Today there’s been a lot of complaints in the gaming press about GTA V‘s misogyny. To an extent, I can sympathise. If I was female, I’d find 7 million phallic references quite tiresome too, and the lack of a playable female character would also inevitably make me feel unrepresented. But when I think about it some more, GTA V‘s misogyny makes sense. Actually, I think it might be necessary.
You see, GTA has always been a semi-realistic crime game. The playable characters are, by and large, morally bankrupt criminals. The acts you commit over the course of the games are, by all accounts, despicable. Why? Because people like this unfortunately do exist in real life. There really are people who will murder hundreds in a gang war (although not on the same scale as GTA, of course). GTA is an exaggerated, satirical-yet-realistic take on the criminal world. I think that definition’s fairly unarguable.
And, unfortunately, in the criminal world there’s a hell of a lot of misogyny. It’s a very male dominated environment, and sexism is even worse than in the “normal” world. Thus I don’t find it at all surprising that there are numerous sexist jokes, terrible treatment of women from the main characters, and a whole host of penis-related humour. Because that’s what happens in the real crime world!
What this doesn’t justify is the lack of female characters. There should be female police officers, mothers/sisters and female criminals. In fact, a female character would have been lovely to play as. Rockstar could have explored the difficulty of a woman trying to fit into a man’s world, and it could have worked very well. Instead, they chose not to: the reasons for this we’ll never know.
Perhaps Rockstar chose to only have male characters because that will increase sale numbers. Perhaps it was innate sexism. Perhaps it was simply because the aforementioned theme of fitting in wasn’t one they wanted to explore in this game (I believe this is the reason). Rockstar shouldn’t have to include a female player character. But it would have been nice to include some other strong female figures, and it doesn’t seem like there are any.
The overall point of this article, then, is that a lot of the misogyny in GTA V can be justified: specifically, the way in which the characters treat women. But the lack of female characters is somewhat inexcusable. So we’re still left with a problem, but it’s a slightly smaller one than we started with. Progress!