Battlepanda: Who are you and what have you done with Batman?


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Who are you and what have you done with Batman?

Lance Mannion was horrified to find his 9-year-old son beating up a woman -- on a videogame, actually. Worse, the character doing the beating up was...Batman!

Batman was beating up a girl.

Batman does not beat up girls. He outwits Catwoman. He out-sciences Poison Ivy.[snip]

No, I don’t think that showing the villainess being as kick-ass tough as the hero teaches boys and girls that women can be forceful and independent and that they have the strength to take care of themselves. I think it just teaches kids that it’s ok to hit girls.

As I commented on Lance's site...(slightly modified)

I think in the long run the stereotype of women as passive and dependent on men is more likely to get them hit than a video game. A woman might lose in a fight because she has less muscles, but that's not why she stays in an abusive relationship.

All the studies tell us the same thing: violent videogames and movies do not promote real-life violence. Now, perhaps it is regrettable that so many tropes in videogames and movies for kids are violent, but as conflict and its resolution is the most primal driving force for stories and violence is the most primal form of conflict, perhaps it is unsurprising that children find them more exciting and easier to understand than drawing room comedies.

In a society where the role of women in the stories we tell ourselves are so rigid and narrow, including girls the narratives we grow up with, even violent video games, is important both from an identity formation point of view on the part of the girls and to teach boys that girls are not this strange other.

Let's remember that videogame and movies are make-belief. All sorts crazy stuff happens in make-belief. Dog's talk, kids fly away and have intergalactic adventures. We need to teach our kids that the violence that occurs in make-believe is unacceptable in real life, period. To single out girl-boy fights for censure risks boys taking away the wrong message -- that girls cannot be participants on an equal footing. In this respect, this mindset reminds me of a blog post from I-don't-remember-where that complained about the implausability of fair fistfights between men and women in HK Kung Fu flicks. One commenter earnestly remarked that perhaps there's less difference between the genders in East Asian morphology accounting for the phenomenon.

In those movies people also fly and project force-fields. All that is accepted without question. But have a girl beat up a guy, and all of a sudden suspension of disbelief comes crashing down? What's really going on here?

Lance replied that he is OK with girl Superheros such as Supergirl and Wonderwoman kicking butt, but not villanesses getting their butts kicked. I think I can see the distinction, however, I don't think it's a tenable one. Are we saying that girls are never bad? Or that it's OK for girls to hit boys?