So let’s talk about stupid shit.
The reason I get tense around Valentine’s Day isn’t because of oh how sad it’s Singles Awareness Day, or how it’s just a corporate holiday constructed to sell Hallmark cards, blah blah blah. I mean, sure, those things bug me, but I’ve gotten past the point where I need to bitch about them. No, it’s crap like what you see above that makes me hate this holiday.
Gender roles suck. Gender roles build little boxes that people are “supposed” to fit into, and when a person doesn’t fit, they’re different. Sometimes they’re pushed down and mocked for not fitting into gender roles, and sometimes they’re put on a pedestal, and either one of these makes a person feel like they don’t fully belong.
I think it’s pretty obvious by now why this ad is going to raise the hackles of many women who see it. It assumes that women wouldn’t want to play Twisted Metal, that they would rather receive flowers than purchase a game. It assumes that there aren’t relationships where the woman is the hardcore gamer nerd and the man isn’t. In saying the problem comes down to “game or girlfriend” it assumes that the two are mutually exclusive, which is so untrue as to be painfully dated.
I mean, has GameStop not read a single study published in the last, sheesh, seven to ten years saying women make up a significant part of the gaming community? It’s like their advertising department thinks of Mad Men as a guidebook.
But it also limits guys. I know, right? Weird. But what if a guy wants to get flowers? What if a guy likes the wooing and the romantical stuff? Well no, dudebro, you can’t, because to like all that sissy lady shit, you’re going to have to hand over your Man Card. Right now, buddy, I don’t got all day.
There’s another, subtler problem nested in here, and it’s that the masculine is celebrated and the feminine is degraded. The traits normally attributed to men — competition, aggression, being a “self-made man” — are considered good and worthwhile traits for a person to have. Meanwhile, traits normally attributed to women — nurturing, care-giving, cooperation — are considered weak and lesser. So when ads are like “Dude, I get it, you want to pwn n00bs but you got this girlfriend and unlike you she’s got all these feelings, so go deal with that icky shit, and we gots this game for you when you’re done handling bidnizz” … well, you see where I’m going with this.
(Aside: But seriously folks, who still shops at GameStop? I mean, really, what draws them? The questionable business practices? The unhelpful staff? The tired, bland advertizing? The chaotically disorganized stores? The pawn shop is three blocks father away? What?)
Finally, I want to talk about heteronormativity. Like with the gender roles problem, this is another issue where casual and thoughtless use of language shows us what’s “normal” and what’s “abnormal.” Heteronormativity refers to how male/female relationships (specifically cisgendered male and cisgendered females) are treated as what’s normal, default, what “everybody” does, and everything else — M/M, F/F, M/MTF, etc… — is weird, and shouldn’t even really be considered relevant. After all, if nobody talks about these things, they’re obviously not “real” are they? So people who are not in M/F relationships and not seeking one don’t see much in the world which is really relevant to them, and they just kind of have to deal, and that’s kind of crap. It’s the above problems of gender roles, with an added layer of not even realizing other relationships exist.
It’s not just this one ad. If this ad existed as a lone example in a sea of ads which recognized that people are all different kinds, I really wouldn’t have a damn thing to talk about here. It’s not this ad. It’s ads like this, that there are so many, that they dominate the landscape. All we see is ads which reinforce damaging stereotypes for a cheap laugh. “Oh it’s so true! Men don’t have feelings! Women only want roses and shiny shit! All romantic relationships are men and women and nothing else!” And, like, you might think, well, that’s advertising. Surely people don’t think like that, right? To which I would reply, go to any site, ever, and read the comments. And you will see the truth.
So, yeah, I kind of hate Valentine’s Day. But mostly I just hate advertising.