Female tropes that really aren’t that cry-worthy

Having been raised on video games, I’ve seen my fair share of tropes involving female characters and female gamers.  While there are plenty of claims to offense I agree with, there are some scenarios I do not take so seriously.  Here is one commonly complained of character in the gaming world that I actually cannot bring myself to hate on.

Princess Peach and Damsels in Distress

Peachssbb

Why people hate it:  It’s basically a repetitive damsel in distress scenario in which the main female character of the Mario world is always in need of rescue.  Some view this as a poor representation of women and that Peach lacks empowerment due to her constant role as a victim of kidnapping.

Why I disagree: This is a video game that has been running since the first Nintendo system.  This video game is geared toward children and Nintendo has been quite successful in bringing in newer generations by keeping the Mario video games well updated.  This video game is very innocent; there is minimal violence (unless jumping on a turtle-like creature’s shell is too harsh for you) and practically no vulgarity.  While Peach is consistently trapped in one of Bowser’s castles, I simply cannot equate this to sexism.

  1. Peach must be an incredible woman for Mario to always jump into action and save her from this redundant fate.  If she were anything less, you’d think he’d ride Yoshi off into the sunset and find a Donut Land dwelling hottie to double jump all night with.
  2. Mario is a pretty cool dude.  He knows Bowser and his koopa troops will always come after Peach, but he loves this woman so much he’ll stick with her and rescue her every time.  Seriously, why can’t we recognize the plumber’s incredible chivalry?
  3. You think it’s sexist she fights with a frying pan and loves baking cakes?  Okay, I get the stereotype pushed on women that they need to spend more time in the kitchen.  But I don’t think Mario is ever seen in game telling her to make him a sandwich and I doubt baking cakes is her only talent (see #5).  Also, face it, we’d all love to hit someone in the face with a frying pan.  Talk about liberating.
  4. If you’re really afraid your daughters will grow up lacking the developmental skills that would make her an empowered woman because of characters like Princess Peach, I sincerely challenge your parenting skills.  Princess Peach is the least of your concerns; she’s kind, courteous, well mannered, pleasant, fully clothed, promotes peace, and loves the Mario World’s equivalent of pets: Yoshi.
  5. Anyone who thinks Princess Peach lacks power must have missed this insanely popular and successful title…
Princess Peach is renowned as being one of the best fighter characters in this game, to the extent of some defeated contestants arguing that she is overpowered.  To put it plainly, Peach can kick your ass.

Princess Peach is renowned as being one of the best fighter characters in this game, to the extent of some defeated contestants arguing that she is overpowered. To put it plainly, Peach can kick your ass.

Aside from Princess Peach, there is the similar style of princess kidnappings in another Nintendo title known as The Legend of Zelda.  This game and this character is frequently complained about for the damsel in distress trope, but I think feminists making this complaint seem to forget that…

Princess Zelda actually disguised herself as a male ninja to help Link save Hyrule while she was in hiding from Ganondorf.  She went into hiding to make sure Ganondorf could not become as powerful as he would be if he had captured her, then became a wise fighter in the shadows thanks to Impa's teachings.  Although she was captured toward the end of the game, without her help, Link may have never saved her or Hyrule.

Princess Zelda actually disguised herself as a male ninja to help Link save Hyrule while she was in hiding from Ganondorf. She went into hiding to make sure Ganondorf could not become as powerful as he would be if he had captured her, then became a wise fighter in the shadows thanks to Impa’s teachings. Although she was captured toward the end of the game, without her help, Link may have never saved her or Hyrule.

That’s right.  Zelda was a freaking ninja in The Ocarina of Time.

Both Mario and Zelda games are meant to be the same storyline, different game.  The games are reinvented for new installments, and in their 20 year runs it is actually rare to see sequels to a particular rendition of the story.  Let’s keep this in mind when asking stupid questions like, “omg why is she kidnapped AGAIN?!!!”

This isn’t to say that a game in which these ladies rescue the male characters of their titles isn’t long overdue, but I think that complaining about these characters is silly when there are video games/movies/popular books out there making bank off of much worse stereotypes–stereotypes with absolutely no positive balance.  Also, having combat prowess or being a gun toting badass does not make a female character stronger or more well rounded.  They can be just as cliche in that case.

Over all, I think the fact that Mario frequently “accidentally” kicked baby yoshi’s he was carrying off of ledges is more offensive than Peach’s character.

derp

derp

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3 Responses to Female tropes that really aren’t that cry-worthy

  1. J says:

    1. Your blog is awesome.
    2. I don’t think the problem is the individual characters at all. The problem is that overwhelmingly, the woman is being rescued and the man is doing the rescuing. The protagonist is male and the female character serves to further his story. This reflects and perpetuates negative, dis-empowering ideas in our culture about the roles of men and women. I agree that it is far from the biggest problem and my kids will definitely play Mario and Zelda, but it would be nice if there were more variety in the ways female characters are portrayed. I know you kind of alluded to this by saying that a lady-saves-man game is overdue, but I wanted to comment on it anyway. 🙂

    • Chelsea says:

      Hi J,

      You’re completely right about the lack of variety in female characters like this. I agree that there should be more female characters that do not serve the sole purpose of furthering the male character’s story. In fact, that has always struck me as poor development for the male characters, too!

      In the case of Peach and Zelda, I feel like they’re easy examples, but also bad examples for this plight. Mario and Link never really show a lot of personal development and have always served as “player link” characters to their games. I have a good feeling that Zelda will be the hero one day, and Peach is on her way to kickassery thanks to the Brawl games.

      It’s always more frustrating when the story is about a supposed “deep, dark, brooding, mysterious” male main character, who MUST rescue his female counterpart because despite the fact that she is supposed to be awesome, she is simply a plot tool for him. Ugh! This brings me back to the article I wrote about Dr. Strange and Clea, a Marvel comics pair.

      Thanks for your thoughtful response!

  2. Let’s also be honest, it’s a trope that existed long before games even. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White… the man will come rescue the damsel who doesn’t have to do anything but be beautiful enough for him to want to rescue. (cause let’s face it, it’s not like they had some deep relationship founded on common interests and ideals prior. She’s pretty, he’s a prince, it’s a match.)

    In that sense, games might actually be able to make it better by having there be some kind of relationship before hand! Maybe Mario and Peach had been together for years before Bowser carried her off.

    Then again, maybe Bowser and Peach are the ones who have been together for years, and Mario is the creepy stalker who lurks in the sewers, trying to win her affection, defeating their children… >.>

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