Last week's trailer sparked calls of sexism and misogyny -- but what do women gamers actually think?
By Tim Colwill 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’.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).