Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Duke Nukem and Misogynism

I consider myself a woman and there is something that has been bothering me ever since the release of Duke Nukem Forever. Is Duke Nukem a misogynist? And also, could Duke Nukem Forever and Duke Nukem 3D and other Duke games be considered misogynistic in nature? A lot of people have been talking about this and so I thought, being the massive Duke Nukem fan I am, that I would throw in my two cents. I'm not trying to defend Duke here or taking any side, just look at the facts and debunk these myths a bit to see if there is actual ground to them and be as objective as I can about it, despite my obvious bias. Hell, I think at a forum someone went as far as to say I was "falling victim to the machosism of male dominance" or something but let's not get into that.

First of all, let's talk about the question whether Duke is a misogynist or not. Now, I am under the firm belief that while Duke is a hedonist and a bit of a chauvinist, I do not consider him necessarily a misogynist. A misogynist is speficially someone who has a disrespect and even hatred and disgust towards women, but Duke does not strike me that way. From what I've seen in his games he loves women and while the games obviously objectify women to some degree, I have never encountered any point in the games where Duke outright mistreated women. Hell, I don't remember him even using any deregatory slurs for women, the closest he ever gets is calling them "babe" but even that is more of an affectionate term.
He runs a strip club obviously but as far as I can tell from Duke Nukem Forever, none of the females there are forced to work there, all of them work there out of their own free will, often just because Duke runs the place. He enforces fair rules about no drugs allowed, they are to always use condoms to prevent STD's and unwanted pregnancy, and to always clean up if they make a mess. So I do not find that as any sufficient evidence that Duke is treating women in a misogynistic way.
True, he does slap a woman to make her stay still in multiplayer but it is not a hateful slap and more just a playful thing as he carries her through the map to keep her from obscuring his view, and it never struck me as misogynistic or hateful towards the woman. Consider it this way, there's a difference between playfully nibbling someone's ear and tearing it off with your teeth. It's just all in good fun.
Other characters however in the games ARE misogynistic. In both Duke Nukem 3D and Forever, the aliens are definitely the ones who treat women as mere objects, kidnapping them to use them as nothing more than breeding hosts for their young, and inspired by the Alien movies, the women die a horrible death upon giving birth to these creatures. We'll get more into that later.
In the DLC "The Doctor Who Cloned Me" you come to a brothel where there are some customers who try to force the women to do things against their will, and this is clearly misogynistic as well, even if it's done in a humorous fashion, and so Duke punches them to teach them a lesson, actually standing up for the women. He also outright refuses to play an arcade game called Pimp Slap, where the goal, quite blatantly, is to slap women.
At some point in the Forever campaign he even lets a woman be his boss willingly and does a mission for her, for which in return she gives him a reward. True, this is all a dream to him, but just the fact it is might even enforce the fact that Duke DOES respect and love women and it is NOT his fault that basically he's a sex symbol to women in his games because, let's face it, Duke is just as objectified as the women are, if not even more, and he's meant to be the ideal man in every way.
In the multiplayer "My Digz" level, you have women as unlockable decorations but they do have voices, they do talk to you and have at least more personality to them than just being decorations, even if they are obviously very shallow and defined by their fetishes more than anything. But to me, that's just something you have to expect in this game. And like I said, Duke never mistreats them, he oogles them sure, gives them compliments, sure, but these women are willingly doing this and are meant to be parodies so if you think too deeply about them, you're missing the point.

Now let's discuss whether the games can be considered misogynistic. As I mentioned earlier, both in Duke Nukem 3D and Forever, the aliens are the ones who act as the antagonists and use women as breeding tools. Now, a lot of people have said as a criticism that Duke does not save these women or hell, that these women are not defending themselves and merely reduced to plot points. So let's look at it this way, not only are the women already impregnated when he finds them and therefore unsalvagable because he can't just punch them in the stomach or tear the aliens out of them without hurting them seriously in the process, and therefore it is just too late to save them, the aliens have advanced technology, are superior in strength and numbers, and have giant space ships. The women are mostly civilians, none of them have ever received weapon or military training, and in fact, a lot of the guys in both games are dead because the aliens just outright kill them. So I think women aren't necessarily depicted as particurarily weak, just as weak as anyone would be in the face of an alien threat. I mean, if you're a woman who's more focused on what to wear and what makeup to put on than how you can kill someone, then OBVIOUSLY you're an easy target.
Now, there was meant to be a strong female character called Bombshell who would be a female equivalent of Duke but she was actually cut from the game. Just the fact she was even conceptualized kinda makes me think they intented the game to be playable with a female partner and to me, that's proof enough that they didn't make the game with misogynistic intent.

Let's face it, while the games are obviously a bit perverted, they are not meant to be taken seriously. The thing about Duke Nukem is that the games are meant to parody real life, not portray it. The women are basically airheads with little to no personality because that is how a lot of women are portrayed in media, and Duke Nukem Forever simply takes this to the next level and making a parody of it, mixing it with parodies of other pop culture things. It is all just meant as good fun, and if you take any of the games seriously, you're missing the point entirely. I could go on and on analyzing the games to look for clues that they are misogynistic or that Duke is but truth to be told, I would just be wasting my time. If I was in Duke's game, sure, I would love to work for him, because I know Duke would always treat me with respect, always appreciate me and give me compliments, and to me, that is how every man should be and he proves that a real man CAN be a hedonist without abusing women for it. Come on, Duke Nukem himself is a parody, an objectified image of the perfect man, and not realistic in any sense of the word. He slaps walltits and shoots three-boobed alien queens, he exists in his own universe, his own reality, his games are not portraying reality. If they were, sure, these things WOULD be out of place slightly but that's the thing, they are not. If you take these games seriously, then you are indeed missing the point and more concerned with your own agenda than simply having a good time.

Hey, at least he's not Gordon Freeman who never has the courtesy to speak to Alyx and when she loses her father all he does is stand there and coldly watch her... But that's a topic for another day.

- Alyxx