A Boys Choice? Propagation of Societal Gender Roles in Video Game Marketing
The views and wants of a pre-teen boy are easily stereotyped: sports, aggression, and more sports. These generally held ideals are mirrored in the typical products aimed at young male audiences. By examining the male hetero-normative values heralded by specific toys, we can see the exclusion of females and the penalization of males who wish to differ from stereotypically constructed gender roles. As a specific example, we can observe one such case; the entertainment wish list of nine year old Aaron, and the culture that surrounds his shopping experience.
As a society males generally are not included in such stereotypically feminine pursuits such as dance, as Newman mentions, “For boys, life on the other side of the gender fence is much more precarious. The chances to play girl games without ridicule are rare and the risks for doing so are steep. The sissy is not simply a boy who enjoys female pursuits. He is suspiciously soft and effeminate. His sissy-ness is likely to be seen as reflective of his sexual essence, a sign of his impending homosexuality.” (Newman, pg. 8)It seems that Ubisoft, the makers of this dance game, fall into the ideology described by Newman. Boys are strongly discouraged from the game by its lack of identifiable male counterparts and feminine color choices. The marketers take it one step further by emasculating the only male character, by giving him a non-normative and possibly homosexual appearance. Overall these signals spell out one clear message: that this is a game for females or homosexuals, not for the normative nine year old straight male.
It appears that even though our typical nine year old has diverse interests, society has other plans; despite his varied wants, marketing professionals have created strict gender roles for Aaron to fill. As most boys, his hopes of sports-related enjoyment will go on unperturbed; male-dominated game covers may grasp his eye and give him same-gendered role models to whom he can aspire, even if they also reinforce an anti-woman sentiment in relation to sports. Conversely, Aaron’s trip down the dance-game section may cause him great disappointment; he will be punished with a loss of normative masculinity, propagated by female leads and homosexual connotation.
Just Dance 2. Photograph. Toys R Us. Ubisoft. Web. 28 July 2011. <http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4429324&searchURL=true>.
Messner, M. "Boyhood, Organized Sports, And The Construction Of Masculinities." Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 18.4 (1990): 416-44. Print.
Newman, David M. "Chapter Four Learning Difference Families, Schools, and Socialization." Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006. Print.
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011. Photograph. Toys R Us. THQ. Web. 28 July 2011. <http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4454967>.