BE A BOY:
BE A GIRL:
BE A BOY: The girl next door is basically in love with you and you get to start your journey with a jaunty skip in your step.
BE A GIRL: The boy next door thinks you’re incompetent and you get to start your journey proving he’s wrong.
EDIT NOV 24 2014: I fixed some of my wording that people were finding issue with and elaborated on some points. Hurrah peer reviewed papers ^__^ haha.
I started off playing the boy because I didn’t like the overly feminine way the girl walked. When I met May she came off a little too friendly and it made me slightly uncomfortable, as I’m mostly attracted to boys. When I originally played Sapphire I played as the girl and so was used to having Brendan as a rival. So I decided to change to the girl just so I could see Brendan gush over me the way May had. But he didn’t gush over me at all, instead he disrespects my character’s gender and my ability as a pokemon trainer.
I was pretty shocked at how blatantly sexist that was. I went back to check the original game and yes… it is that way too.. I guess I never noticed because I played as the girl and was used to rivals treating me that way from the previous games, and I didn’t realise May treated the boy character so different.
There are actually some subtle differences from the original game to the remake that I will point out because I think they make a world of difference in tone.
The pause in the remake for Brendan to say “Huh…. I didn’t know you’d be a girl.” where in the original he just states “I didn’t know you’d be a girl.” really changes the tone. The ‘Huh…’ at the start gives the impression that he’s disappointed she’s a girl, where in the original he’s just stating that he didn’t know.
It’s arguable that ‘assuming’ she’d be a boy comes off worse than ‘hoping’ she’d be a boy, but to me the original comes off as forgiveable ignorance where the remake makes it seem like Brendan actively dislikes the fact that the main character is a girl.
The last panel is the biggest change, and I don’t think it’s hard to see why. In the original after his intial shock that she’s a girl, he quickly moves on to introducing himself in a very friendly and pleasant way. But in the remake, it’s like he’s reluctant to get to know her or be her friend (because, as has been established, she is a girl). It comes off that he’s only doing so out of some moral obligation or convenience that she lives so close by. This is totally absent from the original and I’m not sure why the changes were made.
Anyways, I still very much love the remake and am excited to play
but this is what sexism looks like —> If May had disrespected the boy character the same way, it wouldn’t have been sexist (both genders treated equally). If Brendan had gushed over the female character the way May does, it wouldn’t have been sexist (both genders treated equally.) If you got to chose who your rival was (pick May if you wanted to be treated nice, pick Brendan if you wanted a classic jerk rival) Than it wouldn’t have been sexist because then it’s just the characters’ personalities instead of sterotypical boy-girl dynamics. But the way it is:
If you pick to be a BOY there is a GIRL who will treat you a certain and very sterotypical way that is different from the way the boy treats the girl if you pick to be a GIRL there is a BOY who will treat you in a very sterotypical way that is different from the way the girl treats the boy.
And that is VERY sexist.
EDIT Nov 24 2014: A common response to this post has been about the psychology of 10 year olds and ‘that’s just the way 10 year old boys and girls are’. However that’s still a very gendered way to look at things. Not all 10 year old boys act in that way towards girls and not all 10 year old girls act that way towards boys either.
This is a video game that was not written by 10 year olds. In trying to justify whether or not this is “okay” we are missing the point that once a player chooses a gender, problematic ideas of gender are reinforced.
It’s not whether we can accept that 10 year olds CAN act that way, the question is whether it’s a negative thing that boys are being portrayed in a stereotypical way and girls are getting the same “Heh! A GIRL?!” from their video games that they have to constantly deal with in real life.
EDIT Nov 24 2014: It’s been pointed out that the characters go through development and overcome these initial sexist portrayals. Thinking of the gendered stereotypes of being character flaws that these rival characters grow and over come is pretty cool! I still think there are wider and more far-reaching problems to the initial gendereing of the characters, however I very much respect the fact that they change over the course of the game.