Beware the evils of PIE!

January 16, 2009

So, I just found this old post at Shapely Prose. It’s long and fascinating and you should read the whole thing, but this concept really stuck out to me:

Take away a whole series of similar beliefs, and suddenly, I’m not a person with compulsive eating tendencies — I’m a person who has very little desire to eat when I’m not hungry. Like magic! (Slow-moving magic that involved a great deal of conscious effort, granted, but it still feels kinda mystical.) I didn’t have to dig deep and resolve some buried childhood trauma or stop being angry at my mother to overcome those compulsive tendencies; I just had to train myself to really, truly believe that eating is a morally neutral act.

Now, for some people, coming to see eating as a morally neutral act is a more daunting challenge than resolving childhood trauma or forgiving their parents. …

… I think I was pretty much a normal American woman — one with depression and anxiety (and ADD, for that matter), and one who grew up in a family of self-loathing fatties, which certainly didn’t help. But mostly just a normal American woman brainwashed from birth to believe that eating tasty, fatty food is baaaaad and eating bland, raw vegetables is virtuous. No real in between.

I’m looking at you, Fable II.

Eating meat and pie and and basically anything other than veggies and tofu will make you evil and corrupt, even though these items exist to heal you after battle. So, you really need some food, you’ve got some great pie that’s perfect for what you want, you eat it…EVIL! With meat vs. veggies, they give it an ethical justification, which is to say, meat is bad because a creature had to die so you could eat it; tofu is good because it lets the bunnies live. But what’s so evil about pie? (Are there four-and-twenty blackbirds in it?!)

Meat and pie and such also make you fat (which makes you ugly– literally), while veggies make you thin (and therefore beautiful), but that’s the level of food-fucked-up-ness I expect. Literally making tofu virtuous— on the same level as freeing slaves or donating to the poor!– that’s… really just taking things to their “logical” conclusions. But that’s a problem.

If you’re new to Fat Acceptance, by the way, Shapely Prose is a great place to start; this is their intro page. Google is also your friend here (try “Fat Acceptance” and also “Health At Every Size”) and, of course, you can ask as many questions as you like, and I’ll talk to the fullest extent of my understanding. And then some!

(Also awesome (in that lol/sob way) and vaguely related: Worst “healthy eating” tip I ever saw.)


Fable II and sex, sex, sex!

January 10, 2009

My brother got Fable II for his birthday and while it’s fun, I can already tell that it’s going to be a veritable treasure trove of bloggy material. It’s all about how you can CHOOOOSE anything you like, and while you still can’t CHOOOOSE to be a pacifist (in fact, you’re forced to beat up a bully in one of the first cutscenes) I’ve stopped even hoping for that (since, as we all know, killing is totally A-OK if nobody likes the guy you kill!). It does finally let you CHOOOOSE to be female, so I consider my qualms about the first Fable sufficiently assuaged.

However, this game has some messed-up attitudes about sex. Background information: your actions are rated as Good or Evil, and as Pure or Corrupt. Good/Evil acts are those that affect others (charitable donations, murder, etc), while Pure/Corrupt acts are those that affect yourself (playing the lute or eating rancid beef jerkey, of course.) So, sleeping with a prostitute is a Corrupt act. (Not Evil, because it only affects you!) But wearing a condom (even while sleeping with a prostitute) is a Pure act! In fact, it’s such a Pure act that it basically cancels out the Corrupt-ness of the prostitution! And the official guide book is very keen on telling us this, like it’s a great treat! How grand.

Now, I’m playing this game with my two younger brothers, so we’re not having sex with anyone. In fact, we literally run from people attempting to flirt with us (who are all over, even though we’ve barely done anything noteworthy, and still have our original stinky clothes! I dread walking around towns after we’re awesome). I wish it was easier to avoid the constant sex stuff, but whatever. At least we haven’t been accosted by any of the apparently-prevalent prostitutes yet.

We did, however, play the little mini-game available here (since it earned us in-game stuff!). It still says “enter thine date of birth,” which, as you know, infuriates me, but I’m more interested in the section where you basically pick a wife by picking a woman to help. There’s the skinny woman in green, who wants you to kill her husband and will reward you with a life of fortune (and implied sex) with her (because you look interesting, and her rich husband is really boring). There’s the “fat” (but not really) woman in pink, who wants you to find her pig, and will reward you with pie (she comes on to you first, but really the reward is pie.) And then there’s the thin-ish-but-still-curvy girl in brown who wants you to find her little brother, and has nothing but gratitude to reward you with.

Killing the green woman’s husband is the “evil” option, and you will be a perfect match due to your selfishness and greed. Saving the brown woman’s brother is the “good” option, and when she thanks you “more than gratitude” will be “sparkling in her eyes,” and you will be charmed and settle down after a respectable period of time. Finding the pink woman’s pig is neutral, I guess because you’re doing it for the pie; you eat pie at her house every day until you decide you might as well move in.

The women all stand in a row and typify a broad range of choices. As you go from left to right, they go from evil to good, and from greedy to selfless, and from sexually-charged to chaste. It almost makes it seem like a chance at sex is one of the rewards for evil (which conflates sex with greed by making sex a “prize”!) In general, it seems to conflate evil, greed, and sex in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I’m not too comfortable with the conflation of greed and evil, either, since as a girl society always seemed to say to me that I ought to be totally selfless or else I was a bad person (lies!), but since that’s not a message men recieve (like, at all) and this is geared at men (what with the women-as-prizes-and-sex-machines-which-are-the-same-thing) I’m primarily concerned with the association between evil and greed, and sex.

Sex is not evil. (It actually sounds pretty pleasant!) It’s also not notably greedy. It’s something you do because it feels nice, which is technically selfish in the sense that it’s focused on your personal self’s happiness (for everyone involved!), but we’re allowed to be happy sometimes. Taking three helpings when the sign says “one per person” is greedy and not nice. Sex…is more like taking a nice bubble bath or going out to a movie. Sure, you could have spent that time and money helping the poor. But is it really notably greedy that you didn’t?

I’d like to see what other people have to say about the mini-game, and of Fable II in general (though the mini-game is probably more within the scope of the average reader, as it is a matter of minutes rather than hours). Any thoughts?

Petty Rant #372: Learn To Google

October 5, 2008

Hey, Lionhead Studios! I’m kind of excited about Fable II (since you finally realized that a game that’s all about choice probably ought to let you choose a gender) but man did your ads make me wince today.

I mean, I kind of hate the fake olde-tymey “rollover to divine thy destiny” to begin with (especially since “rollover” is such a completely modern word that it makes the whole thing awkward.) But if you’re going to make animated, expensive ads and plaster them everywhere, maybe do some grammar-checking first. So you don’t look stupid by doing this:

“Enter THINE date of birth”? Really? THINE?

Now, maybe I’ve read more historical fiction and fantasy (and Shakespeare) than most people, but that sounded wrong immediately. Just to confirm, I did some googling, and lo! All you have to do is type in “thy thine” and hit search, and literally millions of websites will appear with helpful explanations. I sampled the first six, and they all said, in nice simple small words, that “thy” is singular and “thine” is plural. “Thine” can also be used as a singular when in front of a vowel, but I’m afraid “date” pretty obviously begins with a consonant.

So: Thy boss ought to flog thee. Thine advertisement containeth an error. It maketh me reluctant to become a customer of thine.

(Side note: I haven’t seen them make this error, but too many people do when trying to sound olde-tymey. Verbs only end in “eth” when, in the modern usage, they would end in “s.” So, no, these advertisements do not “faileth.” They just fail.)

I’m not saying everyone should know this. I’m saying one of the highly-paid graphic designers, copy writers, or advertising managers should have known. Or at least checked. If you aren’t sure of something, before you commit gazillions of dollars to something, just look it up.

That’s really what bothers me about this ad. Not that they made an obscure grammatical error, but that no one in the entire ad-creation process cared enough to do a simple google search to make sure they had it right.

More Xena; also, thoughts on pregnant heroes

August 9, 2008

I stumbled across this 2005 article about Xena and it’s definitely worth a look: What We Owe Xena.

I’ve also been reading a few articles about Fable 2, in which it will finally be possible to play a female character, and in which “the woman you impregnate might be yourself” (according to Mighty Ponygirl.)

So, it started me thinking to see the following in the talk about Xena:

Yet while she pushed the limits of how much like a male hero a heroine could be, Xena was the first and probably is still the only action heroine who was also a mother — not counting warrior moms who fought only to protect their young, like Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in “Terminator 2.” She was, safe to say, the only one who gave birth and breast-fed onscreen.

I haven’t made it nearly this far in the show yet, but I can’t wait to see how it’s done. It’s always bothered me the way that adventure shows, movies, and games have acted like motherhood is completely incompatible with heroism.

Harvest Moon 3 (a farming game for the Gameboy Color from my childhood) gave you the choice of a male or female character, with the other gender as your partner and eventual spouse, but if you chose the female, your game would end as soon as the two of you got married. If you chose the male, you could get married and have a child, and keep playing for years, but somehow this was impossible for the female. Now, there may have been technical limitations for the game– it was really old– but as far as I know the later incarnations have the same problems, even though the male and female characters each have their own games.

This also makes me think of the Pirates of the Caribbean, where, at the very end (spoilers?), we see Elizabeth in a boring dress, waiting for Will with their son. The way they’re dressed, and the way they behave, they look like they’ve been sitting around in town the whole ten years! Elizabeth was a pirate king for goodness’ sake!

And her adventure just has to end because she gets pregnant? (And seriously, why does she have to get pregnant after the very first time she has sex? It’s possible, but kind of unlikely.)

It seems to me that there’s a pattern, wherein female stories end with marriage and children, but male stories can continue on even with those elements.

I suppose it’s an old fairy-tale narrative– girl has adventures, grows up, and gets married, The End; then, at the start of the next story, the mother dies tragically. After marriage, the stories stop. Certainly by the time there’s a child, the stories stop. We’ve been doing this for a long time, but it only gets more annoying.

Look, children aren’t the end of stories! They are beginnings. And they certainly don’t nail a woman’s (bare) feet to the (kitchen) floor for the rest of her life. Yes, pregnancy can be an awkward condition, and yes, children require care, but it doesn’t kill the mother any more than it kills the father.

In Harvest Moon: why not show the character getting larger over the appropriate number of seasons, give us the little cutscene we always get about the baby being born, and then hand the kid over to the father. He can stay in the house repeating the same three pre-scripted observation that the wives in HM always do. If that’s too “unmotherly” you can make it so the baby needs to be “fed” twice a day or some such (have her turn her back to us and breastfeed, or just get a bottle) and let the female character get on with her life– a life which now includes, but is not defined by, a child.

In Pirates of the Caribbean: there’s nothing wrong with dressing up to meet your husband for the first time. If you absolutely have to have her show up with his kid, start by showing them on her ship, returning from a successful journey, hurrying to look “presentable” before Will gets back. It could easily be a funny, lively, sweet scene– have them still cleaning up spots of blood or hiding tattoos or removing tell-tale jewelry up until the last second– and it would let us get to know the son better. More importantly, it would tell us what Elizabeth’s been doing for the last ten years! Motherhood is important but it doesn’t actually consume all of a woman’s time.

A female hero’s story doesn’t end when she gets married– the person doesn’t end when she gets married– and even though this is something that our current story-tellers are still unable to grasp, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Xena has already gotten it right and proven them all wrong.

I can’t wait to see.

(for more posts on Xena, look here!)