Labour is currently undergoing an ideological crisis, similar to the one the Conservative party went through between its overwhelming defeat in 1997, and the election of David Cameron as leader at the end of 2005. It has no idea what it stands for or how to persuade people to vote for it. It is haemorrhaging its core working class voters to apathy, UKIP or worse. Its leader, Ed Miliband, is a catastrophe: vilified as a union puppet by right-wing commentators, but simultaneously, completely incapable of speaking for working people or earning their trust and confidence. The fact that Labour sympathisers now wistfully imagine how much better things would have been if David Miliband had won the leadership – even though the criticisms of Ed (out-of-touch, middle-class, London, Oxbridge, career politician / policy wonk with unfortunate ties to the Blair/Brown years) apply equally well to David – shows how poor and uninspiring the potential Labour leadership pool is.
Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist writer and critic, and creator of the video blog Feminist Frequency. Her videos have included the series Tropes vs. Women, and since 2012, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. In response to this latter series in particular, she has been the target of a campaign of misogynist abuse and harassment, including death threats, hacking attempts, release of personal information, and the disruption of speaking events by bomb threats.
I decided to watch some of the videos to see what all the fuss was about. I started with Damsel in Distress from the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series (parts 1, 2 and 3 here). In this episode, Sarkeesian describes the history of the “damsel in distress” trope in video games, from Donkey Kong to the present day, examines the more violent and disturbing variations of it which have become common in recent years, and considers examples of games which lampshade or subvert the trope.
Sarkeesian’s arguments are intelligent, solid and well-researched, her presentation is slick and engaging, and she comes across as sincere and passionate (though in a restrained and cogent way). The videos are both entertaining and though-provoking. In short, they’re excellent. If you’re the sort of person who can get lost in TV Tropes for hours (unsurprising revelation: I am), you’ll thoroughly enjoy them.