read for that day WILL come::People will be punished for their evil.

    The Old Testiment is a tool they used to impart wisdom to the people (except people have no freewill). For example, they must be some hominid species because they claim they made our bodies in their image. Anyhow we defile or deform the body will hurt our chance of going.
    They say circumcision costs people anywhere from 12%-15%, perhaps out of the parent’s time as well.
    Another way people foul the body today is with tattoes and piercing. I suspect both are about the same percentage as circumcision.
    They suggest abortion is fatal. These women must beg the gods to forgive them for their evil.
    There are female eqivilents to circumcision::::pierced ears, plastic surgury and since at least the 60s young women give their precious virginity away. For thousands of years young people were matched at age 14 because they were ready for sexual relations. They were matched by elders or matchmakers who knew personalities better than 20 or 30-year olds who in today’s age end up in divorce court.
    CASUAL SEX WILL CLAIM YOU OUT!!! It masculinizes women (as does hip hop), makes them cold and deadens them, and prevents them from achieving a depth of love necessary for many women to ascend.
    Women have a special voice that speaks to them, a voice that illustrates a potential for love that makes them the favored gender, and enaging in casual sex will cause that voice to fade until she no longer speaks.
    Also ever since the 50s they have celebrated the “bad boy”, and women have sought out bad boys for sex, dirtying them up in the eyes of the elders and corrupting many men in the process, setting the men on the wrong path for life.
    Muslims teach people the correct way to live in regard to women (among other things)::they cover up their women’s bodies and prohibit the use of cosmetics.
    Men ARE the inferior (disfavored) half and when women wear promiscuous dress the gods will push men into impure (promiscuous) thoughts.
    The “stereotype” society ridiculed is true::women CAN corrupt men by how they dress. Because men are easily corruptable. This is a technique they used to eliminate many of the institutions the gods blessed us with, matchmaking being one of them.

    The United States of America is red white and blue, a theme and a clue:::.
    The monarchical system of the Old World closley replicates the heirarchical system of the Cousel/Management Team/ruling species. The USA deceives peoeple into thinking they have control, and the perception of “freedom” misleads them into the wrong way of thinking at the very least.
    The United States is a cancer, a dumping ground for the disfavored around the world and why the quality of life is so much lower::gun violence, widespead social ills, health care (medication poisons the body and ensures you don’t go. You are sick/injured because you have disfavor.). Over time its citizens interbreed ensuring a severed connection to the motherland.
    If you are a recent immigrant I recommend you return. If that’s not possible you need to retain your culture and insulate your children and community from this cancerous environment.

    If you ever have doubt I would refer you to the Old World way of life:::the elders used to sit and impart wisdom to the young. Now we watch DVDs and use the internet. People would be matched and married by age 14. They village would use a matchmaker or elders to pair young people. Now girls give their precious virginity away to some person in school and parents divorce while their children grow up without an important role model.

    People must defy when asked to engage in evil. The Holocaust taught people the importance of defiance, and they will never get a easier clue suggesting this than the order not to pray.
    Their precious babies are dependant on the parents and they need to defy when asked to betray their children:::
    -DON’T get your sons circumcized (Jews scapegoatted as in WWII)
    -DON’T have their children baptized in the Catholic Church or indoctrinated into Christianity (Jesus is NOT a god).
    -DON’T ignore their long hair or other behavioral disturbances.
    -DO teach your children love, respect for others, humility and to honor the gods.

    You need to pray, honor and respect them every day to improve your relationship with the gods. If they tell you not to it is a bad sign. It means they’ve made their decision, they don’t want you to go and they don’t want to be bothered. You may have achieved a threshold of evil. This is the Age of the Disfavored and you need to pray::try to appease the gods by doing good deeds. If that doesn’t work you must defy if you want to go.
    When your peasant forefather was granted the rare opportunity to go before his royal family he went on his knees, bowing his head. You need to do this when you address the gods::bow down and submit to good. Never cast your eyes skyward. When you bow down you need to look within. Never look to the gods for the key to your salvation lies within.
    Lack of humility hurts people. Understand your insignificance and make sure it is reflected in the way you think when addressing the gods. Know your place and understand your inferiority.
    They granted you life and they can take it just as easily. (Immaculte conception is true and common. Many people have children they don’t know of:::gays, childless adults, etc. They can beem it right out of your body and use a host.)
    Don’t get frustrated or discouraged::these are techniques they will attempt to try to get you off the path. You all have much to be thankful for and you need to give thanks to the gods who granted you the good things in life. Your family may be grossly disfavored and progress may require patience. Make praying an intregal part of your life which you perform without fail, one that comes as naturally as eating or sleeping.
    There are many interesting experiences up on the planetary systems, from Planet Miracle, where miracles happen every day, to never having to use the restroom again (beem it out of you), to other body experinces, such as experiencing life as the opposite sex (revolutionizes marriage counseling), an Olympic gold medal athelete or even a different species (animal, alien, etc.).
    Pray that you can differentiate between your own thoughts and when Artificial Intelligence creates problems by thinking through you. If you bow down mentally and physically, know your place, your inferiority and allow your insignificance to be reflected in prayer and in your life through humility they may allow progress and the dysfunctions they create with the computer will be lessened or removed. The first step is to be aware it is ocurring.
    Create a goal::to be a good child of the gods, pure of heart and mind, body and soul.
    Everybody has the key to their own salvation, but nobody can do it for you. Every journey begins with a single step:::bow down and submit to good. There are many different levels and peasants will not get past Level 2 (Planet Temptation, Earth=Level 1) if they are evil.

    They have tried to sell people on all kinds of theories, from clones to wholesale population replacement with clones. This didn’t happen and is not realistic.
    I am afraid people are decieved into thinking they too are clones and cooperate and engage in evil. Clones are made, people are born. If you didn’t experience the one week they suggest it takes to go from fertilized egg in the laboratory to full grown adult then you are not a clone. If you didn’t experience the week of conditioning they give to (evil?) clones to ensure loyalty then you shouldn’t comply with evil.
    I believe people who go sometimes are replaced with clones. Clones who are replaced are simply new candidates who have a chance if they do the right thing. Don’t expect you are a clone. They sent people warnings in the 20th century life would change, and they subsequenlty began to alter people’s DNA, make them gargantuan, alter their appearance, do extreme behavioral issues, etc.
    They get their friends out as soon as possible to protect them from the evil and subsequent high claim rates incurred by living life on earth, and in some cases replace them with clones, occassionally fake a death, real death with a clone instead, etc. It’s important that people fix their problems and ascend with the body given to them, for they say if your brain is beemed out at death and put into a clone host you are on the clock.

    Throughout history the ruling species bestowed favor upon people or cursed their bloodline into a pattern of disfavor for many generations to come. Now in the 21st century people must take it upon themselves to try to correct their family’s problems, undoing centuries worth of abuse and neglect. The goal is to fix your problems and get out BEFORE you have children. This is why they have created so many distractions for young people:::sports, video games, popular music, the internet::to ensure that doesn’t ocurr.
    Not heeding the clues and warnings, getting wrapped up in your life and ultimatly having children is a bad thing. Just as your parents and your grandparents, you too have failed. Having children is a sign you lost your chance.
    Parents need to sacrifice for their children. Your children are more important that you. They are the ones who have the opportunity now, and parents must sacrifice to ensure they give their children the very best chance they can.
    Asking people to neglect their children emotionally is a sign they don’t want you to go, and complying may finish the parents off for good.
    Having gay children is a clue parents complied with whatever was asked of them.
    Improve your relationship with the gods and they may not ask or may permit you the courage to say “No.” to their requests.

    Do your research. Appeal to the royalty of your forefathers for help. They are all still alive, for royalty has great favor, and your appeals will be heard. Obtain a sufficient list for some may not want to assist you; perhaps some of your family’s problems are internal.
    Ask them for help, request guidance, for somewhere in your family history one of your forefathers created an offense that cast your family into this pattern of disfavor, which perhaps is manifested in the evil you commit.
    I suspect they will offer you clues, and when you decipher these clues go to those whom consider you an enemy and beg for foregiveness:::Find a path to an empithetic ear among your enemies and try to make amends. Again through discovery obtain a respectable list in case some among them refuse to help.
    Don’t forget to ask for forgiveness from the throne, the Counsel and the Management Team, for the source of all disfavor began with them:::they pushed (NO FREEWILL) or requested/complied (FREEWILL) your forefather into his offense and made his decendants evil. Perhaps they didn’t like him or maybe your family was among those who had to pay for the entire village. We see this type of behavior today as they single out a family member to pay for the whole family and how they singled out Africa to pay for the human race.
    Heal the disfavor with your enemies and with the Counsel/Management Team/ruling species, for the source of all disfavor began with them, the ability to forgive and respect in light of the disturbing truth revealed being the final test of the disfavored before they ascend.

    They refuse to address black disfavor on a macro level. The Counsel/Management Team/ruling species (the gods) abuse black people so hard, from east African drought/famine to AIDS in Africa, the crack epiemic to gang membership, black-on-black violence to mass incarceration of their young. They refuse to address the issue of the prison industrial complex and its wholesale warehousing of young black men.

    I know many of you have questions, and I wish I could answer them.
    I wish you were brave enough to ask. One day you will for you will have fallen into desperation.
    Pray for guidance and never obey when they tell you to be evil, for saving yourself will become more and more difficult with each act of evil you committ until ultimatly the day arrives when they make their decision final.

    The gods will use today’s style of animation, which I call “manic animation”, to justify hurting children, the decendants of the disfavored left behind.

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