I wanted to blog about something else entirely, and soon
might will. But I’ve been alerted to fan artist Cowkitty’s open letter to Anita Sarkeesian, after Cowkitty discovered that her Dragon’s Lair fanart has been used in the banner of Tropes VS Women in Videogames alongside official artwork of other games. The discussions right now mostly evolve around the legality or illegality of this, but I don’t know enough about these matters to talk about them…
But why is Anita using fanart in the header anyway?
There shouldn’t be any fanart in the header, no matter if the artist has been asked for approval. Anita isn’t discussing fanart, after all, but the original and official depictions of female characters in videogames. I did think that it was all official artwork, that this was how the character either appeared in the game or was presented in a promotional context, by the people responsible for her creation. The character is depicted in a “sexy” pose, wearing revealing clothing, seemingly a perfect example of what Anita Sarkeesian is arguing against. Except that it’s not. It’s misleading to use this piece of fanart in this context. You could say manipulative and dishonest, but I doubt that Anita knowingly chose fanart over official artwork. If you want to find sexualized images of female videogames characters (or any visual medium, really), you don’t have to look hard. You certainly don’t have to resort to trickery.
It’s likely that she – or whoever designed the banner – mistook it for official artwork. Which still doesn’t make it OK. Because if your very topic is depictions of female characters in their games, you should be expected to be able to tell official art from fanart. This is what you should have researched. I’ve never played Dragon’s Lair, so I don’t want to speculate about how easy or hard it is to mistake this artwork, and its style, with the official incarnation(s)… but just from searching Google briefly, I find Cowkitty’s style different enough, and this shouldn’t have happened.
Anyway, I suspect sloppy research. People are very quick to accuse Anita of malicious intent, being a scam artist, a liar, a criminal, but the only thing she seems to be guilty of is not actually doing a good job at all with her project. Can I say this? As a woman, as a female gamer (still busy with Bravely Default)? I’d hate to have to turn in my Feminism Membership Card over this… Well, I don’t think Anita is exploiting anybody or that she wants to destroy all videogames, or whatever other supervillain goals people currently project onto her, but I think she’s making a lot of mistakes on several levels, and both the extent of her mistakes and the way she is not acknowledging them are not OK… Bad basic research is a huge problem for any academic or semi-academic project, especially when it’s to be used as teaching material. Such basic mistakes should not happen. Neither should she have used footage from let’s plays without giving credit to the actual players. Period.
Oh, and how time flies! It’s actually been a year (and a day) since the first video in the series was released. So within one year, Anita has managed to get through two out of twelve (?) of her planned topics. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: This pace is too slow. At this rate, A Song of Ice and Fire will be completed before Tropes VS Women in Videogames. Or it will never be completed at all. And the worst thing is that this wouldn’t even be a loss.