Friday, November 19, 2010

WoW novels - only female heroes need apply

[A brief side note before I get started: It's been a month since I started this blog. Fifteen posts and thirty days later, I've gotten just over 2500 page views. Holy crap, people! That's four to five times more traffic of my art blog! So thanks to those of you who keep reading. I'll do my best to keep things interesting here.]

So it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that WoW is sexist. I mean, when the prevalence of armor like this...

...makes it hard to find pants that are actually pants for my female characters in WoW, it's hard to deny the sexism. WoW's not at all unique in this regard, so I swallow my dislike and play anyway because I enjoy the gameplay.

But there's also an entirely different kind of sexism at work besides the bimbo-fied armor. Women simply don't seem to be capable of performing heroic deeds in Azeroth. I mean, sure - they can strap on some, ahem, "armor" and go out adventuring. But when it comes to the real earth-shaking events that change the course of Azeroth's history, well then you'd better hope that you have some big strong men to deal with the problem.

It's no secret that the majority of the major lore characters are men. Disappointingly, the women that do appear in the Warcraft lore are depressingly stereotyped.

But, okay, fine. So what if Sylvanas is too pretty to be undead? She's still the leader of the undead, and pretty freaking creepy. And so what if Jaina Proudmoor spends all of her time whining at the Horde and Alliance leaders to stop fighting each other? And so what if she's way, way more slutty in the comics than even in the game? She's still a badass sorceress and leader of an important faction of super-powerful mages. I mean, that's gotta count for something, right? Surely there have to be some women capable of doing really important stuff, right?

Well, apparently not if you read the novels. Not a single one of them features a female hero important enough to be mentioned in the cover copy on the back. Check this out:

The Shattering (Christie Golden): back cover mentions Thrall, King Varian Wrynn, and Prince Anduin

Warcraft Archive (Christie Golden, Richard A. Knaak, Jeff Grubb, and Chris Metzen): back cover mentions Rhonin, Thrall, Medivh, and Tirion Fordring

Tides of Darkness (Aaron Rosenberg): back cover mentions Ogrim Doomhammer, Anduin Lothar, and King Terenas

Rise of the Horde (Christie Golden): back cover mentions Thrall

War of the Ancients Book 1 - The Well of Eternity (Richard A. Knaak): back cover only mentions "three heroes" (no names), Sargeras and Queen Azshara are mentioned as villains.

War of the Ancients Book 2 (Richard A. Knaak): despite having a boobalicious cover, the the "three heroes" of this trilogy are all men - Krasus, Rhonin, and Broxigar. Queen Azshara is mentioned as a villain, not as a hero.

War of the Ancients Book 3 - The Sundering (Richard A. Knaak): no heroes mentioned on back cover, Neltharion and Archimonde mentioned as villains

Day of the Dragon (Richard A. Knaak): Another cover with cleavage! But whoever that cleavagey night elf is, she's not important enough to mention on the back cover. Only Rhonin gets a mention.

Night of the Dragon (Richard A. Knaak): The most boobalicious cover yet! And yet the only hero mentioned is Krasus. Dragon Queen Alexstrasza gets a mention as a nod to past events not in the novel, but only because she had her eggs defiled.

So out of nine books, we have three that feature cleavage on the cover and none that mention a female hero in the back cover copy. Two of the books mention the same female villain, and one book has a tangential reference to a mother who's children were corrupted. So... what's the deal, Blizzard??? You're okay with splashing cleavage on the cover, but heaven forbid that the cover mention a female hero! That might threaten the insulated little bubble your target audience lives in! Female villains are okay, because everyone knows that girls are icky. And moms are okay, because even geeks still love them moms, right?

Okay, you know what? I'm going to say something revolutionary. Women like to read fantasy adventure stories too. I know! OMG! But it's true! And, you know, sometimes we like to see heroes that are women. Not all the time! Male heroes are great! But sometimes it's nice to see female heroes who don't need rescuing and aren't only important for their relationship to male characters. (I'm looking at you Aegwynn, Tyrande, Iridi, Jaina, Maiev, Valeera, Vareesa, Modgud, Onyxia, Soridormi, Moira, Sintharia, Sindragosa, Abbendis, Tyrygosa, and Geyah!)

The problem here is that this type of sexism is just as dangerous as the sexism that paints women as sex objects, because this is the sexism that says that women aren't important and will never be important. Taken to the extreme, this is the sexism that says women can't be "real" gamers and thus it is okay to harass them when they get all uppity and try to play games and stuff.

When put that way, sure it sounds insane. But that doesn't change the fact that there are tons of men out there for whom the response to a woman gamer invading their space is either "go make me a sandwich" or "boobs or gtfo". I'm not saying that putting female heroes into the WoW novels would suddenly make everything okay for female gamers, but hey. Baby steps.