The Great Race And Gender Debate Of Grand Theft Auto V

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Oh no, Grand Theft Auto V has no women as leads in it, yet has three MEN I can switch between willingly. That is SO sexist! Oh, and Franklin gets treated differently in the game because he is black, that is SO messed up!

Spare me that whining, pop culture. We have become such assholes, such pitiful little shits, that we look for faults wherever we can find them. The funniest thing being, the two things I mentioned above are FAR from being faults. Moreover, I would call them conscientious and brilliant decisions, per usual, on Rockstar’s account. But like the self righteous assholes we have all become, we are just LOOKING for something wrong with this game. Sadly, it is just a reflection of the world we live in right now. Grand Theft Auto V is not broken or messed up. It is spot-on. It is we as a whole that are broken, as I will try to point out here.

It seems no matter what you present people, they will find something to tear apart about it. Look at the comments section under most of my articles and you will see, God forbid I think Anthony Bourdain would be a good Batman. Apparently I should be raped for that. You can give people free articles that they can look at whenever they want, yet they will still tell you that something is wrong with them. You “left out” a movie they wanted, or a moment they loved.

You can cook someone a meal that cost them nothing, and they will focus on the one aspect of the meal they didn’t like. Maybe you used too much salt, or overcooked their meat.

You can give someone a ride somewhere, and they will bitch about the road you took to get them there. They will focus on how bumpy it was, or how “they” knew a quicker, better way. It is just how the world (and we as a people) work now. It’s sad, but true.

We have become spoiled, whiny brats, who, for some inexplicable reason, feel that the world owes us. Sadly, the internet age has only made it worse, giving a voice to all the weak willed and lonesome trolls who live in their parents basement and suddenly, for the first time in all their lives, have a megaphone through which to spew their sad and pointless angst.

Of course, Rockstar is on the receiving end of some of that angst right now. This time, they are being taken apart for how the deal with race and gender in GTA V. But let’s not forget, this is Rockstar, and to imply they don’t know what their doing is to laugh in the face of the fact that they just made $800 million dollars……in ONE DAY.

It seems that everyone who implies that they did something wrong needs to understand, action outweighs words, and we all bought the game, didn’t we? So between the perfect reviews and the fact that EVERYONE is playing this game, some people noticed a few things that pissed them off in Grand Theft Auto V.

Namely, there are no strong women represented in the game, and that Franklin, the black character, gets treated differently. I will now tell you why both of those were brilliant decisions on Rockstar’s part , and why they are a multi-billion dollar business, and we all aren’t.

I will address gender first, as it seems to be the more pressing issue.


The Gender Issue

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Can we take a moment to reflect on all of the GTA games for a second? What are they mostly about? I’ll tell you. They all focus on an anti-hero who rises himself up from his bootstraps to become some kind of powerful overlord of sorts. It may be casinos, or drug running, or heists, but generally, the GTA games are longer version of that Drake song, Started From the Bottom (can you tell I am intentionally trying to rile you up?). In many ways, you could consider the GTA games different versions of the Scarface story. The same idea that a low-level thug does various jobs for various shady people in attempt to climb in rank and power.

Now, for a moment, how about we reflect on all the movies where women did the same thing?

You know, like, um, that one movie starring, um……no one. Because it has never happened. Understand, this does not mean this has not happened in real life, because it has.  But, that doesn’t mean pop culture has touched it yet. Now, just by pointing this out, I don’t want any of you to misconstrue that I like it. No, I genuinely believe women are misrepresented on film and in mass media, and have been since its inception, but that is not what we are arguing here.

What we are arguing is why, when Rockstar had three leads they put in GTA V, do we not have the opportunity to play as a women? It seems a fair question, but really, what you are all asking is, why isn’t Rockstar the first company ever to do this? That is a damn lofty thing to ask of a game company, isn’t it?

Hollywood is still too scared to even cast females as action leads (with Haywire being the recent exception), and you are asking Rockstar to write one? Think of what you are asking? Also, someone tell me how a female would have worked in the interlocking story of GTA V? There was a specific point to each character, believe it or not.

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It is funny to me that some people are up in arms that you cannot play as a female, but let me take a ONE random scenario from Grand Theft Auto V, and change the lead’s gender. This is not a spoiler, as it is a random event some gamers won’t even ever see in their playthrough, but here we go.

You are Trevor, you are jumped, drugged, and you wake up on train tracks in your underwear, mumbling “not again” as you move out of the way of an oncoming train. This scene was messed up, but elicited a genuine chuckle from me. Now, let’s switch the gender. You come to in your bra and panties, after being jumped, robbed, and drugged. Do you see the MAJOR difference in the tone of that?

As Trevor, you come to, and it’s a funny, albeit jarring moment. Now imagine, if instead of Trevor, you were someone named Tammy in that scene. You come to, half-naked and drugged, left out in the desert. What will be one of the FIRST things you think? Maybe no one will say it, but sadly, that scene would make us wonder if that character had been assaulted in some way. You would wonder what awful things you didn’t see.

With Trevor, you are just grateful you didn’t see it and you move on. GTA V is satirical and funny, but make no mistakes about it, it is a VERY dark game. Wondering why females are not cast as leads in a GTA is a silly question. I don’t think the world, as a whole, is ready to see them like that. I may be, and you may be, and the fact that most may not be could be a reflection of a sadly patriarchal society, but regardless, if the world was ready for that, wouldn’t they have it by now? Why is it Rockstar’s job to bring that to us?

Is it silly to wonder why the females in the game are so one dimensional?

No, that seems more fair to ask. But wouldn’t you think Rockstar is making note of this, and working on it? Think about Bonnie McFarlane from Red Dead? Hasn’t Rockstar already hinted that they may give us one of the best female characters ever by already giving us a NPC that rivals most male characters? They are a company who very much takes their fans into consideration, so I would not be surprised if this hot-button issue got addressed in the next GTA game we get, whenever that may be. In the meantime, when you are attaching jumper cables to man’s nipples in Grand Theft Auto V, realize how grateful you are that this ISN’T a woman.

Okay, now on to the race thing. Please hear me out before you tar and feather me. Yes, I just used that term to make a point. The point? I am an asshole.

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The Race Card

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The age, race, and social standing of each of the three characters in GTA V were all very specific and intentional. Michael is the wiser, older, settled soul, who was living comfortably in white suburban America, though living in misery. Trevor was the more redneck character, living in the shitty part of town, cooking meth to get by and fucking and killing anything that stood in his way. Franklin, on the other hand, stands in bitter contrast to Michael and Trevor. He is struggling to “come up” still, is a little younger, and is African American.

Though the differences may seem shallow on the surface, all you need to do is play the game for twenty plus hours to realize, Franklin’s race factors into the game WAY more than you think it would, and as upsetting as it may seem on the surface, it is one of the most genius things any game designers have ever implemented in any game, ever.

Let me tell you why I think the “profiling” I’ve experienced in my play-through of Grand Theft Auto V is brilliant.

Suddenly, 100 million white kids who have no idea what it is like to have to suffer for being different suddenly know what it is like to be profiled. Suddenly, a bunch of white kids who have no reference point for what it must be like to be a victim of racism, on some microcosmic scale, suddenly have a grasp for that. Laugh all you want, but spend some time in Grand Theft Auto V, and it becomes rather bothersome, no doubt, on purpose.

A perfect example of this is about halfway through the game, you need to steal some military trucks out of a convoy so you can use them for a heist. The trucks show up at random points, and regardless of who you play as, you can jack the trucks as they roll through. So, I’m playing as Trevor and I park my car sideways in the road, pull out the driver, and steal the truck. A few of the soldiers give chase, but they give up rather quickly. I get no stars, and no police trouble as a result. I drive the truck back, park it, and get on with life.

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Then, I decide I want to try to jack the trucks again as Franklin, because his driving skill is sick and I probably could have gotten a gold medal on the mission. The next time I see the convoy I get into the truck and BAM, two star wanted level. I do all the exact same stuff I did as Trevor, but by the time I get back to the house with the truck, I am a four star wanted level and am pretty much unable to shake any of it. That, my friends, is just one example.

What about when you are standing around as Franklin, checking your phone, and some random white lady freaks out and calls the cops on you for no reason? Has that happened to you yet? What about the cops in the game confusing you with another black guy and shooting at you for no reason during a robbery, has that happened to you yet?

Does it suck? Yes, but it is supposed to.

Rockstar can deny the racism all they want, but they are doing that because people can’t get over the fact that the game can have elements of racism without Rockstar themselves being racist. In that sense, I don’t blame them for denying it as intentional. The world needs to evolve a little more before they will be accept that level of satire, but for people to scream out that Rockstar is racist or sexist is an absolute joke.

This simply proves that the people Rockstar are geniuses, and have earned that Rockstar name.

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In Closing…

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Despite whatever you may think to the contrary, Grand Theft Auto V is, above and beyond all else, a brilliant work of satire.

A satire of a modern world obsessed with tech.

A satire of mass media.

A satire of commercialization and industry.

A satire of how we view women in our society.

A satire of celebrity.

A satire of how racist most police really are out in L.A.

Hell, the game even satirizes the suburban American family.

Nothing is safe, and nothing should be. If this game pisses you off because it misrepresents women and African Americans, you need to understand, the best satire merely holds up a mirror to our own world. So, in essence, if Grand Theft Auto V is pissing you off, your day to day life must be driving you insane.

At the end of the day, everyone needs to lighten up and remember: It’s just a game. A brilliant, biting, scathing game. Oh, and mark my words, we are just a few years away from Rockstar giving us the best female character that gaming has ever experienced. If that doesn’t shut the haters up, nothing will.

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  • Griffin Vacheron

    Very few things in pop culture aren’t sexist. GTA V is no exception. I also feel like Rockstar actually is a pretty good company to ask to pull off a female lead properly, since they’re one of the most talented developers in the business and have released two (arguably three) of the best games of all time. Plus, they are superb storytellers.

    • Remy Carreiro

      Nicely put.