The Hitman: Absolution trailer has caused bit of stir. Well, a lot of a stir. It’s vision of latex nuns and highly sexually charged violence has split media and gamers down the middle. On the one hand, you’ve got people like Michelle Starr, at CNET, and Mark Serrels, at Kotaku, crying out against it, and, inevitably, on the other hand, you have some sites defending it.
CVG Australia (who have just announced their local iteration – hi guys, don’t hate me!), has come in in defence of the trailer.
I’d actually made a conscious decision to not get involved in this one. To be honest, I kinda figured if I did wade in I’d face the usual accusations of being overly political correct and whatever; and, really, it’s an easy target for me. Of course I’m going to dislike it!
Thing is, I kinda like it – up to a point. Right up to the point it becomes “hey, let’s kill sexy chicks, lol”.
One angle I thought that might be worth exploring with the trailer, however, was the Tarantino link. CVG have beaten me to it, but in their article Tarantino is the defence.
“This stuff happens in films all the time,” states the un-bylined article. “When Quentin Tarantino depicts similarly mindless violence in his work he’s applauded by responsible critics as a post modern deity.” The comparison is drawn that because he draws on exploitation cinema, despite the source material being bad, it somehow raises him and the genre.
Huh. Well, the thing to remember is that while he is a huge fan of the work, Tarantino probably doesn’t make his movies with the same drive to exploit his actors, or the audience. I can’t think of any of his female characters that are introduced and dispatched with the same sense of disregard or casual, horrifying, sexual violence.
Quite the opposite, actually. By and large, his gender portrayals are quite positive. His women may be sexy, but they have agency, they are practical, and they subvert that exploitation paradigm. The Bride might get beat up in Kill Bill, but she gives as good as she gets, and it is she that is the last man standing.
What’s more, his work has a rather interesting – though problematic in its own way – under-current that suggests violence against women is wrong. Kill Bill is, again, an exemplar of this, but off the top of my head, if you commit violence against a woman in Tarantino’s world… you are a bad guy.
(The other argument that CVG makes is that, hey, this is a game about killing, like every other game about killing – why worry! Well, yes, and I’ve killed as many Indians as the rest of us, but this… come on, this titillation, not action.)
The problems with the Hitman trailer are many-fold. It’s not really true to the spirit of the series, for one, but the far greater crime is that it shows us cool female characters just to kill them. In fact, they’re not even that cool; sexy, yes, but these are people who’ve chosen latex over body armour, fishnets over reloads, and stilettos over anything approaching actual tactical sense. No, scratch that – someone else has decided that this is how women go into combat.
That the action and violence is then resolved with the same rhythm and attention to bloody detail as a piece of fetish porn is even more problematic. Actually, fetish porn isn’t this nasty – this is fetish SNUFF porn.
I don’t know; maybe I am over-reacting (though, to answer one counter argument, I am definitely NOT bandwagoning). I can put up with a lot in games, but this cuts too close to the bone. If this is indicative of what happens in the game, I do not think I would feel comfortable playing it. I would want to – latex nuns with guns! – but if all they are is just mindless targets for male aggression… I think I’d feel supremely dirty afterwards.