This is going to be short and sweet.
We all know there’s hate in the world for those who don’t look like us, those who don’t think like us.
It’s being woke 101; brutally basic sociology. We all know there is an internal device, often of our own doing, that activates our defense mechanisms when we approach mind-boggling institutions and occurrences that threaten our gender-insecurities, age-insecurities, belief-insecurities…like having a woman on the cover of Battlefield V. God forbid.
(But wait, there’s more… Purchase the upgraded version, and you’ll get a guy on the cover instead.)
It’s hard for me to determine right off the bat if the unforgiving,deceptively anonymous millennial internet portrayed more discomfort over a black male on the cover of Battlefield 1, a white woman on the cover of Battlefield V, or two women revealing themselves as the new leads in the trailer of the latest entry in the first-person shooter series, Wolfenstein, taking over (temporarily, no doubt) for their father who has always been the main hero of that franchise since the start of it.
Wolfenstein has a beautiful history and, for any fan of the first-person shooter (FPS)–even if only Overwatch–you owe Wolf, even if you’ve somehow never touched a single entry in the franchise. Wolfenstein and Doom are two of the FPS genre’s cornerstones. During a time of 16-bit purity, ID Software expanded on the two-dimensional, top-down-view WWII stealth-action series Wolfenstein by making the third entry an ultra-violent (at least, for the time), no-holds-barred, Nazi-killing war machine of a game, titled Wolfenstein 3D, in 1992. They released Doom on the same engine in 1993–and it changed the landscape of gaming forever, especially for the FPS. Doom and developer 3D Realms’ Duke Nukem 3D(1996) are both heavily responsible for popularizing and normalizing first-person shooters in which even FPS games of today take notes from. But it all started with Wolf 3D.
GoldenEye 007. Quake. Half-Life. Call of Duty. Halo. Destiny. Overwatch. Yeah, we owe a lot to Wolf 3D. Put two females in the lead of the story however, and you’d never know it.
Why are so many men out there so passionately enraged, unnerved, uncomfortable, and fearful about this change? Yeah, I thought the comments on social media concerning Battlefield V were bad too, until I watched the E3 2018 trailer for Wolfenstein: Youngbloods on YouTube, and subsequently read the comments below. What a hellhole of a forum.
But it isn’t just video games, of course. From cinema to comic books, female leads in fictional narratives have legitimately catalyzed a drove of confusion and discomfort to a real-world audience. The way audiences wholeheartedly demonized the 2016 Ghostbusters remake because of its female lead would cause one to think they they were simply unaware that females had ever starred in movies before….ever. The aftermath was a collective of folks claiming they disliked the movie for other reasons, while aggressively complaining that if they ever attempted to admit their distaste of the film, they were a “sexist”. The main issue with this is the same thing with racism–folks seem to be much more concerned about being called a sexist, more than whether or not they are actually behaving like one. The newer Star Wars films fared much better overall, but both Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran have dealt with their fair share of unjustified criticism, sexism, and even death threats, to the point that they’ve decided to shut certain corners of their social media down.
My theory is this: it’s about possession. As a black male in America (“oh boy…somebody open up the window, it’s getting all racial up in this piece…”), one thing I’ve observed about a lot of white males (friends and enemies alike) is that they’re openly uncomfortable and angry about being replaced…that is, to lose a sense of belonging over something. Two Ghostbusters films and a cartoon series starred four men. Hasn’t been a problem since 1984, until they decide to make a reboot with four women instead. Now that they’ve been replaced, it’s a massive problem. The Battlefield series has been around since the debut of its first entry in 2002…there hasn’t been a problem with any entries in the series, which prominently feature white men or their military equipment on the cover, until a woman, instead of a man, graces the cover of the latest entry, Battlefield V. Now that they’ve been replaced, it’s a massive problem. Wolfenstein, as I mentioned, has been around since 1992. Not a single woman has been featured on any of the covers to the ten current games, nor has a woman been a main character in any of the games…until the upcoming Wolfenstein: Youngbloods.
You guessed it: now that they’ve been replaced, it’s a massive problem.
Speaking solely for games, nobody really had a problem with Tracer single-handedly gracing the cover to Overwatch as the poster child of next-level FPS online gaming. Nobody seemed to have an issue with Lara Croft repping the original twelve Tomb Raider games starting from 1996, or the new Square Enix reboots of recent years. So what’s the issue here? It’s not an problem for a woman to star in her own games…she just can’t replace a straight white man to do it.
That’s when things get blown out of proportion, I think. It’s a mentality of inequality and privilege, entitlement and belonging. It isn’t necessarily sexist so much as it is a response of, “Wait…I’m entitled to everything. Why can’t I have this too? This doesn’t feel good.” Usage of the N-word is a good example, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been involved in debates, online and in the real world, where the basic premise is a white person asking why he can’t say the n-word. Well (other than the foundational retort of, “If you’re white, why would you even want to say the n-word?”) it isn’t so much anything dangerous on a racism scale so much as the aforementioned, “Wait…I’m entitled to everything. Why can’t I have this too? This doesn’t feel good.” It’s a very real thing, just as much as white people in February saying, “Wait, if there’s a Black Panther, shouldn’t there also be a White Panther too?” It’s a matter of ownership. From that, spews a lack of understanding when you’re raised to be believe everything belongs to you, even words, cultures, and general media. From that lack of understanding comes fear, and from fear comes things like racism and sexism.
So no, I’m not quick to point the fingers at people’s “isms” just because it makes me feel better to do so. A lot of the time, it’s not about somebody “being” a sexist. Some people genuinely don’t know any better and need to learn what it means to live in a country (see: world) where it literally does belong to both everybody, and nobody, not one particular race, community, gender, or religion.
But then we have total idiots too, hardened in their ways with zero remorse who need to be handled and dealt with, and that’s not always an easy thing to do. Social media is so beautiful and harsh in the ways that it captures the horrors of everyday hatred and bigotry we wouldn’t otherwise see, let alone look for. And it’s very easy to stand for something that’s socially “good” or “PC” before even considering the cost, or whether it’s even a healthy purchase.
Not to sound like a total cheeseball, but I legit pray for a brighter future where these things don’t piss off people to the point where that they feel the need to make anybody who feels different feel like the lowest scum on the planet. I’ve seen dissertation-size diatribes from men who want nothing more than to have a man that looks like them, so they feel like it “belongs” to them again, and this is coming from a guy who isn’t a feminist, and who doesn’t particularly feed into any one group’s agendas, if there are any (and it’s not always a bad thing if there are). Entire fandoms are being broken apart over poisonous attitudes, and if anything, now is the time to stick together. Not fall apart…especially over an equally valuable and equally contributing member of society appearing on the front cover on a video game, who just so happens to have breasts instead of balls.
Thank you ID and Bethesda, for Wolfenstein, for which we owe tons for the FPS games we have today. And I’m excited to see more women on the battlefield (pun intended), not less, and definitely more women on the covers of video games that are, surprised surprised, not owned by men. I’m ready so see female leads kick a whole lot of butt in the upcoming Youngbloods. As for the fandom…
Get the heck over yourselves.