Thursday, July 23, 2015

My riposte to everyone claiming the "Damsel In Distress" trope is bad

Before I begin, here's a description of the trope in question.

Now, I've heard a lot people who subscribe to Anita Sarkeesian's views on feminism, Brianna Wu included, say this trope is terrible, overused, and it makes women little more than objects robbed of agency for male empowerment.

I disagree, and in the latest beta of my own game (which can be found here), I decided to take those arguments and refute them.

Dragon Quest 1 (which my game is a loose remake of) had a totally cliche "kill dragon, save princess" quest, and the princess was little more than a plot coupon you had to collect, but ironically, I don't see anyone who subscribes to Sarkeesian's views taking a trip in a time machine and giving this game any grief.

In their defense, games were just coming out of their infancy and the trope wasn't as done to death, but if it's terrible all the time, why wasn't it maligned?

Well, in my remake version, I take the quest and the alleged horrible trope and turn it on it's head.

When you finally get to the dragon, he's not just some faceless goon you have to kill. He's got a name and swore loyalty to the Dragonlord, and even warns you crossing him means he'll have to kill you. In that respect, you and he are ideological enemies and you're enemies as a result, but otherwise he's just doing his job, as are you.

Once you get past him, you meet the princess, who confirms she was well treated despite being a captive, and here's where I tear apart the Sarkeesian arguments.

For starters, the princess decided to make use of the fact she was trapped to do strength training and hone her magical skills so she could no longer be a captive, as the event only inspired her to want to rise above being powerless. The dragon didn't care so long as she didn't try to escape, not knowing she was planning on attempting to take him out not long before you saved her the trouble.

Further, she is PISSED she was put through this trope and wants to avoid being powerless by joining your party and giving the Dragonlord a piece of her mind. Characters Mara and Sarah don't really protest since they had a hand in training her and know she is competent, so she asks your hero Roto if he has a problem with her not being a damsel in distress anymore and being a badass princess instead.

You can respond by either (A) giving her the classic "let me protect you/I'm worried about your safety" lines and she gets annoyed you are treating her as incapable or (B) you can accept her help and welcome her aboard, which earns her respect, since you aren't treating her like a helpless woman.

In this case, I played the trope straight like the original game, but I ended it in ways that don't reinforce what I feel are flawed arguments by Sarkeesian.

My point is that being a Damsel In Distress does not have to be a bad trope, and you can go through the motions of it's key points if you want and the result does not have to be a male empowerment fantasy, despite what Anita Sarkeesian may say otherwise.

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