Sexism in Video Games
Video games are considered as one of the major “media” players which can create, promote, and diminish prevailing ideas in popular culture. Truly, it cannot be denied that playing with video games – from the use of the classic game boys to famous online video games that are distributed nowadays – strongly affects one’s values, cultural beliefs, and day-to-day activities. Much like the major social institutions, video games are fast becoming prime factors in the formation of the player’s social identity. This is especially applicable among the main video game playing market – adolescents.
That is why game developers must be extremely careful in the ideas and themes that they promote through video gaming. Unfortunately, despite the massive campaign for promoting wholesome forms of leisure, many of the video games introduced these days contain violence and sex. What’s worse is that even family-oriented video games like the Super Mario Brothers contain negative social themes which promote inequality and discrimination. Among the most unconstructive themes presented in this digital form of recreation is sexism.
Undeniably, although much of the game features have radical changed over the years, sexism still prevails in most of their stories. According to one video game critic, “Games have evolved in so many ways, even in the last couple of years. Graphically, artistically, games are becoming more and more refined, presenting us with different worlds, stories, and experiences to enjoy and explore Yet gender representations are stuck in the past — female leads are often stuck as either damsels in distress, or, as is now more common, hypersexualized warrior princesses. (The Rubber Blood Factory, 2008)
To explore this issue, this paper aims to analyze how video games – particularly, the very popular classic video game “Super Mario Brothers” – establish traditional sexism. Working on the premise that video games demonstrate traditional ways of gender stereotyping, this essay will look into the characterizations and plot of the game in order to examine the following questions: How exactly are the female and male roles presented in the game? And, what do these roles and representations imply? An overview of the game
The Characters The main character of the game is Mario. He is a mustached plumber man who wears red overalls over a brown shirt. If there is a second player, he will then take the role of Luigi, Mario’s younger brother who also wears a mustache. Similar to his brother, Luigi wears green overalls over a white shirt. The Princess Toadstool with long auburn hair wears a crown and a pink gown. Other characters in the story are the Mushroom retainers at each end of every “world” or game stage, and the Koopa Troops or the group of turtle soldiers.
The Plot According to the instructional book of the game published on the www. smbhq. com: “One day, the kingdom of the peaceful mushroom people was invaded by the Koopa, a tribe of turtles famous for their black magic. The quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horse-hair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin. ” “The only one who can undo the magic spell on the Mushroom People and return them to their normal selves is the Princess Toadstool, the daughter of the Mushroom King.
Unfortunately, she is presently in the hands of the great Koopa turtle king. ” “Mario, the hero of this story (maybe) hears about the Mushroom People’s plight and sets out on a quest to free the Mushroom Princess from the evil Koopa and restore the fallen kingdom of the Mushroom People. ” “You are Mario! It’s up to you to save the Mushroom People from the black power of the Koopa. ” Implications of the Characterization and Plot Mario as the hero The story and characterization supports the stereotypical view of a man.
In the story, the players, who are tasked to save the “Mushroom Kingdom”, are supposed to take on the roles of either Mario or Luigi. The player is unable to choose a female character to act as the heroine of the game. If the player has to assume the role of the Kingdom’s hero, he or she must always take the role of a male character. This then reinforces the view that men comprise the stronger and more “able” gender. By being the heroes of the story, it also follows that Mario and Luigi are the main characters in the game and the rest are just supporting elements of the story.
With this view, it also follows that the men are portrayed as having the key roles in the society. To some extent, it promotes the idea that the male gender is the superior gender, or rather the most essential elements in the society. Such theme is prevalent in many cultures within a patriarchal society. Taking a patriarchal setup, the video game then promotes the idea that the main role of men in the society is to provide protection to their families, or in the case of the game – men are supposed to defend the whole kingdom and provide for the needs of the constituents.
Furthermore, the video game also supports the thought that the key roles in the society – such as politics and administration are best fit for men. Also, the fact that Mario and Luigi are plumber men denotes that they are hardworking men who are tasked with activities which are highly considered as “masculine” in nature. The “macho” persona is further emphasized through the mustache. Princess Toadstool as the accessory, inferior trophy In the plot of the story presented in the instructional book, it can be noted that the Princess Toad stool is “The only one who can undo the magic spell on the Mushroom People”.
To some extent, this implies that the princess also plays a major role in the game. This shows that the princess, although female, also carries a certain degree of power and strength with her. As such, the game supports the idea that women are also granted important societal roles. However, it can be noted that because the princess “is presently in the hands of the great Koopa turtle king,” she is then unable to perform her roles to her Kingdom and demonstrate her prowess.
Such plot direction then takes the status of the women to a different perspective – that despite empowered and capable, women can be overpowered by men (in the case of the game, the princess was overpowered by the Koopa King). By reducing the role of the supposedly powerful princess to a mere imperiled captive, the video game demonstrates the concept that women who have fallen into the hands of powerful men are incapable of defending themselves regardless of the powers that they have. Furthermore, it is only men (Mario and Luigi) are capable of defeating men (the Koopa King).
Again, this idea promotes a sexist view of men as the dominant gender over the inferior female. Also, since the role of the princess is completely diminished into a defenseless captive in need of rescuing, the inclusion of the character of the princess seems to be nothing but an attempt to accessorize the story and complete the masculine persona that Mario depicts. Appearing only at the final stage of the game, the role of women is objectified in the story as meager trophies demonstrating the achievements of men.
Also, it can be noticed that the Princess Toadstool possesses the typical characteristics of fairytale princesses. Like the rest of the pack, the princess – with a pink gown and long auburn hair – acts as a damsel in distress who patiently waits for her hero – doing nothing to save her own self. This is very much reflective of what Seale notes, “If a female character isn’t enticing or enhancing the male protagonist, she’s busy being portrayed as the useless damsel in distress.
This set-up reinforces the idea that women are “in need” of – or much worse, dependent on men for their survival. Conclusions Through an analysis of the characterizations and plot of the game, it can be concluded that the “Super Mario Brothers” video game does establish traditional sexism by presenting stereotypical roles. In the game, Mario and Luigi act as the main characters and the heroes of the story who are the capable of defeating the great turtle king and saving the distressed but supposedly powerful Princess Toadstool.
Through these scenarios, the game supports the idea that men are considered as the superior and stronger gender. Furthermore, the video game presents the Mushroom Kingdom as a familial panorama following a patriarchal setup. In such case, the Princess’ role demonstrates the domestic role of the mother who is tasked to care for her family (in the video game, her constituents). As for Mario, he then acts as the potent patriarch.