I’ve been playing quite a lot of Batman: Arkham City this passed week. The game released on Tuesday and since then, every night after I get home from work, I plop down in front of the television and pretend I’m Batman into the wee hours of the morning. Then I pass out, wake up, and the whole routine begins anew. For an obsessive Batman-freak who revels at a chance for escapism via video games, it’s been a glorious week. In fact, I’ve been so swept up in the game I haven’t been paying much attention to all the internet buzz its garnered.
This sequel to 2009’s critically acclaimed, smash hit Batman: Arkham Asylum has blown up the interwebz with its rave reviews. (Look for my own also quite positive review to post this weekend!) And while it’s been praised as one of the best superhero and by far the best Batman game by almost everyone it hasn’t been controversy free.
A welcomed feature in Arkham City is the opportunity to play some story lines as Catwoman. She’s offered as a free downloadable add-on when you buy the game and if you install the Catwoman bundle before you begin, your first mission is Catwoman attempting to steal loot from Two-Face. Playing as Catwoman is awesome. I like everything about her character: the fighting style, the whip, her quicker movements and I even prefer pouncing across rooftops and swinging on a whip over gliding and grappling as the Bat. There’s only one downside to being the feline fatale, and it’s a real bitch. No, really. Whenever you’re Catwoman you are inundated with the same insult over and over and over. Here’s a sample of retorts collected by Kirk Hamilton of Kotaku,
“That’ll teach the bitch to screw with Two-Face.”
“Bitch deserves it. You saw what she did to him in the court. It was only a matter of time before he got a little payback.”
“”I’ll make you meow, bitch,”
“He sent Paulie B over to blow that bitch’s secret hideout sky-high.”
“She’ll come straight back here… And when she does, I want you guys to blow that bitch apart!
“He had her just where he wanted her and that bitch broke free.”
“Ha, I only took half. The rest I gave away. I win, bitch!”
“Help us decide if we should kill the bitch who tried to steal from us, or let her go to do it again.”
“Two guns, bitch!”
Umm, who wrote this game? A couple of 12-year old boys who’ve just discovered the B-word and need to drop it every five seconds? I’m not a lady who shies away from rough language, but come on, where’s the creativity?
To be honest, when I first played through I wasn’t really paying attention to the dialogue the thugs were shouting. If you’ve played Asylum or City you know concentration is needed to successfully string together your attacks, and I tend to pay more attention to what I’m doing than what they’re saying. But even I, completely focused on pummeling these dudes, started to notice the constant “bitch”-ing. It really is bitch this and bitch that. So much so you start to wonder, “Were the developers attempting to make a point of Catwoman being called a bitch by everyone? Or is it just lazy writing?”
Now, I’m not looking to incite a debate about the guys who created Arkham City being sexist pigs or a bunch of crazy feminists making too big a fuss about a little name calling. I’d be absolutely lousy at it and it’s already been tackled marvelously by Film Critic Hulk here and here. But you’ve got to admit, the “bitch”-es are excessive. And no matter what you can’t get away from them! When you play as Batman, as you do for the majority of the game, you will be monitoring dialogue throughout the city. Whenever you pass near thugs talking about Catwoman or Harley Quinn it’s, “That bitch” or “That crazy bitch,” etc. The place should have been called Bitch City for as much as you hear the word.
Which I guess brings me to, so what? Who cares if a bunch of thugs are calling the girls bitches all the time? The problem comes from the word’s excessive use, so much so you might even start to not think it’s a big deal. When you get down to it, bitch is an extremely degrading term for women, and to hear it used over and over and over you could forget that. You can become desensitized to it. It’s also weird to note you never hear Batman being called anything nearly as cruel. He’s called freak from time to time, but there’s no asshole, no fag, not even a shit-faced, motherfucking ass-muncher! Okay, can’t really say I expected anyone to say that in a T-rated game, but I demand equality in my insults!
If I, a gamer chick, am forced to hear Catwoman be called bitch, constantly, (totally kill my female empowerment buzz) it seems only fair you dudes hear Batman get called a…umm…hmm? There really isn’t a good male equivalent to bitch, is there? There’s no term that’s as degrading with an added creepy, sexualized slant to it. Well, there’s a whole ‘nother debate.
Where do you stand on all the “bitch”-ing in Arkham City?