The Sliding Scale Of Sexism

Kansas City Star Lifestyle Columnist Jenee Osterheldt isn’t someone I read regularly. I pick up the Star out of the break room here at work and flip through it from time to time, and she’s usually in the back section with the comics, writing about something or other. I tend to skim her columns once I’m done reading the few comics I read anymore, but she doesn’t usually register in my brain. One column of hers did stay with me, though, and it’s tangentially related to today’s article, so I’ll briefly go through it.

THIS IS NOT OKAY
THIS IS NOT OKAY

Super Princess Peach is a Nintendo DS game that I have to say, up front, that I have not played. It’s a platformer, I’m reasonably certain, with the twist that you play as Princess Peach. Peach has a few tools at her disposal in this adventure, though, and those are “vibes,” which are all based off of emotions. Joy lets her fly, Gloom lets her cry tears that damage enemies and fill up pits, Rage lets her become invincible, and when she Calms down, she restores health.

In this platformer aimed at girls, Princess Peach doesn’t just run and jump off of enemies like Mario, they had to add in a whole separate system about how Peach’s wild mood swings turn her into a caricature of the crazy woman unable to control her emotions, flying off the handle at the drop of a hat, and only when she calms down do things get back to normal.

Because seriously, videogames?

Jenee Osterheldt did a column about this game that I vehemently disagreed with, but I cannot find this article online, and my memory is notoriously bad. My wife tells me that Miss Osterheldt liked the game because it told women that their emotions were not something that would hold them back. My argument against that point of view, if that is indeed what Miss Osterheldt meant, is that it took Princess Peach and made her into a hyper-emotional baby who couldn’t help but to sob her eyes out at the drop of a hat, and the game said this was a good thing. To me, it would be like taking a black character, giving him a comical afro, and have him jump around in the background making funny faces and acting the wacky comic relief whenever the white people were around and actually accomplishing things. And you know, for 40% of the time I liked Sazh in Final Fantasy XIII.

My rage today is because of this article, where Jenee Osterheldt goes to Twin Peaks Restaurant and finds it to be a fun and campy experience. A few quotes, chosen not to represent the article in full, but chosen to point out the things that jumped out at me.

A new sports bar that prides itself on “scenic views”? We’re not talking mountains, rivers or sunsets. We’re talking waitresses dressed lumberjack sexy: teeny-weeny khaki shorts, ab-baring plaid crop tops that display their pushed-up Victoria’s Secret-perfect boobs, and Uggs or something similar with colorful tube socks. And slogans everywhere like “You’re the man!” and “Embracing the outer beauty in all of us”? Please.

Grumpy Diva and I had a hard time not taking in the view but we didn’t want to just stare [at the boobs]. The fellas told us it was all about mastering the distraction. One person talks to the waitress and maintains eye contact while everyone else gets to look.

She told us to stand up. And put our hands behind our backs.

A man yelled, “It’s shot porn.”

Andrea smiled and said with just the right sting of sass, “Now put your lips on the glass and I’m gonna count to three.”

People stand up with their hands held behind their backs, trying to drink shot glasses very quickly, trying to keep all of it in their mouths, while guys stand around and cheer them on, making them the center of attention, making sure everyone is watching them. In this specific case, it was a group of at least two women.

It’s shot porn.

It’s shot porn.

I felt that this article was terrible at best and actively harmful at worst. Here is an establishment founded on the objectification of women, to the point where it invaded every aspect of the business, from the employee attire to the names of the individual food items to the freaking name of the restaurant, and here is someone writing and defending it, saying that it was all in good, campy fun, never mind that her article had her asking the men there how they best stared at cleavage without letting the girls know they were staring at cleavage.

Fortunately, we live in a Twitter world, and it didn’t take me long to track down Jenee Osterheldt on Twitter. I wasn’t just going to get angry, I was going to talk and get some actual answers. It didn’t go well.

Here is as good a link as I can get to the entire conversation. It doesn’t catch everything, but it gets the majority of it.

I do feel like this is harmful. Incredibly so. Miss Osterheldt’s claim that this was an SNL environment doesn’t at all match up with the marketing this place uses. At the time of this writing, their website has seven rotating images, only one of which doesn’t have a scantily-clad women front and center. The button to look at pictures of pretty girls working there is larger than the button for their menu — in fact, there isn’t a button for the menu. That’s up in the top bar, easily overlooked, and certainly not called out. This is a place that serves food and drinks that is presented like this, as spotted on the Huffington Post when I was doing quick research for this post.

It’s objectification. It’s still objectification if the girls are having fun. It’s still objectification if they have sass, if they take no mess, if they smile and laugh when someone catcalls them. It’s objectification if their body is being used to sell food, if their curves are used to hawk calendars and photo galleries on a restaurant’s website. They’re being used, not for their skills, not for their service, and certainly not for who they are, but for their bodies. Twin Peaks founder Randy DeWitt is selling their sex, and that’s not just wrong, that’s fucked up. Places like this exist to tell men that this behavior is okay. That it’s fine to leer at women, that it’s fine to have one guy distract the waitress so everyone else can look at her boobs. It’s fine to reduce a woman to a pair of breasts and a tight ass in little shorts. That the body is always more important than the face. That this kind of thing is expected behavior. That it’s okay to name a restaurant Tits. That the piece of meat serving you food is just as important as the piece of meat on your plate — they’re marketed about the same.

That sexism is okay as long as the girl laughs at the end of it.

It’s not okay. It’s never okay. This kind of thing is never okay.

Goddamnit, this is not okay.

We Don’t Have To Fear What We Don’t Understand

Next week I’m turning thirty-one. I’m okay with it; I don’t mind getting older. But I’m scared to death of getting old.

Bill Dwyre of the L.A. Times is an old man. I don’t know how old he physically is, but I can read this column where he called advanced statistics in baseball “gobbledygook” and know that he’s an old man. That column is embarrassing enough on its own, all but pining for a time when guys just “wanted it more” or whatever cliche newswriters told themselves in their time; that it’s attached to the dying medium of a newspaper makes it almost tragic. At least the L.A. Times isn’t locking its content behind a paywall, like the local Kansas City Star has done.

There are plenty of strong takedowns of Dwyre’s article already, like Graham Womack’s and Matt Welch’s. I don’t watch baseball, so I don’t have anything specific to add in that respect. But I do pay close attention to articles like this, if only to know what to watch for in my own life.

We’re all engineered to be selfish and prideful. The things that we like are the best things, and the things that we don’t like are less than the things that we do like. Our choices are correct. If I spend my day watching television and you spend your day playing videogames, the immediate reaction is to say that I made the right decision, and that the thing that I like is better than the thing that I don’t like. If there’s any reason to feel guilty of the thing that I like — societal or otherwise — this reaction is significantly stronger. It’s something I’ve struggled with before, and as I get older i’m very mindful of it.

I watch a lot of football, and football is obsessed with lionizing the previous generation. Anyone who played in the seventies is from the Golden Age of Football, Back When The Game Really Meant Something. A bunch of guys slamming into each other for regular three-yard gains, that’s when Football Was Football and Men Were Men. This current generation of football, the read options, the spread offenses, the disguised zone blitzes, any change to the rules, any change to the stars, it just further separates football from Football.

It’s not enough to idolize the previous generation, though, the current generation has to be torn down to make room for the memories. A few years ago NFL Network did one of their Top Ten episodes, with the topic being tight ends. #8 on that list was Tony Gonzalez, then playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. Ranking above him, a selection of “classic” tight ends, like Dave Casper, John Mackey, and Mike Ditka. I could fill an entire column with my hatred for this list, but I’ll keep it short; the list was made by a bunch of old men afraid of the current generation, so they tore it down to make room for their memories. The best tight end of all time, the only offense for the Kansas City Chiefs for a decade, a player who could not be covered by a linebacker, cornerback, or safety, a man whose only professional drawback as a player is “he is an enthusiastic, but only capable, blocker,” never mind his actual role on the team, and they rank him #8 so they can pat themselves on the back about how great things were in their day.

It’s cowardice.

I’m all angry again.

I get 90% of my videogame coverage from Giant Bomb, and I’ve noticed two really good changes this year. The first thing is coverage of iOS games, and they’re treated with equal respect on the site. There wasn’t a period of hand-wringing, there wasn’t a disclaimer of “these aren’t REAL games,” there’s just Brad Shoemaker obsessing over Kingdom Rush, Patrick Klepek getting spooked by Year Walk, and Jeff Gerstmann commenting on any number of ninety-nine cent games on the podcast. That’s fantastic. Gaming is changing, and there’s no point in being afraid of it for change’s sake.

The other thing came out of a podcast, and I don’t have a transcript or the podcast itself handy, so I’m going to paraphrase. In the midst of a discussion on Gears Of War: Judgment, Ryan Davis made a casual derogatory remark about the fiction in Gears of War, and Jeff Gerstmann cut him off. “I don’t think the problem is with Gears of War, the problem’s with us. Just because this doesn’t resonate with us doesn’t mean it’s bad. There are people — I’ve seen them! — that really, really care about the Gears stuff, and that means Epic’s doing something right there. It doesn’t do anything for us, and that’s fine. It does a lot for them, and that’s great.” Ryan Davis hesitated, then said, “You’re right! That’s a good point! I’m sorry!”

That’s what I’m trying to do. I don’t listen to much new music. I don’t watch any new TV. I’m excited for games that remind me of things that I played when I was younger. I read a lot of books again, books that I’ve read multiple times, books that remind of my childhood or young adulthood. But I’m trying to balance this out. I try to read books by new authors at random, to find new stuff so I don’t get in a rut. I play games I wouldn’t otherwise, like Asura’s Wrath, Hakuoki, and Bastion, to try new things. I’m on a forum full of people older than me and younger than me, and I find that mix of viewpoints and opinions really valuable. I need to keep finding it that way, too, or I’ll stagnate creatively and personally. And if that happens, why bother trying at anything anymore?

I don’t understand a lot of what’s popular now. I don’t understand the appeal of the ‘fun.’ band (I cannot figure out how to reference them) or paranormal romance novels. I don’t understand the appeal of tower defense videogames or anything like DOTA. I don’t understand the appeal of the Adventure Time show, or why you’d want to put a bunch of GIFS in your book reviews on Goodreads.

But my lack of understanding doesn’t mean it’s bad, it doesn’t mean I’m right, and it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It just means they’re different, and there’s never been anything wrong with being different.

I don’t mind getting older, but I don’t want to be like Bill Dwyre. I don’t want to get old.

And Now For Something Completely Different — Final Fantasy Puns

So they’re apparently going to make Final Fantasy XIII-3, which is surprising since that specific game is terrible. Apparently no one told Square.

I vented about this to a coworker, and things got a bit weird.

Matt: I think this franchise has definitely jumped the moogle.
Richard: I think that the series’ airship left the port a while back.
Matt: I think that series never got the tonberry out of the gate.
Richard: Square is really getting esperate.
Matt: It’s definitely not the behemoth it once was.
Richard: Is their ultima goal to drive away the fanbase?
Matt: It sure seems that way. The designers can’t get their heads out of the clouds.
Richard: I’m with you in that XIII-3 will definitely be a bomb.
Matt: But what difference can we make? Just fighting the tide, us.
Richard: These strange decisions are making dedicated fans like yourself wakka way from these games.
Matt: I certainly don’t want to seymour of where this franchise is headed.
Richard: They need to come up with a new strategy esuna rather than later.
Matt: This has become a Holy terror. They need to Fire everyone involved with XIII, and stop trying to compete with the games made by Activision-Blizzard. Monster corridors aren’t going to Protect them against the betrayed fans, so they need to Restore their design with all Haste and Heal this series before all that’s left is the Death of Final Fantasy.
Richard: *applause*

I feel that was a good use of my time.

Monday Morning Roundup

Another weekend is in the books, and another week rears its head like Putin glaring down at Alaska. How did the weekend go?

I wrote 5000 words on Ancient Japanese Demon Vampires And The Women Who Love Them – Let’s Play Hakuoki! over on Broken Forum. I played through all of Chapter 4 and wrote it up in a single day, which was a lot of writing but also a lot of fun. Highlights include cutting that guy, screaming in anger at the PSP, and furthermore, cutting that guy. I’ve now uploaded enough screenshots to Imageshack that I had to get a premium account. Oooooh, six dollars…

Giant Bomb posted their Quick Look of Botanicula. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard at one of their Quick Looks while also desperately wanting to play this game. You can hear Vinny’s status as a new father in his voice in how he narrates this one. I don’t so much want to play Botanicula so much as I want to watch Vinny and Patrick play Botanicula.

Music of the week: Botanicula and Sword and Sworcery. I think I spent about $10 total on these albums, and they’re both brilliant. Botanicula reminds me of Rayman Origins in the music (Patrick beat me to that comparison), and S&S thus far is making me think a little bit of Big Giant Circles.

The NFL Draft happened this weekend, and I have mixed opinions on my two teams. The Redskins picked up their QB of the future in Robert Griffin III, and then decided to get him a caddy in Kirk Cousins in the fourth round for some reason. As for Kansas City picking 350-pound DT Dontari Poe, I’ll let Mike Tanier of the New York Times take that one.

The Guild Wars 2 pre-order beta weekend happened. I plan on writing about that later, but the short version is OH MY GOD THIS GAME IS GREAT. Hakuoki should have stern competition for my Game of the Year for 2012.

(I really do not want my 2012 GOTY to be a dating game.)

Google Likes Giant Bomb More Than Free Republic

And other incendiary headlines.

Part of my job at work is SEO — search engine optimization. I haven’t done a bit of it here on my blog, so that doesn’t really bode well for my skill at it, but I’m lazy and don’t care too much just yet. Google just did a pretty substantial update to combat webspam, and fortunately our site is doing pretty great in its wake. I get maybe 3% of the credit there, the guys that handle our SEO get the remaining 97%. All I did was find them after doing some research.

SearchEngineLand did a story showing the risers and fallers as a result of this update, and it’s pretty hilarious at a glance. Among the risers is my favorite site, Giant Bomb, your go-to place for game videos, Brad Shoemaker, and Luchadeer. Among the losers is Free Republic, to whom I will not link, your go-to site for crazed  right-wing loons and their conspiracy theories about Obama, chemtrails, and Sarah Palin fanfiction.

Combine that with the news that Ron Paul supporters are using Kickstarter to try and make Ron Paul: Road to REVOlution, I think we have a themed Thursday Night Throwdown in the future. Or we would, if that game wasn’t apparently stealing Earthbound sprites. Free market copyright something something I don’t actually know what Ron Paul believers say, I just assume it sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

 

From This Moment On I Shall Be Known As Future Man

So apparently WordPress does achievements now? I’m not quite sure what the goal here will be. Do I have a gamertag here on WordPress? Can I compare my Cheevos with other bloggers? Is there a point where I beat WordPress, and the final boss triggers his One-Worded Angel form or something like that? Do I have to fight Hemingway?

I’m not quite sure how to feel about this.

However, I do know how to feel about the suggested tags there. That is absolutely wonderful. Future Man away!

Hello And Welcome To It

Hi! Welcome to my blog!

In the long list of opening lines, that probably falls down near the bottom. But I feel like there should be some kind of intro. This is the first post I will ever make on this website. Someone might be bored in a couple of years and go back to see how this whole thing started. (They will find that it started poorly. Sorry, Future Man.) So, uh, welcome to Loading Screen. I’ll keep this part as short as possible.

I started this site for two reasons. 1) MattWBowyer.com was available, and since that’s me, I thought I should do something about it. 2) I’m writing a book. Actually, I wrote a book, or at least I wrote a first draft. It’s not too good, but I think it will end up being good.

I’m going to try and get this thing published. This blog will document that whole process. Will it be a resource for other up-and-coming authors? Maybe. More likely than not it’ll just be like a diary for me, a diary that I’ve lost the key to and someone has posted up on Facebook.

My goal is to publish something on here at least three times per week. This will last maybe two weeks, but hey, aim high!

Thanks for reading my blog! XOXOXO