Media critic examines role of women in pop culture

Anita Sarkeesian thinks women still have a ways to go in popular culture.

The media critic and blogger started out her presentation on women in pop culture by reading a quote from an actress and having the audience guess the actress and the movie.

“Both of the female characters in the movie were very strong characters, I thought they were representing women very well,” Sarkeesian said, quoting the mystery actress.

Some members of the audience laughed as it was revealed that the quote came from Megan Fox, discussing her role in the movie series “Transformers.”

Sarkeesian deconstructed and examined the roles Fox and the other women take in the popular culture in her presentation on Tuesday night called, “I’ll Make A Man Out of You: Redefining Strong Female Characters.”

Earlier in the day, Sarkeesian held a joint Question and Answer session with a Popular Culture class and a Women’s studies class where she discussed her current video blog series on female tropes in video gaming.

Her Internet series, Feminist Frequency, tackles tropes, or common themes, in film and television.

During the session, Sarkeesian noted that women are often placed in conventional stereotypes that portray women as unable to be independent from a man. That theme, or the “damsel in distress,” is slated to be the first of a series of videos titled “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games,” which is being funded in part by fundraising site, Kickstarter.

She said that because of her stance, she has received threats and backlash from people who don’t share her views.

In a New York Times article in August, Sarkeesian talked about the harassment she has received, including doctored pornographic images and “hate-filled comments.”

“I think there is a small group of male gamers who feel like gaming belongs to them, and are really terrified of that change happening,” she said in the interview.

Before the presentation, she also had dinner with Gender and Women’s studies and Popular Culture faculty.

One of the students attending the dinner was junior Leah Railey, who said that Sarkeesian’s work opened her eyes to the “misogynistic perspectives in nerd culture.”

“You don’t really realize it, you kind of just take it as it is,” she said.

During the presentation, Sarkessian screened a video from her website where she discusses “Lego Friends,” a new line of Legos released specifically targeted to young girls. The video featured a commercial for the toy, which showed the female Legos doing stereotypically “girly” things.

Members of the audience laughed as the Legos talked about how much they enjoyed baking or getting a makeover.

Throughout the rest of the lecture, Sarkeesian shared her analyses of some of the strong females in pop culture. She said some shows she believes didn’t portray their strong women characters effectively were popular shows such such as Alias, Battlestar Galactica and Heroes.

Sarkeesian shared her distaste about how poorly written the female characters in Heroes were.

“All of the female characters on that show either had really stupid powers, they lost control of their powers, or they were never able to control them in the first place,” she said.

The roles discussed weren’t all negative. Sarkeesian gave examples of strong female characters such as Wonder Woman or Katniss from The Hunger Games. She said those characters can have a positive impact on women.

“These characters actually do have an influence on people and do show young women what is possible,” she said. She said it’s important to note that there are some women portrayed positively in the media.

“It’s true that there are more strong women in the media and I think that it’s really important to celebrate this achievement,” she said.

After the lecture, London freshman Shelby Miracle said she enjoyed the way Sarkeesian used humor to talk about roles for women in pop culture.

“I really liked how she touched on how they over-sexualize woman in video games and in movies because I completely agree,” Miracle said.

Bowling Green junior Jacky Killian said he decided to go to the lecture after hearing about Sarkessian’s video game series.

“It was very well constructed,” he said of the presentation. “She made a lot of good points about how female characters have evolved and are continuing to evolve.”

London freshman Courtney Roarak also said she was interested in the video game series. Roarak, who identifies herself as a feminist, said she agreed with a lot of what Sarkeesian said.

“I’m probably going go watch some of her videos, and see what else she has to say,” she said.

Sarkeesian’s series on women in videogames can be found at: