Violent Murderous Oversexualized Smurfette is Offensive?
Recently I encountered something that got me thinking. I am participating in an event at TotalCon next month. I posted the following, “There is still openings with Saturday Morning Cartoons and A Smurfy Conundrum. Go sign up now to experience: When you received the letter from Papa Smurf you knew the situation was dire. It was he that helped you in the past but now he was calling on you to help him. A darkness has fallen over the Village of Homlet and the Smurfs are not acting Smurfy anymore. It is up to you to discover the cause before it is too late. As rumors of the vile wizard Gargamel filter in, you realize that the Smurfy troubles may actually threaten the entire world of Grayhawk.”
For my segment of the event, I also posted a picture of Smurfette walking away from a giant swath of destruction. Behind her are dozens of dead smurfs and Smurfette is portrayed in her underwear holding bloody weapons. I found the image quite disturbing because of the violence and what the image represented. I was hoping with the picture, that people seeing it may garner some hints as to what to expect in the adventure I will be running. That adventure is one based on the concept of a what if, the Village of Hommlet was the town mentioned in the various Smurfs episodes. Obviously I will be running a horror based story if the image is any hint and one that should prove fun for all involved.
Onto the thing that got me thinking. A Facebook friend saw the image and posted this message to me, “Assignment: find equally ridiculously oversexualized male smurf image to post here.“ I laughed when I saw the request and took it in a good natured manner. Then the fireworks began as others got involved in the conversation. What the young lady who made the comment above was trying to do, was get across that she feels that images in the gaming world are over sexualized and in a manner that portrays women in a negative light. Initially I was not offended by her statements as many other seemed to be. One guys went so far as to post images of Gay Smurfs to level the playing field but as this progressed I couldn’t help but wonder, “How can someone be offended by something like this?” I mean, I didn’t choose this image because of the way Smurfette is drawn. I chose this image because of the violence and the overall feel of what is happening. When I brought this up the response I got was, “I’d say that because the imagery in gaming has historically overemphasized women’s sexuality, often to our detriment, it’s generally pretty important to be conscious and deliberate about the imagery you use…”
Was I being insensitive to women? I now had to consider my actions over the past year to see if this was the case. Perhaps I do lean towards my preferences. I did interview Pamela Horton a few weeks back partially because she is hot but also because she is doing awesome work. I interviewed Bianca Beauchamp about cosplay purely because she is beautiful. So yes I do make decision based on appearance from time to time but in my games, never. I had to clear things up in my head so I wrote to a few female friends that are Cosplayers. I asked them to look at the image and give me their opinions. Every single one expressed to me that they loved the image and wished they were going to TotalCon so that they could participate in the event. I said, “Do you find the image demeaning to women?” That question engendered laughter. I went onto ask, “Do you find in games, that women are over sexualized?” Again laughter but they agreed that games tend to portray women in a sexy manner. I asked if they would prefer it to be done in a different way, like say, men being portrayed in a sexy manner. The responses were varied from “Why not?” to “Who cares” to “If I want to see sexy men, I have only to go on the internet and look, I buy what I like and I am sure that the majority of gamers do too. If they wanted to look at chunky chicks in coveralls then they would buy that but sales prove that the market is driven by the sexualized images of women. If someone is bothered by that then they should vote with their pocketbooks.”
Now I was really thinking and my gear were turning as I considered my own purchases over the years. I honestly hardly even look at the images in games unless I am reviewing them. I have never bought a game based on the images inside or on the cover. I don’t buy comic books just because a sexy She Hulk is portrayed, I buy them because I love the story. I buy games because I love the system or setting. If I buy art I tend to buy things that I like and with art I do tend to buy things that portray sexy women and not men. I am heterosexual and male. I do not consider this to be a problem.
Ultimately I came to this conclusion. Buy what you like. Support what you like. Spend you money how you like. But don’t criticize me because I buy or play something that you don’t like. If you want something to be different, take it up with the game designer or the artist and leave me out of it. If you want sexy boy toys in your games, put them there. My money will continue to go towards the things I love, regardless of what is politically correct or not. I recognize that my Facebook friend was simply trying to encourage conversation and equality but the route that her attempt took, instead got me flooded with emails from men and women alike, tearing her to pieces for her actions. It has made me think and in the end, that is what this is all about. Thinking about how our actions affect those around use, for positive or negative.
My final note is this, and perhaps this is what bothers me the most about the exchange above. People are offended by sexuality but not by violence. The games we play tend to include murder, slavery, torture, thievery, and more. the level of violence in Role Playing Games alone is staggering. Most game systems are made by their combat system. If that system sucks the game sucks and if it flows easy and allows one to really get into the fight, the game is awesome. In games like Dungeons and Dragons a party is not complete unless it has at least one thief. In our games we promote these negative things on a daily basis and their are people out there who are offended by the way sexuality is portrayed. That in itself is offensive to me.
So here is my assignment to you. I want you to post your thoughts about the above and how you feel about this subject. Please give details of your experiences and/or thoughts. We must engage in this conversation if we are to resolve it in any meaningful manner. I give you a forum in the comments section below so get to it.
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