Female Characters in TWD and TWAU [CAUTION:TEXT!]
I recently finished the first episode of The Wolf Among Us. I really enjoyed the game and think that, in many aspects, TTG have improved on their already great Walking Dead series, but after the ending of episode one had some time to sink in, something about the fate of Faith and Snow really bugged me.
You see, not once but twice do we get to know a woman, are made to feel protective of them (I gave all my Videogame Money to a fictional prostitue because I genuinely felt bad for her and I really tried to lift the spirits of a fictional disillusioned civil servant who doubts her ability to do any good with her job), have them express affection for us and then find their decapitated heads close to our doorsteps.
The problem I have with this is that this is so clear-cut an example of women in refrigerators that it could appear in a textbook. It seems clear that these female characters died for the express purpose of making Bigby (and us, presumambly male players) angry and motivate us to solve the mystery of their deaths and avenge our poor sweet lovely ladies.
This certainly is effective, but I think it also devalues Snow and Faith as characters. Using women as narrative objects to tug on the player's heartstrings seems a step backwards from Telltale's previous series.
Just think back to the Walking Dead. If you, like me, thought that a good shot was more important than the ability to reprogram remote controls in a zombie apocalypse, you will have been shocked by Carley's death. On the surface, this sems to be similar to Snow's fate: Male protagonist meets female character, they have adventures together, the beginning of a romance is implied, female characters dies out of nowhere. When you look at it a bit more closely, though, some key differences appear:
Carley is not a passive victim
She gets shot in the head after verbally provoking a mentally unstable member of the group in a tense situation. While her death is a great shock, it doesn't come across as quite as arbitrary, it has a dramatic meaning in itself, it is a consequence of what Carley chose to do. (That's not to say that Carley deserved to die, mind you.)
Her death is not used to motivate the player in his/her quest
Within seconds of Carley's death, even without player input, you have her killer at your mercy, a person you've come to understand and respect, if not necessarily to like. This sets up one of Telltale's delightful moments of decision, where you have to weigh your anger and the safety of the group against your sympathy with a deranged and remorseful killer and your aversion to killing someone you've known for a while. If The Walking Dead had operated on TWAU logic, Carley would have been killed by the Stranger or some bandit, prompting Lee to hunt for them.
It doesn't happen twice in the very first episode
It does NOT happen TWICE in the FURST GORD DAMN EPISODE !1
All in all, Snow's death comes across as cheap, while Carley's death made sense (to me, at least).
This thread is primarily intended as feedback to the makers of this game, but I hope that some of you will share your own insights on that topic with me. Sorry for the long OP. I tried to stay away from Feminist Videogame Critique (not in the least because I'm not the right person for that job), but I do feel the need to explicitly point out where I'm coming from with this discussion.
I am a feminist in the sense that I believe that men and women are equal, should be treated equally and that stories, books, movies, comics, operas, video games and other forms of media should try not to overtly portray either gender as weak, passive, stupid, etc. I believe that doing so perpetuates deeply rooted beliefs and stereotypes that harm us as a society.
In my view, putting women into the refrigerator like in TWAU contributes to these sorts of beliefs.
I really enjoyed TWD from this perspective, because it had men and women that were equally interesting, afraid, active, diverse and human. As I said, TWAU also has (in my view) well-written female characters, it is just the way they are disposed of to facilitate the male hero's revenge story that irks me.
I also want to emphasise that I'm not accusing the writers of conscious sexism or misogyny. The trope I'm criticising in this post has been around for a long time and I can certainly understand that people might not immediately grasp its unfortunate implication.
All that said, I look forward to the next episode.
EDIT: As Yoda said: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to overly long forums posts, overly long forums posts lead to unfinished sentences in the middle of a paragraph.