When the Saints Come Marchin’ In: Sexism in Hitman

So I've thought a bit more about that Hitman trailer. Read around a bit about it. Saw what the haps was.

It is really disheartening to read comments from guys on this subject because they are so goddamn clueless. I mean, I really want to just be all "Well, they don't know any better". 'Cause they don't. But at the same time, they're so dismissive and rude about it. "Bitches making a mountain out of a molehill" essentially. If it's a molehill, it's still there and needs to be addressed.

But let's talk a little about what the social justice warriors are saying about it.

The predominant thing I saw people complaining about about was why those columnists who objected to the trailer seemed so reluctant to say outright that it was sexist to have 47 beat up all these sexualized women and why people were so focused on the trailer not being reflective of the gameplay.

It's sort of a tangled subject, but I'mma try and sort it out.

A lot of people supposed that the reason why we can't talk about the misogyny of beating seven women dressed as fetishized nuns to death is because nowadays you can't question a female character's outfit. Because now whenever you do, the developers will tell you that "she" wants to dress that way. Since we can't question WHY they are dressed as nuns, we have to talk about 47 being brutal and obnoxious.

I will say that I'm at a point now where the "she wants to dress that way" line is getting a resounding lolnope out of me. It's a pat response that uses modern feminist doctrine to defend sexist bullshit. That is, if you question their character's desire to wear a trashy outfit, it's framed as you questioning her as a woman and not the designer.

Except 9 times out of 10, these characters are created by men. Men who have not a clue how a woman really goes about making a sexual object of herself or when she would find it appropriate to do so. So a male game developer telling me about his "strong" female characters who wear latex bathing suits to spy missions? Yeah, no.

So the Saints, as the sexy nuns are apparently called, "want to sexualize themselves" doesn't wash. Which, to be fair, the developers themselves did not claim this, but you’ve seen it said.

Part of the reason I think those writers are unwilling to outright call it sexism is because of Hitman's past chivalrous development code. In three whole games, there was only one female target. No women or children, basically. Which itself was sexist, so it seems they are trying to remedy that. While we're on the subject, though, let's compare the female targets. I think you'll find this amusing.

This is Dr. Hannelore von Kamprad, the singular female target in three games worth of Hitman.

Dr. Hannelore von Kamprad from Hitman 2: Silent Assassin.

One of two contracted targets in Blood Money, Angelina Mason. She is wearing a Mardi Gras costume. The other members of her team, all men, wear similar costumes, although they forwent the boob window and high heels.

Angelina Mason from Hitman: Blood Money.

The other, Vaana Ketlyn, also wears a costume for the Hell party.

Vanna Ketlyn from Hitman: Blood Money.

There are also two rival assassins who appear in Blood Money, Eve and another nameless woman. Eve becomes a target after the mission she appears in proceeds; the other does not.

Eve from Hitman: Blood Money.

Nameless female assassin from You Better Watch Out in Hitman: Blood Money.

One of these things is not like the others.

Blood Money was remarkably different in how it treated female characters, in that they were targets now and situations were written such that nearly every woman you need to interact with will be dressed in a sexy outfit.

I don't necessarily find this problematic because nearly every level you meet these women in are parties. Women do dress like this (with the exception of Eve's getup) at parties. It gets to be pretty obvious, though, why there are so many costume party situations in Blood Money. But I'd rather have lots of theme party levels than more military bases. Just sayin'.

But anyway, I find it pretty |: / that in three games, we have only one target, who is a professional and dressed conservatively and then suddenly we have a new game with far more female targets, all dressed in sexualized costumes, half of which are for the express purpose of seducing their own targets.

Which brings me to another point. These female assassins in Blood Money, they were sent to kill 47. One of the key things about him, an integral part of his perfect assassin super-clone persona, is that he is asexual in the most basic and unambiguous sense of the word. Half-naked women do not interest him. If he falls into the trap of Eve or the mystery woman at the Christmas party, it is because the player succumbed to their own curiosity.

I totally did it too, I'm just saying. 47 himself would not fall for this trick and canonically he doesn't. He pretends to so he can kill Eve per his updated mission objectives and he ignores the other assassin entirely. And the reason why these women even tried that was because there is next to no intel on 47. It was the obvious thing to do when they had nothing to go on.

But that doesn't make sense for the Saints. They're ICA agents. ICA may not know a whole lot more than anyone else about 47, but they should know things that are relevant to his work history with them, particularly that 47 won't be seduced.

So why are they dressed as sexy nuns?

That's one half of the sexism equation here. They aren't dressed that way for any purpose other than to titillate. Those costumes don't help them blend into the set level, they don't give them an edge over 47. They're dressed like that just because the developers wanted sexy nuns in their trailer.

So the other half.

Why is it a group of women? Is it sexist to beat a woman to death? Is it sexist to beat several women to death?

I personally think that's where the line lies.

In one of the Blood Money trailers, Mark Parchessi is built up as the antagonist of the game, an equal and rival assassin, also cloned. Just as he says, in fact. "I'm just like you." He totally ain't, but the point is, it's just him and he's made to be important in that way. Disregarding for a moment that the trailer doesn't feature 47 headbutting Parchessi in the face and breaking his nose, because he is one man and he confronts 47 we can infer that he is important and that he is, if not equal, at least extremely dangerous to 47.

Putting a single person, giving them a name, and making them important. That would've worked for a woman too. In fact, it would've been really cool, even though 47 would have undoubtedly had to defeat her.

By sending a whole group of people, though, we can tell they're just mooks. Disposable. Never had a chance. They could send Lee Hong's triad, FBI agents, even those fucking ninjas from the Japanese snow levels.

So why is it a group of women they send to the slaughter?

And why send them dressed in sexy costumes for no apparent purpose?

And why have 47 go against his usual behavior, against the very point of the gameplay, to beat all these women to death? Why does he forgo stealth two murders in, even though he hasn't been found out yet? Why does he rely on brute force when in practice you could only ever shove at people and you certainly couldn't use that as an actual approach like you could with stealth or just shooting everything? Why is he acting like he's in Kill Bill and not Hitman?

That was the complaint that I saw the social justice people making that made me lolwut. Why are columnists focusing so hard on the trailer being unrepresentative of the gameplay? They thought it was a matter of trying to derail their own objection but I disagree.

Why focus on the discrepancy between the trailer and the actual gameplay? Because it illustrates the point exactly. None of this trailer represents the game that we expect or the games that led up to it. There is no reason why this idea prevailed over anything that made far more sense other than that the guys at IO wanted to make a short film in which 47 beats seven women dressed as slutty nuns to death. They could have subbed in any of the other nameless hordes that populate various levels. But that wouldn’t have had the same effect as sexy nuns. It wouldn’t have been as controversial, shocking, or sexually exciting and therefore wouldn’t have justified, in their minds, deviating from character and the point of their game as much as this trailer does. It not only suggests embarrassing things about their latent feelings on women, but it distracts from the real point of the game, the direction they're taking the plot in, and it seems to suggest that they don't feel they can sell their story, gameplay, and level designs alone.

Which is pretty fucking silly considering they made a really cohesive and compelling game out of a plot that was essentially "an assassin is passed out on the floor".

It's insulting to those of their playerbase who are interested in this new development in 47's character and story and it's deprecating to themselves to think that they can't sell the game without pandering to the sort of people who wouldn't buy it without a bunch of latex crotch shots and the opportunity to break a woman's nose. The kind of person who needs those things to be sold on a game is, in my experience, too dumb and impatient to like Hitman in the first place. What’s sad though is that in making this trailer, the developers basically outed themselves as those kind of people.

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  1. Maxx 2014.09.03 10:09pm

    Very insightful article.


October 2020