Arkham Knight’s Big Problem: Female Representation

(Trigger warning for images of violence towards women in Batman: Arkham Knight. If you would like to read my piece without seeing the images used to illustrate my argument then click here to view a version without any images, just the text. Also, spoiler warning.)

One of the side quests in Arkham Knight has you trying to save Catwoman from the Riddler, who has strapped an explosive collar to her neck. After completing one of the eight trials Batman and Catwoman are talking. Batman says “You must be honored.” Catwoman replies “At being what? Your motivation?” This exchange reads like a subconscious acknowledgement on the part of Rocksteady at the role of women in Arkham Knight: motivation for the player.

Every single female character of significance in Arkham Knight is made into a damsel-in-distress at some point. If you read my review you’ll know I railed on Rocksteady (the developers of Arkham Knight) for this, but let’s go in depth and really examine all the ways in which they devalued women into things to be saved or plot devices to fuel angst and make things feel serious. As a note, this piece contains spoilers for Arkham Knight related to its female characters, but I do not mention the Arkham Knight’s identity or the game’s ending.

Not even thirty minutes into the game Rocksteady lazily falls onto the damsel-in-distress trope with the very first onscreen female character, Poison Ivy. Batman learns of one of Scarecrow’s hideouts, but upon arriving instead finds Poison Ivy tied to a chair. Of course, she is also wearing what amounts to a thong and a shirt with a single button fastened. The guard removes her from the chair and shoves a gun in her face, telling Batman that the two of them are leaving. She is then freed, not because she has super powers that would’ve allowed her to free herself, but because Scarecrow decided to show Batman an example of his fear toxin by using it on the guard. This leaves the impression that she would have remained in captivity indefinitely had Batman not shown up. Immediately after being freed from Scarecrow’s men, though, Batman captures her. She tries to resist for about five seconds and when Batman doesn’t immediately fall over she gives up and this is played for laughs. Her lack of resistance towards Batman has no real motivation from her character or the plot and more likely seems to have been done to give the player a sense of power over her.

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This is the first example of how Rocksteady used the damsel-in-distress trope to depower a female character. Poison Ivy is a super villain with control over all plant matter. She should have been able to free herself. The game even acknowledges how powerful she is later on when she not only helps Batman take out several legions of armored tanks, but saves all of Gotham by absorbing Scarecrow’s released fear gas. However, for no legitimate reason, Rocksteady chose to remove her agency as an individual and introduce her to the player as a damsel-in-distress. Her inability to save herself from either Scarecrow or Batman does not even make sense within the game’s own narrative and is simply blatant objectification.

scarecrow

“Let me go or she dies”

Rocksteady then decided to turn one of the most loved and awesome female characters in the Batman universe, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl, aka Oracle), into a damsel. She is captured by Scarecrow for the sole purpose of getting to Batman. Scarecrow wanted to hurt Batman and so went after Barbara. She is reduced from personhood to a means of causing pain. To make things even worse, when Batman returns to Barbara’s base of operations after her kidnapping, the fear toxin that he was exposed to earlier causes a flashback to one of the worst moments in Batman’s history (worst for readers and female representation that is) – when Barbara was injured and disabled by the Joker in The Killing Joke. In The Killing Joke (written by Alan Moore, 1988) Barbara is shot by the Joker (causing her to become disabled) in an effort to try and drive her father, Commissioner Gordon, insane. The Killing Joke is the absolute epitome of hurting and depowering a female character for shock value, fake emotional sophistication, and furthering a male character’s arc. Even Alan Moore has gone on record in recent years calling his writing in The Killing Joke “shallow and ill-conceived.” The fact that Rocksteady would recreate that horrid scene is another example of how they regard female characters as little more than objects and plot devices.

killing joke

When Batman comes out of the flashback the Joker (which is a literal extension of Batman’s psyche due to the fear toxin) prods Batman about his guilt over Barbara’s disappearance. Commissioner Gordon arrives and expresses the immense guilt he feels. Batman reveals that Barbara worked for him and then Gordon blames Batman, punches him, and storms out. Their exchange further shows that Barbara does not exist to be an interesting character on her own, but rather to create conflict between the male characters and make them feel guilty for not fulfilling their manly duty of protecting her.

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“Of course it is [my fault]. I should have been here. Crane’s done this to get to me.”

At that point during my playthrough I was extremely annoyed with Rocksteady for objectifying a character I love in such a way, but I just wanted to get through what I presumed would only be a section of the game during which Barbara was a damsel. Batman/the player eventually finds Barbara, but as soon as they do a cutscene begins in which Scarecrow gasses her with his fear toxin. I then feared that Rocksteady would do the worst and turn her into a woman-in-the-refrigerator (a female character that is killed off to further a male character’s arc, for shock value, to move the plot forward, or any combination). But that would be unthinkable, I thought; they would never do that. The fear toxin was torturing Barbara and giving her hallucinations as Batman tried to break through the glass separating them the. She grabbed a gun next to her and pointed it at Batman. And then she pointed it at herself and fired. I was shocked and horrified, not at Scarecrow, but at Rocksteady. Rocksteady killed off Barbara for the shock value and to give the story weight. Her death and the player’s reaction to it was of more significance and value to them than her life.

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(talking to Alfred) “Barbara. Scarecrow was punishing me. He killed her”

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“I should’ve protected her, Alfred. She’s dead because of me.”

After that I put the controller down and turned my PS4 off. I didn’t want to play anymore. I couldn’t believe Rocksteady would do such a thing. I still had a hint of doubt that they actually did it. I was so pulled out of the experience that I barely cared about the game anymore, so I went online and saw if Barbara actually was dead or if she came back later on. I found out that that scene was a hallucination caused by the fear toxin used on Batman. However, this is more of a plot convenience and doesn’t change much. For all intents and purposes regarding the player, Barbara was kidnapped and murdered and was “dead” for the majority of the game. Rocksteady wanted to have their misogynist cake and eat it too in the sense that they wanted to kill a female character to motivate the player to want revenge against Scarecrow but they didn’t want Barbara to actually be dead so that the player could feel the empowerment of saving her later on.

The objectification of women and the damsel trope’s presence in Arkham Knight does not stop there. Catwoman, another female character skilled in combat and known for her quick thinking, is kidnapped by Riddler and fitted with an explosive collar. Ridder uses her to get to Batman as a way of forcing him to complete trials. This isn’t even the first time Rocksteady has turned Catwoman into a damsel for Batman to rescue. In Arkham City she was captured by Two-Face and had to be rescued by Batman then as well. Rocksteady continues to disempower Catwoman as a way to empower Batman and the presumed male player. Her sexualized outfit is just icing on the cake.

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“Perfect. What little girl doesn’t dream of being bait for her strapping Dark Knight?”

Finally, Harley Quinn appeared and at first seemed to finally buck this misogynist trend, as she is the leader of Joker’s old gang. This makes her continued obsession with the physically and emotionally abusive Joker even more glaring. But she gives Batman and Robin a run for their money and isn’t presented as totally helpless like all the other female characters up until this point. Batman and Robin predictably defeat her, but Rocksteady couldn’t just let things end like that. You see, as part of her obsession with the Joker, Harley Quinn was trying to release people imprisoned by Batman that had been infected with Joker’s blood. One of them, in a bid for freedom, grabbed Harley, put a gun to her head, and used her as a hostage. And with that, Rocksteady had used the damsel-in-distress trope on every single female character.

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“Now.”

In the last hour or so of the main story, it’s discovered Barbara is still alive and still a damsel-in-distress, this time being used to get to Commissioner Gordon. Scarecrow tried to use Barbara to coerce Gordon to turn on Batman. Then Rocksteady had Scarecrow toss Barbara off a roof to allow Batman to make the last second daring rescue of the damsel, once again empowering the player at the cost of a depowered and objectified female character.

Some people looking to refute my argument on how horribly Arkham Knight handles its female characters might bring up the fact that several male characters are also taken hostage, including Commissioner Gordon, Robin, and Nightwing. However, a male character being taken hostage is very different from the damsel-in-distress trope. There isn’t a tradition of helpless male characters needing rescuing, whereas the damsel-in-distress has been reinforcing negative gender stereotypes since ancient Greece. The appearance of male characters being taken hostage does not reinforce any false notions about the male gender. Female characters being turned into damsels-in-distress, on the other hand, continues to reinforce the sexist notion that women need protection and that they are the weaker gender.

Anita Sarkeesian, in her great YouTube series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, says that “At its heart the damsel trope is not really about women at all, she simply becomes the central object in a competition between men.” I cannot think of a better way to sum this up myself. Barbara isn’t a person for the vast majority of Arkham Knight, rather, she is objectified into the motivation and point of conflict between Batman, Gordon, and Scarecrow. The idea of her, or any of the other women-turned-damsels, saving themselves is never even considered. Rocksteady has done nothing to subvert these harmful gender stereotypes in Arkham Knight. Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and Barbara can all be great, independent, and flawed female characters. This goes beyond Arkham Knight however. These sexist representations are still prevalent in video games as a whole (and, to be honest, all other media). These portrayals of women as helpless damsels in need of their paternalistic male saviors needs to end. Games are so much better, more interesting, and more inclusive when they subvert these tropes and include legitimate female characters.

What are your thoughts on Arkham Knight’s portrayal of women? Comment below! If you are interested and want to know more about the damsel-in-distress trope along with other harmful, sexist tropes in video games and other media, head over to Anita Sarkeesian’s YouTube channel, Feminist Frequency. Follow me on Twitter, @TotallyKyle95, and stay tuned here, GamesWithFriendsWrites.WordPress.com, for more of my thoughts and writings on video games. Check out my YouTube channel, Games With Friends, for my Let’s Plays of great games, both recent and old, and for The Games With Friends Show, in which my friends and I get together and talk stuff out for your amusement.

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51 thoughts on “Arkham Knight’s Big Problem: Female Representation

  1. You really hit the nail on the head. They treated women like things to be fought over, some of the deadliest threats in Gotham reduced to objectives.

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    1. Women ARE things to be fought over. Perhaps you don’t understand how nature works with the human species: males fight each other over females. This whole article is acting like the damsel in distress trope is not a real thing. It is. Women are, in biological fact, weaker than men, and are able to be captured and used against other men more easily than the reverse. Batman’s control over Ivy was completely reasonable and expected; she’s a criminal and a killer. He would keep her on a tight leash and she knows that her usual abilities do not work on him . Catwoman is a still just a human, no matter how well-trained she is. She is able to be tricked and captured, and so she was. Harley has never been effective, and Barbara is absolutely helpless in a physical confrontation. Nothing about these women indicates that they are being represented unfairly or inaccurately. This is a male-centered game that is marketed to males, so of course the females do not get time in the limelight – it’s not about them. Female-centric stories and games are no longer rare, often show female characters in unrealistic situations where they beat up a dozen guys to feed the fragile female ego, and nobody says a thing about all of the male characters in any story who are treated like crap, especially in a story that is female-focused. But yeah, show women accurately helpless within the context of such, like this game, and everyone complains. I know women like to imagine that they are as tough as guys and can “kick ass” along with them, but the reality is that it is just not so. This game may not seem fair, in its portrayal of female characters, but it is at least accurate.

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  2. So what you’re saying is when Barbara tells Scarecrow, “I’m not afraid of you.”, that isn’t empowering to women? She stares the big bad man in the face and tells him that he doesn’t scare her, as opposed acting like what you call a classic “damsel-in-distress” would, by shying away and not at all confronting the bad guy.

    Furthermore, you seem to talk a whole lot about how women are used as bait for Batman, but you don’t seem to mention how Scarecrow, at the end of the game, uses both Robin and Commissioner Gordon, two men, as bait for Batman.

    I’m all for women being equal to men, but when you want to argue for that, you can’t only tell one side of the story. This article is so stupidly skewed in a one direction, and that just makes you look like a fool.

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      1. I’m sure he or she did, it just so happens that the article is very shortsighted and the explanation for why it’s okay to have men used as bait or as plot points for the hero is very weak and frankly quite stupid.

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  3. This is a great article–thank you for the in-depth analysis. I have to agree with you, watching women perfectly capable of kicking ass be used as plot devices gets real old, real fast.

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    1. “in-depth analysis” this dumbass article fails to mention how Scarecrow, near the of the game, used Robin and Commissioner Gordon as bait for Batman. which makes me wonder if the idiot who wrote this article even payed attention on what was going on but NO! god forbid a fictional female character gets mistreated in a horrible manor than a fictional male character.

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  4. I agree that rocks teary has never treated their female characters all that well, they’ve always been overly sexualised in how they’re presented but I do disagree on some points. You said so yourself that male characters are kidnapped too, infact every character of any relevance gets kidnapped at some point in the game SPOILER ZONE including batman himself . And though the women are damsels in distress at times I felt that by the end all had repay ed th favour, catwoman though held prisoner by the riddler came back and saved batman from an unwinnable fight, poisen ivy died but she saved everyone in gotham while doing it including batman. And though or oracle’s fake death was unpleasant she’s always been portrayed as batmans most valuable ally throughout the games, she later is instrumental in finding commissioner Gordon and helping batman save the gcpd. Even Harley had managed to rise to be a leader of a gang between games which admittadly isn’t admirable but it does show that she’s a competent criminal in her own right even if she is stuck in/ misses her abusive other half. But the abuse she’s received from the joker had always been the tragedy of her character. Sorry for the block of text I’m on my phone but to sum up my problem as far as women go in batman is more how they appear than how theyre characterised.

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    1. Thanks for the read and thanks for sharing your opinions politely 🙂 In my opinion, the damsel-in-distress is a real problem because of how frequently it is used. If this were an isolated game, I would say that it’s characterizations were regrettable, but it exists in a world where sexism is alive and well and few games feature compelling female characters. Rocksteady perpetuated the sexist stereotypes linked to the damsel-in-distress trope and it’s really disappointing. Great Batman stories can be told without relying on that trope, such as Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls/Night of Owls or Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

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      1. But the batman mythos was born out of the damsel in distress his mother was killed and his father could not stop it. And since you brought up the comics, if being rescued makes a character somehow weaker what does that say about superman himself? he has been rescued by the bat on 6 instances I remember.

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  5. You know, I really liked Arkham City and enjoyed playing Catwoman in later game and my young daughter enjoyed watching us play too. When we saw Arkham Knight she wanted us to buy it so we did.

    When we came across Ivy I rolled my eyes at her costume and wondered why she didn’t fight back like she usually does. My daughter herself said “I can see her belly button!” and I asked her if she liked what Ivy was wearing. “No,” she replied. “She should wear a shirt.”

    I did not progress any further in the game after that as she didn’t want to watch me play anymore. I will probably come back to it later. But that was a bit disappointing to me i when I had high hopes for the game.

    Reading the rest of this article it is disappointing that the rest of the game follows a similar theme.

    You may ask why my 7 year old is watching a game that is rated M. But it just goes to show you how even uncorrupted and fresh eyes can view a game for its shortcomings that the rest of the world has come to accept as normal or that’s just how it is.

    It isn’t that we want everything to be equal but that perhaps if Ivy had used that blatant sexual appeal to distract and overcome Scarecrow tyen her lack of clothing may have been warranted – like a venous fly trap or pitcher plant enticing insects with a promise of heavenly nectar but in fact ending in their demise. I think the gameplay of the game is great like its predecessors but I don’t find it a game that I would like my daughter to use the women in it as role models.

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    1. That was really cool to read, thank you for sharing! Your daughter sounds awesome. As for Ivy, her actions just don’t make sense; she is used for her sex appeal and to be a damsel, it’s really quite sad.

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    2. By not finishing the game, you’re going to miss the parts where Poison Ivy saves the city by sacrificing herself, Catman saves Batman and helps defeat Riddler, and where Barbara shows her fearless against the Scarecrow even when she was almost thrown off a roof. And by reading this article without playing this game, you’re going to completely ignore all of the male supporting characters who were kidnapped. There were an equal amount of them compared to the women. But men don’t matter, right?

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    3. Mayhaps ivy wears that costume because she’s a PLANT and doesn’t want to be covered up, what happens if you leave something on grass for to long it, it DIES.

      Also have you seen the things girls wear today.

      I also think you missed the point where ivy sacrifices herself to save the city. Or how about oracle who, even when she’s about to be pushed of a tower, stands up (not literally) to the big bad guy, scarecrow, and says “I’m not scared of you” if that’s not a role model what is

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  6. “There isn’t a tradition of helpless male characters needing rescuing, whereas the damsel-in-distress has been reinforcing negative gender stereotypes since ancient Greece. The appearance of male characters being taken hostage does not reinforce any false notions about the male gender. Female characters being turned into damsels-in-distress, on the other hand, continues to reinforce the sexist notion that women need protection and that they are the weaker gender.”

    I want you to really think about this for a second: If game developers, in an attempt to be less sexist, start removing all instances of women needing rescue but feel perfectly fine having men be rescued, what happens? You’ve created a stereotype, that only men need help or to be rescued. That is not how you fix things. If the only characters that are every taken captive without a huge media storm are male characters, yes it will start to enforce false notions about the male gender.

    The bumbling dad trope is an excellent example of this. It started as an attempt to subvert the traditional 50’s father, and ended up completely replacing it, which is a problem in an era where father’s are seen as less important in the raising of children.

    Showing equality is how you combat sexism, creating a new trope that is merely the opossite of the old trope is not an effective counter balance. In that regard, arkham knight is still a long way from perfect, but please give some thought to your arguments and the damage such notions can have if people start creating media based on them.

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    1. I never said that the damsel-in-distress trope should be replaced by a man-in-distress, like you said, that wouldn’t solve things. I did, however, want to highlight why it is so problematic that all the female characters in AK are turned into damsels-in-distress whereas the same is not true of the male characters who were taken hostage in AK.

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      1. By only citing it as harmful to one gender, you create the idea that it is acceptable to show that gender as being helpless, but not the other, as in one case it is not harmful. Let me break this down in steps, and you explain where you disagree.

        1. Women suffer form being cast as helpless, men do not.

        2. That means women should not be shown as needing rescue, but men can be.

        3. Point 2 is something video game creators, and creators of other media, should consider in the future when creating characters. Creating females in distress should be looked down upon, men in distress should not carry stigma for the creators.

        4. Doing so on a wide scale will in fact create a new man-in-distress trope.

        If you cite something as an issue that needs to be corrected, you have to consider where the corrections actually lead. If one gender should not be cast as helpless, no gender can be.

        This is a major issue I have with the video for tropes vs women as well, as it casts women being helpless as unacceptable but men ebing helpless as perfectly fine. If people were to actually take such advice, the end result will be men-in-distress as a trope. That may not be your intent, but as written that is what your article ends up advocating for.

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  7. I disagree with this article at a number of points.

    Poison Ivy’s costume is unbearable. I concede that point. However she frees herself from a gun touting macho man, massacres tanks with godlike power, and saves Gotham.

    Catwoman is a damsel in the beginning and wears a sexualized suit, but she also plays an intricate part in freeing herself with puzzle solving and combat, and then saves batman from unbeatable enemies and gets revenge on her captor.

    Barbara was very underutilized and was a damsel for most of the game. However her being Batman and Jim’s motivator was not based on her sex. it was based on the fact she was family, and unable to physically protect herself due to being handicapped. She also crashes her captors car and leaves a clue for Batman, and uses her hacking abilities to help save the GCPD.

    Harley is undoubtedly a victim of abuse and has an unhealthy obsession with the Joker, it is horrible to see the way she is treated. But do you suggest these types of individuals should be totally left out? Should games pretend they don’t exist? I’m not suggestion Rocksteady did anything to generate awareness for abuse, but they didn’t make light of it either. She is a lost soul. As far as her butt showing when you pick her up, yeah it’s a bit much. But again you ignore that this is the most reserved Harley costume to date in the Arkham series and the fact you spend half the game cramming people of both sexes into your trunk.

    Then as someone above mentioned, all three of your male friends are also captured. Nightwing, Robin, and Jim TWICE.

    To sum up, three men and three women who exist in a super hero game, need to be rescued by said super hero. Each of them has agency enough to facilitate there own rescue, and each then helps the superhero in his quest. So it seems a bit like you want the game to be more black and white pure sexism then it actually is. Rocksteady absolutely made mistakes, but instead of praising the good things and criticizing the bad, you simply criticize the bad. That is completely one sided, and you know it is.

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    1. Yeah but the dudes aren’t being rescued while they have their tits out. Also, you have to look at the constant historical representation of women as damsels in distress, a man being taken hostage can often times humanize him and bring him to a more relatable level. Especially if that character is a superhero.

      Also, it’s just plain old bad writing! character inconsitancy for the sake of story progression is horrible. Maybe if they had had a reason as to why poison ivy couldn’t use her powers it would’ve been more acceptable.

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      1. Seriously? If a woman gets kidnapped, it’s unacceptable but if a male character gets kidnapped than it’s okay and we should just ignore it? That’s a huge double standard and very sexist.

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  8. Nice article but this format was very difficult to read! I wasn’t sure if this was a two column article or a single column article and ended up reading a few things out of order! Perhaps changing the size and placement of pictures for clarity would help?

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  9. I agree with this article on some points. It was very intetesting to ready! Poison Ivy been held captive was irrelevant and completely unneeded to advance the plot and I believe used just so she could be take out of GCPD later in the story, giving a feeling that you’re releasing a “danger” of some sort.
    But she is reedemed by the end, sacrificing her life to save Gotham, and more importantly the plants, which is her motivation to do so, not to serve Batman in anyway. Her outfit though is a bit ridiculous.
    Catwoman’s outfit is a bit more tame in my opinion compared to City. But she does end up helping Batman to take down Riddler, and she does help Batman get several keys to unlock her collar, so she isn’t exactly a helpless damsel.
    Harley’s appearance is probably the most tame compared to other entries. I didn’t have any problem with her in the game, and her being a “damsel” was honestly irrelevant to this, as its for a fraction of the second and doesn’t affect the story.
    Oracle, lastly , is an amazing character. Her being kidnapped for the whole game was a bit much. Her being shot was very graphic and intense but I don’t believe it displays a “mysoginistic” view towards women. It was a flashback to indicated what Batman getting his allies involved can do, and what pain he’s caused to other people. This has happened to other people, they just decided to focus on Barbra.
    Gordon and Robin are held captive, and they in fact did need Batman to save them or they would have been killed, and they were helpless.
    I don’t see why you dont point out the graphic torture and murder of Jason Todd in the flashbacks of Panessa Studios?
    I don’t mean to stir anything up, I’m just giving my opinion 🙂

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  10. What about the 30 male firefighters that are used as damsels in distress for Batman to save? They are all shown as weak and beaten by thugs. You never mentioned them? Oh, and Cr. Gordon and Robin being kidnapped isn’t the same as Catwoman being kidnapped? How? YOU SEXIST PIG. Males are used just as much as females in this game as plot devices.

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    1. What part of men in distress perpetuates a negative, genuinely harmful stereotype about men? NOTHING. Females in distress has been used as a plot device forever and has been perpetuating the very real, very bad, very sexist idea that women need saving and can’t do anything without men. Men saving men is not even REMOTELY the same concept.

      I’m also going to go ahead and assume that you don’t know that sexism towards men is literally impossible. That’s like being racist towards white people or heterophobic. I can say that I hate men all day, but it wouldn’t have any actual consequences, except pissing a few people off and confusing my boyfriend. No one has ever gone on a shooting spree in the name of misandry. The damsel-in-distress trope perpetuates the idea that women are for male consumption. This simply does not occur when the “damsel” is a man.

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    2. Haven’t reached the part of the game where Robin is kidnapped (my PC version waited until I was 20 hours in before deciding to crash) , but I wanted to address your point about the firefighters. Batman, as a high-tech wielding vigilante superhero, is SUPPOSED to be better than the firefighters. They’re civilians with no background except for their names and occupations, and they have neither superpowers nor the skills required to escape from their capture. Meanwhile Oracle is the best hacker in the DC Universe as well as highly trained in combat (like in the comics, the game refers to her skill with escrima sticks), Catwoman is an agile and stealthy fighter with gadgets of her own, Harley Quinn is a skilled gymnast and gang-leader, and Poison Ivy can manipulate all plant-life. You can’t compare having to rescue a group of men that lack the skills to defend themselves with the game putting EVERY prominent female character in a situation that they can’t escape on their own, all of which have abilities that make them better than the average person at defeating enemies. Not as good as Batman, since he’s the title character of the game and because he’s, you know, the goddamn Batman, but still. The firefighters are not on the same level as the female characters talked about in this article.

      Also, somewhat spoiler comment about something that irritated me: the person who holds Harley hostage is an old man. I can understand Ivy being unable to defend herself from a room of armed guards in a room blocked off from plants, but I kept waiting for Harley to roundhouse kick Henry Adams in the face. It might have been out of character for her to attack someone who was taking on the personality of the Joker, but god would it have been satisfying after seeing what the game put Barbara through.

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  11. Barbara was only “fucking crippled” because a man did it to her to invoke an emotional response in the story (and she later went on to be a bad ass anyways- just not physically). And who’s to say disabled people can’t be strong or get themselves out of life-threatening situations? She doesn’t have to defeat Scarecrow, but she could have undermined him to give Batman an opportunity to defeat him. Anything can happen! It’s a fictional world! With super humans! The “realism” argument is literally only used when most convenient. Games have too much violence? It’s fantasy. Disabled superhero can’t help herself? It’s realistic. Every alien race speaks perfect English in perfect American accents? Fantasy. Women and men can’t play on the same professional soccer team? Realistic.
    And as for making games, there is a reason why games are sexist and contain sexist tropes. It’s because there is a lack of developers that actually give a shit about their female characters. I wonder what could possibly be keeping those kinds of people from making games… You know, it might just be all of the hostility, negativity, and anger people who DO give a shit about female characters receive for giving a shit about female characters. Just like your comment on this article, for example.

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  12. I thought that at the end of the game when you fight “alongside” Oracle (albeit by hacking) was awesome.
    Also the city was saved by Poison Ivy in arguably the most heroic act in the game.
    Obviously the game is not perfect but it seems like you’re willfully ignoring the moments where women are shown in a positive light.

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  13. I personally thought the female characters were incredibly well represented and strong.
    Yes Cat woman was essentially a hostage, but that didn’t stop her from fighting back by batmans side through the challenges that the riddler had concocted
    Then there’s Barabara (aka Oracle) who makes the decision to ignore her father and stay in gotham to help batman despite the obvious risks. Even when she is kidnapped she still manages to temporarily escape the arkham knights clutches in order to leave a trail for batman to follow. She has been working with batman since before the incident that left her in a wheelchair and despite that event it never shook her resolve to help the people of gotham. Not only that but when she is saved from being thrown off a building she refuses to rest and instead immediately carries on her work helping batman.
    And last of all there’s Poison Ivy who could have left the people of gotham to suffer wthin scarescrow cloud of toxin but instead sacrifices her own life to cleanse the city of the gas.
    How is that not positive representation of female characters?

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    1. Hmm, you make good points. To me, the game is somewhat at odds with itself. Yes, most of the women do brave and heroic things, but – at least in my opinion – they are also stripped of their agency and through their repeated damseling. For example: Barbara is brave, that is a fact the game presents, but she isn’t actually given character development. Her lack of character development is largely due to the fact that she spends the entire game as an object for Batman, Gordon, and Scarecrow to fight over. It’s hard to have an arc when you spend most of the game as a damsel in need of rescuing. Her “death” is also an incredibly cheap way for Rocksteady to bring out emotion in the player.

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  14. I completely agree that the female characters’ outfits are not only at odds with the character development (if Harley is only insterested in the joker why would she dress that way after he’s dead?), but they are also degrading and obviously done just for the sake of eye-candy.

    However, I disagree with the idea that a female being rescued reinforces a destructive gender stereotype. Isn’t it a good thing to value someone as being worth rescuing whether male or female? If being rescued is innately devaluing then no character should ever be captured. If they did that then the villains wouldn’t be very menacing, would they?

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    1. Note: I talk about hypothetical forced suicide in this comment (not Oracle’s).

      I can’t speak for the writer of this article, but I love Arkham games, terrible treatment of female characters and terrible writing aside (the question “why the hell would Strange use Mad Hatter’s mind control technology to manipulate Sharp into building a giant prison in the middle of Gotham City, then smuggle weapons into the prison via Joker, THEN mind control the council into voting to enact Protocol 10, THEN presumably repeat this convoluted plan in Metropolis and Keystone despite the fact that the world just saw the Arkham City project fail, when he could have just mind controlled all the criminals to kill themselves or something in order to prove himself to Ra’s Al Ghul?” kept me up for an hour last night).

      I DO like these games, and I have fun playing them, and I don’t regret paying money for them, but I can’t ignore how these games treat women. I imagine from your comment that you’re not a fan of Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs. Women” series (I’ve never seen her videos and I disagree with her about Mad Max: Fury Road), but her video blog influenced the studio creative developer Volition (Saints Row series developer) to examine how his games represent women. So hey, there’s a better chance voicing these opinions on blogs is going to make more of an effect on the world than not saying anything at all, right?

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      1. In addition, I don’t think it’s fair to say “don’t like it, don’t play it” because it can be difficult to tell whether or not you’ll enjoy a game before playing it.

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  15. You’re crappy way of saying a guy kidnapped isn’t the same (neither reinforce a stereotype, you people are), and that still doesn’t explain what you think about Jason Todd. If the game would’ve followed the comics, he would’ve been killed by Joker, but according to you, a woman being paralyzed from the waist down is worse than a man dying *Logic Fail*. Also, you mentioned Anita Sarkeesian, instantly destroying all my doubts that you might actually have some sense and think for yourself. After all, she is the one who came up with “Listen and Believe”. #FullMcintosh.

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  16. Feminists committing the Straw Man fallacy by only looking at female victims and ignoring the male ones just to push a point.

    I’ll be really sexist here. Women will always be women, never satisfied. That’s why the world will never run out of feminist issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. My spouse and I stumbled over here different web page and thought I should check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to looking at your web page yet again.

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  18. Let’s seriously try and keep some perspective, we live in a world where Dre releases a song B*tches ain’t Sh*t, and a lot of young males listen to and know demeaning songs like this. Most all super hero fiction is written for young males, and most super hero stories have great values amplified to 11, despite pesky troupes (Don’t kill, tell the truth, do the right thing even when nobody is watching). I think you could do worse than reinforcing the idea that women are to be cared for and protected. If I were to hear someone break into one of my windows at night, I wouldn’t expect my wife to get the pistol and go check it out (doesn’t that seem non-chivalrous?) To do that I would be indicating her life isn’t worth as much as mine (even though it would empower the hell out of her as a woman). A great relationship and a great marriage consists of esteeming your spouse higher than yourself, if BOTH partners do this then you can really turn around some of the statistics (current divorce rate almost 50%). So I don’t know, seems like women wound up with the worst of both outcomes. I see a generation of boys out there, who don’t treat women with respect because they are taught to think of them like they do other boys, whom they also don’t respect.Today’s boys won’t hold doors for women (being a classic gentleman) or treat them as equals (because to them B*tches ain’t Sh*t). Perhaps troupes aren’t so bad.

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  19. Either women are weak and helpless delicate little flowers and it is wrong to treat them the same as men, or the first half of this sentence is sexist and wrong and anyone who talks like that is an asshole. PICK ONE!

    The games kidnap EVERYONE! *EVERYONE* I think Alfred is… Nope, nope even Alfred is held against his will in “cold, cold heart”. The game also commits violence against EVERYONE. I mean the majority of Batman’s rogues gallery are gangsters, Assasins and serial killers. What do you THINK they’re gonna do? Tickle them?

    Some of what you say imply that Martha Wayne’s death was insulting to women but Thomas Wayne’s death was an actual tragedy. They were shot by the same gun less than a minute apart in front of the same child.

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