Dragon’s Crown and The Sexism Meme

WE HAVE NO CONTROL

 

All are powerless under its sway.  One look and you’re thunderstruck – it’s impossible to take your eyes off the sheer virility.  Compelling to the point of obsession, it commands the hearts and minds of countless internet junkies with otherwise idle hands.

No we’re talking about something even more tantalizing.  Replicators, not reproduction.

No we’re talking about something even more tantalizing. Replicators, not reproduction.

 

The stereotyping and discrimination of women is such a common phenomenon in modern media that the sexism meme has flourished.  The endless succession of scantily clad women and weak female roles has provided fertile breeding ground for this popular interpretation to spread from garden variety blogs to our most treasured media outlets.

But the sexism meme has truly spread itself with reckless abandon within the video game blogosphere .  It’s the subject of countless op-eds and the preferred angle of attack in many reviews.  Dragon’s Crown is only the most recent form of sustenance that has fueled this meme’s perpetual dominance.

Like the absurdly ‘endowed’ avatars it feeds off of, the sexism meme’s approach is often excessive in proportion and lacking in subtlety.

Like the absurdly ‘endowed’ avatars it feeds off of, the sexism meme’s approach is often excessive in proportion and lacking in subtlety.

 

The rampant flood of articles on Dragon’s Crown that are imbued with this meme’s power provide a perfect case study of this meme in action.  A few points to note:

  • This meme has legs!  First talked about back in 2011 when the game was revealed, articles of the same tenor have continued to reverberate over the past two years.  The kindle was re-sparked in a Penny Arcade comic and hit its fever pitch when the game released.  I’d argue that this kind of sustained attention on a single idea is rare in the instantly calloused world of the internet. Especially for a non-AAA title.  
  • It has firmly demonstrated the zero sum game that is meme proliferation – competitors are mercilessly drowned out in favor of its sheer sex appeal (I just had to).  The abundance of posts concerned solely with the game’s reprehensible misogyny is one thing, but it’s another that so many journalists peg it as the most essential element to the art direction.  A historical examination of the style’s progression from the old D&D games of yore was forgone, despite its salience.
Look familiar?

Look familiar?

 

How about this one?

How about this one?

 

Surely now.

Surely now.

 

  • There’s a striking similarity in tone between some of these Dragon’s Crown pieces and the musings of our modern conservative stalwarts.  Compare the Kotaku article, one of the most popular in this meme pool:

Why complain? Because it’s embarrassing. Because I wouldn’t want to be seen playing it in public.

…with Jack Valenti from the MPAA:

the price you pay is that you have to allow into the marketplace that which you consider to be tawdry, meretricious, vulgar, unwholesome, false, and just plain stupid

Maybe they’re both on to something?  There’s a lot of ways to interpret such dismissive messages. 

Seemingly unaware of how memes propagate, Jason Schreier ironically ends his sentiments about the game by noting that he

[loves] Japanese games and Japanese RPGs and I don’t want them to perpetuate the ugly “boys’ club” mentality that has pervaded gaming for almost three decades now.

Maybe the last point is that memes are clever operators.

 Surface level arguments that this constitutes sexism is not a thesis. It’s a trite statement of internet theater.

Surface level arguments that this constitutes sexism is not a thesis. It’s a trite statement of internet theater.

 

Meme observations aside, Dragon’s Crown is an odd target for pillory along the lines of misogyny. Odd in that there are so many other ripe targets where the leading female character is defined by passivity and/or singular irrelevance to the narrative arc.  Isn’t this a much more insidious version of sexism?  We don’t need to replot this familiar argument, but it bears mentioning.

At least we can comfortably say that the sorceress is a badass.

At least we can comfortably say that the sorceress is a badass.

 

I’m also skeptical that the sorceress’s boobs can by their lonesome lure the average, internet savvy consumer down the adipocerous lair of misogyny.  I’d argue that pretty flagrant assumptions were being made about said person’s moral vacancy and their existing disposition.

Dragon’s Crown may be sexist fodder for the stereotype of the easily influenced, perennially erect teenager.  But how many of these extreme cases exist in the first place?  Are all young adult males fresh releases on their rumspringa?

Regardless of how you read the tea leaves, the sexism meme is in good shape, no question.  It obviously has its hooks in this writer.

 

 

 

Author: Wu

2 Comments

  1. I shamelessly enjoy such fan service.

    I don’t see articles complaining about how sexist trashy romance novels are in their depictions of men – because who cares? It’s geared towards its intended audience.

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  2. i don’t really view dragon’s crown as a terribly sexist game so much as it is a terribly deformed game. the men are just as deformed to fit the ideal for their sex as the women are– the dwarf is just as naked as the amazon. it’s kind of dirty to look at despite how beautifully vanillaware has painted it, and it’s not really something you’d want to play in public of course– but you’ve got to take in the big picture. the female characters aren’t useless or plot irrelevant– in fact all the characters you can choose to play as play exactly the same role in the story– it’s simply a matter of how they dress. the amazon and sorceress are more than likely dressing that way as their choice– not because they were designed to be wank material. if they were designed to be wank material, then the elf would have likely been designed the same way– which she wasn’t.

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