I don’t think anyone would ever make the mistake of calling me a gamer. I’ve never been very good at them, and with the exception of puzzle-type games like Tetris and Mahjong, they just don’t interest me. It’s not my thing.
But I love Guitar Hero. My husband got me hooked on it a couple of years ago, when the first game came out. Since then, we’ve bought all the sequels since on their release date, even the shitty 80s expansion pack. I’m pretty good; I can complete hard with little effort, and get five stars on most songs with a bit of work. I will, in fact, get obsessed with it.
As any good rock geek should know, Guitar Hero III was released yesterday. We bought it. We got it home. We were excited. Then we turned it on and I came to the very fast realization that I just paid $50 for a game that was going to blatantly and guiltlessly insult me.
For those of you who have never played the game, this is my girl Judy Nails. She’s a cute, bad-ass alt rocker chick who doesn’t take shit from anybody. She’s the only female character to have appeared in every Guitar Hero release, and she has been my chosen character from day one. We work well together:
And this is my beloved Judy now:
The picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but since the game is brand new it was the best I could find. You can find a better view on Guitar Hero’s homepage. Basically, I’m not sure why they bothered to put a shirt on her. There are copious amounts of cleavage, her entire stomach, and at least half of her bra hanging out. The shirt is really more of an accessory than an actual article of clothing. Even on stage with all of those bright lights, she still might get a little cold. And every outfit change I could give her doesn’t make it any better.
Even worse, I don’t have any other female options. There’s Casey, who has always worn a bikini top in lieu of a shirt (which I was originally fine with, because there were other options and there is a male character with no shirt). And there’s a new Asian female character who, though she is covered, is dressed like she works for Gwen Stefani. And since I see it as pretty racist, I can’t go with her, either.
So. Apparently Guitar Hero now thinks that it either A. does not have any female fans or B. their female fans will, for some reason, not mind being objectified and forced to play with a character who is half naked, if they want to play with a woman.
I was pissed off. But then it got much worse. I started looking through the guitars in the store. First came a guitar called the “Clix” which is sponsored by those misogynist assholes at Axe. Yeah, I get the play on words (guitar, axe . . .). But Axe is still a company that is hateful of women, and so I was very displeased. Oh, they sponsor a bass, too, called Bom Chicka Wah Wah. Cute, huh?
That was a fucking joke, though. Because next came the guitar Lady Shapes. What is Lady Shapes? It’s a guitar with a front that looks like/is shaped like an airbrushed blond in a bikini.
Worse of all, though, is the Parisienne. How bad could that be? The entire guitar is a disembodied woman’s leg in a fishnet stocking and heel.
Unlike most similar horrors that I run across, I don’t know how to be cute or sarcastic about this. Because I take it personally. Very personally. I’ve sunk a lot of money into this game. I’ve invested a lot of time and effort. I just spent $50 on this thing, which, for the record, I couldn’t really afford. And I get the game home to have it say to me “oh, by the way — we hate you.”
I’m more than pissed off. I’m fucking hurt. I feel like I don’t exist.
And probably, I shouldn’t have expected any better. I mean, it’s a video game. And it’s aimed at rock fans. Those are two markets that are generally saturated in misogyny. But I did expect better. Until now, Guitar Hero had been different toward women (though, I will admit, not towards people of color). I trusted them.
I didn’t know how to explain this to my husband. Of course, he agreed that it is stupid and sexist. But he can’t really understand. He’s not the one being attacked. As a white male, he doesn’t have to worry so much about this kind of thing.
I’m sure that many of you out there can relate — have seen shows, or book series, music, etc. that you love and have been faithful to suddenly turn against you without notice, attack you with misogynist or racist imagery/ideas. It seems silly on the surface, but it is violating and painful. I genuinely do feel betrayed right now, like I’ve been handing my money and loyalty to someone who doesn’t want to admit that I even exist.
Who is to blame? I’m floating the suggestion that it has to do with the sale of rights to Activision. But still. Is it the designers? Corporate? Who? I don’t know. And quite honestly, I don’t care. Because everyone who put their name on it bears some responsibility.
I still haven’t been able to bring myself to play.
If you care, you can contact Red Octane. I’m certainly going to. And I hope that anyone who cares about things like video games and/or overt misogyny in media will take the time to send them a note asking why they think their female audience is so expendable.
UPDATE: It seems like I spoke about the lengths of the misogyny too soon. I did decide to play the game. The second time I went to play “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night, ” before the song started they played the BOM-CHICKA-WAH-WAH music from those absolutely horrid Axe ads, and then two women in skin tight faux-leather pants and faux-leather tube tops took the stage to start dancing suggestively. Oh, and the tube tops said “Axe” on them.
The bright side is, I’m glad that I waited to write my letter. Who would think that such shameless product placement would not be the most offensive thing about the feature? Usually, I’d be appalled at the level to which they’ve sold out, but they did indeed find a way to take my mind off of that aspect . . .