So Grand Theft Auto V released, and people all over the Internet are now calling it sexist. To that I say… duh? I don’t mean to be offensive here, but what Grand Theft Auto games have these critics been playing? Grand Theft Auto III made having sex with prostitutes and subsequently killing them for their money a gameplay strategy. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had a huge scandal about an edited-out sex scene. The entire series is filled with pimps smacking hoes, trashy trophy girlfriends, and running over grandmas in an army tank. It’s been sexist for a very long time.
Now, am I saying that critics shouldn’t bring up the sexism in the game? No, it’s kind of a critic’s job to criticize things. Am I saying you shouldn’t be offended by this sexism? No, you kind of have the right to be offended by whatever you want to be offended by. Am I saying that it’s OK for the game to have sexism in it? No, I’m not really making a value judgment here. Although, I do think the shock and awe some people are experiencing when they find sexism in a game that is celebrated for its portrayals of violent crime is, frankly, a bit overblown. Because, honestly, I can’t imagine NOT finding sexism in a Grand Theft Auto game. Once again, this doesn’t make the sexism permissible… just expected.
What I am saying is that Grand Theft Auto V doesn’t condone sexism the way many critics are now saying it does. Or, at the very least, I am saying that Grand Theft Auto V doesn’t condone sexism any more than it condones murder, drug dealing, bank robbing, or all manner of other violent crime. In your Grand Theft Auto V exploits, you’ll kill the population of a small city. No one, except maybe Jack Thompson, is saying that Grand Theft Auto condones serial murder. So why are people saying it condones sexism?
Yes, there are sexist characters, and yes, they say and do some horrible things to women, but this isn’t really glorified. It’s not frowned upon--but it’s not glorified either. Most of the sexist characters aren’t exactly role models or characters you look up to in any way. In fact, the game portrays all of these characters, even the characters you control, in a negative light. These are criminals, the dregs of society, and you aren’t supposed to like them. If you do, then I think that says more about you than it does Rockstar games. Besides, misogynistic characters do exist in other forms of media without people saying it condones sexism. Hell, I have lost track of the amount of misogynistic characters in Breaking Bad who don’t get punished for their behavior, and that’s considered a work of art.
The game also throws a lot of misogynistic advertisements at your face, both on the radio and in billboards, and it can be argued that this reinforces misogynistic culture. Many people are saying that this misogynistic world that Rockstar has created is reinforcing negative behavior online, causing GTA fans to hurl verbal abuse at women. But I find this conclusion to be troubling. Why are we comfortable saying that GTA won’t teach you to murder and steal yet insist that it is teaching you how to be a misogynist? Isn’t it possible that these shitty online gamers were misogynists to begin with?
Grand Theft Auto has always been a satire of “crime culture,” so to speak. It exaggerates criminal society to an almost cartoony extent. Remember, this is the game that lets you drive a tank through a major metropolitan city. As such, its portrayal of the misogyny in criminal culture will be exaggerated too. Could this make people feel uncomfortable? Probably. Does it reinforce a male-centric misogynistic culture? Maybe. But it doesn’t say anything bad about Rockstar games or GTA V, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the game condones sexism. If anything, it says something bad about the society that GTA V is parodying, our own misogynistic society that we live in day to day, and I’m not going to argue with anyone about that.
Former Contributing Writer