Sexism In Arkham City, A Reply to Film Critic Hulk

by on October 20, 2011 >> PS3Xbox


Recently a person who I respect, Britt Hayes, wrote an article that was a reply of sorts to FilmCritHulk’s commentary on the that is so apparent in : . Britt hadn’t played the game yet, and as some one who has finished the majority of the game I felt as though I had some insight to the game, and could make a few points that maybe FilmCritHulk had missed. I suggest you go read their articles and then come back, and while I know that may take a while, I’ll still be here waiting for you when you finish. Oh and sorry about FilmCritHulk’s all caps thing… he writes in character. Back? Ok good

Let’s address the biggest point here… People use the word “bitch” a lot in Arkham City. We have to take a look at who these people are to understand why they might be using this kind of language so often. As FilmCritHulk is only in the beginning of the game we’ll deal with those people as the examples. These are thugs… locked up goons inside a walled off portion of what used to be Gotham City. In the context of the story, a large portion of Gotham has been shut down, separated from Gotham proper and been renamed Arkham City. FilmCritHulk doesn’t know why, and that’s because you don’t know the full story yet, and I won’t be the one to spoil it.

The thugs he’s hearing use the word bitch, including Two Face were INSANE PEOPLE FROM ARKHAM ASYLUM. That’s right! This is where the prisoners, lunatics and inmates of all the Gotham prison facilities including Black Gate Prison and Arkham Asylum have come to roost. They follow insane mad men like Two Face, The Penguin, Joker and more. Clearly they’re men of low moral fiber and don’t really represent the general population of planet earth. They’re low lifes… they say bitch. I didn’t think twice about any of the characters saying bitch because I understood in the context that these were not nice people, I was supposed to dislike then and soon I’d be dropping from rooftops onto their heads, breaking their limbs and interrogating them for riddler puzzle maps.

But onto Catwoman, who the game opens with (if you purchase those levels or buy the game new). Catwoman has always been a sexualized character, even back in the 1960s when she played by Ertha Kitt in the Adam West incarnation of Batman on TV. That shouldn’t be any surprise at this point right? This level has Catwoman getting captured by Two Face and getting called a bitch by, and how do I put this, the CRAZY half of two face. Two face is incredibly well animated. He’s essentially two people. One of his identities is Harvey Dent, ex attorney and handsome political figure… the other is a scarred disgusting twist on what justice really is. When Two Face talks and he’s being direct with one of his halves, he pushes that half into frame and when he’s calling Catwoman a bitch, his monstrously scarred half is looking at her. My point once again is that Two Face is an insane person and this is a monster saying these words… not a regular person.

Now back to Catwoman’s sexuality and teasing of Batman. FilmCritHulk mentions how this version of Batman is kind of an amalgamation of all the best parts of batman franchises. It’s equal parts comics, Nolan-verse, animated series and more. It’s the best of all the incarnations put together. Well guess what Hulk… Batman and Catwoman have had sex and she likes him, a LOT. In issue number 1 of Catwoman that was launched with The New 52 by DC Comics, she ends the book by having sex with Batman on a rooftop and it goes on for 3 pages and several panels per page. These are two characters that know each other intimately. Teasing him about her sexual attraction to him is part of their game together. As for the bisexual assumptions of the goons that you beat down through out the game… well they’re not entirely unfounded.

There are many assumptions that Catwoman’s relationship with Harely Quinn in Gotham City Sirens is a bi-sexual one, or maybe she’s with Pamela. A large group of LBGT readers have suspected as much and honestly want the book “Gotham City Sirens” to be written as such. While I’m of no opinion on the matter, Harley Quinn was written as a bi-sexual woman in love with a female version of The Joker in an elseworlds comic series called Thrill-killer. It’s not just an assumption of these moronic goons, but also of the reading public at large.

As for Gotham City not being a “heightened world” an argument made by Hulk… you’re wrong. Killer Croc was in the first game, Solomon Grundy is in the second. There’s also a mystical portion of the game that happens later involving Ra’s Al Ghul… but Hulk hasn’t played that far which brings me to another point…

Don’t make commentaries on games you haven’t experienced for more than 30 minutes. Do you know how uncomfortable I would feel if I played a game for 30 minutes and then decided to write a long winded diatribe about the game, it’s intentions and what it’s about? You clearly are uninformed about not only the Batman: Arkham City game, but Batman mythos at large. Now onto what you have to say about children playing the game.

Parenting. That’s all parenting. Batman is not this safe, child friendly character all the time. If parents are uncomfortable with their kids playing the game then there are alternative batman titles that not only fit their age group more in content, but also play style. While I’m not a fan of Brave and the Bold as a comic series or a TV Show, the game adaptation is a fun beat em up brawler that features the caped crusader and pals beating down baddies in a 2D format. It’s a lot safer. DC Comics have not always been for kids and as proof I give you Detective Comcis #1 from The New 52 which ends with (SPOILERS) The Joker having his face cut off and hung on a hook… yes that’s in continuity now (also a great way to replace Heath Ledger, but alas that will never happen). Do you think kids should be reading Detective Comics, the number 1 selling Batman comic on the market? Maybe not… but that’s my point. Not ever comic book adaptation is for kids. Maybe a 13 year old can handle the content, maybe not, but that’s up to the parents to decide.

Recently there was a news story where a good old fashioned white couple adopted an asian daughter and played Portal 2 with her. In the game there’s a portion where GlaDos and Wheatley have a back and forth discussion about how Wheatley is adopted and he’s awful. The parents didn’t know how to explain this to their kid. Simply put, these ARE BAD PEOPLE SAYING BAD THINGS! You’re a good person and you don’t say these things and BOOM you have a context and a DEFENSE FOR THUGS AND MURDERERS CALLING WOMEN BITCHES!

Frankly Hulk… I don’t like your argument that this game is sexist mostly because it’s not… characters in the game are sexist. You, the protagonist, play as Batman, the moral good in the game and he is NOT sexist. Bruce Wayne, Batman’s cover might be sexist, but that’s an act as we all know. Your Straw Dogs argument is outlandish mostly because the two stories aren’t comparable. Rape is a violent act forced upon some one, and calling some one a bitch behind their back, while awful isn’t the same thing. I feel as though maybe you recently watched Straw Dogs (as did I in prep of the remake I never saw) and felt the need to express it here. But I don’t think it has a place. Words and actions are different and in a TRULY HYPER REAL world (WHICH BATMAN IS!) a man with split personalities, a perfectly split down the middle acid burn and a penchant for flipping a coin to represent justice and binary logic, could melt a woman in acid… but he doesn’t

Catwoman is portrayed a second billing in this game. She’s the second protagonist and as you continue to play the game her role in it becomes more clear. She’s on the marketing posters, the collector’s edition, the back of the game guide by Bradley… She’s what players wanted. And now she’s here and she’s awesome. Yes she’s sexy, but I don’t know how staying in continuity with the character’s development over the years is suddenly sexist.

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  • http://twitter.com/FilmCritHULK Film Crit HULK

    FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THAT’S NOT WHAT HULK IS SAYING AT ALL.

    HULK GIVE UP.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=817088695 Scott Thurston

    THEN WHAT ARE YOU SAYING DAMN IT! Commit to something! Explain yourself!

    • http://the72pins.com DaftBot

      is this a comment to me (the writer) or Hulk?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=817088695 Scott Thurston

        Sorry, it is to Hulk, I though I had click the reply button.

    • http://twitter.com/FilmCritHULK Film Crit HULK

      HAVE YOU EVER ONCE STOPPED TO THINK THAT MAYBE THE FLAW ISN’T WITH HULK’S ARGUMENT BUT PERHAPS YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE ARGUMEN? BECAUSE THE ARTICLE SPEAKS FOR ITSELF AND MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO READ IT UNDERSTOOD EXACTLY WHAT HULK WAS SAYING AND WHY. THEY MAY HAVE DISAGREED AS TO THE SEVERITY OR IMPORTANT. BUT THEY UNDERSTOOD.

      AND FOR THE RECORD THERE ISA PART 2 COMING.

      • http://the72pins.com DaftBot

        How about this then… A part 2 shouldn’t be necessary if part 1 spoke for itself. I don’t really like your gimmick at all, and that’s part of what’s off putting. I know you’re like “I’m the HULK! HULK SMASH GAME!” and I get that… but then you try to be articulate and well spoken and through the commonality of language and rage/cap locks you come off sounding foolish. I’d drop the gimmick of all caps for part 2.

        Frankly dude, your article is abysmal for the fact that you didn’t spend any time with the game. You’re like “the article speaks for itself” yet clearly it didn’t as Scott Thurston is here asking you to explain yourself.

        You don’t like the content? Ok… don’t like the use of the word bitch? Ok. Point is you think this isn’t a hyper stylized world, you said so in the game and YOU’RE WRONG! This is science fiction! This is Sin City with costumes.

        There are sexist characters who are the enemies, and you beat the shit out of all of them. I don’t understand your pint at all guy… I don’t care too. If this game is sexist then so is Batman as a whole. I’m sorry but that’s just how it is.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=817088695 Scott Thurston

        “BECAUSE THE ARTICLE SPEAKS FOR ITSELF AND MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO READ IT UNDERSTOOD EXACTLY WHAT HULK WAS SAYING AND WHY.” So if the majority believes it, then it must be true? Because it is not possible that a percentage of people who read it did not bother responding. You are taking the percentage of your perception of people who took the time to reply to your article and judging the comprehensibility of your writing on whether or not they agreed with your topic. To to make sure I am clear, I am stating that you cannot judge the validity of your point and how well it is understood by the number of people who agree with your topic.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=817088695 Scott Thurston

        “BECAUSE THE ARTICLE SPEAKS FOR ITSELF AND MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO READ IT UNDERSTOOD EXACTLY WHAT HULK WAS SAYING AND WHY.” So if the majority believes it, then it must be true? Because it is not possible that a percentage of people who read it did not bother responding. You are taking the percentage of your perception of people who took the time to reply to your article and judging the comprehensibility of your writing on whether or not they agreed with your topic. To to make sure I am clear, I am stating that you cannot judge the validity of your point and how well it is understood by the number of people who agree with your topic.

  • http://twitter.com/FilmCritHULK Film Crit HULK

    POINT 1 – HULK DID SAY IT’S A HEIGHTENED WORLD. IT WAS A COMMENTER WHO SAID IT WASN’T. HULK AGREES WITH YOU ON THAT.

    POINT 2 – HULK HAS READ MORE COMIC BOOKS AND BATMAN COMICS THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND PURE HULK IS BASING CHARACTER ON THE INCREDIBLE HULK!

  • http://twitter.com/FilmCritHULK Film Crit HULK

    POINT 3 – IN THE DARK NIGHT DID NOLAN EVER HAVE ANY OF THE CHARACTERS USE THE WORD BITCH TO TELL YOU THAT THESE PEOPLE WERE BAD GUYS? NOPE.

  • http://twitter.com/FilmCritHULK Film Crit HULK

    POINT 4 – IT’S NOT ABOUT THE WORD. IT’S NOT EVEN ABOUT THE OVERUSE OF THE WORD. IT’S NOT EVEN ABOUT THE LOGIC IF CHARACTERS WOULD USE THE WORD OR NOT. IT’S ABOUT THE CREATIVE DECISION TO OVER USE IT IN THE FIRST FEW HOURS OF THE GAME AND THE REASONS HULK THINKS WHY (COUPLED WITH OTHER ISSUES).

  • http://twitter.com/FilmCritHULK Film Crit HULK

    POINT 5 – HULK HYPER AWARE OF CATWOMAN’S SEXUALITY. READ HULK’S POINT ABOUT FEMME FATALES AGAIN. THE PROBLEM IS NOT THAT CATWOMAN IS SEXUAL WITH BATMAN IT’S THAT SHE’S VAPIDLY SEXUAL. HUGE DIFFERENCE.

    • http://the72pins.com DaftBot

      I don’t know why this couldn’t have all been one post… I’d rather you not spam my website every time you think of a different thing to say. You see Catwoman as vapidly sexual and I don’t. I see her using her sexuality as a way to throw people off their guard and when she’s up front and sexual it’s with some one you can assume she’s had sex with, Batman.

      As for your issues with it being used so much in the opening of the game… dude it’s persistent through out the game. It’s not just some upfront or front heavy assault of the word bitch. I still don’t get the issue at all here. I don’t know why it hit you so heavy a lot of people not so much.

      • Sean

        The fact that you do not get it is central to Hulk’s point.

      • Ren

        You really are clueless. Enjoy ignorance.

        • http://the72pins.com DaftBot

          Oh thanks Ren. I’m sorry but you added NOTHING to the conversation a MONTH after it took place. IF you want to comment, say something of substance. THANKS <3

    • http://the72pins.com DaftBot

      I don’t know why this couldn’t have all been one post… I’d rather you not spam my website every time you think of a different thing to say. You see Catwoman as vapidly sexual and I don’t. I see her using her sexuality as a way to throw people off their guard and when she’s up front and sexual it’s with some one you can assume she’s had sex with, Batman.

      As for your issues with it being used so much in the opening of the game… dude it’s persistent through out the game. It’s not just some upfront or front heavy assault of the word bitch. I still don’t get the issue at all here. I don’t know why it hit you so heavy a lot of people not so much.

    • bitch.

      you do realise that saying “vapid” means that you think her sexuality is boring or dull right? so you actually wanted the character to be MORE sexualized in a game you are saying is sexist? my head just exploded.

  • Tim

    If the sexism was really a thematic element used to illustrate how “bad” these guys are, wouldn’t Batman repudiate it at some point, to draw him as explicitly good, in contrast to their badness?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=817088695 Scott Thurston

      Except Batman is not explicitly good, and not is not a thematic element, it is part of the setting, not theme, the point of the story is not the disparity between Batman and the criminals, hell the reverse was true of Arkham Asylum (I still think original Arkham Asylum comic from 1989, written by the best Batman writer of all time Grant Morrison, better demonstrated how Batman is essentially as evil and insane as any patient of the asylum), and from what I understand Arkham City is in part about how dark and twisted Gotham is as a whole.

      • Tim

        You’re arguing two completely different points from me. Near the end of this article, Kent calls Batman, “the moral good in the game.” The responsibility of the moral good is to repudiate the bad, which would include the relentless verbal abuse of the female characters in the game. Furthermore, Arkham City the video game is a different beast entirely from Arkham Asylum the comic book, and I think you’re projecting one onto another (especially if I can take your statement, “from what I understand,” to indicate you’ve yet to play the game yourself). We can argue best/favorite Batman writers from now until the cows come home, but Morrison and McKean’s story has little to do with this video game.

        • http://the72pins.com DaftBot

          You’re also saying that Batman needs to talk to these people at all. He doesn’t. He hides in the shadows and then smashes their faces with his boots as he drops from 100 feet over head. I’m pretty sure that’s about all the repudiation needed.

          Why would Batman, a ninja for all intents and purposes say “Hey I don’t really like how you’re treating women here” when his actions speak far louder than his words could in that situation? Plus in the story he’s on a timer and must complete his journey before time runs out.

          • Tim

            When did I say he needed to talk to them? If actions speak louder than words, it could be as simple as a cutscene wherein a bad guy is complaining to his buddy about, “That stupid bi – ” only to be interrupted as Batman crashes down on the buddy from above. Batman gives the talking crook a murderous glare, crook runs off, Batman batarangs him and beats him senseless. There. I just put more thought into gender issues in 20 seconds than the creators of this game did during the whole development process.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=817088695 Scott Thurston

            Why do they need to in the first place? Do all games need to consider gender issues and traditional gender roles? Can we not have games that ignore it and focus other important themes, or must they address all at once?

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=817088695 Scott Thurston

          By from what I understand I was refering to the ending not the game. And Arkham Asylum has much to do with this game as it is a sequel to the game that shared its theme and moral. Especially since the writers have stated that one of the themes of Arkham city is that it delves into the insanity that is Gotham. As to Batman not directly dealing with the abuse, or challenging foul language, why would he? Has he ever done so in the comics? The game is not showing the language as common place but as part of the colloquial speech of deviants. This is a subculture that Batman and Catwoman regularly deal with to them it has become common place, and it is not part of Batman’s moral agenda. Censorship is hard to realistically pull of in such a setting, it is believable that such characters would be angry and use derogatory terms to degrade the people who are assaulting them. It is believable because it is likely of people. just look at the comments on ‘Film Crit HULK’s” article, sadly many of the comments defending the writers are. . . . . inflammatory at best, and out right offensive at worst.

          • Tim

            It’s a T rated game, and adjusting “the colloquial speech of deviants” to suit an environment meant to be inclusive to a wide variety of ages is not really difficult. Modulating language is easy; just look at any film made during the time of the Hollywood Production Code. Again, if Batman’s “the moral good in the game,” like the author of the article contends he is, it’s incumbent on him to “deal with the abuse, or challenging foul language.” If he doesn’t, then it’s just there to be there, except it can’t just be there to be there, because it’s so pervasive. When something is this pervasive, it has to mean something, and it’s not just that bad guys are bad because they call women bitches. And isn’t the ending of the game part of the game?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=817088695 Scott Thurston

            However you are assuming that Batman and writers share the same moral code you do. Perhaps to them foul language is a non-issue. Batman has never challenged someones use of language in the comics. To do so now would be breaking away from character. As to is pervasiveness is it not just as rampant in any modern depiction of gang life? The ending is part of the game, the only hour or so I have not played, and when I said “From what I understand” I was stating my view of the games underlying theme as stated by the writers, several reviewers, and what I thought from how far I was in the game, it is true that my understanding is not complete, and I am making assumptions. We all are though, we are assuming what the writers intent was. The assumption is on whether or not the writers had an ulterior motive for the pervasiveness of the word ‘bitch’.

  • Tim

    If the sexism was really a thematic element used to illustrate how “bad” these guys are, wouldn’t Batman repudiate it at some point, to draw him as explicitly good, in contrast to their badness?

  • Gomitata

    The issue is that the sexism in Aarkham Asylum adds no necessary characterization; it reflects a deliberate design decision and it’s being critiqued as such. The “but they’re bad guys saying it” defense is like that kid who insisted that he was just talking about firewood or cigarettes when he learned the other meanings of the word ‘fag.’ It’s technically correct while disingenuously skirting the real issue.

  • HolyCow

    Wow. I sympathize for Kent. You people are all crazy. Shouldn’t you be out in the real world fighting for these causes you so vehemently vouch for? Get a life.