A few weeks ago, some poor soul on tumblr made an ill-advised decision to “analyze” the women of Borderlands in a write-up that read more like a mock examination by someone who had never actually played the game, cherry-picking details that had the best chance of fitting his so-called argument.
Needless to say, the Borderlands family didn’t take too well to the criticism.
And for a valid reason! I feel like I’ve seen all too many poorly-written analyses of female characters in games, and honestly, I’m a little sick of them. (Shocking, I know.) But this one was particularly bad.
Read the post here >>
I respectfully disagreed with about everything that this dude wrote. And please…take a second and read that atrocity so you can fully understand what’s wrong with half-assed attempts at feminism pertaining to gaming. I’ll wait.
SERIOUSLY, DUDE?? Moxxi is much more than her boobs. Maya is more than a silent playable character. Lilith is more than a damsel. And Ellie…well if she’s not a strong woman, what with her propensity for murder and refusal to take bullshit from anyone, I don’t know what is.
When I responded to this guy, I opted to focus on Lilith since that’s who he seemed to take issue with the most, saying she doesn’t have a strong personality. …which is totally confounding to me. I’ve always found her character – a seemingly impossible blend of confidence, sexiness, and power – to be exceptionally strong, even at her worst.
He brought up the emphasis on how hot she is. Ok sure, she’s the Firehawk, and sure, she has elemental boosts (including incendiary), I’ll give you that. (Does that mean Maya has a corrosive personality because of Blight Phoenix? Hmm…) But at what point is her attractiveness consistently referenced? Serious question there, because I can’t think of anything other than her wanted poster being a picture of her chest, and Handsome Jack calling her really hot once – which I’ll give you. But two references do not equal a good deal of emphasis, in my opinion.
He calls her hotblooded and snarky (true and true), but now she’s flirty? Well, she flirts with Roland, yes. (Awkwardly, I might add. Adorbs.) But they kiiiind of had a thing going, ya know? He does it too. (Equally awkwardly.) It’s not like she hits on everything with a pulse. And even if she did, how does that make her a flimsy character? If sexiness is offensive and/or automatically diminishes strength of character, I can see how one might think she’s weak. But her sex appeal comes nowhere close to overshadowing her immense power and determination – which are what I consider to be her primary traits.
The amount of references to how awesome it is to have a Siren around can’t be denied – and up until Maya shows up, Lilith is THE Siren. (In fact, even with Maya around she’s still the number one in that regard. Maybe due to Eridium, but that’s neither here nor there.) She’s confident with her powers, she’s got swagger (yea, I said it), and she’s not afraid to assert her dominance over anyone.
Dominance, see? Not submission.
Because she’s not weak.
Hell, she retreated from Sanctuary to hold off the ENTIRE BLOODSHOT GANG. All of them. By herself. And when Roland disappeared, who took over command of the Raiders? Lilith. She gets captured by Jack and still continues to fight him, phase shifting you to safety and holding back the Warrior as long as she can. And why was she taken in the first place? Because she’s crazy powerful, not because she’s crazy hot.
Oh and also, SHE PHASE SHIFTS A WHOLE CITY.
But all this author chose to see was that when you get to fight with her, she only kills “low-level mooks”…which is game design, not character design, by the way. I’m not sure it’d be a very good gameplay experience if the NPC you meet up with just destroys all the enemies. The point is to fight with them. Just saying. (And seriously, Roland is even less help when you bust him out. Brick gets in the way and doesn’t do much damage when he smashes around. And Mordecai’s sniping wasn’t always mindblowingly helpful. But that’s kind of how NPCs work in games.)
And then, after all this nonsensical rambling he did, in a totally perplexing point of argument, the issue of the girls having flawless skin was brought up. Um. Alright, I guess all the girls are lucky there? But the guys are, too. I’m not sure I saw anyone on Pandora with acne. (In fact, I can’t name too many games that do show anyone with acne.) Scars, sure. But if you’re looking for those, feel free to look at some more NPCs – I don’t think you’ll have to go further than Helena Pierce. I just don’t see how their skin is relevant to their character.
The crux of the issue is that this misguided author seemed to judge strength of character solely on appearance and I dare say held the female characters to a different standard than the males. (Gasp!)
How about looking at the rest of the universe? Steele, Athena, Tannis, Tina, Angel… Gearbox didn’t craft weak women. Just because the girls are pretty doesn’t mean they’re weak. Just because they occasionally get in trouble and need your help, doesn’t mean they’re damsels.
Because if they are, I suppose Roland’s one, too.
Note: In the end, dude admitted he was way off base and opted to stop writing…which almost makes me more angry. Like, if you’re gonna have this opinion, at least be willing to take criticism, defend your points, and actually have a discussion. Don’t just run away with your tail between your legs.
But oh well. I guess it’s better than spouting bullshit and refusing to admit when you’re wrong.