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Anita Sarkeesian turns her sights on positive portrayals of women in video games

Jade from Beyond Good & Evil is 'an active, practical, young woman of color who has a job to do.'


Aja Romano

Internet Culture

Posted on May 12, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 8:46 pm CDT

Since Anita Sarkeesian finished the primary work of outlining the sexism of video games in her Tropes Vs. Women series, she has turned her attention to offering examples of game play that portray female characters as three-dimensional and interesting people. Last month, she offered the Scythian from Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP as her first example of this new series, Positive Female Characters in Video Games.

Now, she’s turning her attention to Jade from Beyond Good & Evil, a 2003 action-adventure game that was a critically acclaimed commercial flop. A follow-up, Beyond Good & Evil 2, has been in the works for years without much progress.

Sarkeesian argues that Jade is an example of a well-developed character because, well, she has an identity outside of her body, for one thing—a fact underscored by the fact that she wears comfortable, practical clothing, a rarity for any female character in games. For another, she’s the protagonist of BG&E, which means she, well, does things. She’s a photographer, a resistance fighter, and a caretaker of children orphaned by war, and she struggles with everyday problems like money issues.

Sarkeesian’s videos have made her a prime target for gamers who are bitter at the presence of so-called “social justice warriors,” usually shorthanded SJWs, in their community. Sarkeesian has long been viewed by gaming malcontents as the biggest SJW of all, for her insistence in focusing on the inherently social and political aspects of games that often portray female characters as easily exploited sexual fantasies. 

This latest video won’t curtail the long-standing criticism that Sarkeesian is attempting to foster her own “agenda” of what she thinks gaming ought to look like. With words like “respect,” “cameraderie,” “social justice,” “friendship,” and “cooperation” occurring throughout her description of Beyond Good & Evil, the game certainly looks like a dream for fans of games which emphasize more than violent acts and the sexual objectification of women. 

But this game was made 10 years before Sarkeesian began her Tropes Vs. Women series. What’s remarkable isn’t just that Jade is a female protagonist with complexity and agency, but that in the decade since she first appeared, she’s still only one of a few rare female gaming characters who can boast that level of detail. 

It doesn’t take someone with Sarkeesian’s notoriety to make the simple point that it would be nice if the rest of the gaming world finally caught up to Jade. But hopefully, the rest of Sarkeesian’s latest series will display more of these diverse, engaging characterizations, as a reminder to us all that things are changing for the better.

Screengrab via Feministfrequency/YouTube

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*First Published: May 12, 2015, 2:14 pm CDT