Violent Vixens


Forget golf. Video games are where the sexes are really battling it out as more female characters are cast in fighting roles, according to this.

As vastly improved technologies enable electronic game characters to look, sound and move in a more lifelike way than their forebears, action- adventure and fighting games are taking on new sexual dynamics, mesmerizing some people and disturbing others.

The new female characters may be clever, karate-kicking protagonists controlled by players of either sex. They can also, depending on the player's ability and the game's design, be victims of breathtakingly violent assaults by men with fists, feet, knives or bullets…

For the feminist author Jennifer Baumgardner, watching women do combat in video games is empowering. "I love having images in popular culture and these games that include women as fighters," she said.

She suggests that that casting women as gladiators challenges images of women as passive targets of violence…

Yet critics like Bell Hooks, a feminist theorist, challenge the notion that the emergence of a warrior class of video game vixens is something worth celebrating. By projecting hyper-sexualized women as heartless killers in popular entertainment, real people are being sold a mixed message, she said…

Most disturbing, she said, the female protagonists who engage in physical combat in popular movies, television programs and video games encourage women "not to challenge patriarchy."

The effect is especially potent in video games, she said, because the games' fantasies are so immersive.

Ultimately, Ms. Hooks said, "They take people's minds away from really how much power females are losing in real life."

Talk about immersion in fantasy.