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Claim: Has more female visibility, voice, and positive representation than the combat video game status quo. There are 4 strong female characters….and they talk to each other about non-gendered topics!
Evidence: This story passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. There are several instances where two or more named female characters talk to each other regarding social and other non-gendered topics. Of these females, two are in political positions of power, the third functions as a no-nonsense training leader for the main character, and the main female character is a strong voiced teen who is the secondary protagonist and eventually becomes the main protagonist for a short period.
How is this Helpful in Influencing Society?: Giving females more visibility in fictional stories fosters a stronger sense of social belonging for females and encourages female participaton in society. Showing female characters that are in positions of influence and power demonstrates that women are capable of possessing political and social clout, are able to handle complex situations as leaders, and make tough policy decisions under pressure. Having significant, non-male/non-gender oriented dialog between females demonstrates symbolic gender autonomy, in that females are voicing an existence and perspective that are not male-centric. This representation lends more authentic subjectivity to females in society, and encourages women and girls to develop a sense of identity that is not centered around a male.
Claim: The controlling relationship John has toward Ellen, keeps Ellen in the Damsel in distress role.
Evidence: John refuses to let Ellen (a teen) use a gun to defend herself against attackers, thereby making her 100% dependent on him for survival. John’s inability to manage his own emotions impedes on Ellen’s freedom and right to defend herself. This scenario is shown from the oppressor’s (John’s) perspective and is told in a way that justifies his abusive and controlling behavior. During game play, rush mobs don’t attack Ellen nearly as much as they attack John. This is a programming rig that sets the stage for John’s character (and the player) to not have to strategically face the more believable scenario of John being unable to protect Ellen from being attacked. Because that would make the player realize that Ellen’s chance of survival would be significantly greater if she was able/allowed to defend herself in addition to having John’s protection.
How is this Harmful in Influencing Society?: The narrative exemplifies John’s behavior as justified, and therefore reinforces this type of controlling behavior in males toward females and in parents toward children/teens. It perpetuates our culture’s belief that females should be helpless and males should be in control. The programming rig set to have mobs avoid attacking the female character prevents the players from realizing that women’s chances of being attacked in society are REAL (and more likely). This is particularly harmful when we combine that notion with the reality that females in the U.S. are 51/2 times more likely to be assaulted in their lifetime then males are [http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fvv.pdf]. This puts females in a social position of being expected to place their safety in the hands of males who may or may not protect and/or assault them.
How to Change the Story?: Have John train Ellen to use a gun. If the story calls for John to be unsure of the safety of a teenager using a gun or has concerns of there not being enough ammo to train her, at least have Ellen use some other substantial weapon of choice (she does have a shiv, but rarely uses it) and have her actively defend herself against the rush mobs at a more believable rate.