I was playing Dishonored 2 during the holidays to catch up on what I missed and to honestly enjoy some of the great achievements in the first person perspective. However, what I find interesting is how Dishonored 2 (2016) treats it’s daughter protagonist. Since games like The Last of Us (2013) and Bioshock Infinite (2013), the daughter protagonist has become an uncommon but also welcome addition to games (especially if you are looking at review scores). But I think this points to a pattern developing in the genre because of their maturing and predominantly white male target audience.
|A new female protagonists following in her father's footsteps.|
Critics like to talk about male gaze in big budget games, enough that I’m not going to go into it here. However, I will talk about the more subtle nuances that can come from it. Games with the perfect daughter don’t eliminate male gaze they just show a different male’s gaze. In the case for Dishonored 2 (and Bioshock Infinite and the Last of Us) the male gaze is from the view of the father.
The relationship between the father and daughter is idealized from the male perspective. For the most part, the relationship is one where the daughter idolizes the values of the father character, wanting to (and encouraged to be) a similar sort of bad-ass that the father character is. The daughter is the one who relates to the father character. What would be considered feminine characteristics (even basic biological characteristics) are not related to or even mentioned in the games. Even something as stereotypically feminine as wondering about ‘boys’ or thinking about ‘fashion’ or anything being considered ‘cute’ does not occur. It's almost as if the daughter character is a hyper tom-boy to the extent they are only female in superficial appearance.
|Honestly, Zizek is probably a little too deep for this analysis.|
Older men and young girls really don't relate that well to each other, creating what could be considered an uncanny valley of understanding between the personas. The horror genre plays on this with the ‘creepy girl’ trope. One of the reasons why the F.E.A.R. (2005) antagonist, Alma Wade (scary girl in a red dress), works as a trope is because the male audience doesn’t relate to her. But moving deeper, players see her exhibiting lots of feminine traits. She wears a dress, she is a mother, even the theme of blood in the game could be considered a feminine connection (I'm reaching). Even in FEAR, Alma’s hug is lethal; the male player must shoot to repel her. The nurturing feminine touch is toxic to the masculine ideology and must be repelled by violence, the most masculine reaction ( I can hear Slavoj Zizek’s breathy slurps already).
|It's really the name thing and the guitars that make it weird.|
Girls will be Girls
Now games are not inundated with these ‘cool daughters’. This crop of games might just be a footnote or a stepping stone to more varied characters. It doesn’t even fully constitute a trope or pattern in games due to how few examples exist. What is really important is to be aware of this emerging pattern. It’s important to understand how games have shown the masculine and feminine traits; and to understand that the male gaze it not removed by just adding daughters. There are deep and subtle patterns being displayed in these games and there is a lot of possibility to show new and interesting characters.
Also, all the daughter characters’ names start with the letter ‘E’ and it's starting to freak me out.
*The father's gaze also represents a more mature and positive gaze. Male gaze is often vilified for its adolescent connotation. Father's gaze does remove or lessen a lot of the most troubling aspects male gaze, such as the objectification of women, and women being acted upon instead of as independent actors. However, men are still implied to be the audience and violence is prevalent and their values are still upheld.