The furor over the game “Fat Princess” has finally hit the mainstream media, and its long past time I wrote about it here. After all, back in those halcyon days when I had spare time, I used to play video games; these days, my husband and one of my best friends work for a video game company. So what’s the story? In a nutshell:
Fat Princess is a capture-the-flag game with a twist: you can thwart capture attempts by locking the once-thin princess in a dungeon and stuffing her full of cake, thereby increasing her girth and making her harder for your enemies to haul back to home base.
So part of the game—an important part, going by the title—is fattening up a princess with cake, so she becomes fatter and harder to lug around. Charming. This Feministe post does a great job outlining the issues with the game, and I highly recommend the entire post.
Look, the humor here is not that hard to understand, especially if you look at the last few decades of gaming. There’s a classic fairy-tale trope in video games going back to Donkey Kong where a male protagonist must rescue the damsel in distress. “Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!” Sound familiar? You don’t need to be a brilliant feminist scholar to realize that this kind of story, with a male hero rescuing a helpless girl, is not only a cliche but a sexist cliche that long predates the invention of Pong…
Fat Princess is a send-up of that tired old cliche. Believe me, there are a lot of ways you could send up that cliche, but of all the possibilities, Titan chose to make the princess FAT. The joke here is also obvious: LOL who would want to rescue a fat chick?
…. Each side has captured the other’s princess; in addition to fortifying, defending, and capturing territory, you can feed your captive food. Because women are helpless in the face of cake, of course, she just eats and eats. And of course, absolutely anyone who eats a lot is going to balloon up into a spherical caricature of a heavy person, right? That’s how fat people get made! And of course she’s so heavy that it takes a whole crowd of soldiers to carry her! Because that’s what fat people are like! The cartoon-logic is impeccable. It’s also very recognizable, from a long history of our culture mocking the fat, blaming fat people for their bodies, perpetuating all sorts of bullshit about fat. It’s so recognizable that it doesn’t really need to be explained to anyone who has a problem with this kind of mockery.
“But the game was written by a woman!” doesn’t really hold water either. (I think we can all name at least one woman who hates fat people, if we think really hard.)
In the grand scheme of things, fat women are certainly not damsels in distress, we aren’t powerless over food, and a video game is not intended to be an accurate depiction of reality. There are plenty of stupid video games out there, so it would be easy to say, just forget it, it’s not important.
But there is also plenty of ammunition against fat people in the world, plenty of people who don’t even bother to question these tropes, and plenty of people who are ready to respond to thoughtful criticism with such bon mots as “lol your fat.” The last thing we need is more fat-hating in our pop culture. Come on, Sony, isn’t the problem here clear?
Sigh. Princess Fiona, at least we’ll always have you.
Posted by mo pie