PBS Game/Show Talks Harmful Male Stereotypes in Games

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PBS Game/Show Talks Harmful Male Stereotypes in Games

Not everyone can be a tasty stack of man-muscle like Marcus Fenix, and that might hurt your self-esteem.

A real man bulges out of his orange tank top, glistening with sweat and chewing on a cigar. Maybe he wears heavy, futuristic armor that barely contains his biceps, his face craggy with scars from brutal fights. Even better, he is stoically silent, instantly adapting from life as a theoretical physicist to defeat aliens and military alike with his trusty crowbar. PBS Game/Show suggests that these hyper-masculine ideals are not just unattainable fantasy, but also possibly harmful.

The latest video from PBS Game/Show tackles the question of how videogame stereotypes can be harmful to men. Stereotypes for videogame protagonists include an exaggerated physique, stoic silence, and a complete mental imperviousness to trauma or guilt. Emotion, vulnerability, and stress are all removed from these heroes, lest they seem less masculine. The video notes that distorted body image can contribute to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and that an estimated 10-15% of eating disorder sufferers are men. Rates of eating disorders among men are on the rise, and so is muscle dysmorphia, the unhealthy use of steroids and exercise in the pursuit of an unattainable ideal.

Stock videogame enemies are also largely men. Faceless wave after wave of men are regularly thrown against our Killbot hero to be dispatched. The video introduces the idea of the expendable or disposable male, applying concepts from sociology and anthropology to explain how society reinforces the idea that men should sacrifice themselves for the protection of children and women.

The episode continues the dialogue started in a previous video which asked whether gamers need feminism. The video introduces the sociology concepts of in-group favoritism and outgroup derogation, which describe how we identify with groups and react to interlopers. The episode uses these concepts to interpret the backlash received by GameSpot's Carolyn Petit for her review of Grand Theft Auto 5 and the hate directed at Anita Sarkeesian over her Tropes vs Women in Video Games Kickstarter and web series.

PBS Game/Show is a production of PBS Digital Studios, the web-only division of the Public Broadcasting Service. Other shows include PBS Idea Channel, which explores the connections between pop culture and art, and It's Okay To Be Smart, a science program that highlights the connections to science in everyday experience. PBS Digital Studios launched in 2012 with a Mr. Rogers' autotune video. At the 2013 Webby Awards, PBS Digital Studios received four Webby Awards and three Webby People's Voice Awards.

Source: YouTube

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Has anyone solved that little problem where women on XBL and PSN and even on the PC get random messages to get their tits out or propositions for bathroom sex?

I'm just saying, that seems to have been lost among this whole thing about unrealistic proportions.

Racecarlock:
Has anyone solved that little problem where women on XBL and PSN and even on the PC get random messages to get their tits out or propositions for bathroom sex?

I'm just saying, that seems to have been lost among this whole thing about unrealistic proportions.

This keeps happening on this site and I don't know why. People keep convolving the artistic medium, the professional business industry, and the fanbase into one massive, conglomerate blob they call "gaming" and are pulling examples and counter examples from all sides of it when things are simply inapplicable.

How the 12 - 14 year old children on XBL act when playing FPS games has nothing to do with how the lead designer of a game instructed his or her team to make/write their characters. This, in turn, has little to do with how the industry treats women employed at gaming publishers and/or developers.

Let's be honest, 90% of all video game characters are stereotypes. I really would like to move away from that and get some actual personality.

I think the muscular male hero stereotype is equally damaging. I already have a low self esteem, always have, but I can see how some guys might get a little depressed thinking about how they'll never achieve what their favourite characters do every couple of minutes.

And a womens expectations are might be raised when admiring those hunks too.

I hate to see the games medium follow what the TV and films medium did and glorify to extremes the perfect male and female specimens, giving the consumer unrealistic expectations of what we should be like.

It can be very damaging to anyone with self image problems. That has sprouted up a lot more in recent years than it did in previous generations. Just like unrealistic expectations of beauty can negatively effect the self image of a girl, the same can be said for boys. Most men are depicted in such a way that it's unattainable. The only reason it's a subject that is never breached is simply because even though body image problems are becoming more common for males, it's still far far less common compared to women.

I would check out the comments of the video... but it's just going to devolve into an "us vs them" argument for men and women.

erttheking:
Let's be honest, 90% of characters in any media are stereotypes. I really would like to move away from that and get some actual personality.

I fixed that for you. I'd bet that when most average people read books they stereotype the characters in their imaginations as well. Its kind of human nature, because we see so many people in our lives its hard not to stereotype other humans by group... its only how we actually treat the ones we interact with, both when they are and aren't around that really matters.

I've got the feeling that we'll have to add in 'bodies' to the all characters, and events bit at the end of entertainment products. But I can fathom the whole body image thing, Hell I don't date because I'm not hung like a moose, and if porn has taught me anything is that you have to be hung like a moose.

I don't believe that size doesn't matter crap, if that was true they'd make small dildos. TRUTH!

Captcha: "Pocket Sized"
Quite Captcha! It's called 'fun' size.

Baresark:
It can be very damaging to anyone with self image problems. That has sprouted up a lot more in recent years than it did in previous generations. Just like unrealistic expectations of beauty can negatively effect the self image of a girl, the same can be said for boys. Most men are depicted in such a way that it's unattainable. The only reason it's a subject that is never breached is simply because even though body image problems are becoming more common for males, it's still far far less common compared to women.

I wonder if a case of it being actually less than women or just less admitted to. To an extent I mean.

Well in the "wave after wave of enemies" scenario they can't really mix in female enemies, because then some feminists will cry misogyny at how the player has to kill females. Not all feminists obviously, but some :P

CardinalPiggles:
I think the muscular male hero stereotype is equally damaging. I already have a low self esteem, always have, but I can see how some guys might get a little depressed thinking about how they'll never achieve what their favourite characters do every couple of minutes.

But the difference is that they CAN achieve that if they're willing to get off their lazy behinds and hit the gym. It's not like females thinking "oh no I'll never be pretty and I'll never have those curvy breasts/hips" because they can't really help being born with a certain body shape and they can't really help their beauty (crazy make-up fanatics come to mind).

Males can actually DO something about it, and believe me more guys definitely need to start hitting the gym (looking at your severe obesity issues America). Steroids are obviously retarded and muscle dysmorphia is pretty rare, but in most scenarios I would say idealized male heroes have done more good than harm for males.

You don't have to bulk-up like a tank, I would say ladies are more attracted to lean/toned bodies these days.

sleeky01:

Baresark:
It can be very damaging to anyone with self image problems. That has sprouted up a lot more in recent years than it did in previous generations. Just like unrealistic expectations of beauty can negatively effect the self image of a girl, the same can be said for boys. Most men are depicted in such a way that it's unattainable. The only reason it's a subject that is never breached is simply because even though body image problems are becoming more common for males, it's still far far less common compared to women.

I wonder if a case of it being actually less than women or just less admitted to. To an extent I mean.

I'd say you're absolutely right- I don't see why men as a whole would be happier with their bodies than women as a whole. We're aiming for different end goals, but they're both equally unattainable.

Why is what this jackass says newsworthy? No, seriously. Why should I give a damn what this person has to say about video games. I'm sick of seeing this kind of bullshit. If there's a bunch of ladies out there with a severe persecution complex, that's bad enough. Last thing we need is a bunch of men crying about how the muscles in a game triggered their inferiority complex.
It's about time we all grew up, developed some maturity and learned to distinguish between fiction and reality. When did humanity become such a big group of whiners?

VanQ:
Why is what this jackass says newsworthy? No, seriously. Why should I give a damn what this person has to say about video games. I'm sick of seeing this kind of bullshit. If there's a bunch of ladies out there with a severe persecution complex, that's bad enough. Last thing we need is a bunch of men crying about how the muscles in a game triggered their inferiority complex.
It's about time we all grew up, developed some maturity and learned to distinguish between fiction and reality. When did humanity become such a big group of whiners?

Not wanting to point fingers or anything, but if I had to name the biggest culprit it would be 3rd wave feminism.

VanQ:
Why is what this jackass says newsworthy? No, seriously. Why should I give a damn what this person has to say about video games. I'm sick of seeing this kind of bullshit. If there's a bunch of ladies out there with a severe persecution complex, that's bad enough. Last thing we need is a bunch of men crying about how the muscles in a game triggered their inferiority complex.
It's about time we all grew up, developed some maturity and learned to distinguish between fiction and reality. When did humanity become such a big group of whiners?

Its not so much that people can't tell the difference between reality and fiction, its that much of the time fiction informs us on how to react to reality, whether or not we know it. Fiction has been used to teach us how to handle the world since the beginning of time, from the story of Oedipus demonizing the idea of Incest, and to today, where cartoons teach people about the magic of friendship. It can be difficult for the brain to differentiate when the practical lessons ends and the plot devices begin. Its good for videos like these to remind us what in videogames should not affect how we act in real life, because its not always obvious.

Also, its hard to find a video on YouTube talking about Harmful male stereo types in videogames that doesn't devolve into another stupid Sarkesian bashing video, so that in itself is newsworthy.

VanQ:
Why is what this jackass says newsworthy? No, seriously. Why should I give a damn what this person has to say about video games. I'm sick of seeing this kind of bullshit. If there's a bunch of ladies out there with a severe persecution complex, that's bad enough. Last thing we need is a bunch of men crying about how the muscles in a game triggered their inferiority complex.
It's about time we all grew up, developed some maturity and learned to distinguish between fiction and reality. When did humanity become such a big group of whiners?

No offense, that sorta is the problem. We have to be big strong men and not let those silly little emotions affect us. Why is having emotions a weakness? Also to be perfectly blunt, it's criticizing gender stereotypes which are 100% real. More often than not male characters are underdeveloped meat heads and whether you think it has wider social impacts or not, you have to admit most of them are boring as Hell. Let's not forget that when we are gunning down people by the thousands it's usually always men, why not throw some women into the mix? Bioshock Infinite had you blasting away at female soldiers along with the males, and to be honest I rather liked it. Equal opportunity violence.

The point I'm trying to get at here is that you may be tired of the discussion, but like it or not the Human race never got anywhere by just being satisfied with the way things are.

I'm glad to see a video discussing the other side of the fence, so to speak. It's not just video games, of course, but if we argue that media images of "idealized" women create harmful self-image issues in women and girls, it would seem rather callous in the face of things to ignore that surely parallel issues would occur in boys and men.

I think the jury is still out more than many would admit as to just how much such issues effect anyone, and as a community we have a vested stake in believing the answer is "not all that much".

VanQ:
Why is what this jackass says newsworthy? No, seriously. Why should I give a damn what this person has to say about video games. I'm sick of seeing this kind of bullshit. If there's a bunch of ladies out there with a severe persecution complex, that's bad enough. Last thing we need is a bunch of men crying about how the muscles in a game triggered their inferiority complex.
It's about time we all grew up, developed some maturity and learned to distinguish between fiction and reality. When did humanity become such a big group of whiners?

That's a little unfair. I mean, I'm a female that frequents sexism threads, but even I see how this is also a problem and can be harmful. Granted it's not exactly in the same spades as what women get in terms of representation, but this isn't an issue about who has the bigger controversy or issue. We all need to acknowledge that gaming has a long way to go, and the best method in doing so is recognising all issues.

CardinalPiggles:
I think the muscular male hero stereotype is equally damaging. I already have a low self esteem, always have, but I can see how some guys might get a little depressed thinking about how they'll never achieve what their favourite characters do every couple of minutes.

And a womens expectations are might be raised when admiring those hunks too.

I hate to see the games medium follow what the TV and films medium did and glorify to extremes the perfect male and female specimens, giving the consumer unrealistic expectations of what we should be like.

Eh, its hard to claim that something is "equally damaging" when its impossible to feel the effects of the thing you are comparing it too. I'm not trying to make light of your low self esteem; as far as I know the muscular male stereotype might affect you more than the average woman is affected by the Perfect female body stereotype.

But I can already think of popular male video game characters that buck the trend of overly muscular male hero, like Mario and Luigi, leisure suit Larry. And while they both fall into the muscular category, Nathan Drake and the Incredible Hulk have different body types that, while equally difficult to achieve, give the men more options and different things to aspire too. Women character designs in (western) videogames almost always default to the same figure eight body. The problem isn't that they have perfect bodies, its that they JUST have perfect bodies. Not just perfect bodies, THE SAME perfect bodies.

This is what makes gender politics difficult, because by its very nature, men and women experience things very differently.

Yuuki:
Well in the "wave after wave of enemies" scenario they can't really mix in female enemies, because then some feminists will cry misogyny at how the player has to kill females. Not all feminists obviously, but some :P

CardinalPiggles:
I think the muscular male hero stereotype is equally damaging. I already have a low self esteem, always have, but I can see how some guys might get a little depressed thinking about how they'll never achieve what their favourite characters do every couple of minutes.

But the difference is that they CAN achieve that if they're willing to get off their lazy behinds and hit the gym. It's not like females thinking "oh no I'll never be pretty and I'll never have those curvy breasts/hips" because they can't really help being born with a certain body shape and they can't really help their beauty (crazy make-up fanatics come to mind).

Males can actually DO something about it, and believe me more guys definitely need to start hitting the gym (looking at your severe obesity issues America). Steroids are obviously retarded and muscle dysmorphia is pretty rare, but in most scenarios I would say idealized male heroes have done more good than harm for males.

You don't have to bulk-up like a tank, I would say ladies are more attracted to lean/toned bodies these days.

Women can do something to about looking more attractive. Aside from the gym, it's called plastic surgery. Both men and women can decide to enhance themselves through medical procedures. But there's no reason to discount someone's low self-esteem because they're not utterly ripped like Chris Redfield or Kratos. However, it seems to me that the average gamer (male or female) can mostly realize that video games show a highly sexualized and over-idealized versions of both genders and just go with it. I think most of the complaining comes from people with an agenda to push, and video games are just there newest access route.

Baresark:
Most men are depicted in such a way that it's unattainable.

Thing is though for most healthy men masculine attractiveness is easily obtainable, a man just needs to eat well, exercise a bit and put a bit of thought into grooming and appearance. A man doesn't need to be Adonian or built like Marcus Fenix, in fact thats not all that appealing to a lot of men and women. Athletic looking is enough, clean and tidy clothes is enough and being clean and well groomed is enough (obviously social circles and lifestyle decide what well dressed and well groomed actually are).

Women unfortunately have a much harder time of it and the expectations are often not even natural, a man can take care of what he is given but a women might have to do something drastic like ridiculous diets or surgery to confirm to some expectations.

Though he say it's not what he wants towards the end, he's verging into false equivalency territory there.

Having said that, there are serious issues with how masculinity is portrayed. I do not accept the "disposable gender" idea, men get killed off because men are seen as being warriors. Now, if games were predominately about female characters killing male mooks, that'd be a problem.

But, like he says, men are seen as leaders. The soldiers have to be men because men are seen as soldiers. Now, he says that men "have to be" leaders, which is missing the point a little. Men are seen as automatically being best qualified, it's that they always can be leaders, or anything else seem as important, really.

Anyhoo, OtT male characters are wish-fulfillment for male gamers. I don't see how you can have a wish fulfillment character without it being rather awful in many ways, though perhaps it could be balanced better.

Women can do something to about looking more attractive. Aside from the gym, it's called plastic surgery. Both men and women can decide to enhance themselves through medical procedures. But there's no reason to discount someone's low self-esteem because they're not utterly ripped like Chris Redfield or Kratos. However, it seems to me that the average gamer (male or female) can mostly realize that video games show a highly sexualized and over-idealized versions of both genders and just go with it. I think most of the complaining comes from people with an agenda to push, and video games are just there newest access route.

Plastic surgery is extremely painful, expensive, sometimes life threatening and seems a little more extreme than having to go to the gym more often.

The female figures and male figures are often both over-idealized versions in video games, correct. Both sexualized? REALLY debatable. Both are technically sexy, correct, but how many games recently have you played where the camera in a cutscene trails up the body of a naked woman, like in the first cutscene of the new Hitman game. Now how many times does that happen with a guy? Hardly ever. Or the way Catwoman and Harley Quinn walk in the Arkham City, with the camera taking every chance it can to zoom in to their ass to show it shake back and forth.

Both forms are over idealized to be sure. But just because a character is sexy doesn't mean they are sexualized.

Games need feminism

No. We need equality.

saltyanon:

Games need feminism

No. We need equality.

Feminism refers to approaching politics and social behavior from a female perspective, as opposed to the traditionally male perspective that society started from.

Since most games have been made by men leading the creative process, saying that games need equality would also mean that games need feminism. Feminism is a subset of equality.

I've brought this up beforehand on a number of occasions, I find it amusing that we're just now seeing web personalities seriously approach the issue in regards to gaming.

All told though it's an argument that has been around since people started bickering about fantasy artwork and things like He-Man action figures.

At the end of the day though fantasy is just that, fantasy, and characters tend to represent an idea, whether it's in books, movies, video games, or sculpted plastic. In general no real guy or girl is going to look as good as something people dream up as a paragon of sorts. Complaining about how this creates real world problems is kind of stupid since anyone who has trouble differentiating fantasy from reality to the extent of it becoming a problem has issues well beyond video games, comics, or whatever else. Physical ideals have been around since the ancient artwork, and I doubt many people stopped to say "you know, that statue of Hercules needs to go, because it encourages an unhealthy ideal..." to say nothing of some of the statues done of actual kings who still might be around when they were made, which makes me wonder how many people got fed to lions for commenting that the king didn't really have arms bigger around than his head (though this is neither here nor there, just me trying to be funny).

To be honest with health I have less concern with TV, movies, games, and such presenting a physical ideal in fantasy than I do with certain athletes and the like who have done dangerous things to get to that point, and then presented themselves as an achievable goal as they pimp products at GNC or whatever. In general those athletes tend to be motivated by money in real world competition, not by trying to match their favorite comic character. Of course we are doing some things to crack down on this nowadays with all the tests for athletes and the like.

I consider things like this a lot more dangerous than anything presented in fantasy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMXi-uwNGc0

To be fair when Arnie looked like that the rules about 'roids were a lot different, and people didn't know as much about the risks. Him coming clean about it and his health issues as a result have helped a lot. The thing is pretending that someone could look like Arnie does in those videos is cool, but saying that you can look like that for real without hurting yourself... well, that's different. Arnie still did a ton of work, no denying that, he outperformed people at a time when everyone else was on the same stuff, but the actual results were not something that can be done safely.

On some levels I admit I find that disappointing, Arnie used to be one of my heroes when I was younger because I thought it was possible to look like an action figure IRL largely because of him... but well... decades later we've seen the reality.

thaluikhain:

Having said that, there are serious issues with how masculinity is portrayed. I do not accept the "disposable gender" idea, men get killed off because men are seen as being warriors.

Also it's not that men are seen as disposable, it's that certain kinds of men are seen as disposable. We don't see well-developed and characterised female characters sending all these canon-fodder-men to battle; we still have men being in control and having other options.

I'd love to see more female enemies and villains, but I don't buy into the 'disposable gender'-idea.
This idea of disposability is more of a class-issue than gender.

-Double post due to connection issues-

DrunkenElfMage:

saltyanon:

Games need feminism

No. We need equality.

Feminism refers to approaching politics and social behavior from a female perspective, as opposed to the traditionally male perspective that society started from.

Since most games have been made by men leading the creative process, saying that games need equality would also mean that games need feminism. Feminism is a subset of equality.

Unless it is Third Wave/Post Feminism, traditional feminism is not about pure equality and very much anti-male.

Baldr:
Unless it is Third Wave/Post Feminism, traditional feminism is not about pure equality and very much anti-male.

Er...define "traditional feminism" there, cause that's very much not true for most mainstream feminism.

MarlaDesat:
PBS Game/Show Talks Harmful Male Stereotypes in Games

Not everyone can be a tasty stack of man-muscle like Marcus Fenix, and that might hurt your self-esteem.

A real man bulges out of his orange tank top, glistening with sweat and chewing on a cigar. Maybe he wears heavy, futuristic armor that barely contains his biceps, his face craggy with scars from brutal fights. Even better, he is stoically silent, instantly adapting from life as a theoretical physicist to defeat aliens and military alike with his trusty crowbar. PBS Game/Show suggests that these hyper-masculine ideals are not just unattainable fantasy, but also possibly harmful.

The latest video from PBS Game/Show tackles the question of how videogame stereotypes can be harmful to men. Stereotypes for videogame protagonists include an exaggerated physique, stoic silence, and a complete mental imperviousness to trauma or guilt. Emotion, vulnerability, and stress are all removed from these heroes, lest they seem less masculine. The video notes that distorted body image can contribute to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and that an estimated 10-15% of eating disorder sufferers are men. Rates of eating disorders among men are on the rise, and so is muscle dysmorphia, the unhealthy use of steroids and exercise in the pursuit of an unattainable ideal.

Stock videogame enemies are also largely men. Faceless wave after wave of men are regularly thrown against our Killbot hero to be dispatched. The video introduces the idea of the expendable or disposable male, applying concepts from sociology and anthropology to explain how society reinforces the idea that men should sacrifice themselves for the protection of children and women.

The episode continues the dialogue started in a previous video which asked whether gamers need feminism. The video introduces the sociology concepts of in-group favoritism and outgroup derogation, which describe how we identify with groups and react to interlopers. The episode uses these concepts to interpret the backlash received by GameSpot's Carolyn Petit for her review of Grand Theft Auto 5 and the hate directed at Anita Sarkeesian over her Tropes vs Women in Video Games Kickstarter and web series.

PBS Game/Show is a production of PBS Digital Studios, the web-only division of the Public Broadcasting Service. Other shows include PBS Idea Channel, which explores the connections between pop culture and art, and It's Okay To Be Smart, a science program that highlights the connections to science in everyday experience. PBS Digital Studios launched in 2012 with a Mr. Rogers' autotune video. At the 2013 Webby Awards, PBS Digital Studios received four Webby Awards and three Webby People's Voice Awards.

Source: YouTube

Permalink

Wait, so mens problems matter, even when their problem is being TEN WHOLE PERCENT of eating disorder sufferers? But its a minority! (I'm sarcastically referring to people saying women in gaming don't matter becuase they arn't at least half of the intended audience)

In all seriousness though, this can only be a good thing. Maybe if we start talking about EVERYONES problems (even those white male first world problems), people might be more inclined to be more understanding when people bring up sexism or racism.

But probably not. They'll probably just be like SEE SEE WE HAVE PROBLEMS LOOK AT OUR PROBLEMS

Nevermind.

DrunkenElfMage:

saltyanon:

Games need feminism

No. We need equality.

Feminism refers to approaching politics and social behavior from a female perspective, as opposed to the traditionally male perspective that society started from.

Since most games have been made by men leading the creative process, saying that games need equality would also mean that games need feminism. Feminism is a subset of equality.

I like how SJW want to stop the use of "gendered" words yet, label their "cause" with one.

Come back and tell me feminism encompasses equality when the word rape can apply to men as well.

Racecarlock:
Has anyone solved that little problem where women on XBL and PSN and even on the PC get random messages to get their tits out or propositions for bathroom sex?

I'm just saying, that seems to have been lost among this whole thing about unrealistic proportions.

Frankly that's not a problem with games, but rather their communities. It's a problem with people, and merits entirely different conversations.

The key thing to remember when looking at male stereotypes is that they exist because they appeal to men - or to the shitty ideas about masculinity that a lot of men aspire to - unlike female stereotypes, which appeal to men and alienate women. It doesn't make it okay, but it's important to know that even when both genders get shafted, it's not because things are 'equal', it's because of the same shitty patriarchal attitudes in both cases.

saltyanon:
Come back and tell me feminism encompasses equality when the word rape can apply to men as well.

Er, the word can apply to men as well.

thaluikhain:

saltyanon:
Come back and tell me feminism encompasses equality when the word rape can apply to men as well.

Er, the word can apply to men as well.

Now, pardon me for I wasn't being clear. Men can only get sexually assaulted, never raped by womyn, according to court, and according to post-modern feminism, the brand of feminism SJW and people like the guy in the vid are supporting, men can never be raped because men are the ones holding power etc.

A man can get anally raped by another man i.e. sodomized, but a man can never ever be raped by womyn.

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