The reason I titled this "10 Bad Arguments from Pop Culture Critic APOLOGISTS" instead of "10 Bad Arguments from Pop Culture CRITICS" is that, from my experience, pop culture critics don't actually make arguments. They criticize things a lot, and they tell you THAT certain things are wrong, but they never seem to get around to telling you WHY something is wrong, or, to the extent that they do, they do so by making assertions that they never bother to back up with anything.
So, as much as I'd like to address the arguments made by pop culture critics, I can't, because there are none for me to address. Even if there were, they still probably wouldn't be worth addressing, because my criticisms of those arguments would likely just go ignored by pop culture critics, who, ironically, never seem to acknowledge or address any of their own critics, except to accuse them of harassing them. Pop culture critics seem to have a habit of holding themselves to different standards than they like to hold other people.
Because I don't want to "harass" anyone, I will not be mentioning or referring to any particular real person here. Any references to a specific pop culture critic will be to a hypothetical one who I'll call Marge Simpson. Not the Marge Simpson from The Simpsons, though. That Marge Simpson is a fictional character. This is a different Marge Simpson that I made up. Which I guess makes this Marge Simpson a fictional character too, but not the same one. In fact, this Marge Simpson hates the other one for being a "problematic trope." Buzzwords!
Anyway, in no particular order, here are 10 bad arguments made by pop culture critic apologists.
#1 "Game designers have a right to create whatever they want, but Marge has the right to criticize it."
I don't disagree with this statement at all, and it would actually be a really good argument if not for one little thing. No one is actually saying the opposite. There is no one saying that it is or that it should be illegal for Marge or anyone else to criticize games. We are simply questioning her criticisms or arguing that they are invalid. So this is a straw man argument.
It'd be like if I were to claim that McDonald's food had Ebola in it, and then, when you asked me why I thought that, I responded by telling you that I have the right to say that. That would be a non-sequitur, because you weren't suggesting that I didn't have the right to say that. Of course, the one difference here is that, in this case, I actually probably don't have the right to say that. I'm guessing that McDonald's could sue me if I said that their food gave people Ebola. But, for some reason, Rockstar can't sue me for saying that their games give people misogyny, even though I have no more evidence for that claim than I have for the claim that McDonald's gives people Ebola, which, incidentally, is none at all. Maybe I have to say that McDonald's "REINFORCES" Ebola, but more on that later.
#2 "Are you seriously saying that media has NO effect on people?!"
No, I am not saying that. This is another straw man. It makes no difference whether or not media has ANY effects on people, because that is not the debate. The debate is whether or not media has the particular effects on people that you claim it does. It may be the case that media has all sorts of effects on people, but still none of the ones you claim. Going back to my McDonald's analogy, a person who disputes that McDonald's gives people Ebola wouldn't necessarily be disputing that McDonald's has ANY effect on people at all, such as making them fat. In fact, they probably wouldn't dispute that. However, proving that McDonald's has effects on people doesn't make me any closer to proving that McDonald's causes Ebola.
#3 "You can enjoy some aspects of a game while still being critical of its other aspects."
This is something I hear pop culture critics actually say themselves rather than just letting their apologists say it for them. I know I said that pop culture critics never made arguments, and I stand by that, because this isn't really an argument. Really, I don't know if a lot of the things on this list could technically be considered arguments, but the people who say them seem to think that they're arguments, and I hear them often enough, so I may as well include them and address them.
The implication that gamers have a hard time criticizing games they like is demonstrably false. Gamers criticize games all the time. For examples,
-Gamers are critical of games' character rosters. If someone's favorite character didn't show up in the latest Smash Bros, you can bet that people are going to hear about it.
-Gamers are critical of games' stories. Remember when people petitioned to have the ending of Mass Effect 3 changed?
-Gamers are critical of games' content. If your game has a preorder bonus that people feel should've been included on the disc at retail, you can be sure that gamers are going to be none too pleased.
-Gamers are critical of games' graphics. The example that comes to mind here is Revolution 60, but I don't want to say that because I don't want to be accused of being a misogynistic harasser. Or is it a harassing misogynist? Either way, think of some other game that looks like dog shit and pretend I said that.
Gamers are critical of games, in my opinion, to a fault. I actually think a lot of the criticisms that gamers have of games is unreasonable, but that's neither here nor there. The fact is that gamers have no problem criticizing games, and are often the harshest when it comes to criticizing their favorite games. Arkham City is one of my favorite games of all time, and I still can't get over the plot hole involving Talia in the Sionis Steel Mill, even though I feel like I'm the only one in the world who noticed it.
In the same way that objecting to the claim that games have a particular effect on people is not saying that games have no effects on people, rejecting a particular criticism of a game as being invalid is not saying that games are beyond criticism.
#4 "Women and minorities are underrepresented."
It's hard to be completely sure what people mean by this, because one thing pop culture critic apologists don't seem to like is follow up questions. From my experience, that's usually about the time they become hostile and start insulting you, and that's if they haven't blocked you already. So, if I'm misrepresenting what people mean when they say that women and minorities are underrepresented in media, I apologize in advance. I've tried countless times to get people to elaborate on this claim, and have been unsuccessful in doing so.
What I think they mean by this is two separate things, both of which I will address here.
The first is that people have a more difficult time relating to or enjoying a character that is not the same race or gender as themselves. I might be compelled to believe this if not for the fact that so many of the most popular characters in games(as well as in other forms of media) are not even human. If people have no problem relating to or enjoying characters such as Sonic The Hedgehog, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Kirby, every Pokemon, Ratchet & Clank, Banjo & Kazooie, and countless other examples that I could go on naming, I see no reason to think that they would have trouble relating to or enjoying a human character who is a different race or gender than they are.
The other thing I think they mean is that there is more market demand for female and minority characters than what the industry is currently meeting. If this were true, it would be pretty easy to know. All we would have to do is see what percentage of games currently have female/minority characters, and then see what percentage those games make up of overall game sales.
So, for instance, let's say that 10% of action adventure games star female protagonists. If that 10% makes up 20% of sales of action adventure games, that would indicate that there is way more demand for action adventure games that have female protagonists than what is currently being met. While I don't have the sales numbers, I can safely assume that this isn't the case, because one thing I know about corporations is that they like money. If they had this kind of evidence that there was more demand for female protagonists, there's no conceivable reason why they wouldn't already be making more games with female protagonists.
Also, while I don't have the actual sales numbers, I can see when something is being produced less than it's being demanded. I can see this by simply going to the store and seeing if it's actually possible for me to find the thing in question. When there is greater demand for something than is being met, stores tend to sell out of that thing. If it were true that there weren't enough games with female protagonists, it would be impossible for stores to keep copies of games like Tomb Raider on their shelves. They would constantly be sold out. We're seeing this now with Amiibos. Certain Amiibos are being underproduced, and, as a result, those Amiibos are next to impossible to find.
Also, games with female protagonists would, on average, outsell games with male protagonists by a lot. If 10% of games had female protagonists and just 20% of consumers preferred female protagonists, while 90% of games did not have female protagonists and 80% of consumers did not prefer female protagonists, then the average game that had a female protagonist would sell more than twice as many copies as the average game that did not have a female protagonist. In fact, if it were true that there was all this demand for female protagonists that was being inexplicably ignored by the industry, it would not be unfathomable, and would in fact be likely, that a game like Tomb Raider would be outselling a game like Call of Duty. Obviously that isn't the case, because the claim that there is more demand for female protagonists than is being met isn't true.
#5 "Even when there are female characters, they're usually just designed to appeal to straight men."
Yes, because, if you go to a Christina Aguilera concert, the first thing you'll notice is that it's entirely straight men in the audience. Same with Madonna, or Beyonce, or Katy Perry, or Britney Spears... None of them have any female or gay male fans. It's all straight men. And every time they come out with a new Barbie or Bratz doll, it's always little boys who want them. It's never little girls. The concept of a sexy female figure is something that exclusively appeals to straight males, and there is absolutely no evidence to contrary. So I guess I have to give them this one.
#6 "About 50% of gamers are women. Game developers are ignoring half their audience."
I covered this for the most part in #4, but basically this is a misleading statistic. It's meant to lead you to believe that half the people playing games like GTA and God of War are women. This isn't the case. While true that about half of all gamers are women, that's only if you count everything that could even remotely be considered a video game. Yes, I suppose that, technically, a person who plays Farmville is a gamer in the same way that, technically, a person who reads the fortunes inside of fortune cookies is a reader. Still, we don't wonder why the latest Stephen King novel doesn't make more of an effort to appeal to fortune cookie readers.
Just because lots of women play games, that doesn't mean that lots of women play any particular game. Lots of black people listen to music. That doesn't mean that lots of black people listen to Jimmy Buffett.
#7 "No one is saying media make people sexist. We're saying that it reinforces problematic views about women."
This is another case where I try to get people to elaborate on what they mean and they never do. What is the difference between causing sexism and "reinforcing" sexism? Are you saying that games make people who are already sexist even more sexist? If so, how did you determine that? How do you measure how sexist someone is, or determine that they're more sexist after playing games than they were before playing them?
I really don't think there's any difference between saying games cause sexism and games "reinforce" sexism. I think "reinforce" is just a weaselly word that people use to say that games cause sexism without actually coming out and saying it, that way they can deny that they were saying that when called out on it. It's just a way for them to have their cake and eat it too. This is one of the reasons that I have much more respect for guys like Jack Thompson than I have for pop culture critics like Marge. At least Jack had the balls to come out and say what he really meant.
#8 "Look how common X trope is!"
I'm trying to address all of these without resorting to using words like "stupid," but for this one I think I have to make an exception. This one goes way beyond stupid. It's borderline retarded. It boggles my mind that anyone could think that this is a compelling argument, or whatever they think it is. I honestly don't know what they think.
Basically, this is where people claim that a particular thing is bad, and then they go on to talk about how common that thing is, as if that somehow proves their original claim that said thing is bad. For instance, they'll say something like, "It's bad for women to wear bikinis in games," and then they'll list a bunch of examples of games that have women wearing bikinis. It's like if I were to just declare that the color blue is bad, and then, in order to convince you of my claim, I just started naming a bunch of things that are the color blue. The sky, the ocean, blueberries, Mega Man, some cars, Blue from Blue's Clues, those dancing sharks at the Super Bowl, Captain America, Smurfs... Are you convinced that blue is bad yet?
I don't know what else to say about this one. So moving on...
#9 "This game has a sexist message, because one of the villains said something sexist."
Yes, because the moral of the story is usually conveyed through the villain's dialogue. Oh wait, no it isn't. In fact, if the villain says something, that's usually the writers' way of saying the opposite. The villain is typically wrong. That's what makes them the villain. No one reads a Fantastic 4 comic and thinks that Marvel is taking a pro-earth eating stance because Galactus tried to eat the earth in the comic. Everyone understands that the message is that eating the earth is bad, and that trying to eat the earth is what make Galactus the bad guy.
#10 "Other people who aren't you have said or done bad things. Let's talk about that instead of addressing any of your points."
This is by far the most absurd "argument" on this list, and it's also the one I hear the most often. If I'm understanding it correctly, the idea here is that, because someone may have been threatened or harassed by one of their critics, no one else can ever criticize that person without somehow being complicit in or supporting threats and harassment against them. This is ridiculous, and it goes back to something I said at the very beginning. It's yet another example of pop culture critics holding themselves to a different standard than they hold other people. Do you honestly believe that Marge would stop criticizing GTA is she found out that someone else had made a bomb threat against the developers of that game? South Park was once threatened for doing an episode that mocked Islam. Would pop culture critics say that anyone who criticizes South Park after that incident is somehow complicit or in support of the threats they received? I doubt it.
In fact, when the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were killed recently, also for mocking Islam(go figure), I seem to recall the same pop culture critics who we're told we should lay off of because they were threatened or harassed by people, making it a point to say that they thought the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were racist. The bodies weren't even cold yet, and already the pop culture critics were pouncing on the opportunity to "pop culture criticize," which, at this point, I'm convinced is code for "be an asswipe."
While I don't believe there was anything racist about the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, the pop culture critics aren't wrong in thinking that, had the cartoons been racist, the fact that the cartoonists were killed wouldn't make them any less racist, and wouldn't make them any less open to criticism. Likewise, if Marge the pop culture critic is threatened by some anonymous dipshit online, that doesn't make her claims any less unsubstantiated, nor does it mean that I shouldn't continue to point out that they're unsubstantiated. If someone threatens Marge, that's a legal matter that she should take up with the police. It has absolutely nothing to do with me or my right to criticize her, and that remains true regardless of any hashtags I may tweet under, by the way. I defy anyone to show me a court anywhere in the first world that would convict someone as being complicit in a crime they had nothing to do with because of a hashtag they tweeted under. Even if you could find one that would, I think, if you were being reasonable, you would have to concede that it was unjust.
Even if Marge were murdered tomorrow in the most brutal way imaginable - I'm talking Noob Saibot Make A Wish brutal - that still wouldn't make anything she says any more valid, and it wouldn't make people's criticisms of her any less valid.
This concludes my '10 Most Whatever I Said The Title of this was.' Hopefully someone actually took the time to read this. If not, it was still worth writing, because, now when people make these arguments in the future, I can just link them here and refer them to the number that addresses their argument.