Naughty Dog Responds to The Last of Us Sexism Claims

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Naughty Dog Responds to The Last of Us Sexism Claims

Ellie Bow Last of Us

Directors Bruce Straley and Neil Druckman were surprised by claims of sexism in The Last of Us.

While The Last of Us' protagonist is easily the character of Joel, the arguable star of the show is his younger protégé Ellie. Skillfully brought to life by actress Ashley Johnson, she possessed a spirit and likability that helped lend weight to some of the game's more dramatic (and traumatic) moments. She also exhibited no small capacity for ass-kickery, aiding Joel and holding her own in more than a few dangerous situations over the course of the game.

Ellie's character for some, however, was still a bit too much of a damsel-in-distress, a criticism that confused the game's creators at Naughty Dog. "We were surprised by some of the criticism of our use or execution of the female roles inside of the game," said Bruce Straley, game director for The Last of Us. "I think we did an extraordinary job of creating strong characters - men, women, black, white, gay straight. We're just trying to create completely fleshed-out characters." For Neil Druckman, the creative director behind the game, such criticisms strike him as being particularly odd. "There have been a lot of articles pointing to the positive aspects of the women and other characters," said Druckman. "I think that there's a little bit of a sexism valley, for lack of a better term, like the uncanny valley. The more progress we make, the more those problems stand out."

Personally, we're on the side of The Last of Us being pretty pro-women, overall. Setting aside the fact that you get to play as a very capable Ellie at one point, the game also boasts characters like Tess and Marlene, both of whom are strong, take-charge women. Conversely, you could make the argument that while survivalist Joel may be the physically stronger of the two, Ellie exhibits far more emotional and moral courage over the course of the game than he ever does.

Source: GamesBeat

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StewShearer:
"There have been a lot of articles pointing to the positive aspects of the women and other characters," said Druckman. "I think that there's a little bit of a sexism valley, for lack of a better term, like the uncanny valley. The more progress we make, the more those problems stand out."

Pretty much this. As equality gets closer, we start to see very minor issues that weren't prevalent before. I would go so far to say that people whining about how sexist The Last of Us is is a good sign.

I saw no sexism in the game at all.

Ellie is a 14 year old girl. Of course Joel is stronger than her physically. And he wants to protect her as he believes he failed to do for his own daughter. I'd want to protect Ellie too. No child should have to go through what she goes through.

I just... Sometimes my gender makes me wish I was a guy.

Waht?

Really?

She's fourteen years old, probably fifteen by the end of the game. How much of an independent badass is a skinny teenager supposed to be? Hell, throughout the game, both in cutscenes and gameplay, she is demonstrably willing and able to shoot, shank and brick whichever hapless motherfuckers get in her way.

Hell, the one time she gets anywhere near damsel territory, she promptly frees herself, racking up an extensive bodycount in the process. By the time Joel arrives, it's all over but for the screaming.

I'll be the first to admit the industry has an issue when it comes to depicting females, but Ellie is not an example of such.

Phrozenflame500:

StewShearer:
"There have been a lot of articles pointing to the positive aspects of the women and other characters," said Druckman. "I think that there's a little bit of a sexism valley, for lack of a better term, like the uncanny valley. The more progress we make, the more those problems stand out."

Pretty much this. As equality gets closer, we start to see very minor issues that weren't prevalent before. I would go so far to say that people whining about how sexist The Last of Us is is a good sign.

No. No its not. It's just dumb. If anything it cheapens any actual arguments because instead of pointing it out as a positive, you turn it into a negative, and by doing that you make people who may have been on the fence about your argument begin to think that maybe you're just making noise. Which is what this type of criticism is, noise.

Ellie was a good, well-written, and solid character and should be held up as a model upon which to build future female characters not something to nitpick and scream about.

Miyenne:
I saw no sexism in the game at all.

Ellie is a 14 year old girl. Of course Joel is stronger than her physically. And he wants to protect her as he believes he failed to do for his own daughter. I'd want to protect Ellie too. No child should have to go through what she goes through.

Basically this, Ellie is not as strong as Joel on the physical side because she is a 14 year old girl and he's considerably older and larger. It wouldn't be any different if Ellie were a boy because she still wouldn't be able to fend off bandits twice her size. Also implying that Ellie has to be physically stronger than Joel in order to be a good character implies that if you're not physically strong then you're not a good person and physical strength is the only thing people should aspire to have, which is wrong.

Phrozenflame500:

StewShearer:
"There have been a lot of articles pointing to the positive aspects of the women and other characters," said Druckman. "I think that there's a little bit of a sexism valley, for lack of a better term, like the uncanny valley. The more progress we make, the more those problems stand out."

Pretty much this. As equality gets closer, we start to see very minor issues that weren't prevalent before. I would go so far to say that people whining about how sexist The Last of Us is is a good sign.

I wouldn't, because going too far is just as damaging as not going far enough. Complaining where there is no complaint to be had is more damaging to the stance because it makes people look petty.

As Miyenne pointed out, it makes sense as to why Joel was willing to look after Ellie, and for those who have played the game, it's also pretty obvious that he doesn't always want to. So the idea that it's sexist because "male looks after female" is nonsensical, he doesn't do it just because she is a girl.

People need to learn to pick and choose their "battles", because if you attack everything, you just look like you have a chip on your shoulder and people will stop taking you seriously. People like this do more damage to peoples perception of women than fictional characters in games.

This complaint is becoming so common, especially showing up on this site, that my eyes just glaze over and I have a powerful urge to close the tab.

People will see sexism, racism, or any other kind of ism you can think of anywhere if they look for it whether it actually exists there or not.

StewShearer:
Ellie's character for some, however, was still a bit too much of a damsel-in-distress, a criticism that confused the game's creators at Naughty Dog. "We were surprised by some of the criticism of our use or execution of the female roles inside of the game," said Bruce Straley, game director for The Last of Us. "I think we did an extraordinary job of creating strong characters - men, women, black, white, gay straight. We're just trying to create completely fleshed-out characters." For Neil Druckman, the creative director behind the game, such criticisms strike particularly odd. "There have been a lot of articles pointing to the positive aspects of the women and other characters," said Druckman. "I think that there's a little bit of a sexism valley, for lack of a better term, like the uncanny valley. The more progress we make, the more those problems stand out."

Exactly what I was thinking. The Woman-in-Distress trope is a very real thing (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6p5AZp7r_Q), but while Ellie is the driving force of the plot she does not exist just for the sake of story. Especially considering the ending of TLoU, she does not fit the trope. She is a fleshed character and story is character driven, not event driven. She is also not in distress; the only part that makes her less capable at any point in time is that she is less experienced at first AND A YOUNG GIRL.

The claims of sexism I saw were "You play as a dude" and "Women are used in Joel's character arc." Because apparently playing as a guy HAS to be sexist, and men and women don't coexist. I guess they also missed the male characters used in Joel's and Ellie's arcs, and the female characters (one shown, one mentioned) in Ellie's.

The feminists complaining about The Last of Us are making a mockery of actual issues

canadamus_prime:
People will see sexism, racism, or any other kind of ism you can think of anywhere if they look for it whether it actually exists there or not.

bingo. if you look for something, you'll find it, especially when it comes to sexism/racism/etc...

keeping complaints to ACTUAL sexist and demeaning garbage is what needs to happen, otherwise the accusation/argument loses all power when you point the finger at everything.

Couldn't tell you off the top of my head, but is it more common to be protecting early teen girls than boys?

Because if it is, games are still leaning to damsel in distress, just with better justification for each individual game. Anyway, it's not any individual game that's at fault, it's the trend.

We really should turn each and every game character into a grey, genderless mass so as not to offend anyone. Except ofcourse the grey, genderless masses, but who cares about them, right?

I think the bigger picture here is that regardless of how strong, intelligent and "take charge" the women are in "The Last of Us", Joel is the character who dictates how everything happens. Tess just dies at the first quarter, Marlene is outright murdered by Joel on the possibility that she would go after Ellie, and Joel lies to Ellie about the fireflies. Does she press him further about it? No. She's just like "ok" and we're left with the impression that this is the end and regardless of what Ellie really thinks doesn't matter, because Joel got his way.

All this talk about the women being capable doesn't mean jack if Joel is the only character who decides how things are going to go down, and the way he wants things to go down is essentially a big "fu** you" to every man, woman and child who are still susceptible to this fungus plague.

gmaverick019:

canadamus_prime:
People will see sexism, racism, or any other kind of ism you can think of anywhere if they look for it whether it actually exists there or not.

bingo. if you look for something, you'll find it, especially when it comes to sexism/racism/etc...

keeping complaints to ACTUAL sexist and demeaning garbage is what needs to happen, otherwise the accusation/argument loses all power when you point the finger at everything.

I fairly certain these people don't even know what those words mean anymore they've just become buzzwords synonymous with "something I don't like."

I've been watching TBFP go through the game and with how far they've gotten so far I'll say... wut? Ellie's fucking awesome, a woman runs a survival group, no scantily-clad characters or panty shots as of yet. I'm not buying the sexism.

I found it weird how every bandit was a 25-something man, but that's kind of believable I guess.

I have to agree with them about the whole "sexism valley" comment. Whilst there are plenty of valid complaints of sexism (and other isms) that can be levelled at a variety of games, it seems that there are people crying sexism when there is none, and all that does is harm the valid complaints. The tale of the "gamer that cried sexism" if you will.

Damsel in what the fuck now?

Playing through the game I kept reflecting on how Ellie felt fully realized both as a teenager and as a female and that she was acting pretty much as you'd expect a 14 year old girl to act in the situations she was put in given her background. I also felt that the differences between her and Joel, both mentally and physically was what gave the story a lot of weight.

I can usually see where people are coming from with this kind of criticism and many a times I agree, but this is completely uncalled for, and I'm not certain what else they could have done to avoid this criticism. If anything I'd say what happens to the characters in the game is a result of who they are as a person rather than their gender.

Ladies and gentlemen, the evolutionary effect of false-positive pattern recognition. It has a storied history as a companion to humanity...

And now it's gone COMPLETELY MAD.

Jeyl:
I think the bigger picture here is that regardless of how strong, intelligent and "take charge" the women are in "The Last of Us", Joel is the character who dictates how everything happens. Tess just dies at the first quarter, Marlene is outright murdered by Joel on the possibility that she would go after Ellie, and Joel lies to Ellie about the fireflies. Does she press him further about it? No. She's just like "ok" and we're left with the impression that this is the end and regardless of what Ellie really thinks doesn't matter, because Joel got his way.

All this talk about the women being capable doesn't mean jack if Joel is the only character who decides how things are going to go down, and the way he wants things to go down is essentially a big "fu** you" to every man, woman and child who are still susceptible to this fungus plague.

The thing with Marlene was "if I let you live, you will come after my surrogate daughter, so I'm going to kill because this is how I solve problems". Ellie is literally the only relationship Joel that has had in twenty years that wasn't built on survival or money, she's the only thing that really mattered to him by the end
And the way she said "OK" it was obvious to me that she knew Joel was lying or at least not telling the whole truth, but she didn't want to push it.
As for Tess, she's more of a driving force than you give credit for. She pushes Joel to take Ellie to the Fireflies after all, and sets up the job in the first place. Before that the way Joel acted around her made it clear he was the muscle to her brains of the outfit

Less an uncanny valley so much as a pass/fail system where one mistake kills everything else. Elle would score points with me for not being an escort character so clueless she'd wander right into a zombie bite. The chapter playing as her was full of those badass moments my only complaint was visibility made Silent Hill look like a clear sunny day. Her moments of damselhood did not invalidate a period of bow and shiv induced stealth kills.

Lets take another look at the pic used in the article again, shall we?

image

It's a little 14 year old girl...holding a frickin' rifle....what more do you want?

I fully accept that there are justifiable arguments to be made about sexist portrayals of female characters in certain games...but I haven't even played The Last of Us and I know it can't be true in this case. Just from the little voice-over she gives in the trailer you can tell that she's ready to be strong to deal with the situations of the environment she's in.

I yearn for the day when a game comes out that won't have some trumped-up controversy attached to it. There's a difference between critiquing and whining, and this sounds to me like whiners complaining that Ellie wasn't the main playable character of the game.

If we're going to make accusations of sexism, it should be about the fact that of the objectively 'evil' characters in the game, including the generic bandits that you kill, every single one of them is a male. Every single one.

And no, I'm not buying this bullshit about women being oppressed in the post-apocalypse environment. That would not inherently preclude them from being murderous arseholes.

Excuse me while I give my desk a good foreheading.

ARGH.

Don't do this. This is the kind of crap that increases the noise-to-signal ratio to the point that complaints feminists have with actual merit start getting tuned out. This is the sort of complaint that raises questions as to whether the complainers are actually interested in fairness or equality so much as mandating that all creative endeavors adhere to their own dogmatically directed specifications.

If you wanted to suggest that you're one more PETA-like cause, far more interested in publicity than any actual merits of where you stake your claim, this is the perfect sort of thing to throw your weight behind.

canadamus_prime:

gmaverick019:

canadamus_prime:
People will see sexism, racism, or any other kind of ism you can think of anywhere if they look for it whether it actually exists there or not.

bingo. if you look for something, you'll find it, especially when it comes to sexism/racism/etc...

keeping complaints to ACTUAL sexist and demeaning garbage is what needs to happen, otherwise the accusation/argument loses all power when you point the finger at everything.

I fairly certain these people don't even know what those words mean anymore they've just become buzzwords synonymous with "something I don't like."

yepp exactly.

slightly off topic, this somewhat reminds of something that's happened locally for the past year, I've seen easily 50+ signs of these (not an exageration, it's ridiculous) around the city, and people will stand outside the shop holding them for months at a time:

image

the correlation i'm making this to is, is that EVERYONE has stopped giving a shit about these signs, because they are fucking everywhere, so it basically became a "well, shame on all of us since they are everywhere that I go, might as well go back to living my shameful life", and the signs as of recent have died down, because the effect they caused was next to nothing.

(i'm curious as to where people got these signs, that sign store must've made a killing selling all of them)

shadowmagus:

Ellie was a good, well-written, and solid character and should be held up as a model upon which to build future female characters not something to nitpick and scream about.

And you're absolutely right as I don't really think Ellie was a sexist character either.

My point was that the fact we're bitching about minor, arguable non-existent problems shows that there really is no major problems in this game.

It seems like these sexism people are really scrounging for something to complain about if they are targeting this game...

That's weird, I hadn't heard any complaints.
Obviously no character will be perfect but as far as I've heard it's good.

Zhukov:
Waht?

Really?

She's fourteen years old, probably fifteen by the end of the game. How much of an independent badass is a skinny teenager supposed to be? Hell, throughout the game, both in cutscenes and gameplay, she is demonstrably willing and able to shoot, shank and brick whichever hapless motherfuckers get in her way.

Hell, the one time she gets anywhere near damsel territory, she promptly frees herself, racking up an extensive bodycount in the process. By the time Joel arrives, it's all over but for the screaming.

I'll be the first to admit the industry has an issue when it comes to depicting females, but Ellie is not an example of such.

This. All of this. Not only is every single thing you stated true, she also outright saves Joel on several occasions. At no point in the game would I say she actually qualifies as a damsel in distress and I have to wonder just how far up their own ass someone's head would need to be to seriously try and argue that.

Of course people think there is sexism. Everyone who has some kind of societal and cultural agenda is clinging to video games as their primary source of gaining attention. Racists, feminists, homosexuals, homophobes, politically correct and politically incorrect, politicians of all kinds, scientists and science deniers, Christians, Muslims, atheists etc. It makes me sick to be honest.

Can't people just sit back and enjoy the freakin' games anymore? Must everything evolve around their shitty fragile little egos? Weak people who think that they have some kind of problem that everybody except them should be responsible for. The entire society should now be sensitive about every god damn issue that some weak excuse for a human being might have. Well it doesn't work that way. If you have a problem deal with it yourself or with the help of your family and friends.

WARNING, MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS:

It's not even worth their time to respond to these allegations. Anyone who said that there is sexism present in this game has gone full retard. You don't go full retard. They clearly did not play the game at all. I played all the way through that game and Ellie saved my ass more often than I had to save her. I get grabbed and she icing guys left and right. Don't forget the part where you play directly as her and she is in total control of that situation for most of the time. She escapes without help and even has a boss fight against a psycho who may or may not want her as a sex toy (hard to tell what his intentions were, she is so "special" afterall). She is so well written and fleshed out that I actually took some level of twisted joy in killing those doctors at the end of the game. Though I was a bit heartbroken finding out that I went against her ultimate wishes. But, I couldn't find sexism there if I wanted to. But I'm not looking for it the vast majority of the time.

NON SPOILER SECTION:

I think these people are suffering from extreme bias confirmation. They are so intent on finding it, they will find the 4 seconds in the game that may represent their view and denounce the entire game based on that. I mean, she isn't an adult woman, she is a 14 year old girl. At no point would a real 14 year old girl be able to handle a fraction of what Ellie endures (obviously helped by how harsh that world actually is). I would honestly challenge these people to write a character like Ellie and not fall prey to their own misguided view on what does and does not constitute sexism.

Some people are making a mountain out of a molehill. What else is new in the video game sexism debate?

Just like Polygon's negative review of Dragon's Crown, if someone is pointing out negative criticism then that is completely fine. Not every reviewer has to fall in line with everyone else, they are allowed to differ.

There is absolutely no point in yelling "no you are WRONG, there is NO SEXISM" because...yeah, it shouldn't matter to you if one or two reviewers have something negative to say.

Also, remember the golden rule - if you look for sexism hard enough, you will find it.

Adam Jensen:
Can't people just sit back and enjoy the freakin' games anymore? Must everything evolve around their shitty fragile little egos? Weak people who think that they have some kind of problem that everybody except them should be responsible for. The entire society should now be sensitive about every god damn issue that some weak excuse for a human being might have. Well it doesn't work that way. If you have a problem deal with it yourself or with the help of your family and friends.

Careful, you are going to get bashed with the "that doesn't mean it's immune to CRITICISM, this is all part of CRITICISM" stick.

I just...ah...umm...UGH *goes into sleep mode*

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