Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes Vs. Women Series Is Up—And It’s Great

After launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a long-term project that would examine the roles women play—or are consigned to—in video games, Feminist Frequency video blogger Anita Sarkeesian was subject to a vicious, violence-saturated campaign of harassment. While it was awful to watch Sarkeesian be threatened and slandered for the sin of wanting to do her job well and comprehensively, the utter inability of her harassers to shut her work down has been wonderful to watch.

And I’m cheering Sarkeesian’s perseverance even harder now that the first installment of her project, titled Tropes Vs. Women, is out—and it’s terrific. Examining both the depiction and gameplay of characters like Pauline, Princess Peach and Zelda, Sarkeesian goes back to the origins of the Damsels In Distress trope art and literature, explores how the trope migrated into video games after the rights to Popeye characters couldn’t be secured for a video game, and examines how the trope became valuable to the video game industry:

At the beginning of the video, Sarkeesian, explaining that “This series will include critical analysis of many beloved games and characters,” says something that everyone who loves a piece of culture ought to be required to recite five times every morning while looking in the mirror: “Remember that it’s both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.” If that ability to hold two ideas in your head at the same time, to enjoy something while recognizing that it might have problems, is what the people who tried to harass Sarkeesian into silence are so afraid of, it only reinforces how intellectually cowardly and inept they are. The need for something to be immune from criticism isn’t a sign that it’s perfect and everyone else is wrong: it’s a sign you can’t defend the things you love. That’s a position any self-aware person ought to be embarrassed to defend.