Gamer 'Girls' and Girlfriends in TV series (and some SWTOR publicity fail)
Episode 19 of Season 5 of The Big Bang Theory was for me the straw that broke the camel's back. In case you haven't seen any episode, the series is about a group of scientists who are also nerds, and who hold difficult relationships with various female characters, the main one being a more down-to-earth cheerleader-type woman, Penny, with whom the protagonist, Leonard, falls in love. If that could be considered love, but all right. The only thing you need to know is that this series is profoundly gendered, depicting the prestigious but socially-awkward scientists/nerds in contrast with the unsuccessful-in-her-career but savant-in-the-ways-of-life woman (later on two female characters are added to the mix: Amy, the unfeminine biologist who is as ignorant in life as she is brilliant in the lab; and Bernadette, the silly, twee, caring girlfriend, who is also employed in a lab).
In this episode, the guys are planning a marathon of 48 hours of SWTOR (the game's name is not mentioned, but we are shown a good amount of game clips and screenshots from the shoulders of the characters). I'll come back to the game later. The plot of this episode has something to do with concessions, and how different relationships handle the fine art of yielding and giving permission, being the activity under the girlfriend's scrutiny the only-guys sleepover to play videogames.
I'll be focusing on the gaming part and how it concerns women, not the dynamics of each relationship and the problems they are facing. Likewise, I won't delve into the disappointing advice that Penny gives Amy regarding feminine tools to force their way in a dispute (sex, silence or making a scene - what happened with 'communication'?). My point has to do with Bernadette and how she is portrayed when engaging in the male activity of gaming.
Bernadette had forced Howard to invite her to the boys' party by the terrifying act of suggesting an argument: "What? You don't want me to come?" Then, a succession of facepalming scenes ensue: Bernadette being loud and silly (screaming "Pew Pew Pew") about her DPSing while the guys handle the job silent and professionally; she suggesting that her boyfriend should wear a matching robe so that people in-game knew that they were a couple; and one of the most enraging ones: she being disapproved because of her healing only her boyfriend. She had been automatically placed into a support role by her friends (because, she being a newbie, her decision ought to have been influenced by her peers). In any event, her playing is constantly diminished and mocked by the others, her presence only tolerated because of her boyfriend. By the end of the episode, the girls are convinced into leaving and withdrawing their complaints. And then Raj says "that's the way it is supposed to be: men together, fighting the forces of evil." Alright, I get it, it's a men's club. Women are a hindrance, either harming their game enjoyment with silliness and lack of professionalism, or by asking them to commit to non-enjoyable activities such as visiting their grandmother.
On SWTOR, I found it particularly hilarious that the playing session which the boys are having emphasizes the combat and grouping parts of the game, and makes no comment on the much-praised 'fourth pillar' of storytelling. There's no mention of the story, just hype and excitement about combat and loot: Raj: "When Gandhi advocated his philosophy of non-violence, I bet he didn't know how much fun it was killing stuff", Leonard: "Ok, let's divide up the loot" (wasn't loot auto-assigned, anyways?). A few views on the player's laptops show lightsabers and a female avatar doing some emote. If the gender assumptions weren't reason enough, this tasteless promotion based on precisely the weakest points of a game reassured me I had been watching The Big Bang Theory for too long now.
I'll be absent for a week, and won't be able to check the site during my trip. See you guys and girls soon.