Is the Cyberpunk trailer sexist? We ask women gamers what they actually think

Cyberpunk 2077

By on January 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm

The release last week of the much-anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 trailer from CD Projekt RED sparked a number of comments and discussions online about whether or not the trailer was sexist towards women, or maybe even misogynistic in nature.

Rather than adding to the white noise of “here’s what a man thinks about issues affecting women”, we decided to go right to the source and ask a bunch of women gamers, game developers and games media what they thought about CD Projekt RED’s latest trailer.

But first, for reference, here’s that trailer now.

Note: This article makes multiple references to a ‘Hitman trailer’ — the one in question being this one, the ‘Attack of the Saints’.

CelticAngel82

games.on.net community member

My thoughts are it’s just a game. I don’t see how it’s hating on women in particular and I also don’t know what the rest of the game is about, but viewing the trailer, it looks as though it could be an interesting game. I’m one of those female gamers who love hack ‘n’ slash, blood and gore, I even kill my own team mates where possible.

I have no issues with the fact that it’s shooting a woman, heck I don’t even have issues with beating up on prostitutes in those other types of games. How is it any different from men being killed in movies? It’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun.

Jess Colwill

games.on.net writer

Portraying women in video games these days is fraught with peril. Stray too far in one direction, ala the Tomb Raider trailer, and you are saying women are weak and need to be protected. Show them standing over a pile of bodies being shot at by the authorities, and you’re misogynistic.

That’s not to say there aren’t real problems with the way women are portrayed in all forms of media. And certainly, the Cyberpunk trailer is no exception — at the very least she could be wearing a few more articles of clothing.

But I think a line needs to be drawn somewhere. We ladies are beautiful, and if a marketing company decides to put a beautiful lady in an advert for clothes to make them look attractive, is that okay? Why is it different for video games? Because men are the primary audience? Well, no, not anymore it seems, because here we are.

I don’t want to come off as a bad feminist, I just think we’re hurting the cause if we get upset at every trailer portraying a female protagonist.

.♥. Cupcake .♥.

games.on.net community member

First impressions are often what leaves the most lasting imprints in our minds, and in this case it was very much so. Without delving too deeply into any hidden messages/storylines, a viewer could automatically feel we’re in a male dominated world (as is with many shooters/games/action movies).

However to continue the close ups of women being shot at, beaten and at the end, kneeling in a submissive position with a gun to her head by the ‘dominant’ male figure, it all seems a tad too sexist. It runs back to the old traditional views of women being submissive, having to serve and having to be over powered when a male/males come onto the scene.

In saying this, I have no big issues that will cause me to turn a blind eye towards Cyberpunk. However when first asked about my thoughts, that is definitely what came up most.”

Alice Lynton

games.on.net weekend newsborg

The new teaser did raise my hackles. I’m aware of a wider body of sci-fi works which make regular use of a trope I find particularly distasteful – the “robot lady goes crazy and kills a lot of men” one. Even putting aside questions of originality, that’s a problematic theme, and I don’t want to see it evoked again.

I wish she’d been wearing more clothes, and I wish we’d seen her actually doing something instead of sitting around passively being shot. But although through most of the trailer I felt very uncomfortable, I felt the ending kind of subverted my expectations.

I don’t know yet if CD Projekt RED is doing the boring, embarrassing sexist bullshit seen in practically every game’s marketing or if it is actually being rather clever and playing with that. We’ll see. I’m not ready to judge.

That said, the whole “it makes sense in the context of the RPG’s canon because it might actually be a man in a female shell” is just utter bull. We have to work with what we’ve got, and what we’ve got is a scantily clad woman suffering violence, and a suggestion that there’s more going on than what we can see. If that suggestion turns out to be misleading, no amount of 1980′s source book citations is going to make me any less disappointed in just another example of the industry’s unthinking misogyny.

Lucy O’Brien

IGN Australia

This Cyberpunk 2077 trailer… first off, I was surprised there’s furore around it. Is there furore around it? I presume people were bothered by it or you wouldn’t ask me to write something. So I watched it again last night, and I can isolate two potential issues. Firstly, the woman is in her underwear. Secondly, she doesn’t do anything in the trailer; she just gets shot at. By dudes. So I understand how people might see this as glorifying violence against women, and that it might be in bad taste, particularly in the wake of that Hitman trailer I personally thought was awful for a number of reasons.

But this reading feels forced, as it ignores the trailer’s cyberpunk context. Her blank stare, obvious body modification (look at her right shoulder, before the psycho arm reveal), plastic sheen and the Blade Runner-esque setting in which she exists gave me the impression of a gender agnostic, man-made creature out of a box.  Her underwear is clinical and bland, as if she’s escaped from some sort of Jacob’s Ladder hospital scenario.  She also has impenetrable skin, arm-blades and is surrounded by the corpses of those she’s killed, so I’m more intrigued as to what she’s going to do after that guy pulls the trigger. Maybe that’s another trailer.

I’m more than aware that glorification of violence against women exists in the strange and sometimes severely twisted world of video game marketing. But in this instance, I just don’t see it. She intrigued me. I thought the trailer was a lot of fun.

Alanah Pearce

games reviewer, presenter on NewGamePlus, @charalanahzard on Twitter

Firstly, the Cyberpunk trailer shows two women who are dressed in a way society doesn’t consider appropriate, but I see no issue with that. To call misogyny on women who are dressed sexually in a trailer is like suggesting that women who dress that way in real life ought to be discouraged, which I would consider to be real misogyny – taking away their right to choose what to wear by being oppressive.

Then, there’s the cyborg-esque woman kneeling, with various stereotypically masculine men shooting at her with bullets that don’t penetrate her at all. To me, that seems to be empowering. She is godly, if anything, in her mysterious ability to carelessly fend off bullets, and a male in her position – while I predict he would be standing, not kneeling – would never be questioned. And that’s where this hints at misogyny. A woman directly has a gun to her head and is kneeling before a group of 5-10 men without getting up or fighting back at all. While there’s no context for this, I can’t imagine a man ever being placed in a position where he wouldn’t fight back or, at the very least, stand his ground.

Nonetheless, I don’t find this offensive because this woman seems to be more than a plot device. I see her as the feature of this trailer, not the men around her. I admit that it isn’t pleasant to see a woman treated so brutally, but I think that only reflects on how little empathy society has for men.

Krystal Ruch

Freelance writer, @hotdogwithsauce on Twitter

The first thing I want to say about the Cyberpunk 2077 teaser trailer is that the CGI is absolutely gorgeous. It is one of the most visually stunning trailers I have seen for a game in a long time. As beautiful as the trailer may be, I’m not sure that it really told us much of anything.

I have heard that some people feel this trailer is misogynistic, particularly after the sexy nuns from Hitman Absolution‘s trailer situation. While I don’t like the way Hitman sexualised strong female characters, I didn’t get that same vibe while watching Cyberpunk 2077. The first thought I had when watching Cyberpunk 2077 is that this isn’t being made by IO Interactive. That alone is enough to make me want to watch it for what it is without trying to find similarities in misogynistic behaviours between them and others developers. Humans are exceptionally good at creating patterns and making connections to other things – sometimes I think that ability comes as a detriment at times. We are ready to see what we want to see, just because we can.

I’m not saying that CD Projekt RED aren’t capable of sexualising women like many in the gaming industry do. I just don’t feel as though Cyberpunk 2077 is focusing on creating a hatred or sexualisation of women. Yes, the female depicted in the video is wearing ‘lingerie’ style clothing and is seemingly flawless in appearance, as is the female in the window advertisement in one of the scenes. Having said that, the women who lay dead around this “cyberpsycho” (amongst dead men, might I add) have a more ‘everyday woman’ appearance about them. At the end of the video, the female protagonist seems to have joined the armed forces that were once holding her at gunpoint. She wears the same clothing and gear as the males depicted earlier in the video, her hair hidden away in her uniform and the only piece of telling information that you could gather it was her was her mouth. She is an equal.

When I listen to the developers talk about this game, they are inclusive of women with Mike Pondsmith commenting “you are the hero, whether you are a one man army or a one woman army.” CD Projekt RED even encourage women to join their development team in creating this game and although I know we expect equal opportunity employment to occur everywhere, I seldom hear developers actively and publicly mention wanting women to get on-board their team. The female protagonist was scanned using a real female as their model to, in their own words, “use the beauty of a real person.” I don’t see those things as being hatred toward, objectification or exclusion of, women or of their intellectual input.

We can always argue that they could have chosen a different woman to scan their character after but, to me, no matter what women in this world they selected as their model, they would always be ruling out and excluding other types of women. To say that this woman isn’t a representation of what real woman are only says that this woman’s ‘real’ beauty is not acceptable or appropriate. We should be happy that a real woman was used to model this protagonist, as opposed to it being another hackneyed, contrived female created from thin air.

I think the team has put effort into trying to establish a balance between a beautiful and a strong female but, like I said at the beginning, I don’t think this trailer has really clearly defined anything more than the environmental setting – it certainly hasn’t given any real insight into the characters. It’s too easy for us all to draw our own conclusions based purely on appearance when there’s been no real substance given behind the pretty imagery.

Lisa Rye

Independent game developer on Freedom Fall

Here’s what I was thinking as I watched it:

0:15 – “Touch me like I’m an ordinary man”… that’s not a man.
0:25 – Neat, maybe we have a female android protagonist, Ghost in the Shell style?
0:45 – The poster in the background says “Don’t worry guys! In the future, women wear leotards!”
1:02 – Damn. She’s a sexy-killing-bot.
1:07 – You can only be a covert, evil murder-bot if you go around in your underwear. But as the poster said, this is what women wear, even on cold rainy nights in the future. She’d have fit right in.
1:23 – Ah, the protagonist is a square-jawed, Caucasian cop. Very original.

I’ve been a fan of the cyberpunk genre for a long time and regularly draw cyberpunk themes in my personal work. However, this trailer made me less interested in the game the longer it went on.

Don’t get me wrong here, the trailer is gorgeous, but there’s nothing in this trailer that suggests new ideas in the cyberpunk genre. Cyber-police, psychotic robots, neon signs and flying cars weren’t new ideas thirty years ago, and from what we see in this trailer, their attitudes towards women seem to be firmly stuck in the 80′s as well.

So that’s my impression. In terms of misogyny, I wouldn’t expect this game to be any worse than the majority of other mainstream first person shooters out there.

Liza Shulyayeva

Game developer

I loved the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer and saw nothing inappropriate or misogynistic about it. I’ve seen someone claim that the trailer is misogynistic because a helpless woman is surrounded by armed men shooting at her. Clearly we didn’t see the same teaser. Not only are bullets literally shattering and glancing off of her skin as officers are shooting her to no visible effect, but she dispatched fourteen people with augmented blade-arms before finally being captured and recruited to be an elite member of the Psycho Squad (bear with me, I have not played Cyberpunk so I’m just going off of what I could piece together from the teaser).

She looked badass! These are the kinds of characters I want to play and see more of in games. I hate that developers have to tiptoe around this crap every time they want to put a woman into a game and still get flack when they present a teaser with a genuinely interesting female role.

Zorine Te

Community manager, GameSpot AU

Overall I wasn’t terrible offended by it. My reaction was more along the lines of, “Oh look, another scantily clad woman. Surprise surprise”, although that train of thought was soon derailed by the action sequence happening in the scene.

My attention was more diverted to the cool soundtrack and cyberpunk art style, which remained in my mind after watching the trailer far longer than any ‘sexist’ offenses it may have caused.

Katie Williams

Freelance writer

Gosh. She’s really pretty. It’s difficult to look in her eyes as that first shot draws near. And when it shatters against her cheek, rather than wondering about her bullet-shattering skin, I instead flinch at the sound of glass breaking. That’s fragility we hear. That’s beauty. We don’t want beauty to perish.

But the woman’s striking looks are leveraged only to draw emotional response from the viewer; this much becomes clear when the camera pans down, and we realise that we are also shocked to discover she’s not a real woman. She’s got creepy insectoid arm-blade things that are clearly meant to be seamless and undetectable when folded back into her skin. She’s surrounded by shredded corpses. She’s a murderer and she just won’t die. We have been deceived by this image of beauty. We are as much her victims as the slumped bodies she is surrounded by.

The use of beauty in general, I feel, is not necessarily misogynistic; we are all mesmerised by pretty people. But the manipulation of it to emphasise a woman’s treachery? To suggest that she must die for her deception, both of the watcher and of the men in the trailer? Now that’s a little problematic.

Danica Zuks

Games vlogger at XXP

Yes, the Cyberpunk trailer is sexist. But, like a lot of things on the internet, it’s often misunderstood why you would say that it’s sexist.

It’s not sexist because the robot is wearing lingerie. It’s sexist because we’re looking at a robot wearing lingerie. It is likely that if you make an attractive looking lady robot, you did it because you thought that sexy lady robot could do things that a sexy man robot couldn’t do.

And that’s, I’m guessing here, is seduce men. So it can be argued that the sexy robot in lingerie makes sense. I’m not arguing against that, because that is certainly a possible scenario.

However, step back — this is advertising. Why aren’t we shown her when she’s dressed as a hobo, to infiltrate the secret hobo lair? Why isn’t she dressed in battle armour to infiltrate a security firm? I posit both are perfectly reasonable things for a sexy lady killing robot machine to do. We aren’t seeing these things because this is an ad, and she wouldn’t look sexy pretending to be a weathered smelly hobo being shot.

And that’s the male gaze.

There are always other reasons that she’s in lingerie: It fits the story. You wouldn’t expect, and so are drawn in, when a scantily clad woman shatters bullets with her face. But part of the reason is that this is a patriarchal society. And that’s why this clip is sexist (but not as sexist as a lot of things).

195 comments (Leave your own)

Well, at least Liza Shulyayeehaa understood the events in the trailer.

 

Sexist? …the fuck?

 

lucy’s opinion nailed it.

 

First, great article.

Second, I think there’s a simple way to think about it. If the female character was male, would he be in his underwear? Clearly not. Therefore, it is (mildly) sexist.

Third, my personal take (which I’m sure many here would violently reject) is that a bunch of dudes in a group pointing phallic objects at a kneeling woman in her underwear and the material issuing forth from said phallic objects spraying into her face and upper body at the very least has some seriously Freudian overtones…

 

“….with various stereotypically masculine men shooting at her…..” I didn’t see any men shooting at her. I see one man with a gun to her head, I see a few dead men on the ground. The people shooting could be anything under all that body armour.

As for the idea that she’s beaten and submissive…I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy with the gun doesn’t live long enought to pull the trigger.

 

Pretty much what Liza and Katie said.

Crazy robot lady just killed a bunch of people with crazy robot blades, the police shoot at her and they’re sexist? Very interedasting view.

@Danica – When glossy mags aimed at women start showing fat girls in filthy hobo outfits, you might have a point. Until then, sorry but no. We all (99% of us anyway) like to watch fitter, more attractive people. End of story.

It’s a moot point anyway, as there are no women on the internet.

caitsith01: If the female character was male, would he be in his underwear? Clearly not. Therefore, it is (mildly) sexist.

In a cyberpunk setting? Hell yes. Naked from the waist up with augs and tats would fit perfectly. Highly sexist towards men, obviously.

 

Didn’t think she was just in her underwear, but rather a short dress of a type normally seen around nightclubs that was just hiked up due to her position.
I got the impression that she was a cyborg that just snapped and the cops were hoping to take her out (ineffectively) before she can kill more. After reading a bit of backstory, this seems quite likely.

 

Nightstaar:
Sexist? …the fuck?

This.

sigh, what the *fuck* is going on lately?

“The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden flaming ants epidemic.” – Jon Stewart

 

… Sexist?

 

I dunno, I think it says a lot that many people here can’t even understand why it might be sexist, or in fact, misogynist was the term actually used.

Check yo male privilege, son.

 

I’ve got to say that I find it baffling that so many of the comments on this trailer site her lack of response to being shot at. Did it go completely unnoticed that it’s shot at a fraction of real time? Unless she’s moving at an inhuman speed, you would barely see it if she was fighting back.

 

Jess Colwill:
I dunno, I think it says a lot that many people here can’t even understand why it might be sexist, or in fact, misogynist was the term actually used.

Check yo male privilege, son.

You’re right, I don’t understand how a CG, fictional, killer android in a teaser for an unreleased game could offend and be construed as sexist.

Also, if you have quick look at the headline of this article, “sexist” is most definitely the word used.

 

What Snootle quoted. I don’t think it’s sexist, I’m being told I think it’s sexist.

Shame on you, internets, and well done GoN for trying to approach it differently.

 

I didn’t read all of them but Liza hit the nail on the head.

 

tera: You’re right, I don’t understand how a CG, fictional, killer android in a teaser for an unreleased game could offend and be construed as sexist.

Arguing that because something is CG/fictional/unreleased it cannot be sexist is pretty hugely flawed. For example, here are some games that are NOT sexist, by your logic:

BMX XXX VII: TOPLESS LADIES ON DIRTBIKES EXTREME
DEAD OR ALIVE: SKIMPIEST BIKINIS EVER EDITION
BOOB CITY: ADVENTURE TO BOOBTOWN (BOOB EDITION)

These games aren’t real! But they sound pretty sexist!

The fact of the matter is that this trailer is A Product, and it can be judged as A Product, as can the characters within it.

Whether the woman is an android or not is thoroughly irrelevant. She is presented as a woman, very clearly and deliberately. Therefore she can be treated as a woman when interpreting the Product.

tera: Also, if you have quick look at the headline of this article, “sexist” is most definitely the word used.

Yes, but misogynist was also a term used in the article. Don’t split hairs! It is pointless.

The real point here is that some women feel the trailer is sexist towards them, and some don’t. It is not the place of a man to say “You’re wrong, the trailer is not sexist towards you” because uhhhh… no, I really shouldn’t have to explain why that’s a stupid thing to say.

 

This comment thread is sexist towards sexist things.

 

tera:
… Sexist?

+1 wdf sexist o.O

 

I am getting sick of this shit. I am sorry, but there are 2 things that is in human nature, and will never be removed. Those 2 things are sex and violence. Both are paramount to the survival of our race. Why are people blaming media, any media, from Vid Games to, back in the day, Jewels Vern for sexism and violence?

This trailer is not sexist. What is sexist is the opinion that says its sexist.

 
James Pinnell

Getting pretty annoyed that a specific set of gamers are completely unable to see when a pair of blood covered tits could be considered creepy and awful, or when a skimpy woman is used, yet again, to sell games.

It’s not just sexist but fucking lazy – why couldn’t she have been a child? Or an old woman? Why not get creative? Oh, that’s right, because boobs.

 

The decision to make the character in question a beautiful woman was obviously to contrast beauty with carnage. That is why the trailer stretches out those 0.02 seconds or what have you for so long, to drag out the ‘reveal’ of the blood soaked blades and dead bodies

It is obviously more than just ‘lets make it an attractive women, these nerds will lap it up!’

 
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