Tuesday, May 24, 2016

[AVW007] Doing Better - What are We Doing?

Previous: [AVW006] Tropes – Clichés that Keep Getting Used

"For when a heart insists on its destiny, resisting the general blandishment, then the agony is great; so too the danger." - Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Before diving into the next section, let's take a moment to orient ourselves. We said many things in the previous sections, but if you get nothing else out of it, understand this:
1). Tropes are rationalizations of Archetypes.

2). Archetypes are born from the Unconscious.

3). You can't fix the Unconscious by yelling at it.
If Ms. Sarkesian is correct, the Damsel in Distress is a sexist Trope used by sexist game creators. In her formulation, the answer is strong female characters who function as something other than passive objects (and the complete suppression of the Anima Archetype).

If I am correct, the Damsel in Distress is a Trope-ified version of the Anima and one of the foundational images of the human Unconscious. In this formulation, no amount of Grrl Power characters will ever suppress her.

But I am not arguing for wholesale acceptance of the Tropeified Damsel, or that women have no place in stories beyond passive objects. I am arguing that unless we make female characters in line with Archetypal principles, we will end up with unsatisfying, unconvincing results. No matter how much we strive to create positive female characters, our subconscious minds will reject them if they are simply Men with Tits.

To that end, we'll be looking at some examples of female characters from ancient mythology that should be more in line with Archetypal figures than 100-pound kung-fu hackers with perfect hair and spectacular tits. We'll look at both the original stories and how they might translate into compelling game mechanics.

Now, take all of the following examples with grains of the saltiest salt - I've never made a video game or published a story. These ideas will not survive contact with reality as-is, but we're more concerned with direction than detail at this point. And I firmly believe that this is a better direction for women's representation than stomping on the Damsel with an iron heel.

Next time and first up is the story of Inanna in the Underworld.

[AVW008] Doing a Better Job - Inanna in the Underworld


  1. I enjoy the nuance you present in all this.
    This will sounds stupid, but do where do you draw this from(books, researches, critical theory, whatever)?

    1. Thanks Peter. It's a mix of books, research, and critical theory. The essential thing is to get a handle on the recurring patterns - what they mean is a matter of debate. If you want to dig deeper, here are the books I recommend:

      Psychology of the Unconscious - CG Jung (really, all of Jung)
      The Hero With a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell
      The Golden Bough - James George Frazer
      The Seven Basic Plots - Christopher Booker

      Jung is where you're going to want to end up, but start with "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" or "The Seven Basic Plots." They'll give you a solid basis in the patterns we're looking at, and a solid grounding in world mythology/literature.