Slim Shady Bitchslapped My Fat Princess
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
I had been considering posting about the upcoming Sony game Fat Princess, but had been procrastinating on it so long I had pretty much dismissed the idea. Today, however, my friend (hi, Mike!) randomly came up to me unprompted and asked if I would blog about it. So, here goes. has the basic gist of the game:
It's a multiplayer "capture the flag" game, except that the flag is a princess who is more difficult to carry back to base the more the opposing team feeds her cake, which magically grows in the forest around the castle.

The action takes place in a colorful fantasy land where opposing teams need to reach the other's base, grab their princess and get back to the castle. The princess will lose the weight if she's not constantly fed, so if a team focuses on just combat instead of feeding the princess, the opposing team will have an easier time carrying her away once they inevitably infiltrate the castle.
The internet exploded for a few days, with most sites choosing headlines such as "Feminists Cry Foul Fat Princess". One blogger at Shakesville went so far as to say, "Anyway, congrats on your awesome new game, Sony. I'm positively thrilled to see such unyielding dedication to creating a new generation of fat-hating, heteronormative assholes." Salon's Broadsheet was similarly unimpressed.

My first reaction when I heard about the game was "Wow, that hilarious. I would like to play that game. The screenshots look cute." My first reaction to the headlines were, "Since when did all feminists get together and collectively decide that this game was worthy of scorn?" I mean, yes, when a site called Feminist Gamers posts a blog, I can see why the mainstream press pretty much picked up on that and ran with the headlines above.

Still, I'm reminded of the South Park episode where Stan's father lets a racial slur slip, and then goes to Jesse Jackson to beg for forgiveness. The punchline comes, of course, when Stan's African American friend Token (heh) refuses to forgive the father. Stan protests, "But Jesse Jackson said it was okay!" and Token shouts back, "Jesse Jackson isn't the King of Black people!" That's kind of where I am right now. I am a feminist, I wear the label with pride, and it always sort of bothers me when I see a headline telling me how I'm supposed to feel as a feminist, or that suggests that all feminists are uniform in their opinion of such things.

Here's the thing that amuses me about the game: the very idea of it is a parody of the whole "Fairy Princess" notion in the first place. One could argue that the classic trope of the princess as this object to be rescued by men is a silly one in the first place, and the subversive nature of the game is explicitly making her the equivalent of an object (the "flag", for those familiar with this style of game). So what's the issue here? Are they upset that the game can certain be spun to be a slight or insult towards fat people in general? If so, is that a feminist issue, per se? Would those same sites be up in arms if it were called Fat Prince (leaving aside the fact that the very fact that such a game is unlikely is part of the point)? I mean, what's more offensive: seeing a princess portrayed as a fat person, or the notion that all princesses are to be skinny, beautiful girls who are white 99% of the time?

Kotaku has a fantastic article debating the issue (click the link and go read it in its entirety), but I think they get to the heart of the issue here when they say "But what's wrong with a fat princess?":

So what's the alternative for the princess? Should she not be fat, because thin girls are cute and funny while fat ones are not? Would it have been better to make her a typical, idealized female? Or must we be so sensitive that we are no longer allowed to rescue the princess, as we have done in our fairy tales for centuries, at all?


I hate when we as an audience dismiss debates on issues in video games by saying "it's just a game." But I don't think that the things we see in games are necessarily reflections on ourselves or about us; the fat princess is not a spokesperson for all women, or even all fat women, and I'm most curious about the critics who chose to see her as a statement on themselves or their role as women in the real world.

Ultimately, though, wouldn't removing the fat girl, or the issue of obesity, from the game because they bring too many issues into play be precisely the wrong message to send to women?

Here's where I always struggle as a liberal feminist in today's world. On one hand, yeah, I get the issue and I understand the intellectual reasons why certain things are "offensive." On the other hand, there's a certain part of me that is sort of like, "Eh, let's just go extract the stick out of our collective asses, put down our dog-eared copies of The Feminine Mystique, and just enjoy a bit of naughty humor."

This brings me to the next item I had on my "need to blog about this" list - a little gem of a movie I found recently called Bitch Slap. Oh yeah, you read that right. Stop reading this post, go to the site I linked and watch the trailer. I'll wait, it's okay.


Okay, welcome back. Now having watched the trailer as I instructed, I'm sure you noticed the same things I did: boobies, explosions, boobies, chicks fighting, some familiar faces from the Xena and Hercules TV series, and finally...more boobies. Now, on one level, as a feminist I see that trailer and think, "Wow, this looks trashy. It's like a 12 year old boy's fantasy. Gross." On a different level, I see it and think, "Boobs, stuff exploding and girls kicking ass? I love it. I MUST see it." Thus, my dilemma. Do I reject this movie as an exploitative piece of trash, or do I just give in to my snickering 12 year old boy inside and just see it and enjoy it for what it is?

Obviously, this film is an homage to both the classic Russ Meyer film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and to the Grindhouse films of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. The filmmakers are clearly in on the joke.
Gruendemann and Jacobson have called the project a “feminist, thinking-man's” exploitation film with a mysterious female narrator who “comments periodically on the folly of humanity, the plight of the human condition and the vagaries of life and love through quoting the likes of Dostoevsky, T.S. Eliot, Sun Tzu and even Buddha.
Gotcha. Should I feel guilty for laughing hysterically at the trailer to this movie and then deciding I'm going to go pay money to see it? If the filmmakers fail to reach the levels of Rodriguez or Tarantino in terms of their execution, does that make this a failed project? Does it excuse a movie's excesses if the filmmakers are well aware of the social stereotypes and images they're playing with, if they wink at the audience and assume we're all in on the joke? Applying this to the first topic, does the fact that a woman was the lead art designer on Fat Princess make it better? Does the fact that I, both as a woman and a person who would qualify as "heavy", think the game is funny and the movie looks great somehow make it okay for ignore the more troubling aspects of both works?

This of course segways into my final thought, which has been gnawing at me for some time: how much are we allowed to enjoy what many fellow liberals would describe as "offensive"? I am thinking specifically of the rapper Eminem in this case. How do I reconcile my distaste for some of his topics with the fact that he's an amazing rapper? Can I sing along to lyrics like "Fuck you too, bitch, call the cops! I'm gonna kill you and those loud ass barking dogs!" (from Dr. Dre's single "Forget About Dre") and conveniently ignore the troubling emotion behind them? Can I appreciate the brilliance behind his lyrics, with their wickedly clever phrasing and rhythms, and reject the sentiment?

Eminem is an interesting artist, in that he too, winks at the audience and plays the part of the comic rap clown. "I'm just joking," he seems to say, while venting venom full force. He fantasizes about murdering his ex in the song "Kim", delivering the lyrics in a first person voice addressed directly to her, but then can turn around and tenderly address his daughter in "Mockingbird." He invents an alternate persona called Slim Shady, who represents his dark id, and then uses this character as a vehicle to lash out at his ex, his mother, his rivals (both real and imagined), and anyone else who crosses his path.

I could probably do a week's worth of posts on all the things that I find genius about Eminem, and then another week on all the things about him that I find problematic and disturbing. Rhapsody's Sam Chennault says the following about The Marshall Matters LP : "This is volatile, obscene and great art." That's probably the closest way to sum up my own feelings on that.

This isn't my most coherent post ever, but it's mostly due to the fact that there's just no easy angle to come at these things from. I'd like to hear comments from any lurkers out there - how do you deal with problematic art?
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On 10:02 AM , Brownie said...

By complaining about a fat princess, these complaining idiots imply that there's something wrong with being fat which plays into typical stereotypes about what is and is not acceptable for women.