Jun 19 2014

Orange is the New Black and the Onset of Male Obsolescence

Published by at 11:00 am under Comics,Editorials,Television,Video Games

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So has everybody finished binge-watching the second season of Netflix’s best original show yet? Good. This one got me thinking after a particularly amusing exchange between two of the show’s black sheep characters, the prison’s hapless male counselor, Healey, and formerly psychotic hillbilly inmate, Pennsatucky, in which the former was attempting to inform his fellow anti-lesbian crusader of the feminist world domination agenda as put forth in a some book he was reading. As we all know, anything pandering to our personal insecurities in written form is automatically true; especially if they charge us for it. Ironically, this led to Pennsatucky seeking out the lesbianest lesbian she could find, Big Boo, in order to volunteer for the anti-male crusade. Boo happily (and hilariously) obliged her, although she could barely do it with a straight face.

While the idea of a real live lesbian feminist agenda to create mass male extinction is comedic to say the least, the obvious insecurity that led the character of Healey -a man surrounded by and tasked with dealing with a gender he has no clue how to relate to- is all too real. I mean, sure the male gender has maintained a dominant stranglehold on pretty much everything on the planet, but when you get down to it, what are we really good for? Sperm donations and jar-opening? If we ever develop methods of asexual reproduction and a smoother lid, surely the fairer sex will rise up and wipe us out?

Okay, maybe not, but in terms of media representation, Orange is the New Black is helping to blaze an interesting trail in entertainment and doing it in style. We’re talking about a popular television show of high quality with an entertainment factor that’s off the charts and it barely features any male characters of worth. Ladies have sat through decades of damsels in distress, Bechdel test failures, and various other lackluster portrayals of their gender in favor of more screentime for their male counterparts. It’s almost shocking to see the trope reversed so completely and successfully.

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Anyone up for a game of Bro, Bro, Dude?

This epiphany happened around the same time as gaming’s latest sexism kerfluffle, in which popular developer Ubisoft revealed that the suddenly ironically-named Assassins Creed: Unity would allow four players to play together, which was great so long as none of them wanted to be female. When questioned about the exclusion the reasoning given was that it would be too much extra work to animate. An animation director who had worked on a previous game in the series chimed in to say it would only take two days’ work. Busted. Well, ladies, you know what they don’t say: zero out of four ain’t bad.

While gaming and other visual entertainment mediums are still struggling to understand that male doesn’t always have to be the default, Orange is the New Black isn’t the first property to successfully suggest and demonstrate that not only do you not need men at the front and center at all times to have a good time, you could potentially eliminate them almost completely without missing them. Let’s look at some examples of practical male extinction in geek culture.

In comics you have Brian K. Vaughan’s spectacular Y: The Last Man, in which the eponymous chromosome mysteriously self-destructs, leaving woman to inherit the Earth. One might say “Nick, you ignorant slut; the protagonist of the series is a MALE.” A more savvy individual could respond that the hero mentioned in the latter part of the title does little aside from provide outsider’s eyes through which the reader can see the transformation of the world and the exploration of the women who now populate it exclusively as they struggle to find the empowerment denied them so long and assume the social roles and responsibilities once handled by men. Take THAT, handsome hypothetical critic!

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Not in the kitchen, not barefoot, and definitely not pregnant.

Anime has long maintained a large representative population of badass ladies to offset the more testosterone-laden titles. One particularly interesting sci-fi series was Vandread, which takes place in a post-space travel universe in which womankind seceded from mankind and formed their own society, leaving both sides to propagate exclusively from cloning technology. The protagonist in this case ends up a male prisoner of war amongst a band of female space pirates. While some may think the focus on the male lead and harem comedy elements may dilute the girl power somewhat, how often do you see any series that depicts women as being completely capable of running a successful (or even superior) society free of male influence? Score one for Japan.

Score two if you count the Blue Drop manga, in which Healy’s nightmare comes true and lesbian aliens take over the world, segregating men into ghettos while they re-educate the females of our race to love themselves (and each other). This one may not count since it makes the sci-fi feminist agenda an antagonistic matriarchy, but it’s still a pretty fascinating concept with some crazy results. The anime prequel was cool, but failed to capture the sexual politics that made the original work awesome.

So there you go: some examples of exceptional entertainment with almost entirely female casts where I didn’t miss being surrounded by fictional bros one bit. Orange is the New Black even goes so far as to portray most of its male characters as impotent jerks and losers, as if to even more aggressively assert the fact that this a story about WOMEN. We’ve still got our cheesy action movies and bro comedies. Nobody is taking that away from us. But it’s not going to kill us to let the ladies have their fun either.

Truth be told, the cast of prisoners in the show do nothing so well as show that, like men, women are all individuals, each with their own story and perspective. It’s not some cartoony story about women rising up and supporting each other to overthrow their male oppressors. The men have their own problems -not the least of which is crippling insecurity regarding their own maleness- but the women have their own problems too. For example, the impossibility of forming the feared feminine rebellion due to the fact that they are all unique individuals and not the hivemind collective some men seem to think they are.

And even if the worst case scenario comes to pass and the feminists take over the earth and the entertainment business that comes with it, if they can give me more of this kind of stuff I’d be okay with that. Hey, women can kick ass and make me laugh and be related too as well! How about that? It’s going to be a long wait for season 3, but until then try and look on the bright side, ladies.

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“Tomorrow’s beef and noodles!”

 





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8 responses so far

  • cypher20

    Regarding Assassin’s Creed, the claim that animating females only takes two days work sounds suspicious to me. And even if true, I imagine it would be basically using the male motions and putting them on females, which . . . had some pretty hilarious results at times in Mass Effect. Overall, if a game developer includes women, it would be good to have them actually, you know, move like women do. It also seems like it would be more then 2 days work to come up with the female models to put on the skeletons, I mean, if it was that easy to animate, seems like games would come out a lot faster.

    Anyway, regarding feminism and masculinity, I’m personally of the opinion that our society could use some more “real men”. Not in the sense of drinking beer and watching sports, but in the sense of taking responsibility (one example, let’s lose hookup culture). Men don’t help themselves in this department often enough. However, most feminists don’t either.

    That said, it is just annoying that so much political correctness is trying to intrude onto entertainment, like with Ubisoft. There has never been a game or show that I’ve declined to play or watch because the leads were women (or minorities). If the game, show, book, movie, whatever is entertaining that’s really all that matters. I’m all for including more women, minorities, etc, but it’s the notion that if, for whatever reason, you don’t, you’re committing some kind of sin that I find so ridiculous.

    Yes, I’m aware the common objection would be some kind of subconscious misogyny or such on my part which frankly, strikes me as a leap of reasoning which is practically useless. It explains everything to the benefit of the feminist and there is no way to disprove it except to get on board with the feminist’s agenda. I find it hilarious that people who are so hopped up on not being “judgmental” and being “tolerant” assume they know the hearts and minds of others and can just declare them subconsciously racist, misogynist, whatever, for the simple crime of disagreement. Alright, rant off.

    • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

      Yeah, I know it. There’s plenty of stupidity to go around on both sides of the argument. But the fact is that video games in particular are extremely male-centric and the number of women playing games is rising fast. It stands to reason that they’d want more representation in the medium and it’s a fair request (in my opinion) that doesn’t necessarily have to be seen as political correctness. It’s more like common courtesy. Assassin’s Creed has female PC’s in multiplayer matches so it shouldn’t have been too hard to integrate them into the main game if they wanted to.

      And I don’t know that there is such a thing as subconscious misogyny. It’s more of a matter of people only seeing things from their own perspective. Misogyny implies an active dislike of women and I think the issue is more of a disregarding of women. Since men occupy most of the posts in any given industry they make themselves the default, which is just typical human behavior. Most people are just kind of locked into their own POV.

      The best answer is for more women getting into positions where they can contribute creatively. After all, the best way to get representation is to represent. But in the meantime, it wouldn’t kill anyone to give one out of every four roster spots in a four player video game to a gender that represents better than half the overall population, you know?

      • cypher20

        Yeah, I’m with you. I think it is for the good to include more women and don’t see an issue with it. I simply take umbrage at the notion that not doing so is somehow a sin.

        This Ubisoft kerfuffle really takes the cake IMO. This is a company that has already featured playable female characters, minority leads, and a female lead. If putting female characters in the next AC game would help them, don’t you think they’d have done so? They’ve already shown themselves willing to be inclusive. So why are they getting harassed like they’ve done some terrible thing?

        I guess, I understand the good intentions but I worry an attitude like that will just lead to developers being less willing to take risks and instead just trying to make their games conform to politically correct standards. Standards which are not uniformly enforced, e.g. The Hitman Absolution trailer is a horribly misogynist piece because it features graphic violence against scantily clad women but Mortal Kombat, which features graphic violence against scantily clad women, is perfectly ok. -_-

        • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

          It’s a complex subject, but the bottom line is that female gamers no longer want to feel excluded and they’re speaking up about it, which is cool. The flipside is that some of them (including those who have no interest in gaming at all) are obnoxious and just want to raise a stink because they sense it’s fashionable to do so, hence the inconsistency.

  • Charlotte

    I think it’s a shame that in all the examples mentioned, the cast is made up almost entirely of women because of a contrived situation. So many films focus almost exclusively on men and that’s not the point of the plot, or even seen as unusual.

    • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

      I hadn’t thought of that. Very interesting point. Even the exceptions to the rule serve as proof that male is the default.

  • Orin Tucker

    Yes because I play games, look at movies/shows, and listen to music for equality and not because they are leisure activity. Why can’t we just agree that ,cute girl does things and Angry Bro Destroys things apply better because they aren’t politics.

    • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

      Some people like angry girls destroying things and cute bros doing thing too! I personally just like to see different things instead of the same ol’, same ol’. I know the internet feminism thing is becoming a silly cliche’ very quickly, but it’s still worth pointing out interesting trends in gender roles i entertainment. At least it is to me.

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