GTA V: Misogynism & Writing

I’ve not yet begun to write a more complete review of the game, but in the meantime take a look at Gamespot’s review, which I find myself agreeing with more and more, the further I get into the title.

Misogyny is one of the worst plagues in video games, it has spread like a cancer from early examples of Gaming, from Duke Nukem and Mario, to titles such as Far Cry: Blood Dragon and now, it seems, we’ve come full circle with GTA V. People have tried to defend the sheer masculinity of the title by claiming it as a parody of older games, which the GTA series is often known for. For taking clichés and stereotypes and warping each character into what is closer to a caricature of the original, designed to either make a point, provoke laughter or simply to fill a space in the game.

In GTA IV, the Irish, the Italians, the Russians, the street-gangs and the corrupt cops all became exactly what one would expect from them, until I spent half the time waiting for Jimmy P to lean forward and calmly warn me to ‘never fuck with him’. Obviously, I should be leaving the more stereotypical Italians to Mafia II, but GTA was overloaded with them.

I have heard arguments over the past few hours, some of which do make a few good points, but the most common argument is that GTA IS a parody of that whole ‘capitalist-dream, doing anything to make money, outlook on life’, which has been shown through many characters in the past, both in media and reality. However, they are (typically) given some kind of reason, some motivation to turn to a life of dishonesty or crime, but GTA has never suffered from such a crisis of conscience.

The overriding trouble I have had with GTA, specifically IV and V, is that the main characters claim to be trying to stay out of trouble, (I’m thinking more about Niko and Michael here), when they are able to murder, rob and cheat without the slightest hesitation. It also kind of smacks of a lack of sincerity when, between running taxi services, acting as repo men or a tow-truck driver, on the player’s hands they can steal cars and murder, pick up hookers, drink drive and gun down innocents and Police Officers alike.

Thank God, these are what make the game enjoyable, but they still don’t convince me that GTA knows what it wants to be. You’d think, after five actual titles, even if we ignore Chinatown Wars and San Andreas, that the title should know what it wants to do by now.

A perfect example of this lack of self-realisation is, in one scene, Trevor is forced to torture an innocent man. I’d like to point out that I cannot stand this scene. Clearly, Rockstar has decided to take a certain approach with this scene, forcing the player to control the torture at such a level that you choose which tools you use on the figure strapped to the chair. From water-boarding, electrical shocking, pulling teeth and hammering at his limbs with an almost comically over-sized wrench, there is a definite feeling that the scene is in place simply for its own sake.

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Afterwards, of course, Trevor spouts his opinions about how torture doesn’t work, about how the poor man he has all but destroyed can now become an anti-torture spokesperson, even going so far as to drive him to the airport (shirtless, bleeding and with no money or passport to his name however, so it does make you wonder how far Trevor thinks the victim will actually get). He can say torture doesn’t work, but in this circumstance, it did. It enabled the FIB (notice the subtle difference in name there? Can’t be accusing real-world organisations of being run by complete and utter douchebags, can you?), to acquire new information, allowing them to stop a possible terrorist.

I do love the game, and I am quite amazed at the sheer scale of the thing, however it does have several examples of this, almost jumbled writing. There are several occasions where characters can go from intense arguments about the smallest thing, to chatting calmly together whilst flying down a hillside at a hundred miles an hour. I’ve just reached a point in the narrative, completely filled with dramatic tension, and one which has been building tension since Trevor re-entered the game. It looks as though this is a point from which the relationship between Trevor and Michael cannot be repaired, but it looked as though that would happen the second Trevor appeared on Michael’s doorstep. Trevor’s anger suddenly dissipated as soon as Michael needed help and this is both an example of poor narrative, whilst simultaneously adding another way of displaying Trevor’s personality.

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I feel bad writing about this before I’ve finished the single-player. It is entirely possible that each example of poor writing, every example of characters acting in a strange way and every clichéd character is an integral part of the over-all plot, but I doubt it. There are scenes where the writing is spectacular, with several of them being so engaging and, often, so hilarious that I feel bad for judging the rest of the narrative.

For example, when you play the game, be on the look-out for the ‘Hipster’ conversation between Michael and Trevor. It is one of the best travelling discussions in any title, whether it be another GTA, Saint’s Row’s ‘What I Got’ or any of those from Red Dead’s eccentric cast.

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