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Grunge, Grrrls and Video Games: Turning the dial for a more meaningful culture
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Grunge, Grrrls and Video Games: Turning the dial for a more meaningful culture

August 16, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 6 Next

The cool boys

The plentitude of the 1980s and the launch of the American love affair with tech advancement influenced the culture I grew up in considerably. Every movie was about a boy hero, we ate Nintendo cereal and watched G.I. Joe. For young girls, there were career Barbies and toy ovens -- or you could, as I did, get eyeballs-deep in princess-rescuing, muscle-flexing, dude hero dominant paradigms.

Even the very fantasy of owning a game system was dangled by advertisers as something that would make you a cooler kid in school -- a cooler white boy, of course, whereby if there were girls or people of color in the ads, they were mainly there to look awed by or envious of the sporty white boy who was winning the video game.

Meanwhile, by 1990 the musical aesthetic was also fixed on aspirational swagger. That year, the band Warrant put out the video for “Cherry Pie,” iconic of the ultimate power fantasy of owning a muscle car, hopefully having a woman in a bikini on top of the car, and ideally she’d be doing seductive things with confections. The same year, Poison’s “Unskinny Bop” analogized sex to pumping gas into a car.

This was the masculine ideal at the time, although the skin-tight pants, huge hair and pursed lips might have been these rockers’ way to express some discomfort at, or subversion of the consumer-friendly manliness galvanized by the 1980s. But through its hunger for growling cars, packed stadiums and women as awards, hair metal was reinforcing the messages of capitalist patriarchy all the same.

Like everything else from the 1980s, the most visible arms of the game industry, and the games with the most fans, are driven by an obsession with advancing and accumulating hardware. They exist to serve and express the corporate ideal of bigger-better-more, and even in 2013, still generally find themselves serving up shallow, corny male power fantasies made by people with money, to people with money. It promises big engines and cool explosions.

Most screenshots of present-day E3 are surprisingly, startlingly hard to aesthetically differentiate from screencaps of “Unskinny Bop” and MTV’s Headbangers’ Ball. E3 is pure ‘80s: Aging men in tight pants who are still really excited about babes, robots and aliens.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 6 Next

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