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subrosian avatar 4:46 PM on 08.06.2008  (server time)
What's Wrong With a Big Beautiful Princess?

Everything... apparently. Sony's titular Fat Princess has the internet up in arms, as the knee-jerk blogosphere once again demonstrates that it has absolutely no sense of humor. The internet is serious business! Curious if I had somehow missed the sinister agenda behind this game, I dug deep into Kotaku and Joystiq's coverage of the outcry, and came back more confused than ever. Just to be clear, at this point, we're talking about this game shown below:

This "wicked" game revolves around players working as a team to rescue a chunky princess, while the opposing team may stuff her with more tasty treats to weigh her down, and make it harder on the rescuers. The positively adorable animations belay inquiry into its dark agenda - as this title (apparently) promotes homophobia, negative stereotypes of obesity, and sexism! Oh my! I took another look, having previously overlooked the dastardly agenda of evil that is Fat Princess.

Feminist gamer writes that Fat Princess will "reinforce nasty stereotypes about women and the obese", while Melissa McEwan writes on blogspot that Fat Princess will create a "new generation of fat-hating, heteronormative assholes" Wow! The detractors of this game have all guns blazing based on a few minutes of promo footage! I suppose then, that I'm forced to retort, with a simple question:

"Do you think people are so stupid that they get their views on life from videogames?”

No, really, let's answer that. Melissa, darling your weight doesn't make you ugly to me - holding up your middle finger at a *cartoon* is what makes you unattractive. It's what's inside that counts, after all, right? And what's at the root of this debate is the troubling implication that gamers are somehow stupid, easily influenced, hate-filled human beings who, upon seeing a game with a big beautiful princess, start chucking rocks at the nearest buxom lady.

Gamers aren't stupid, immoral jerks - we're a mixed bag, just like the rest of society. Straight, gay fat, thin, tall, short, male, female, and everything in between. Now, that's not to say that there aren't closed-minded gamers, just as there are closed-minded people who aren't gamers - but let's not blame the games. After all, I spent most of my childhood playing Sonic and Mario, and I've yet to have any desire to become a plumber, take up marathon running, or force my girlfriend to put on pink dresses and hide in castles. What's at the heart of this debate is the idea that society sends a negative image of the obese, and I'm not one to contest that - what I do contest is that this game is to blame.

A few years ago, a study was undertaken in which men were asked to select the most attractive woman out of a variety of pictures. The photos covered women of all shapes and sizes, from anorexic-thin to heavyset. Then, a group of women were shown the same pictures, and asked to select the one they felt would be most attractive to men. The women, on average, selected thinner women than the men did. In fact, the men largely selected women on the upper-normal end of a "normal weight" BMI. What does this tell us?

Well - society is sending a negative body image to women, but men seem to largely find all shapes and sizes attractive. Interesting, it shows we have a problem, but who is to blame?
A quick Google search for "Fat Princess" lead me to all sorts of interesting sites (turn on Safe Search for your own safety here!) and to finding that plenty of men wanted a princess with more meat on her bones. Hmm, well, Princess Peach *was* always a little too willowy. What's the harm, and where's the blame? Well, apparently, Fat Princess. Forget books, magazines, over-pushy soccer moms telling their daughters that the must fit in a size 4 dress or little boys being told they mustn’t date that "fat Suzy Jenkins", no, clearly an unpublished videogame is at fault!

The concern here seems to be yet another bad case of "let's blame games for everything", and it has backfired on a genuinely cute, playful, fun little title. After all, what's wrong with the princess being fat? Would it be better if she were skinny? Would it be less offensive if you tied rocks to her to weight her down? The implication here is that there's something wrong with a portly princess, that she should somehow be ashamed. Should the knights not be rescuing her? They seem eager and dedicated to the task of rescuing their fair lady - why would a game that supposedly encourages me to hate fat people make rescuing the heavyset princess such a joyous occasion?

Perhaps, in reality, the blogosphere simply looks to react negatively to anything in gaming - hoping to place blame for greater social ills on a harmless amusement. But, at a certain point, it's simple ridiculous. It's utterly nonsensical to throw out terms like "heteronormative" in regard to a simplistic cartoon game - would a prince rescuing his life partner make for a more edifying game? Wouldn't that then leave out female relationships altogether? In a world without common sense, that would be a tragedy, but really, I doubt the class sic "prince charming" fairy tale rescue is to blame for homophobia, and it's a bit silly to turn to a *videogame* to teach a new generation of children about sexuality.

And that's simply the point of it all - who’s really to blame for social ills? Parents? Teachers? Traditional Media? Generations of stereotypes and sexism? Maybe all of the above - but the hunt to point fingers has seemingly led us off the deep end, when we start pointing fingers at a cutesy bubbling princess as the source of all ills. Now really, having dug deep, scoured the argument of all meat, and starred at the bright-eyed royal rescue that is Fat Princess, there's really nothing left to say but "give me a break!"

I don't know about you, but I look forward to hauling a hefty princess home to my PS3 as soon as possible. I guess I'll just have to live with the terrible implications if Fat Princess should convince me big women are just more fun to be around.


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