The Full Scope

The Full Scope is a Film and Video game blog specifically designated to the topic of Gender and how it is portrayed in the media

Inspired and Utilized by my Senior Seminar MASCULINITY (And Gender) in Film

Monday, September 15, 2014

More Formal than Normal! - The Final Girl! Horror Tropes and Gaming/ Playing at Being

Clover, Carol J. "Her Body, Himself: Final Girl." Men Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. London: BFI, 1992. 35-41. Print.
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.

The avatar, the guise through which an audience sees the world in film and other media, is essential not only in filmic terms but even more essential to the analysis of the video game. Both Bob Rehak’s Playing at Being and Carol J. Clover’s Men Women and Chainsaws discuss the use of avatar in different but allied ways.
            Playing at Being discusses the historical development of the videogame avatar, starting at its earliest interactive presence in Spacewar! to even more complicated and organic uses in FPS (First Person Shooter) games as recent as id Software’s Quake

 Spacewar! such wow, very graphics

Quake - yeah, this is nightmare fuel. 

Although not a totally history centered piece, it does use historical texts to paint an in depth picture of how the player controlled avatar morphed from dots, to inorganic forms, such as the rocket ship, to more organic forms like PACman and later to first person organic forms. In addition it uses psychoanalysis techniques to analyze the persona of the first person avatar and its early appearances as an unsuccessful gimmick in films like Lady in the Lake (1947). For his over-arching thesis, Rehak uses the concept of the “mirror stage” in early childhood development as a basis for why humans are so fascinated with game play. This theory can be utilized easily as it accounts for the function where the avatar on screen moves as the player sending the signals to the controller tells it to, creating a mirror link. He says that “videogames ‘reflect’ players back to themselves” and that first person games (most of which were shooting games at the time of the articles release) come the closest to this intrinsic mirroring. 

“The videogame avatar would seem to meet the criteria of Lacan’s objet petit a. Appearing on screen in place of the player, the avatar does double duty as self and other, symbol and index. As self, its behavior is tied to the player’s through an interface: its literal motion, as well as its figurative triumphs and defeats, result from the player’s actions. At the same time, avatars are unequivocally other. Both limited and freed by difference from the player, they can accomplish more than the player alone; they are supernatural ambassadors of agency” (Rehak 4). 

            While Rehak denotes the concept of the videogame avatar as both other and self, he does not address the half of the avatar that is “other” in any specific way and instead focuses primarily on “self”. This leaves a large omission to his otherwise sound theory: in what ways can the “other” be “other” while still coming to represent a very fixed impression of “self” upon the player? Can the "other" go so far as to change genders? And if an "other" does go so far, are they allowed to be a complete person with a prerendered gender and sexuality? It is here that turning to film theories is necessary. 

Boy Fang? Girl Fang? Is there actually a difference?

            Theories of secondary selves are many and varied, but the most interesting to compare to its similar purpose in videogames is the use of the “Final Girl” as avatar for the viewer in horror and slasher films. Clover’s book hones in on the specific motif of the final girl and how she comes to represent the survivor character and avatar for the audience through her introduction as the main protagonist and masculinization. Clover uses many examples to show how the final girl utilizes the third of the movie solely focused on her and her escape to give the audience a subjective view of her horrifying circumstances. The final girl uses creative, intelligent thinking that has largely been absent from the majority of the film. She is largely lacking in a sexuality of any form, either being afraid, previously hurt, or otherwise sexless. 
Clover argues that these functions essential make the final girl a representation of the young males the film is directed towards: they are both marginalized, unversed in sexual experience, yet see themselves as survivors. The final girl takes the form of an other that is both to be objectified and identified with. Her duel function, as voyeur and object, can be transferred to the function of the avatar other, particularly in a videogame sense, where the player relates to the onscreen character in a similar function – as both the physical manifestation of self and an idealized other. 
So figure a) identifies way more easily with figure b) #twinsies

            “The Final Girl is boyish, in a word. Just as the killer is not fully masculine, she is not fully feminine—not, in any case, feminine in the ways of her friends. Her smartness, gravity, competence in mechanical and other practical matters, and sexual reluctance set her apart from other girls and ally her, ironically, with the very boys she fears or rejects…” (Clover 40)

Understanding the function of the avatar is a complex process. Where most of the research on the avatar has been in terms of the third person, filmic avatar, this literature only begins to delve into the concepts regarding the function of the avatar in a Gaming Space, as opposed to a filmic one. While Rehak’s article gave a long and in-depth look into the psychoanalytical function of the avatar as self, he failed to fully address the concept of otherness that is necessary in his analysis of the avatar as both self and other. The small portion of Clover’s book on the Final Girl hit on the ways in which something that should appear as an “other”, a female heroine, can be identifiable more easily to a young male film goer than a female one, at least on the surface. Whether a similar circumstance is true of video game heroines is not yet confirmable, yet it is very apparent, as of now, that many heroines are, similarly, desexed through the use of phallic weaponry, undefined sexuality, and ingenuity of the player mind, despite being the object of a player oriented gaze. 

In addition, Clover points to horror and slasher flicks as methods of recreating a “hero plot” and the addition of a heroine that survives is simply a reorientation of the hero plot. She seems to define such a hero plot as being essentially masculine, but is it? Is it possible to have a female character save the day without it becoming a masculine plot? Or is “saving the day” a male function of being?

Oddly heavy tonight on the FFXIII I tonight, I know - 

Do not turn off the power while your progress is saving.
LEX saved the Game

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