Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

VotD: Tropes are Tools . . .

. . . But are these the right ones for the job? If someone asked to you build a chicken coop, would you bring your monkey wrench and plumber's putty? No, you'd probably bring a hammer and saw or maybe a drill and screwdriver.

Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency has published another video on Tropes vs. Women, this time with even darker themes than simply Damsels in Distress. This one's just a bit longer than the last one:
Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Part 2 is even more interesting than the video itself. Apparently the trolls are so threatened by Ms. Sarkeesian's videos that they abused the YouTube flag system in an attempt to silence her. Justifiably, both ratings and comments have been disabled for the video on YouTube; though I am sure the troglodytes are frothing elsewhere on the Web. Copperbird draws an apt parallel between the reaction to Ms. Sarkeesian's video series and the reaction to the Female Suffragist movement around the turn of the 20th Century. The antics of the opponents of Feminist Frequency only underscore the importance of her message. I saw some videos that raised reasonable counterpoints to Part 1 right around the time of its release. That is the way to have a debate about the tropes in video games and other storytelling media. By trying to silence someone you disagree with you are only showing that you have already lost the debate.


  1. 1:28: "We also explore some of the core reasons why damsel characters are so problematic as representations of women."

    ...and I'm done. This isn't a debate my friend, it fits the classical definitions of propaganda. No debate is possible.

    1. I'm trying to figure out how the statement you quoted (which is actually about the prior video: "explored") is propaganda. I'm not even saying I agree with everything shes says. What I did say is that the reaction from some quarters to Ms. Sarkeesian's project is far more telling than the project itself. As you may have found in your profession, it is difficult, if not impossible, to debate with someone about their core beliefs.

    2. Just the opposite in fact! I have found it is quite easy to debate with someone about their core beliefs. We do it all the time. Think of all the internet forums with rules against just such a thing - its so common we assume people will do it naturally in the course of conversation about anything else.

      But in those instances the purpose of debate is to clarify information/points-of-view or perhaps to influence thoughts about a given idea, either hoping to elevate or denigrate an idea's status in one's mind. Maybe even on rare occasion, in a great victory, we might change someone's mind. But that is the boundary of debate; nobody in such debates expects changes in action. When I debate Lutheran vs. Baptist theology for example (a common fight here in the Bible Belt), there is no illusion that the other person is going to run out and change denominations.

      Jacques Ellul, one of the acknowledged experts on propaganda, gave a good definition in his work: "The aim of modern propaganda is no longer to modify ideas, but to provoke action." The statement I quoted is a signifier, a notice, that nothing short of action will be a satisfactory result. I haven't watched the rest, but I would bet that the final argument is for the video game industry (or the players) to take action. The problem, as Ellul points out, is that when action is the desired result, debate is ultimately fruitless.

      For example: If I have that earlier debate with the Baptist, and I conclude it by saying: Thanks for the information and the conversation, but my heart is in Lutheran theology, I just don't think I will be moving, the Baptist will say: fair enough, thanks for listening.

      But if I post on a YouTube Comments section for that video (assuming it were still open, which as you note, its not), and I said: Thanks for the video, but I don't think the video game industry needs to change anything its doing, and I'm not going to change my buying habits - how long would it be before I got flamed for being complicit in this terrible trend of representing women in a negative light?

      That's the difference between debate and propaganda. It goes deeper than that (Ellul foresaw the coming of social media and this very confusion about what debate is), but that's the basics. I'm not trying to be an asshat about all this, I'm not really up in arms one way or the other. But I don't think debate is possible when topics are approached in certain manners.

      That is why the reaction is telling, and that is why the reaction has been what it is - it can't be debate, its not possible. So instead it becomes a riot, a conflict, a wildfire. Hence my refusal to engage.

      But that is just me, I tend to be a bit contrarian even on the best of days! (-:

    3. I see now where you're coming from. I've never heard of propaganda being defined that way, in terms of invoking action. The big problem isn't even your or my thoughtful response, but the knee-jerk reactions of people on both sides. Those people who flame you for expressing yourself are just as bad as those who harass Ms Sarkeesian for hers.

    4. I really like hzero's comment...mind blown