Is Borderlands Feminist Tumblr Fluff?

When a feminist writer joined the staff of Borderlands people were very skeptical and began pointing out every single thing they felt might be influenced by it.  It was felt that the game had simply become “Tumblr The Game.”  I’m here to actually say it went the opposite direction by debunking some parts of the game “Borderlands The Pre-Sequel” that people have brought into question.

#1: Strong Females Dumb Males

If you are part of the Male Rights Activist (MRA) movement you’ve probably heard the claim that media likes to portray men as being idiots so that they can have strong females.

In a show like Everybody Loves Raymond, you have Raymond and his father who are the breadwinners of the family who are bozos and idiots.  And then you have their respective wives who have little to nothing to call to their name.  But in order to make the wife of Raymond (Rebecca) into a strong role, they make Raymond into an idiot who is reliant on his wife for answers.

There’s a lot wrong with this dynamic.  In Borderlands you have two female characters who are smart strong independent women.  On the other hand you have the one male character who is a slave to addiction (in this case cyber implant addiction) and a male robot who represents the least capable of the adventurers.  The claim is made that the men are made purposely stupid and the women are made purposely perfect in order to create strong female role models.

The thing, is… that’s just really backwards.  By portraying it this way it means that the only way a woman can ever be strong is if she is competing against an underachiever.  In that dichotomy when you get to med school you have men who sit at the top and get all the scholarships and women who underperform and don’t put in the same sort of effort.  Yet when you look at a field like psychology, a field associated with mediocrity and mass enrollment, you have women at the top.

It’s really not a surprise really with a full generation of media portraying women as only better than men in the light that men have to suck in order for them to be worth anything.

In the end dumbing down males hurts bottom rung males as they learn to see themselves as clowns instead of respectable adults, and it also hurts women who only feel they can compete against someone who is clearly their lesser.

#2: Lesbians and Gays

There is no shortage of homosexual characters in Borderlands.  Sir Hammerlock is the carry forward from Borderlands 2, who “barely seems gay” if you can call that a thing.  Then there is the villain Belly who is desperately in love with his child-aged friend Red.  You have Janie Springs who is the youngest lesbian cougar on the planet.

Other than Sir Hammerlock the game actually doesn’t paint a very nice world for being a lesbian.  A true “Tumblr the game” type comparison would have lesbians and gays being scorned by everyone and being victims in society.  Instead they’re all mostly accepted members of society who are just living their lives.

Belly is a gay pedophile but clearly knows that sort of relationship is wrong… so he never brings it up.  He is however a villain and their relationship is always made to be a bit of a joke.  Belly himself is an imbicle and possibly mentally handicapped and unable to truly understand what his feelings mean.  His character ends up being one of the deeper ones put in the game but is also one they choose not to explore because of the morally contentious topic involved.

Janie Springs is someone who is quirky and weird.  Her sexual leanings are pushed on you very heavily from the very start.  The thing is, she is nothing but a cartoon of a lesbian.  I have known many gay men and women in my life and I can say with some sort of certainty…. she’s weird.

#3: Nurse Nina

Nurse Nina replaces a male doctor.  Some might look at this and see it as diversity in the work place.  Nurse Nina, although the name nurse, is a fully capable surgeon.  She is able to heal all wounds, just like a man.  She is even a dominant personality.  When trying to find a mate she actually straps him up in some sort of wonky medical apparatus to show her dominance of him.  Worst yet she only chooses the most dominant male from the pack so that she gets the one she can most powerfully dominate.

So why is Nurse Nina not an example of a Tumblr feminist conspiracy?  Well, simply put, Nurse Nina fits into the typical role that a woman would fit in real life.

Nina is a nurse. A nurse is nothing more than a doctor’s servant.  In some parts of the world nurses were fully capable doctors capable of treating minor wounds and delivering babies.  That’s the kind of nurse that Nina is.  However with just the nurses’s training she wouldn’t handle the major emergencies that a male surgeon or male doctor would handle.

I mean, at the end of the day when you really need help, it’s a Dahl Male voice that thanks you for your purchase.

Nina also romantically represents a commonly held stereotype, professional women cannot have intimate relationships.  So like the stereotype implies without having had any love in her life until she’s much older (age 30ish) she is now out hunting down men and can’t find anyone worthy of her.

A lot of Tumblr feminists argue that there are just no good men out there.  The real reason of course is the standards of professional women are too high compared to what they can offer a potential mate.

In this particular Tumblr blog the author claims she needs this:

1) Funny and can make me laugh and smile as much as possible. That’s non-negotiable. My levels of happiness are connected directly to my funny bone.
2) Chemistry. Think of a car ride together. You want the comfortable silences and relaxed feeling in the air, not the urge to throw open the car door and roll on out on the 101 freeway instead because that would be less painful and awkward.
3) Well read. Aware of pop culture and cultural events globally. We should be able to sit together for 5+ hours at the bookstore and not feel like we need to be anywhere else.
4) Established. This is a tricky one because I feel like it automatically translates to “having money.” Money is a very fluid thing that comes and goes, but the idea is that the guy would have a good career or a career in the works. I am not on board with the Peter Pans of the world.
5) You need nice grown man clothes. They don’t have to cost a fortune. I can help with this.
6) Optimism.
7) Feeling beautiful around you, even if I’m in my yoga pants without any makeup on. (Does that not look like a Taylor Swift song lyric or what? But it’s true. And knowing that you’ll be beautiful to me no matter what also.)
8) Patience, trust, kindness, spontaneity (of the flower bringing kind, not “hey we’re going kayaking today – take the afternoon off of work!”), comfort in tough times, and love at arm’s length where you can be close but not to a smothering point.

However if a man in a similar position made a list of what they are looking for in a woman, it would be a lot more simple.

Nina is in this particular situation, she knows what she wants in a man so she’s willing to throw out all sorts of potential mates in favor of the one that meets her standards.

It portrays the problem of society, women are expected to marry younger rather than older and perpetrates that pattern.  Nina isn’t a Tumblr inserted character, she’s what they hate the most.  But Nina is a lovable character.  So clearly she can’t be a “hit agent” from Tumblr.

#4. Lilyth is the Good Guy, Jack is the Bad Guy

So at the end of the day the hero is a woman and the villain is a man.

Is this evidence of feminist inserted literature?  Probably not.

At the end of the day someone has to be the bad guy…. or maybe I should say bad person.  Generally speaking the powerful evil heroes of every game are usually male.  The reason for this is the widespread perception that women are not intimidating enough or impure enough to be villains.  Actually having a female villain would have been more refreshing in the end because it would have been something new.

However to make it even less of femme conspiracy, Lylith isn’t even a likable character.  It’s not all that clear that what she is fighting for is all that good.

Borderlands at the end of the day is a universe full of evil and full of bad guys.  There’s no emotional relationship we can have with any of these characters that will make them close to us.

If anything we are more drawn to the evil boss Jack, because he in least represents an attempt to be progressive and implement change.  The vault hunters however are just a bunch of losers who were lured in at the chance of stealing a vault and getting rich but instead were brought into a civil war.  The goal of said civil war… is to implement everything as was…. which isn’t exactly all that good in the first place.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s