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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for plot points in Mafia 3

Butch:

Glad Halloween’s over.

And Olivia’s dead. And, what do you know? I didn’t kill her! Of course.

Mrs. McP is home today and I have to take Junior to a thing tonight so I won’t have much time to play. So we can save the drug stuff and the party and what THAT was all about for some other time. Today, we’re talking about gender, because of course we are.

Now….here we go.

On one hand, I was impressed (if that’s the right word) that they had the guts to toy with the whole “And now she dies quietly” thing when Lincoln puts his hand on her wound to wake her up, chokes her all “Oh no…where is the guy?” That was more than I thought they’d do. But, again, someone else, offscreen. And then, THEN the whole diatribe from Donovan about how Lincoln would NEVER kill a woman complete with a story saying “Really, REALLY he wouldn’t.”

I am of two minds. On one hand, violence against women is a terrible scourge of society today. Society is, of course, grappling with such issues daily, in public, and graphically. Violence against women is bad. And, as someone who is staunchly in the corner of the good guys in the MeToo movement, glorification and encouragement of violence against women is something that makes me uncomfortable.

HOWEVER, these are games and, in games, violence happens. By insulating women from violence, by saying “It’s ok to kill big, bad, MANLY Kevin but not a delicate, pretty woman,” that’s playing into the “weaker sex” bullshit that, one could argue, is at the root of a lot of the very problems that MeToo is addressing today. Safely wrapping the pretty (white) woman in bubble wrap and protecting her from the big bad (but not that bad) black man is EXACTLY WHAT THE SOUTHERN UNION WANTS TO DO.

But then I go back around and I’m all “But do I want to see a big, strong man kill the hell out of a wounded woman while I’m supposed to be cheering him on? Cuz……no.”

So I don’t know. I think they certainly tried to thread the needle. It was more violent than I thought it was gonna be, but they ALSO protected her.

Indeed, after you told me I could shoot Tommy, I tried to shoot Olivia there. I did. Not because I’m a monster, but because you were all “I showed Tommy some mercy.” Ok, she was suffering, etc.

You can’t kill her. She won’t die. Nope.

So I don’t know. I’m gonna plop all this in your lap, as you are a woman, and you have a better perspective on this. The last thing I want is to mansplain. I feel ooky enough already.

Feminina:

Yup. She is dead, and we didn’t kill her. As you predicted.

And dude, I tried to shoot her too! Because she was in pain, sure, but also because I didn’t trust her not to spring back to life and find a gun of her own. I’ve seen a movie before, man.

And…yeah. All the stuff you said. Having him jabbing at her bullet wound to get more information is farther than you kind of thought they’d go: they didn’t have him completely tiptoe around her like “oh, I could never do harm to a LADY.” (And then we have Donovan coming in and saying essentially just that…though I guess all Donovan really said was he wouldn’t KILL a woman, which leaves completely open the option of torturing one.)

And it was odd that Lincoln’s explanation was “you ain’t worth the time.” Uh…it doesn’t take that much time to shoot someone in the head, dude. Even if we figure he means she’s not worth the time it would take to set up a dramatic scene like burning Remy Duvall on a cross or hanging Doucet from a Ferris wheel–he could still just kill her quickly like he did with the lesser bosses, or the guy running the Southern Union slave racket.

So I don’t buy that it was about time, suggesting that Donovan’s explanation is semi-true, and Lincoln does actually have a philosophical objection to killing women (though not to rubbing salt in their open wounds–which he would totally have done if he’d had salt handy).

And then we’re left with, why does he want to pretend it’s about time, then? Is it not manly to just state that you don’t want to kill women? Or is this in fact a cold burn on the entire female gender, like “women aren’t worth the time it takes to kill them”–you’re so pathetic and meaningless a threat that even the three seconds it would take to stab you would be time better spent looking for a manly Kevin to stab instead? Or maybe he thinks if anyone finds out, they’ll exploit this weakness by sending only women assassins from now on?

Though, also interesting was the way she found the mob stuff “so EXCITING!” She’s lying there dying and reminiscing about how thrilling and (basically) sexy it all was–Donovan also mentions this–and maybe it’s just refusing to play along, when Lincoln walks away instead of giving her an exciting mob death. As he said, “there’s nothing exciting about the mob,” or however he phrased it. He’s not going to prop up her fantasy. (Though he was happy to indulge Remy Duvall’s desire for racist martyrdom.)

And then, as you say, Olivia does wind up violently dead, but he/we didn’t do it. And, as you say and as we’ve talked about before, would we really WANT to have done it? Do we WANT to play a game where we cheerfully kill women?

Generally…no. Unless–and I bring up this every time we have this conversation–it’s a Bethesda game, because nobody does gender equality in Kevins like Bethesda. (Horizon Zero Dawn was also pretty good that way.) If half your randits are women, I will cheerfully murder them all day long, because when you have enough women, your treatment of any particular one becomes less of a Giant Statement About Gender and more about what happened to one character.

Who was trying to kill me, so I killed the hell out of her instead and probably carried her crappy armor around hoping to sell it until I got overencumbered and abandoned it in the road in a giant pile of other crappy loot. That’s Bethesda for you.

This game, I give props for having a fair number of women characters, and for giving those women jobs that are relevant to the action. Cassandra is a good character, and I like Nicki, although not her animations which tended to be creepy (did you have the conversation with Nicki where she says she’s dating a woman? guess that thing with her and Lincoln was just friendship), and Alma was cool, and Gina Kowalski the car thief lady was pretty badass. But they don’t have so many women that they can casually kill them off without it seeming like “hey, this was the part of the story that was about killing a woman.”

Olivia Marcano was the only woman villain, so they can’t avoid that being the story. Hell, we’ve been talking about that story since we learned Olivia existed. Is she going to die? How is she going to die? I bet she dies offscreen! There’s BAGGAGE around this.

Anyway. I thought they threaded the needle reasonably well considering the tricky territory they had to walk through. Olivia was bad, she was part of the Marcano family we’re sworn to destroy, it would seem weird if she just walked away from the whole thing. And making it be the Marcanos themselves turning on her was an interesting symbol of how the family empire is collapsing, as well as a tidy way to say “here, she’s dead but you didn’t have to kill her.”

I personally would also have been OK with Lincoln just shooting her (as I said, I tried), or even making some dramatic statement with her corpse as long as it didn’t involve any grotesque sexual overtones (hello Lara Croft impaled on things). Wrapping her in a Confederate flag and smothering her in a pile of money or something could have worked. But as we know, he didn’t have the time.

I think they would have been able to pull off “this guy kills his enemies and she’s his enemy and there’s no special gender-based antipathy going on,” because in that regard, Lincoln seems like an OK dude. I mean, he treats the women he works with politely, doesn’t hit on them or treat them like his servants or anything. He doesn’t come across like a misogynist, so he could get a pass for equal-opportunity enemy-murdering. Sometimes your enemies are women! It happens!

On the other hand, I understand why they went the other way, and in general I guess I would vote for erring on the side of caution, because…there’s just so much potential for the “haha, I finally got to kill that bitch” or whatever gender-based nastiness, and I’m not into it. So it’s maybe a bit of a cop-out, but it’s one that I understand and don’t really hold against them.

Hm.

Side excursion into the drugs, though, how about that orchestral version of “White Rabbit” playing while everyone’s tripping on LSD? That was awesome.

Butch:

You noticed the music! I’m so proud. That was amazing.

Excellent point about reaching a critical mass of women characters. I guess we’re still hung up on violence against women in video games because we don’t have a lot of games with a critical mass of women in them. Which is also a problem.

As for Lincoln not treating women as servants or not being a misogynist, how do you reconcile all this with the fact he runs prostitution and porn rings? That’s kinda treating women as servants, dude.

Oh, and did you think that Donovan killed her? Who did? Marcano had no reason to. Lincoln didn’t. Leaves Donovan.

Feminina:

Those women are…uh…independent contractors.

But yeah, the prostitution and porn rackets are tough to see as beacons of gender equality. I think the best you can do is “hey, these women need jobs. These jobs pay money. Women will take these jobs. Better our people run them than someone else.”

Because we can optimistically imagine that under Lincoln’s leadership everyone working in the rackets in whatever context is paid a fair wage and treated decently, right? I like to imagine that. So basically, someone’s going to do it, better us than someone with even less interest in little topics like equality and justice.

Also, when I said “not treating women like servants” I was specifically thinking about the stories of men in business settings who assume all the women they see are there to make them coffee or whatever, rather than actually contributing to the work–I just meant that Lincoln treats the women he talks to about business as if they’re contributing to the business. “How’s the racket going, how many stills should I smash up now,” etc., not “fetch me a drink, and let me speak to the man in charge!” or whatever. When we SEE him interacting with women, he treats them fairly.

Does that let him off the hook if, under his direction even if not his immediate supervision, women are suffering ill treatment in the brothels and on the porn sets? No. But like I said…I optimistically assume the prostitutes and porn actors of New Bordeaux make decent money and are treated like human beings doing a job.

The game doesn’t tell us otherwise, after all!

As for Olivia…I gather you didn’t get a certain scene yet that features a person saying “yeah, I killed her.” So it’s a mystery! But one that will be revealed.

Butch:

Oh. No, no I did not get that scene.

I bet it’s Donovan. Why’d he keep that guy around? He wants the land.

Feminina:

All will be revealed.

It’s gonna be great.

Well, I won’t say “all.” There are a number of things that have yet to be made clear.

But at least THAT will be revealed.

Butch:

Yet to be? Still not finished?

We gotta talk about the LSD party, that we do.

And go more into depth about Olivia sexualizing violence and how often women in games are there to sexualize violence and why did she have to do that?

And also, what did you make of the scene where James is all “There won’t be another Bobby Kennedy…another Dr. King. But there will always be another Sal Marcano (Long pause) Another Lincoln Clay” and he turns his back to the camera, and, thus, the player.

I’m not sure I’ve ever played another game that wants you to really, REALLY not like the hero. Or yourself.

Feminina:

Yeah, Olivia’s fondness for the sexy thrilling mob violence was an interesting touch. I mean, she’s not alone–pop culture kind of glamorizes the mob. I don’t know to what extent that was true in 1968 (looks like The Godfather wasn’t published until ’69, but there were James Cagney movies and so forth before that), but assuming they did some research for the game, and that this was the case even then…she’s not alone.

She is, though, sort of weirdly buying into/living out a fantasy instead of approaching it like a business. Sal’s all about the money, but it’s implied Olivia was just in it for the drama.

Hm.

Father James’ assessment was bleak, all right. “The good people who might have changed things are gone, and we’re left with the violent ones who are just battling it out for territory”?

He REALLY doesn’t think much of Lincoln’s motivations (or, perhaps, the ultimate results of Lincoln’s quest, which he’s in a better position to evaluate than we are).

Which suggests that violence is not the answer, and also kind of says to the player “all your efforts were wasted. Things still suck.”

Which…is a fair criticism considering all we’ve been doing is sitting there playing a game.

Fair, James. Harsh, but fair.

Butch:

But that’s also a little sexist. If Sal is in it for the money, and Remy’s in it for devotion to a cause, a crazy cause, mind you, but a cause, that means that the woman is only in it for selfish and emotional reasons, not something that “matters.” The game also established that anybody who has any kind of slightly abnormal sexual preferences must be evil and we’re seeing more of that here. Not to mention the trope of the sexual woman being flawed. She’s the only woman in the game who seems to have any interest in sex, and she’s evil. Hell, it’s the REASON she’s evil.

That’s a tad judgy.

By the way, are you finished?

Feminina:

Yeah, it is. As you say, the entire game is kind of judgy about sex that isn’t Playboy centerfolds and Vargas pinups (which is a REALLY airbrushed and vanilla approach), and if non-vanilla men are all murderous perverts, there’s no way they’d let a woman get away with any kind of unorthodox inclinations.

To the game’s credit, it’s not filled with titillating visits to strip clubs and stuff (as we discussed, when you do see naked women in-game, as opposed to the collectibles, it tends to be pretty unsexy). So many opportunities to dramatize women dancing and acting out sexuality for porn sets, and they didn’t take them!

And no, I haven’t finished, but this close to the end I think it’s probably safe to say that there will be no in-game nudity on the part of any of the major characters. It’s true that aside from Olivia (and possibly Nicki, dating a woman) none of the female characters seem to have any interest in sex, but it’s also true that none of the male characters do either (aside from the “VIP” perverts and the nameless NPCs who frequent the brothel and buy stag films).

Lincoln? Vito? Burke? Emmanuel? Heck, even the villains…we never see Georgi or Sal or Lou or Tommy with half-naked women draped over them, or hanging out in strip bars, or any of the standard tropes for “these are just manly men chilling, and also an excuse to show you some nudity!”

This GAME doesn’t seem to be that interested in sex. Which is funny considering its rating for nudity, and all the nude collectibles, but honestly, when do any actual characters do anything? Never. They don’t even look at the magazines!

Really, it’s a plain-vanilla, teenage-boy-in-the-’50s idea of sex: let’s look at some pretty pictures of naked women and have done with it. Everything else is a criminal enterprise and/or a perversion.

Butch:

Hmm. Good point about the bad guys. And Lincoln! Both, in other games, WOULD have sexy women draped all over them.

This game, so often, was a game of extremes. Good gameplay innovations, then stock shooting mechanics. Excellent levels, then tedium. And, really, its themes. In some ways, it’s incredibly progressive, maybe the most progressive game I’ve ever played in how it goes there on race and politics. And then, as you say, when it comes to sex it’s stuck in the fifties. And gender? It makes SOME waves at it (Cassandra and Nicki are good characters), but then falls back on tropes late (My predictions of Olivia dying off screen by someone else’s hand were serious all along, and I’m not at all surprised I’m right).

I always like to hold out final judgments on games until they’re over and done with, but man, I don’t think I’ve ever had a game that whipsawed between extremes of how I feel about it week to week, day to day, even hour to hour.

Even with the themes.