NSFW – Nika the Chosen One & All the Rest of Us are Whores

“Nika” Tillman is the chosen one. No, she wasn’t cursed by Voldemort. She wasn’t born the daughter of a demigod. She’s not the protagonist of our story, and there is absolutely nothing special about her other than the meaning other characters in Gamer ascribe to her. As one of the many “actors” in Society, she’s a whore for hire, and yet the directors of Gamer make a concerted effort to portray her as different from the other female characters. While it is established that in this particular universe women are heavily sexualized and consequently utilized, Nika is set apart. The best examples of this occur in the introduction to Society (in which Nika—or rather, Gorge through Nika—watches the debauchery taking place). She approaches a man in a pig nose and asks if he wants to “go somewhere.”

“We are somewhere,” he replies, and grabs her.

Up to this point, Nika has been grotesquely mechanical. From the way she surveys the crowd, the manner in which she sharply jerks her head to the side, and how she stiffly struts to the man with the pig nose, suggests an inherent lack of humanity.

THREEPictured: Nika’s robotic gaze.

At this point, she’s a puppet, capable of only executing the commands of Gorge. And yet as the pig-man’s hands grope her, she stares at an image of her husband, a pained expression on her face. We are meant to feel bad for her. We are meant to feel as if she does not deserve this, that this is unfair, and that there is something more going on within Nika than the characters around her can comprehend.

FIRSTPictured: The conflicted expression Nika displays during her first “sex” scene.

This happens later, too—when Rick Rape (the character played by Milo Ventimiglia—check him out in The Divide if you haven’t seen it yet!) is approaching her, Nika crawls on all fours. She has that expression on her face again—an expression suggesting that something is wrong, that there is a disconnect between what she is doing and what she wants to be doing, that an awareness of transgression against her husband (and, perhaps, her body/soul/mind) is taking place. Beyond the blank stare that is her default in-game expression and whatever mechanical lasciviousness Gorge forces her to display, the struggle against her in-game sexuality is the only thing that seems to be solely Nika’s.

SECONDPictured: The conflicted expression Nika exhibits during her second “sex” scene.

And that is what is wrong with her character. Nika—by virtue of being the person bumpin’ it with the protagonist—is the miraculous exception to the rules of the world Gamer has established. There is absolutely no reason why Nika should be different than any other woman in Society, but the obvious discontent portrayed by her character—discontent that, logistically speaking, shouldn’t exist—enables her to be both wife/mother figure and whore. Other Society females revel in their sexuality. During the rave scene, people are shot and killed. Covered in blood, two women begin to kiss.

ravescene

We’ll go into why this is a problem in a little bit. For now, let’s take a look at the onomatology of the characters. Pretty much everyone in Gamer is blatantly named for who they really are, or how they are seen. Freek is a freak. Trace traces things. Dude is some guy who isn’t Brother or the other one. Brother is, uh, a brother. Stikkimuffin, one of Simon’s fans, is a female (muffin is a slang term for female genitalia, and, uh, you can infer things from there). We also get to meet Kumdumpstaz, the twins who offer to buy Simon’s character. Milo Ventimglia’s character is Rick Rape. He rapes people, apparently. Gorge is the name of the overweight character controlling Nika, and “gorge” is obviously a verb that means “to eat a large amount of food greedily.” And here is where things get interesting—and where I get more subjective, so please feel free to call me out on this if you think I’m overreaching.

Sandra, the female soldier played by Zoe Bell in the beginning of the film, means either “Defender of men,” or “strong woman.” Well, she’s certainly a strong woman, and at approximately 23:35 in the movie, she defends the protagonist. Shortly afterward, she dies while looking at him. “Castle” refers to power, to wealth, to restriction, to a hundred other applicable things you could think of. Regarding Simon Silverton, “silver” denotes wealth—which Simon has—but Simon itself means “He has heard.” Simon finally “hears” in two different ways, the first of which is literal; he physically hears Tillman’s character speak after the Humanz become involved in their relationship. Simon also largely represents the population that most objectifies the Slayers (and, of course, Society actors): entertainment, something to be used, a commodity, etc. At the end of the movie, Simon—along with the rest of the world—finally hears what is really going on.

A cable is, among other things, something that enables contact, and that sends a message. The surname “Tillman” indicates a farmer. John Tillman is supposed to give life, not take it. It’s not subtle.

And then we get to Nika. Nika’s name is Angie “Nika” Tillman. Angie means “angel.” In Persian, Nika is “good.” Some effort has been put into the naming of these characters. It can’t all be unintentional—which makes me wonder why the writers and director would specifically name someone such wholesome things, and why they would work to humanize this character, to show that this character is different, to show that this character is somehow more deserving of not being sexualized than are other characters—and then some chick who gets a minute of screen time in the movie gets to be named “Stikkimuffin.”

There’s the problem. That’s it, right there. When you take a group of women and isolate some behavior as good, redeemable, worthy, and deserving of love and affection, you are inferring that those who exhibit other behavior are bad, irredeemable, unworthy, and deserving of hatred and violence. Don’t believe me? Look at the mass objectification of women in the movie. I went through and tried to capture every unique moment of gratuitous objectification in each scene (for example, if the focus was on Nika’s ass cleavage at the 56-minute mark and then later at the 60-minute mark, I counted that as two instances). It’s extraordinary; it’s ridiculous. It’s unnecessary.

GamerObjgifsPictured: Stuff you shouldn’t have on your screen if you’re at work.

The only example of gratuitous male sexuality belongs to Rick Rape’s manic humping and exaggerated penis-wrangling. Even then, he never bares himself as do the women in the movie. We see outlines of Nika’s labia through her silver shorts, multiple sets of breasts, ass cleavage, side cleavage, undercleavage, regular old-fashioned cleavage, close-up nipples, women being fucked, women being held back, women making out, women crawling, women being suspended, topless, from chains. It’s deafening, and to some extent, deadening–to both the characters in the movie, and viewers.

I do feel Rick Rape as a character is possibly the most successful in Gamer. I believe the intention of Rick Rape is to show hypersexualized men jittery with energy and obsessed with sex above all else. In that, Rick Rape has achieved the writers’ goal. But that’s it. That’s the closest to balance that we’re going to get. But it doesn’t even touch the fine line the female characters have to tiptoe.

Haraway defines sets of opposing data like these “troubling dualisms,” and she’s right. The term “virgin/whore dichotomy” is overused in feminist vernacular because it has been vastly overused as a concept throughout human history. This dichotomy is present both in the film and in game culture itself. “To be one is to be autonomous, to be powerful, to be God; but to be One is to be an illusion. […] One is too few, but two are too many” (A Manifesto for Cyborgs, p. 35). Nika is Good. She is not a slut. But via the way her character is portrayed, she is able to perform the actions of other women—women we would have no problem calling sluts or whores—and still maintain her spiritual purity. If she enjoyed her work, we’d be looking at a completely different movie. She can’t be all good, because then we wouldn’t find her interesting or sexy; she can’t be all bad, or she’d be like all the other women and we wouldn’t have anyone to root for (on behalf of her husband, of course). The other women exhibit only one or the other side of the coin—Trace, Delia, Sandra, are not sexualized. Gina is heavily sexualized at the beginning of the film; however, by the end, she has reformed herself and is no longer sexualized at all. Every other woman in the film lands firmly on the side of “whore and nothing else.” And what does Haraway say about this? “Yet to be other is to be multiple, without clear boundary, frayed, insubstantial.” And they are. We never know most of their names, though we could identify them by their body parts.

Whether or not it is intentional, Gamer shows us a reflection of ourselves. Forget “Kable” in Slayers. The whole movie is a parallel to gaming, and I’m sure by now that you’ve all heard that loud and clear. But the content doesn’t fit the idea. Gamer is trying to make us feel bad for Nika because she somehow does not deserve this, though no other female Society members are considered. Nika is not special, but she certainly is the chosen one, as I stated earlier. Why? Because she’s John Tillman’s. Gina becomes redeemable because she helps Tillman. Trace is a constant guardian to Tillman, from the time she speaks to him outside the prison cell to the point in which she speeds away with Gina Parker Smith, mission complete. Delia, Tillman’s quiet, rather creepy, and robotic daughter, is precious because she is his. The women who mean something, the women we expressly do not want to see getting hurt, or do not expect to see getting hurt, are important only because of their positive relation to our male protagonist. Sandra, the soldier at the beginning of the movie, dies after protecting him. Her life is forfeit; he goes on to win his 29th game. It’s all for him. And yet later in the film, Tillman backhands wig-bedecked broads in an attempt to escape the rave with his zombie bride. Rick Rape abandons his partner (victim?) mid-coitus to approach Nika. Done. Over and out. Onto the next thing. Women in clear spheres in the rave get shot and still swing, the cameras panning over their naked thighs. Women are covered in blood. Women cut themselves. Women fall. Women become injured. And the difference between these women dying and these men dying is that women are dying with their clothing off. There’s a sexual element to the violence, and it strengthens that “bad, irredeemable, unworthy, and deserving of hatred and violence” thing I mentioned earlier.

This movie is an action/sci-fi movie. It’s marketed to men. It’s geared towards men. It’s geared towards younger men, and you know what? Most FPS gamers are younger men.

In class, someone mentioned that two types of people are going to be watching this movie; people simply trying to enjoy it, and people “like us,” questioning it on a higher level. But really, would most of us question Gamer if it wasn’t an assignment? Even the gamers amongst us, myself included—would we honestly lose ourselves in a shoot-‘em-up we didn’t have to play ourselves? I mean, Gamer isn’t Schindler’s List, but we’re a breed of animal that enjoys watching quiet people slowly hit small white balls with long metal hammers into holes too far away to see. Getting into a movie with loud guns and big boobs isn’t tough if you’re not self-conscious. I watch violent movies, and as a pacifist, this has always disconcerted me. I’ve learned to set aside my personal feelings in order to enjoy my favorite genre (horror). Does it bother me when the slut of the movie gets viciously torn apart in the first ten minutes? Totally. It’s gross. And I can recognize that it’s stereotypical and unfair. Do I think less of the movie because of it? Eh, not really. Your average slasher movie isn’t trying to change things. It’s just trying to entertain you. But Gamer seems sincere in that it really wants you to understand how we sexualize women. While it sexualizes women. And worse, because the sexualization is at least obvious—this other stuff we’re talking about isn’t on most people’s radar.

I suppose the question is whether or not this is on the average FPS gamer’s radar. If you’ve spent much time in FPS games—and god forbid, Vent/Teamspeak/Mumble channels of FPS gamers—women, people of color, gay people, “too” old people, “too” young people, too-fat men and women, too-thin men—they’re all insult fodder. And yeah, it’s not everybody, and for those that do engage in this kind of behavior, it’s often temporary. What teenagers aren’t shitty? Teenage FPS players just have the luxury of being able to type things their parents can’t see. Part of this, though, is that these “insult fodder” groups are vastly underrepresented in this kind of gaming. (And of course, I’m focusing on FPS gaming because Gamer is modeled after FPS games, not fantasy RPGs or anything else—perhaps I should have mentioned this earlier, but I’m assuming general familiarity with different types of game communities is present.) Most FPS gamers are white, straight men. And while there are exceptions, as I said, the general vibe of the community skews white, straight male. And yeah, it is important to make that distinction and to draw parallels between our actual game communities and movies like Gamer, which attempts to illuminate a problem in gaming. While an M1 Garand is confined to the game, the attitudes in the world in which the M1 Garand exists are not.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the “The Fappening”/”Celebgate” debacle that took place in the past month.

Nothing really surprises me. I wasn’t surprised that these women took nude photographs of themselves.

I wasn’t surprised that someone stole the photos.

I wasn’t surprised that the hacker bragged about it to people, or that he posted them online.

I wasn’t surprised that he attempted to trade the photos for nude photographs of random guys’ girlfriends.

I wasn’t surprised when they showed up on Reddit.

And last of all, I wasn’t surprised that a sizable group of people on Reddit mass-protested the removal of the photos. They felt they had a right to the images because the women involved had been sexualized (and produced “proof” of that sexualization). The men taking part in The Fappening portion of Reddit felt they deserved to retain access to the photographs. Again, I’m not surprised.

But they were surprised that anybody would question their right to access and distribute stolen images of naked women.

“Game culture” is probably a bad term for all of this. I don’t think I’ve ever been called a whore over a particularly good round of Balderdash. “Digital culture,” maybe. Online, there are few restrictions. You can be whoever you want to be—or try to, anyway. You can say what you want to say. And when a large group of people spends a considerable amount of time around similar, like-minded variations of themselves, the same ideas—small on an individual level—snowball and begin to contribute to a distinct culture. It starts out relatively innocuous, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. Take, for instance, the evolution of these advertisements:

504x_evony-ad-4-thumb

shot-one

Evony_Ad_Jan_2010Yeah. That last image is an advertisement for the same civilization-building video game as the other two. It started out with a busty queen apparently needing some kind of help (perhaps in finding the button that just popped off of her bodice), to a modern-day woman addressing a potential gamer as her “lord,” to a cartoon of a woman inviting you to choose body parts to construct the “ideal” woman.

And in a way, that’s what Gamer has done both literally and figuratively. It has given us a world in which you can pick, choose, and use your avatar. It has also offered us a smorgasbord of disconnected female body parts. It’s a thorough deconstruction of women, but whereas the former seems wholly intentional, the latter seems completely unintentional. Gamer does a thorough job of addressing breasts and asses and guns and loud noises, but it doesn’t acknowledge what it is doing to women and it doesn’t address the culture to which it is contributing. It doesn’t question itself; it isn’t self-aware. It suggests that we should not be controlled by technology, that technology can be dangerous—but it’s doing so at the expense of issues it isn’t even considering. That many gamers aren’t even considering, and that they’re certainly not going to start thinking about after seeing A Parade Of Tits Asses and Guns Gamer. Nika is the Chosen One because the protagonist finds her worthy of saving. Entertaining the idea that some of us are worthy of saving, or existing, or speaking, or having thoughts and opinions, and some of us aren’t–or that some of us live, and some of us don’t, or that some of us are named after angels and some of us are named after lubricated sexual organs–it’s dangerous. We can’t all be Chosen Ones, and right now, there is no structure in our society that widely enables the idea that women can be more than one thing.  We’re Nikas or Stikkimuffins, angels or whores, and that’s it.

tumblr_myualeuhsk1r34y4ho1_400 Pictured: A current League of Angels advertisement.

The virgin/whore dichotomy isn’t even the most frustrating element in all of this. Instead, it’s that the factors deciding our categorizations are so insidiously woven into elements of our culture that even movies trying to illuminate the issues only serve to perpetrate the same harmful ideas.

Gamer is certainly ironic. It sets out to make a statement, and ends up saying nothing. However, the irony is unintentional. Haraway makes the point of saying that technology is able to challenge the dualisms and dichotomies (35), and offers an example of paraplegics having higher experiences via technology (36). But on this particular level, with these gaming communities in mind, with this particular breakdown of gender, race, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation, what experience can an FPS community offer non-white/male/straight gamers other than an overwhelming surge of one narrow perspective sharply punctuated by “Faggot!” and “Bitch!”?

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12 Responses to NSFW – Nika the Chosen One & All the Rest of Us are Whores

  1. theterribles says:

    Wow, you made some great points – very well done, in my opinion. I particularly enjoyed your discussion and connection with current events, and your discussion of how we would view this movie if we weren’t watching it in this context. I hadn’t really thought too much about it until now. You talk about the male perspective and the sexualization in the film; well, as a female, it made me realize that while I was perfectly aware of the hyper-sexualization happening, I just kind of accepted it. I was much more focused on the violence; it elicited more of a reaction from me (though I think I’m jaded enough that it didn’t really bother me much). But I think I’m also jaded when it comes to sexualization in media. Obviously it was over the top, but I didn’t really have major feelings about it; I think that says something about the world we live in.

    Like

    • elexiusmusick says:

      Hey, thank you so much, I really appreciate it! After I hit enter, I kept asking myself if what I wrote was too extreme. Your response makes me feel better!

      I understand what it’s like to be aware of the hypersexualization but not to directly look at it. I’ve been gaming since I was about twelve, and some communities were a lot better than others. Others were, obviously, way worse… And I couldn’t address all of it because it was so much, and the common response to it was that I was being dramatic, or annoying, or that I couldn’t take a joke. The shitty part of this culture (and to a larger extent, rape culture) is that denies its own existence, so the more you try to pin it down (by calling out hypersexualization of women, or bringing illumination to the link between sex and violence and the effect it has on women, or anything else), the more it wiggles away (she was asking for it, they were good boys, you’re just an angry feminist who can’t get laid, but you’re not thinking about the men). I guess that’s a way in which Gamer legitimately succeeds… It gives some pretty clear-cut edges to something that is otherwise a very difficult issue.

      Thanks so much again for your comment.

      Like

  2. kalihira says:

    Wow. This is very impressive work, good job! I agree with what theterribles says above, in that I noticed the hyper-sexualization and the gory violence (I mean, it’s kind of hard not to), but after a couple cringes, I got used to it, and it didn’t really phase me. And that’s a horrible thing, to accept the many disturbing things going on in Gamer within a two hour period. To be able to quickly “turn off” my values for a while for the sake of cheap entertainment shows just how practiced I am at the act, and does say something about the world we live in.

    I also liked the tie in you made between Gamer and internet culture. I tend not to play multiplayer shooting games anymore, partially because slurs coming from the mouth of prepubescent boys ruin the experience for me, but I do remember the insults, and their excessive use. My step-brother, whose room was next to mine, played FPS and League of Legends, and I distinctly remember hearing the Faggots and Bitches, as well as many other slurs, every couple seconds through the walls at 2 am. In internet culture, I think the words have been stripped of most of their true meaning on the internet, and that’s why it gets to the point where it doesn’t even phase the players who are saying or hearing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steph Roman says:

      Re: “The End of Gamers.” (http://dangolding.tumblr.com)

      These marginalized teenaged boys are being pushed to the brink and have nothing left to do but lash out at all the “faggots” and “bitches”–other marginalized groups. The Internet should be a place where these distinctions break down, but it’s the gamer’s insistence on white male supremacy that makes online gaming so often an extremely toxic environment for anyone who doesn’t fit into a male heteronormative lifestyle.

      Liked by 1 person

      • elexiusmusick says:

        Oh my god, that is fascinating! I also liked “In Videogames, Does Sexism Begin at the Top?” There were actually more female executives than I expected, which is REALLY sad, because there aren’t that many! Roughly eight out of seventy-four (I counted quickly, could be off by 1 on either side). It’s around 10%, whereas the latest data (using catalyst.org) places executive officer positions by women at around 14.6 as of 2013. I’m not sure how high the percentage is going to have to be before change is made, though. Roughly half of gamers are female (though we’ve established that the breakdown means that in nearly every category of gaming, women are the minority–especially in FPS gaming), and games are still largely being marketed to young white men.

        The culture of online gaming right now is highly dominant, immensely overwhelming, and often exclusionary. Why is “Tits or GTFO” a common catchphrase? Online communities often cycle through it-girls who achieve virtual supremacy either by sheer hotness (which makes them both desirable and detested) or by the adoption of “male” characteristics (hence the whole “girl gamer” issue). If you go along with it, you’re perpetuating the behaviors that affect you and other women because you’re performing the behaviors yourself, or at least condoning them. If you go against it, you’re perpetuating the behaviors that affect you and other women because it fits into what the culture thinks about you: that you reject it because it would reject you due to inherent ugliness. Because of course, the most important thing is to perfectly toe the line between sexual enough to masturbate to, and pure enough to be worthy of respect. Right?

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    • elexiusmusick says:

      Hi, Kalihira!

      Thank you for the comment. Finding action films without gendered violence or overt sexualization is itself a mission, so you can either really reject them completely and refuse to partake in them, or try to get over it and see past it. The problem with the first one is something we discussed the first day of class–even though we hold our own individual viewpoints and perspectives, we’re still part of our society, and it’s next to impossible to remove yourself from it, especially when so much of it involves what other people think about you and your role (as opposed to what you think about others). If you try to get over and see past it, you can become desensitized. You may begin to fail to see it at all, even when you need to be able to point out when something isn’t okay or when something needs to be changed. “Turning off” is dangerous, but I do it, and I think I’m not alone in it. Based on that, though, is there a third alternative? If so, is it viable? I wish I knew.

      I totally understand what you mean about online FPS games and such. I started out in MMOs, and while there is a massive social element there, MMO worlds (in the fantasy or sci-fi sense) tend to be far more complex than FPS worlds (which typically consist of a map, a goal, and 8 – 30 people on either side of a war). It’s the virtual equivalent of being thrown into a room with X amount of people, one less than half of whom are against you for Reason Y, and all you have is a virtual weapon and whatever you can say between rounds of fire. Moderation systems are notoriously poor and tend to focus more on anti-hack bans than behavioral bans. Players, frustrated by failure or egged on by victory, grab the nearest things in their lexicons to hurl at people in an attempt to injure opponents beyond what digital ammunition can do. I’m not heralding MMOs as some grand bastion of virtual utopic society, but most MMOs contain plenty of people who quietly farm resources, craft things, merchant, provide art for fun or cash, develop, lead guilds, play dungeons, fight monsters. Few MMOs have mandatory PvP systems. An FPS is ALL PvP, even when the goal is set to “Capture the Flag.”

      That said, Dino D-Day is epic fun. And super cheap on Steam right now.

      Like

  3. Steph Roman says:

    HI. I’m kind of blown away by the sheer amount of content you have here. It’s extremely tough to think of all the sexuality and violence in this film as critiques of sexuality and violence. The imagery is placed there aggressively and obsessively, completely unavoidable. I think you’ve done a good job of sorting through it. However, the only reason I’d stray to the side of critique and not senselessness is that all of Nika’s hypersexualization is coupled with shots of Gorge. Every time. While Nika might be scintillating, Gorge is anything but. The contrast/ deliberate juxtaposition prevents me from feeling anything sexy about Nika because the disgust for Gorge takes precedence. I read the Harraway quote “To be one is to be autonomous… etc etc” in this situation. Alone, Nika’s autonomous and lacks sexuality, but coupled with Gorge she’s titillating and a drone.

    On another note, Anita Sarkeesian’s most recent “Tropes vs. Women in Games” covers this topic exactly (the video that’s led to death threats and her forced leave from home). I haven’t seen it yet, but here’s the link if you’re interested: http://www.feministfrequency.com/2014/08/women-as-background-decoration-part-2/

    Like

  4. elexiusmusick says:

    Hi, Steph!

    Oh gosh, thanks. I’m glad you didn’t feel it was too much. I’ll definitely have to edit things down when I revise it, though. You make a really good point about Gorge and Nika, and the relationship between the two of them (and what it means for both of them–emphasis on Gorge, I suppose) is definitely worth exploring. I’m loathe to add more to what I’ve written because I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to significantly shorten it, but maybe I can switch some things out because you’re right, the two characters have a meaningful dynamic that deserves thought and analysis.

    I used to watch Anita Sarkeesian’s videos religiously, but I haven’t checked out her more recent offerings. I’ll definitely check it out. I did hear about the threats and the fact that she had to leave her home, though. It’s both sad and ridiculous.

    Thanks again for the comment!

    Like

  5. charlenejo says:

    My immediate feeling after finishing this post: jealously. Why? Because it says everything I wanted to say, and says what I did say better than I said it! Great job, really. The point that you make that most opened my eyes was the comment that Rick Rape is most successful character in the movie, in that he embodies male hyper-sexuality, offering the only real insight into men’s sexuality that this movie brings to the table. I also enjoyed your (very Heidegger-like) dissection of the character names. I think the depth that you bring with this sort of close analysis saves any subjectivity your might exhibit (although I’m admittedly biased because, as mentioned, my post wants make the feminist points that you have here.)

    Like

    • elexiusmusick says:

      Ah, don’t be jealous! Just be glad we have so many people speaking out against the hypersexualization in the film! Thank you very much for the compliment, though. I really worry about being too subjective because I have wayyyy too many feelings about this stuff, so I appreciate the comment on the analysis vs. subjectivity.

      I have to go read yours now!

      Like

  6. strikefacehwc says:

    Very thorough, very insightful. Your breakdown of the naming conventions for the characters especially took me by surprise as I hadn’t even thought to look there for meaning.

    What confuses me is your conclusion, though. I absolutely agree that the film hypersexualized women, and that it absolutely presents itself in a male-oriented way to a disturbing extent. But as a film that sets out to examine life in the present day, I would argue that its blatant sexually discriminatory approach makes it a STRONGER commentary, rather than a weaker one. To fail to include it would at best present an incomplete picture of our culture, and at worst deny that this level of sexism is a problem at all. So while I agree that it’s an unsettling and uncomfortable part of the narrative, it’s vital that the story be told that way for it to stand as a viewpoint aimed at modern social issues.

    Something important to note as well, I think, is the similar stereotyping that occurs across the scope of male characters:

    Tillman is the epitome of the battle-hardened warrior. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s very good at creating bodies where people used to be, He seems to have two modes: the calm and experienced soldier, and the enraged violence dispenser. He expresses no notable emotion for the duration of the movie other than anger or at least frustration. He’s a one-dimensional “alpha male” in the worst way.

    Castle is obsessed with control, and the entire movie is based around his unquenchable desire to command absolutely everyone and everything. He sees what he wants, and he takes it. There’s no remorse in him, no questioning whether any of this is justifiable. He could have simply been an intelligent, charismatic and manipulative enough person to rise to his position through business and politics, but instead we see him shirtless at the end, only getting fully dressed after he’d proven his physical dominance over Tillman. He’s a paper-thin, one-dimensional villain piggybacking on the ancient idea that the men in power must be the strongest men.

    Simon is still a boy, but he’s plenty old enough to enjoy the attention he gets from his female fans for being such a “bad-ass motherfucker”, as he so wonderfully put it. He’s certainly not the physical warrior that Tillman is, but among his peers in the gaming community he’s unquestionably the best. He’s the gaming version of Tillman’s warrior archetype, much better at killing within the virtual space than anyone else, and that means he’s King. All he wants is to win, to be the best, until he’s put in touch with Tillman by Humanz. He then proceeds to geek out over how awesome Tillman is, gives up all claim towards being the champion gamer, and decides that he’s going to help him escape, presumably because Tillman is the real killer and that trumps Simon’s virtual badassery.

    All this to say: the male characters in the film weren’t hypersexualized, but they were unquestionably hypermasculine. It’s a much more subtle effect, but I think that mirrors our current state of affairs brilliantly.

    Like

  7. Wow, a fantastic post, and a really excellent discussion. Elexiusmusick, you’ve addressed a very problematic aspect of Gamer with care and complexity. I am deeply impressed by your writing and with everyone weighing in so thoughtfully. Really great work everyone!

    Like

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