Bitch-slapped in the face

Or, Why I’m not buying Duke Nukem Forever

March 25, 2011

People often ask me, “Hey, what are you doing in my back yard?”, and “Hey, is that thing loaded?”, and “Hey, are you buying Duke Nukem Forever?”. I’ll leave my lawyer to sort out some kind of deal with the first two, but I’m here today (pending further litigation) to talk about the last one.

Here’s the thing – I just don’t much like Duke Nukem Forever’s rather blatant sexism. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be all, like, “Oh, whatever, I’m totally too postmodern and cool to care about such petty, bourgeois abstractions” and “Oh, whatever, it’s actually really just a totally clever parody of disaffected 21st century consumerism in the context of post-deconstructivist situationism as a metaphor for masculine sexuality and the cultural paradigm of dialectic consensus” and “Oh, whatever, I’M MAKIN’ SAMMICHES”.

But I’m not like that. In spite of my sincerest efforts to laugh it off, I’m actually a bit offended by Duke Nukem Forever instead.

It’s satire. I get it. Wait no, I don’t. Isn’t satire supposed to make a point or something? So what point, exactly, is Duke Nukem Forever trying to make? If anything, it’s just an uncomfortable reminder that I’m actually related to one or two people who think it’s okay to treat women like a conveniently-arranged assembly of meat and orifices, and nothing much else.

Can satire really be considered successful – or anything even remotely worth doing, for that matter – when a substantial percentage of its target market demographic doesn’t even realise it’s supposed to be satire?* Is sexist satire even funny?

It’s kinda like somebody who thinks poop jokes are funny. Is it because the concept of a poop joke is so base, so absurd, so consummately inane that it’s funny, or is it because poop jokes are about as sophisticated as jokes get? If there’s any preponderating parity among those people I’ve seen promoting the Duke’s more prurient predilections, it’s overbearing ****ing stupidity. Basically, the kind of knuckle-lugging troglodyte who can’t see more than two or three centimetres ahead of himself, because his hirsute, precariously protruding brow keeps getting in the way. That’s also a metaphor.

Besides, isn’t it possible that calling it satire is an easy free pass to intellectual credibility, when it’s maybe just a sly excuse to push otherwise objectionable content without objection?

Would we still be okay with it, if the bound, defenceless, terrified woman in the Capture the Babe multiplayer mode were swapped out for a kid, perhaps, or a black guy, or Jesus? It seems to me that, all too often, women are soft, inculpable targets – and not least because even the most polite, tentative criticism of this is almost certain to prompt its own veritable cataclysm of sneering derision. It’s almost impossible to open anything like an intelligent, constructive debate on the subject, because it’s invariably and instantly engulfed by hostile disregard and/or condemnation and/or exhortations to STFU and get back in the kitchen. I mean, video games aren’t for chicks, anyway, and vindication is just a random and meaningless accumulation of syllables.

There’s an ostensibly sensible counter-argument that video games are the stuff of escapism and outrageous invention, anyway. Nobody’s making conscientious objections about what typically amounts more or less to recreational genocide in the average FPS, are they? The difference, of course, being that playing ad hoc Rambo and/or Space Marine is very firmly entrenched within the rainbow-coloured, unicorn-dusted borders of fantasy. Slapping women, not so much.

I guess I’m not even sure which is worse – that Duke Nukem makes fun of a serious issue like sexism, or that sexism is a serious issue at all. Maybe this stuff might be funnier if hateful, misogynistic attitudes and casual objectification of women like those “parodied” in the game weren’t actually so shamefully prevalent in reality.

* And if you don’t believe me, do a search for any articles about the Capture the Babe multiplayer mode, and read the comments underneath those.

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