Ok, this party started with Katy Perry’s video for “California Gurls”. Just for reference, in case you haven’t seen it, it’s here. I’d embed it, for your convenience, but embedding has been disabled on the request of KatyPerryMusic.
Tom Lehrer once said that he quit doing satire when it became impossible to tell the difference between satire and life. That’s kind of how I feel about this video. The song has nothing especially going for it…insipid lyrics, a beat out of a drum machine, and a highly processed voice. You knew that they have machines that will fix your singing to be in tune now, didn’t you?
It may well be that Katy Perry has talent, but how could I tell? She wears a swimsuit with cupcakes on her breasts, and later sports two aerosol tubes as sort of nipple prostheses, spewing frosting. You would think that when you are 3000 years old, you have seen it all before, but this is new. She looks like she’s channeling Julie Brown, but doesn’t realize that it was a joke.
Ok, so why am I even talking about it? Because of the following parody, Geek Gamer Gurls, featuring one of my favorites, Seth Green.
I got this from Kotaku, in a post titled “Geek and Gamer Girls Will Likely Be Irritated By This Video” written by Michael Fahey.
Michael says this:
I’m no expert, but I suspect that girls who enjoy geeky things like playing video games would just rather be considered gamers or geeks than having the word girl thrown in front of everything they do as a qualifier.
I on the other hand love rolling around naked with toys flying in the air, covering up my naughty bits. Look for that video to appear on Kotaku sometime after hell freezes over.
In the first place, Michael, I’d rather hear about what the video makes you think and feel, rather than your prediction of how it will make someone else feel, male or female.
K. Fox, of Your Critic is in Another Castle went comment-diving on the Kotaku thread. She came up with some gems:
I didn’t really take any offense to the video. If anything, I laughed quite a bit, because there was some clever bits that they snuck in there.
Does it make girl gamers seem anything more than sexed up woman who play video games in sexy outfits? Not so much.
As a gamer myself (yeah, I left out the girl prefix) I’ve always been slightly sensitive to the plight of female video gamers. We’re like a lot of you guys, we like to chill around in comfy clothes and play long gaming sessions. And it isn’t just RPGs or anime style games, considering I’m always up for a good round of headshotting. –FinerFrenzy
There’s something here that I would like women to understand. There is no definitive interpretation of any work of art, and parody videos are no exception. All art is an inkblot, and what you see in it depends on your experiences.
My experiences show me something other than what FinerFrenzy sees in “Geek Gamer Gurls”. First of all, the central visual metaphor of “California Gurls” was that girls are like candy, frosting and cupcakes. A delectable treat to be consumed. Well, I won’t deny that female skin draws my attention, at least for a while, but there’s a big difference between women and cupcakes. For one thing, I had a heart attack five years ago, and I don’t eat cupcakes any more.
The parody, “Geek Gamer Gurls” riffs off of this, comparing girls to videogames. That works a little better for me, since I still play videogames. But here’s something else I think about. Gaming makes a woman more attractive, at least to me it does.
Sexiness is not objective, not in the slightest. What we see in visual media is a symbolic representation of a mental state. When you are about to have sex, your partner is the most beautiful creature on earth for those moments. There’s even research that shows that men are able to rate attractiveness of women in photographs in various stages of clothedness, but when the photographs begin to depict the sexual act itself, this ability goes to zero. Got that? Zero.
So, I think the willingness and ability of a women to play videogames is a big plus. Any woman who will sit on the couch with me and kick my butt, or laugh it off when I get the upper hand is a big plus. It’s someone I want to be around. Power is sexy, and it always will be. Gaming isn’t the only criterion, to be sure, but a lot of the guys I know would really like to have a partner with whom they can share their passions.
But is that what the video represents? There’s an inteview with Team Unicorn over on Star Wars blog.
Team Unicorn [...] includes actresses Michele Boyd (The Guild, How I Met Your Mother, Cold Case, Sons of Anarchy), Clare Grant (Walk the Line, $5 Cover, Black Snake Moan, Saber), Milynn Sarley (EA, TheGamerChick, LTA, Street Fighter High School), Rileah Vanderbilt (Hatchet, Frozen, Saber), and actor Seth Green (Robot Chicken, Family Guy)
Those are very strange credits for Seth Green, by the way. Where’s Buffy, or The Italian Job? But that’s show biz. And that’s what this is: Show biz.
The parody was done by professional actors and actresses, and produced by a professional production company. I’m guessing the song is up on iTunes, and that’s the monetization angle. I’m not against someone making a buck, but it makes me somewhat suspicious of their motives. A good deal of the Star Wars blog article has the girls discussing their geek cred. Which, sadly, makes me more suspicious. It’s kind of like someone telling you “You can trust me!” It has the opposite effect.
Well, why does geek cred matter? It’s strange to me that entertainers would think to pander to geeks and video game players. It used to be that one got more social juice from kicking us than from flattering us. But we have jobs and money now, I guess that’s the difference. However, rather than the girls portraying girls playing games, they are portraying characters in games and movies dear to the hearts of geeks. Clothing themselves in the wrappings which are attractive to gamer geeks.
And yes, a girl who would think to dress up as Han Solo would be more interesting to me than one who would dress up as a cupcake. That’s the part I can relate to here. But it’s still a very masculine camera in this video. The performers don’t portray women who play games, the women portray characters in games, so they aren’t actually playing the games. You might reference it as cosplay, but it’s pretty abbreviated. If they were selling that, they failed.
This doesn’t grab me the way, say, “White and Nerdy” did. Keep working.