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Because I need a break from studying Buddhism non-stop (test on Thursday, yipes). Though to be fair it's pretty dang fascinating and Buddhism is still one of the faiths that I highly respect and draw personal philosophy from (the others being Quakerism and, of course, Judaism). I got really pissy though, when I came across some tract that said a woman cannot become a buddha and that being a woman means one made a mistake in their past life and didn't have enough merit to become a dude. There are also several stories in which women are explicitly regarded commodities: in a common example, an earlier incarnation of the Buddha is offered a woman among other "prizes" such as money and jewels. He refuses her, not to object to the practice of a person being exchanged in such a way, but because he is celibate. (Though to be fair, she was pretty keen on marrying him, and actually did in a future life.)

These are stories of the Buddha's past lives that were created later and probably not told by the Buddha himself, who I still tend to think was a pretty rad dude (this reminds me of the different views of Mary Magdalene over the centuries in Christianity). And yeah, I am incapable of not noticing gender in my interpretation. I wouldn't notice it so much if it weren't so ubiquitous.

I've never considered myself a "gamer" but I definitely enjoy games from time to time. Probably part of the reason I'm not a gamer is that there aren't enough games like this: The Path. It's a psychological horror interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood that explores the vulnerability and danger of girlhood. Remind's me a lot of American McGee's Alice personally. It looks beyond awesome and unfortunately my version of Mac OSX isn't recent enough to play it but there's a free trial and it's available for Windows and Mac so you should all try it out (plus it's only $10!). Though be aware the it seems to be very scary and is not for everyone.

So of course I haven't played it yet but it got me ruminating on gaming culture and how insulated it is from mainstream culture and how all that works. I think it's something that goes both ways, that people who consider themselves more mainstream tend to shy away from games from fear of seeming nerdy, while at the same time gamers are so conscious of being seen as weird that they jealously guard their own subculture and can sometimes get clannish and narrow-minded about the whole thing. It just makes me sad because I wish there were more games like The Path but the industry (as well as other media industries) are so intent on churning out different takes on the same thing. There's of course the male-centered aspect of the gaming world too, another thing which makes female-centered games like The Path rare. This article examines similar themes with more game-savvy than me.

Tale of Tales, the folks that created The Path also have a beautiful Furcadia-meets-Princess Mononoke chat client (or something like that? Windows only, unfortunately), and, oddly the only one I've been able to play despite my fannish ranting: The Graveyard, essentially a sad poem in 3D.

Here's some stereotypical gamer boys talking about The Path. The part where they talked about how it "made them think" is adorable. For the record, they enjoyed the experience.

Off to study more with Tharaga, whee!

on 2009-07-20 10:36 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] emerald-boa.livejournal.com

I'm not into video games at all, but I have to admit, that one looks intriguing.

on 2009-07-21 12:25 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] beneficentbeast.livejournal.com
Honestly, you were the first person I thought of when I read about this game XD If you do play it, let me know how you like it.

The art style of some of Tale of Tales games reminds me of yours a bit too :3

on 2009-07-21 03:34 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] emerald-boa.livejournal.com

I like the idea that the "wolf" takes different shapes depending on the player character one uses, from a literal wolf (or...wolfman-ish...mutant...thing) to, judging by the screencaps, a rather effete young man or an amorphous but menacing fog.

I'm really fascinated by fairy tales and folklore in general, and Little Red Riding Hood is among my favorites. Schlow Library has a really excellent, entertaining book about the history of the story (if you're into that sort of thing). I almost convinced Amy and Gary to put it on the curriculum for I-forget-which-class once, but they balked at the price. It has the vaguely and deliberately sordid-sounding title, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked! , though I am probably imagining the exclamation point.

Also, I've been meandering my way through the first season of the X-Files lately, and I really dig it. I find it interesting/eyeroll-worthy that while Scully is an intelligent scientist and a highly competent agent, skeptical, wears actually practical, frumpy clothes instead of fanservice-y getups, ect., ect., feminist blah, she still manages to get attacked by the monster of the week in nearly every episode. When Mulder doesn't, I mean. Or to put it another way, if the bad guy or spooky creature is going to pounce on somebody from out of a dark corner, or if someone's going to be unknowingly lured into a room with just the villain...

on 2009-07-21 09:21 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] beneficentbeast.livejournal.com
Was is Little Red Riding Hood: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale? That's also in Schlow, or at least it was when I checked it out in October of 2003 (I'm a nerd and went back to my old LJ entries because I remembered writing about it XD).

Yeah, there's been some criticism from feminists about how, though The X-Files avoids the more obvious gender cliches, it perpetuates others. As another example: Scully often has to reign in Mulder from his crazy ideas, like she's his freaking mom (not that she succeeds) and then she sacrifices all semblance of normalcy to go on his personal quest. But yeah, I still love it too :)

in which my comments are overly long

on 2009-07-21 05:37 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] emerald-boa.livejournal.com

No, it's the same book. Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale was the subheading. (Is that the right word?)

It's very cool that you've read it!

I think, in fairness, that the majority of shows/books/movies that avoid obvious gender stereotypes still indulge in other, subtler ones. It's hard to avoid, especially since more professional writers are men than are women, and since certain assumptions about the roles of men and women are still so entrenched in our society that most of us never bother to consider that they might be anything other than Just The Way Things Are.

Once I read a feminist criticism of that Neil Gaiman short story, How to Talk to Girls At Parties , where these fifteen-year-old boys crash a party in the hopes of scoring some hot older chicks, but all the girls at the party turn out to be visiting space aliens from various other planets, and the boys are so intent on trying to play it suave that they completely fail to notice this. The criticism bashed it for being divisive, perpetuating the stereotype that males and females are so different they might as well literally belong to separate worlds, othering women, ect. While, after reading the article, I could understand the author's point, it would never have occurred to me to look at the story that way on my own, and I'm still not convinced that her interpretation wasn't missing the point a little. I mean, when I read the story it's very clear to me that any fault is with the boys, who are trying so hard to seem cool and to put the moves on the girls that they completely fail to understand anything the girls are saying. For me, it's less a commentary on how "alien" women ostensibly are than it is a commentary on how people's self-absorbtion and failure to really see other people can lead to a lack of communication.

Then again, I'm a weirdo who identified with one of the fictional alien girls so strongly that her story made me have to put the book down and regain my emotional composure. I really doubt that's either what the author was aiming for or a common experience amongst female readers of that story. I suppose maybe the "othering" aspect bothered me less because I feel like a freak most of the time anyway? (Not always in a bad way, you understand.)

Interestingly, I think my favorite X-Files episode I've seen so far is Beyond the Sea , where Mulder and Scully temporarily switch roles (he's the skeptic and she's, if not exactly a believer, open-minded about the possibility that the guy who claims to be psychic isn't faking).

Re: in which my comments are overly long

on 2009-07-22 03:26 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] beneficentbeast.livejournal.com
Yay! It makes me really happy that we've read the exact same book about 6 years apart, very cosmic.

I totally agree. I sometimes wonder, since it's all so ingrained, where do we draw the line? How accountable can we hold someone? But of course if there was no criticism at all we'd probably still be without female characters that are even as progressive as Scully so it does mean something. And there are always multiple interpretations like your example, sometimes folks go overboard with deconstruction.


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