by James Hearne
“Catwoman better watch herself,” one thug says. “A lot of these guys haven’t seen a woman in a long time.”
“I think I might like a little alone time with Quinn, or at least I would if she weren’t such a psycho b**ch” says another.
These are two lines of dialogue from the recently released video game Batman: Arkham City. The game has been a phenomenal success, both in its sales and its critical reception. It is the sequel to 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, which was hailed as the first game based on Batman to actually capture what it must be like to be Batman. Arkham City took the formula and expanded on it. For the first time in a Batman video game, you are part ninja, part martial artist, part detective. It is an overflow of wish fulfillment.
When I picked up the game, I was delighted. The details, the shout-outs to the Batman mythology, they all shows the amount of respect the developers had for the character. For example, there is an alleyway where you can visit the location of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, and pay your respects, even putting it in the right spot, in back of the movie theater. The graphical details are spectacular as well, both large and small. From the cityscape of Gotham, to the way snowflakes land on Batmans cape and either melt or slide off. Everything about the game just made it seem like it was made for a Batman fan, not that you need to be one to enjoy the game.
Which is why the one big complaint I have sticks out like a sore thumb. That is, the misogynistic language. The thugs above are just a couple of examples. I know they are supposed criminals, not members of the Gotham City 4H, but really, sometimes it got a little bit much. Catwoman is always referred to as “b**ch”, as opposed to Batman, who is referred to as “freak”, “lunatic”, or just “the bat”.
I realize that the developers were trying to go for a “gritty” feel to the game, but Christopher Nolan’s Batman films managed to create a gritty atmosphere without the hurling around obscenities, sexist or otherwise, like rice at a wedding. In fact, in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the word b**ch is used only once, and then in the context of “We got you, you son-of-a-b**ch!”
None of this is to say that Batman: Arkham City is not a great game. It’s just a shame that, when comic books are becoming more enlightened about attitudes towards gender, the games that are based upon them seem to be stuck.
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