For those of you playing along at home, here is my baseline annotated works cited. You'll notice that there are some of these articles that I have not posted about yet, but I assure you, that was only because this works cited was due, and I will be catching you guys up pretty soon.
Clover, Carol J. "Her Body, Himself: The Final Girl." Men Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. London: BFI, 1992. 35-41. Print.
Although the actual section of Clover’s book on “The Final Girl” is short, it has become a vital part of my thesis. Clover argues that female characters that act as the main protagonist in horror films, the ones who survive the ending and triumph, are relatable to the target audience, preteen boys, because they have had their feminity stripped from them while remaining a marginalized character. Through their lack of sexuality or voyeurism towards any particular male body they become devoid of sex or are more likely to be sexually curious about another woman’s body. They wear flannel, are bookish and quiet and have not yet come into their own. They become the avatar for the young male viewer and must earn their metaphorical ‘phallus’ through intense trial. Similarly, many female game characters are given a traditional place as the “mannish” woman. They either have no sexuality, are coded as lesbians, or have their sexuality neutered from them by circumstance. This relatability to the young male consumer is important to my thesis because it explains why my original topic choice, explaining cross gendered identification between players and characters, is flawed; if the characters are intentionally created to be more identifiable with the male player, then there are not many outlets to see how men identify in the avatar of a truly feminized presence.
Jenkins, Henry. "Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces." The Game Design Reader A Rules of Play Anthology (2006): 330-61. Web
The associative identity between players and avatars cannot be summed up solely by the characters themselves but by the spaces they inhabit. Jenkins work focuses on the prior segregation between girl’s spaces and boy’s spaces within the realm of 19th century literature—the “Adventure Island” verses the “Secret Garden”. Not only does he confront the polarized environment that is forced on to children, he also organizes his own polarized definitions of current female play spaces as well as current male spaces, so that he can eventually discuss the concept of a gender-neutral play space. He makes a compelling argument for videogame spaces that defy preconceived gender stereotypes and focus on giving girl gamers a wider spatial exploration, filled with more action and adventure, and giving boys one that encodes more “domestic” puzzles and secrets to promote character development and motivation behind actions. It is my belief that his concepts of gendered play spaces could, in part, be responsible for the male anxiety about adding more female avatars to games – believing that if they allow more female characters then the game will become domesticized and lose its playability. This is intriguing as much of Jenkins’ final argument, of a neutered play space has already come to pass as characters and world creation through motivation have been landmarks of successful games in just a few short years – a move which utilizes the best portions of traditionally female and traditionally male play spaces. The misconception between a gendered space and a character with a gender, and the anxiety that can occur because of these gender differences is a key factor in both how all gamers identify with characters and how they identify with the worlds created by them.
Kennedy, Helen W. Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo? 2002. Www.gamestudies.org, Vol. 2 Issue 2. PDF.
To a certain degree, Kennedy’s article on Lara Croft encapsulates many parts that I would have written about myself had I tried to write my thesis over ten years ago. However, ten years have passed, and with a larger base of games as well as approaches to gaming (such as the first person female character), there are many things to take from Kennedy’s article and focus upon the direct relation between male players and female characters, lesbianism in gaming, and the identification that occurs between female players and male characters as well as male players to female ones. Kennedy discusses Lara Crofts bimodal appeal – for women as a representative of the female gender, and for men as a commodious other to be objectified. However, Kennedy’s spectrum goes beyond a simple binary, giving many different levels of gender discussion to speak about Lara Croft. She speaks of Lara Croft as a continuation of the “laddette” culture, prominent in the millennial era, as well as the concept of “stunting bodies” which represent women as “female figures which, through their performance of extraordinary feats, undermine conventional understandings of the female body”. In part, these concepts paint Lara as a masculinized figure – one that happens to have a pair of humongous polygons as her only signifier of ‘woman’. Kennedy discusses Lara’s relation as a gender-queer figure (incomplete because of recent developments which code Lara more so as a lesbian than was made available in 2002), and as a voyeuristic model to be gazed upon. She even goes far enough to question all meaning behind these gendered models, stating the cold hard truth: that these characters are simply mechanics with a pretty face – the automatons of a new world.
Lehman, Peter. "Crying over the Melodramatic Penis: Melodrama and Male Nudity in Films of the 90s." Masculinity: Bodies, Movies, Culture. New York: Routledge, 2001. 25-39. Print.
This article has become more important than I previously realized it would be. It embraces the stark polarities between the types of masculinity that are ‘allowed’ to be portrayed in the mainstream world of cinema (and therefore videogames). These binaries, which consist of an ideal of masculinity stemming from power (often held by otherwise marginalized and villainous characters) and masculinity stemming from honor (attained by the marginalized protagonist who must earn his masculinity through great trial). This honorable masculinity is not solely a masculine trait bestowed upon men but also symbolically upon the worthy youth and the worthy woman. It is interesting how such marginalized characters must both rely upon and give up their feminine traits in order to achieve this honor. In addition, the article discusses, at length, the issues with putting the male form on the screen and how it becomes a type of intense melodrama to allow the penis/male form a place of objectification. The melodramatic penis explains how we perceive the idealized man and how audiences wish to witness the most exemplified form of masculinity and bath in its glory or to otherwise reprimand the weak and flaccid ‘other’. It explains reasoning behind why viewers do not often see representations of the average man.
Matrix, Sidney. "Desire and Deviate Nymphos:." Journal of Homosexuality 31.1-2 (1996): 71-81. Web.
One of the more complex portions of my topic has to do with the straight male relation to the lesbian female. From my research, I have found that most female characters in games tend to be either asexual or otherwise coded as lesbian. Because so many games are created to appeal to the male gamer, it raises questions as to how men can possibly identify with lesbian women. This article talks about the use of Lesbianism in pop culture as yet another aid for male pleasure. In it, it deals with the common stereotypes found and promoted, the trivialization of lesbian love, and specifically the use of lesbianism as a voyeuristic object suited for the male gaze. The article focuses, in part, on how lesbian bodies are portrayed, when they are portrayed, and the confusing dichotomy between associating with the image of any kind of lesbian representation while simultaneously being oppressed by it. In particular, it is this identification/oppression dynamic, as well as the lesbianism as a means of male pleasure that will be useful when discussing how men and women relate to these types of female videogame characters.
Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Visual and Other Pleasures. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989. 14-26. Print.
Laura Mulvey opened up the field of film by talking about artistic forms that are solely relevant to filmmaking. Although many of her theories have been reversed or renegotiated thanks to the advancement in the gay and female gazes, as well as subverted by videogames thanks to the player controlled gaze feature characteristic of videogames, it still has many applicable uses. In the clearest sense, Mulvey’s work is crucial for understanding why there is a dearth of straight female (or gay) playable characters. Mulvey argues that men cannot become objects of the gaze because they are inherently the voyeurs not the voyees. Despite much evidence that shows obvious examples of how men have often been the subjects of a gaze, this concept of non-objectivity still holds much weight in the realm of videogames today. Many female characters are stripped of their sexuality or are otherwise coded as lesbian. Mulvey’s theory suggests this is because men are incapable of being the object – I disagree. I believe there is an inherent fear, in men, of being the object of a gaze, and so to create characters that are more easily relatable for men, they are not objectified often in mainstream game play.
Nakamura, Lisa. 1999. “Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism on the Internet.” In Victor Vitanza (ed.), CyberReader (2nd Edition). New York: Allyn and Bacon.
Although Nakamura’s work focuses in on Race as the method of identity tourism, her work is easily transferrable to Gender. Although Nakamura focuses primarily on racial conflict as appropriated by MMORPG players on the internet, who choose to define themselves as a particular race, many of her theories, particularly concerning the ‘safe’ other as avatar, will be important. She argues that people who, on the internet, choose to ‘vacation’ as an alternate race are given the benefits of the culture of the other without having to experience the negative aspects that go along with it. She claims that the issues that occur because of Identity tourism are not because of the tourism-as-other itself, but from the flagrant mistreatment of racial stereotypes that hurt a culture. Some of her work must be considered, for my topic, from other perspectives: MMORPGers are given the option to choose what their character looks like and how they define themselves, while most First Person console games pigeonhole the player into a prefab avatar. They force you to become a white male or occasionally a white female, whether you want to or not. Even in these avatars there is still a notion of identity tourism.
Neale, Steve. "Prologue: Masculinity as Spectacle Reflections on Men and Mainstream Cinema." Screening the Male: Exploring Masculinities in Hollywood Cinema. Ed. Steven Cohan and Ina Rae. Hark. London: Routledge, 1993. 9-19. Print.
Where portions of Mulvey fall short, Steve Neale tries to fill in some of the gaps. In his essay, he discusses the concept of how masculinity is portrayed in film through a similar lens as Mulvey’s. Unlike Mulvey, however, he believes that the male can be objectified on screen, albeit in a different manner. In regards to my essay, his discussion on character identification is particularly useful: He disagrees with Mulvey that the only people who identify with the male protagonist are men, and the only people who identify with a female protagonist are women. Instead, Neale has come up with a narcissistic identification that promote a fluid gender identity that fluctuates between identification and objectification of a character on screen. I believe this fluctuation exists similarly for the player of a videogame, perhaps to an even greater extreme. The avatar in a game follows direction from the player; the player and character often move as one. However, in the event of a cut-scene or dialogue sequence, the wall is broken and, in a Brechtian manner the player is reminded that they and the avatar are not one and the same but two separate entities. In addition, Neale also brings up the topic of sado-masochistic voyeurism, as a method of explaining how the male form can be objectified and appreciated without being obviously voyeured at.
Rehak, Bob. 2003. Playing at Being. In: Wolf, Mark J.P. and Perron, Bernard. 2003. The Video Game Theory Reader. New York, Routledge pp. 103-127.
Playing at Being utilizes psychology as a method of explaining the relationship players of video games have towards their on screen avatars. Although not grounded by any particular marginalized factor, Rehak discusses the history of the avatar and how it has changed over the course of time. He uses, in particular, the mirror stage of childhood development as an analogy to why the avatar fascinates the women and men who choose to play video games. Through a history lesson in the videogame avatar, dating all the way back to Spacewar!, Rehak gives examples of how games have gone from having a mechanical protagonist, to an organic one, to something much more similar to ourselves. The avatar has multiple levels of being: on the one hand it is the ‘self’, as defined by its movements guided by the player and reacted to by the on screen world, but it is also the other, giving a player the potential to do both more than the human can, but also constricted by the game design’s formula. Rehak focuses also on how games can toy with subjectivity- leaving players believing they are given choice and free will when they are artificially contrived to force situations that will further the story along, begging the question, who’s space is it, really?
Williams, Linda. 1982. Personal Best: Women in Love. In: Jump Cut 27. 1982. pp. 1-12.
Williams discusses the failings of the media’s portrayal of lesbian romance with the Film Personal Best. She discusses its complexity, looking at the arguments both for and against it as an agent of male voyeurism. The two women of the film have a three year long affair, yet their own sexuality seems to fall into their laps. In the end, Williams argues that what appears to be, on the surface, a film about women in love conquering through their athleticism, turns out to have so much influence from the outside patriarchal society that it actually promotes a patriarchal society worldview. Her methods of picking apart a seemingly revolutionary film prove insightful as I try to pick apart the use of the lesbian as an avatar in videogames. What do these games actually say about sexuality and gender? Like Williams does, I must pick apart the games to see what undercurrents of topical sexism are not brought to the forefront and maintain reflections of how the male society mind already thinks. In addition, Williams discusses the change in the ideal female form from one of soft curves to athleticism. It may be that the ideal woman to be looked at has changed form, not become less frequently applied.