Misogynist Killer Is Dead

Though the academic authorities are actually proud of conducting everything by means of Examinations, they seldom indulge in what religious people used to describe as Self-Examination. The consequence is that the modern State has educated its citizens in a series of ephemeral fads.

– G.K. Chesterton, Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine, April, 1935

A quick question for you, dear reader: at what point did the word “misogyny” become so popular? Especially in the world of video game, the word turned into the go-to “controversy” button for literally every game ever released. Even three years ago, Bayonetta arrived on the scene with barely a complain about her hilariously out-of-proportion body and strip-fighting antics – it makes me shudder to think about the conversation surrounding Bayonetta 2 next year. Game designers like Grasshopper Manufacture’s Suda51 could, quite literally, push their medium’s boundaries in whatever crazy way they wanted. Yet, now, for whatever reason, depictions of women that fit some idealized mold instantly receive a harsh and moralistic condemnation on the part of journalists from parts far and wide.

Time changes many things, surely, but not that fast. What gives?

A number of factors contribute. First, the “games are art” debate never really slowed down; it simply transformed into something new. The goal for a video game journalist, obviously, lies in turning a primarily enthusiast driven enterprise into something culturally respectable. In other words, the media racket of enthusiast press desires mainstream respect and success. Most other entertainment media followed this trend – see film reviews nowadays, and you’ll find most of them display a personal opinion, and sometimes even a moral objection to one thing or another contained within the subject of discussion. Video game journalists, seeing the trend, seize upon a possible zeitgeist and use it to their own advantage.

Misogyny, broadly and colloquially defined as “anything depicting women in a way I don’t like”, hits that particular niche to the letter. The video game enthusiast becomes a Puritanical (no offense to actual Puritans) examiner of video games. Violence? Fine and dandy. Rape, murder? As long as it fits the narrative! Dark and twisted characters who represent the most disgusting parts of our sinful nature? Bring them on, for they expose our hidden evils! But female sexuality? My God, the humanity! If it ain’t depicted by women, you may as well take your ball and go home.

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That’s all well and good, of course, but the Internet means that the creators and directors of any work reveal themselves. They exist in the Internet, eager to divulge information about their personal work and their intention (communicated well or poorly) in depicting something with a specific aesthetic. Here, we refer specifically to Killer Is Dead’s Gigolo mini-game. In no way does it represent the primary mechanics of the game (which, frankly put, involve killing lots of things and murdering crazy people). Instead, this mini-game bears the brunt of most criticism leveled on the game. Let’s act like adults here: Suda51 pushed the envelop intentionally, like a Quentin Tarantino of the video game scene. Even he doesn’t see it as something more than a trifle:

It’s not that we depict the women in any derogatory way, so I’m not extremely concerned about the depiction of these characters. I think if you play this mode for yourself, [then] you will be able to understand the context. There is punishment if [the main character] tries to do anything that crosses the line with these women, too, so he could very well get slapped if he does anything that would be considered not classy or uncool. I think there’s a proper amount of punishment and reward.

If the man wants to put in humor like that, whether or not you agree/disagree, that’s his prerogative. But honestly, ogling women (or brutally murdering them as a casual thing) happens in his previous work as well. No More Heroes comes to mind when Travis Touchdown literally slices a bunch of bikini-clad women into many tiny pieces in a gory display. But Killer Is Dead arrives at a time when the distinct trend in video game writing emerges; hence, it deserves a walloping. Reviewers do not care whether these games display some thematic relevance in the narrative, either; for people so focused on “story” and “experience”, you’d think they could pick out all the hidden symbolism and obvious conflicts of the protagonist between love and killing.

And, I would note in the most sarcastic way possible in text, the Bible demonstrates sin to show what its author (God, duh) detests and hates, and also what He loves and desires. Not a big leap to see why humanity’s creative influences come through in showing the sacred and profane, often at the same time.

Not only do we see a double standard, but a completely inconsistent one at that. I never heard anything about Saint Row IV, which displays bountiful amounts of equally offensive content. But that’s a Western game, so it’s self-aware about its offensiveness! Japanese culture, here, clashes with the West, and the West refuses to back down on its shaky moral ground. I am just getting tired of talking about this all the time, really; it’s not progressive and it isn’t trendy. We see a fad; they know it, and you know it. Fads get hits, and so does moralizing (except for examining ourselves, but that remains a different issue).

A fad or heresy is the exaltation of something which even if true, is secondary or temporary in its nature against those things which are essential and eternal, those things which always prove themselves true in the long run. In short, it is the setting up of the mood against the mind.”

– G.K. Chesteron,  William Blake, p. 168

So what of the Christian response to this? Most Christians, I imagine, would label such things as misogynist and go home. But isn’t that dismissive from the outset? Isn’t that judging the world in the same way we would not like to be judged? Do we not know that people live within a fallen nature, and that we should expect to see sin at every turn in every manifest way in everything, both on a spiritual, physical, and mental level? Whether the sin comes from the media you consume, your own mindset, or stuff around you, it all exists in the same muck and mire; you and I do not somehow find ourselves in a higher position. These little trendy fad followers and moralizers hit the surface level problem, not the foundation from whence it came. Like a doctor who merely treats the symptoms and not the disease, we Christians turn into complacent followers, content to condemn this or that without recognizing the solution that, without Christ, the world cannot possibly understand.

Christians assume that anyone who condemns the same things somehow agrees with them morally, and what a grave mistake it is! Our world hates Christian morality; if they had their way, we’d find ourselves locked up in an asylum or a prison as opponents of Progress, Science, and Materialism. Don’t think differently for a second. The moment a Christian criticism of something looks, smells, and feels like something coming out of a fallen world, you’ve got a problem. Alignment with the world from which we found ourselves crucified with Christ does not bring a proper solution to the problem. Like pointing to a issue without presenting the proper context, we arrive at false conclusions. Furthermore, we create a dead law where we need to see the context surrounding it.

This controversy appears a whole lot of fluff and not a lot of substance. As long as you live in a society of people with different opinions, what else would you expect but diversity? But this merely hits the “fad” quotient, and not the “truly changing society” quotient. The disciples of Christ do not merely criticize without foundation, as society finds itself wont to do with double standards and contradictory critics. Christians do things. We do not merely speak them. Therein lies the issues, the trials, and solution all at once.

19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.

John 3

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.