Sunday, September 16, 2007

Going Round in Circles

Yet another good example of why "the fan base demographics is the reason for character demographics" argument is a circular argument - and a blindingly stupid one at that:

PlasmaRit takes on David Gardner of EA games at Girl in the Machine (hat tip Jade Reporting), and his reasoning for why women don't like games, and finds him unable to differentiate between inclusiveness and variety of game play (and therefore unable to recognize that both are appealing).

The Logic

So - one common explanation for the gender breakdown of characters in games is the gender demographics of people who play games.

One common explanation for the gender breakdown of characters in action (or scifi, etc.) movies is the gender demographics of people who go to see action movies.

The idea, I guess, is that men consume the media, men make the media, and men sell the media - so the media is about men.

Simple and certainly not lacking in truth - if we stop there.

A Thought Experiment

Let's suppose a director generally known for making action movies makes a disaster movie where the action centers around a young woman who falls in love with someone unsuitable during the disaster (and the days leading up to it). Let's have some fun here and pretend this movie was not only a blockbuster, but was a blockbuster because women made it one. I know, I know, that's practically impossible, but hey! crazier things have happened....

Now let's say we want to recreate that success. Or at least learn some lessons from it. What lessons have we learned?

a) women like movies with suspense and action

b) women like movies about relationships

c) women like movies in which they are actually included

d) all of the above

e) none of the above

The Non-Earth Logic

According to "the fan base demographics is the reason for character demographics" argument. The answer is either C or D.

Except that apparently it's not, because the argument is most often used to explain why certain genres tend to exclude female characters, but not why women are less likely to consume media that falls into these genres. No one ever says "But women watch TV less!" in response to accusations of sexism within that medium. But they do say things like:

"Women are treated badly in comics!" - >"That's because women are treated badly in real life."

"Most action heroes are men." -> "Men like action more."

While not always explicitly stated, it's common use as a response to accusations of inequality suggests that the people who make such responses believe that, rather than character and fan demographic affecting each other, the latter affects the former, but the former doesn't affect the latter.

Plus, this seems to only work when sexism needs defending. While the demographics arguments in this thread - both of the "reflecting the fan base" variety and "reflecting real life" variety - are not explicitly saying such arguments apply only to certain shows/games/genres, such logic is required for the argument to work.

Either that, or aliens swooped down and hijacked TV producers minds, resulting in an overabundance of female detectives.

Just sayin'

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