Princess Pauline Rescues Mario

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Pursuer of happiness. Bon vivant. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. There's a Twitter account at @burtlikko, but not used for posting on the general feed anymore. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

Related Post Roulette

31 Responses

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    I wonder if Guys would have been as likely to get into Tomb Raider if Laura Croft were not drawn with the particular proportions that she was.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I remember reading about how back in the late ’80s Sierra had expected a lot of resistance to the fact that King’s Quest IV had a female protagonist (who was not particularly busty, if only for technological reasons). Of course, it never materialized. I don’t remember anyone complaining about the Princess being a playable character in Super Mario Bros. 2, either.Report

  2. zic says:

    Thanks for posting this, Burt. I heard it on the way home, and it warmed my heart. So much better is a world where little girls dream of being the rescuers, not just the rescueees.

    And Tod, don’t you imagine that little girls dream of owning those same proportions, just like little boys dream of being big and strong?Report

  3. Will Truman says:

    EDK has a good piece at Forbes talking about Anita Sarkeesian’s video. I’ve been meaning to write about the video, women in comics, and my quick scramble to create a female superhero character for Lain.Report

  4. NewDealer says:

    I’m not much of a gamer anymore* but when I played games it was largely RPGs. I never cared about the gender of the characters. I always hated first person shooters.

    *This is might sound odd but I kind of grew out of video games. I had a PS2 in grad school and then an XBOX360 for a year of law school but eventually games just got boring. I would play for about half the game and then do other things and not want to continue. Eventually I sold my XBOX and gamed since. This might be strange in a generational sense.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    If you haven’t seen Video Games vs Women, you’d probably be well-served to watch it.

    If you haven’t heard of it, Anita Sarkeesian tackles various tropes in popular culture and gives a feminist critique thereof. She’s doing her best to bring light to the darkness given that popular culture is pretty much aimed at adolescent males and there are a disproportionate amount of adolescent males on the interwebs that tend to respond to feminist critiques not only poorly but loudly.

    Anyway, with that said, I think that the number one advancement for female gamers since the Atari days is the customizable main character. Pick your gender, pick your skin tone, pick your eye color, pick your nose. Wait. That came out wrong.

    Anyway, the opportunity to play as a character that you can identify with is *HUGE*. I think that Mika is Dad of the Year, here.Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to Jaybird says:

      “there are a disproportionate amount of adolescent males on the interwebs that tend to respond to feminist critiques not only poorly but loudly.”

      There are also a lot of the sort of person for whom someone who takes themself that seriously is far too tempting a target to pass up.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        While that is certainly true (and I am one of those guys who would *LOVE* to get into an argument over this various stuff), wading past the “YOU NEED TO GET RAPED YOU MONEY GRUBBING JEW” comments makes me suddenly feel like I’m going from “disagreeing” to “mansplaining”… without changing a single point that I’d be making.

        So until we fix the problem of the loudest and stupidest commenters, I figure that I’m stuck knowing that I’m right but unable to point it out to anybody.

        As such, the current biggest problem is the loudest and stupidest commenters. They’re the ones creating the environment that make me feel like I can’t be taken seriously if I say anything.Report

        • dhex in reply to Jaybird says:

          yeah, most of the reaction to her was somewhere beyond getting a rise and into straight up crazytown land. people generally don’t threaten sexual violence against tvtropes, for example, even though they apply the same tools in much the same way.

          her final product is somewhat lackluster for people who have thought about this issue at all but it’s a perfectly fine introduction for those who have not.Report

  6. zic says:

    Pick your gender, pick your skin tone, pick your eye color, pick your nose. Wait. That came out wrong.

    I suspect many transgendered folk who haven’t transed live much of their lives in such games; the place where they feel at home in their own skin, picking their noses or not.Report

  7. N.Elias.Kelly says:

    My sister, when she was maybe five or six (around 2005), very much enjoyed watching her brothers play video games. But she always enjoyed watching us play more if there was a female character. This went to the point where we would placate her pleas to use the television by telling her she could watch us play a game “with a girl in it.” Perhaps as children grow they move past this urge to identify directly with their game avatars, she certainly now doesn’t seem to care.

    And for the record, while I think Lara Croft is a bad example of a female character appealing to male gamers because of the character design, it seems to me that plenty of gamers are glad to play as the female protagonists of Metroid, Mirror’s Edge, Beyond Good and Evil etc.Report

  8. KatherineMW says:

    Add me to the people pointing out that Lara Croft is drawn that way for the guys, not for the women.Report

    • zic in reply to KatherineMW says:


      But for girls, and their imaginary grown-up self, that version, desired by males, is very much in play; they are conditioned to it most of the childhood lives, and even beyond. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be desirable to men, it’s a good thing to be; desired and loved.

      Think how often you’ve heard a woman make comment about her own endowments, “I don’t have any.” It’s one of the most common self-putdowns I hear. And as a teen, it can be down right painful as you see your friends blossom, get their periods, and you wait. . . and wait. . . and wait to for yourself to be desirable.

      But having your fantasy self be the rescuer instead of the rescued is pretty damned awesome, even if your avatar is drawn for a hyper-sexualized adolescent male norm, there’s room for girls who’s want to be desired and competent.Report

      • Maribou in reply to zic says:

        By way of counterpoint, I found my “blossoming” to be downright offputting and irritating. At 13, I felt like I didn’t belong in my own body anymore; it didn’t do the things I wanted it to, my center of gravity was all screwed up, and STUFF (ie boobs) kept getting in the way.

        This may or may not explain why I never much enjoyed Tomb Raider. (By the time I was very comfortable in my body, I was also quite capable of enjoying such dubious facets of gamer culture as the bosom-resizer in DOA, so I agree with zic in the long run.)

        Honestly, by the time I was ten, I had become SO INCREDIBLY USED to identifying with male protagonists in stories across media – they were so common in the stories I liked, FAR more common than girls were – that I never really blinked at mostly-male protags in video games. That said, when Jade Empire came along, I still squealed in delight like a little girl. And I squealed in exactly the same way when I first read about the little girl referenced in the OP.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Maribou says:

          Maribou’s comment (the last paragraph of it) reminds me… I read somewhere from an entertainment guy that male interest in stories with a female lead drops off at something like four times the rate of the other way around. Basically, women are more accommodating of male leads than vice-versa.

          Which, when you think about it, makes complete sense. I mean, leaving aside that women are trained to be more accommodating in general starting at a young age, women have to adapt to appreciate male leads because female leads are so uncommon. Guys, on the other hand, can afford to discriminate on that basis because there is a male lead right around the corner.

          (Same goes for white vs. non-white, though the entertainment guy was talking about gender.)Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to zic says:

        I would not want my character to look like Lara Croft. If you’re daydreaming about romance, it’s natural to want to look desirable – but for one thing, characters made of 90% T&A aren’t how women typically imagine themselves, and secondly, in a game where you’re playing an action heroine, looking badass is preferably to looking like a male fantasy.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to KatherineMW says:

      You’ll find no argument at all about that here, from me or other men, I’m quite sure.

      Still, the artists working on the brand-new Tomb Raider game did dial back Lara Croft’s boobs from “cartoonishly huge” to “well-endowed.” Not all the way to “she could realistically use that bow and arrow without hurting herself” yet, and I’d agree that the tank top is perhaps a bit tighter than it strictly needs to be. Still, it seems an improvement from previous iterations of the character (including Angelina Jolie’s depiction of the character in the movies). In mitigation, they also put Lara Croft in pants instead of short-shorts with garter-like holster straps.Report

  9. zic says:

    Ok, so just posted on FB, a video of girls in the school band at the local high school; titled what they do when their teacher’s away, all dancing to a ‘make it wobble, make it wobble, make it wobble.’

    It nicely illustrates my point. The presumption that well-endowed, highly sexualized females in comics and video games are drawn only for boys is stupidly unfair. Sure, there are girls who don’t want to be like that. But there are also plenty of girls who do want to be that. They have agency. Those same girls might, while wanting to be desired, might also want to be the hero; might want to have a character that looks like them be badass.

    But I don’t think we need to pretend that only boys want that type of feminine image. We can debate how girls are sold that image from a young age on; we can admit that there’s room for other images. But let’s not be puritanical, let’s not go to that place where girls are supposed to hide their desire for pleasure, attractiveness, sexuality, strength, etc. while secretly wanting to be those things.

    Let’s let those girls be fully formed.

    /couldn’t resist that last.Report