Boys will be boys…and so will girls?

As a self-proclaimed member of the video game community, I took great interest into Fiona’s involvement with machinima during her summer camp trip.

Vyrva showing signs of early parent bewilderment. “[Fiona’s] suddenly doing Quake movies. Some of them are online, she has a following already. We’ve been cosigning distribution deals. More clauses than a North Pole family reunion. No idea what we’re agreeing to, of course.”

Pynchon, Bleeding Edge pg. 316

While there is little to no expansion on machinima or Quake on the Pynchon wiki other than definitions, I think that both with relation to Fiona play a major role as some of the only commentary that Pynchon makes on gender roles. Quake is a first person shooter released on MS-DOS in 1996 that was a revolutionary multiplayer experience. Unlike its spiritual predecessor series, DoomQuake was rendered in 3D in real time. This created an unexpectedly creative space for players that began to integrate narration and miniature plots into choreographed character movements. Around 2001, players had begun to utilize sequels Quake II and Quake III: Arena to import custom models and manipulate cameras more freely in order to solidify machinima (machine – cinema) as a genre of film. In Bleeding Edge, Fiona has gone off to a machinima camp over the summer and by the fall has begun to make amateur videos to share online.

I call attention to this moment because of an interesting dichotomy between Fiona’s character and the culture of gaming/machinima, especially in the early 21st century. More so then, and still today, gaming culture has been dominantly a masculine one with a plethora of first person shooters and action games that focus on male protagonists. Reading through select passages of The Machinima Reader, especially Chapter 16 on gender roles, I found confirmation of the male dominance in machinima during its beginnings in the late 1990s through the early 2000s. However, the book also brought up the strengthening of female influence in machinima with the advent of purposeful moviemaking tools incorporated into The Sims 2, released in 2004.  A completely different environment for creative expression, The Sims 2 acted as a virtual dollhouse for some girls who felt more comfortable engaging in high school narratives rather than battlefield epics.

In the case of Fiona, I think that Pynchon is making one of his only overt references to gender roles in the novel. A young girl like Fiona at the turn of the millennium would not be the primary candidate for a budding “machinimist”. I personally know very few women today that are invovled in video game/machinima culture to the point of creating and publishing their own videos. With Bleeding Edge set in 2001, I could only imagine that Fiona is one of the only young women attending this camp in the summer, much less expanding on the experience quasi-professionally. In other characters and moments where Pynchon could have commented on gender, he seems to instead fall back on the regular gender tropes instead: Vyrva, Heidi, and Maxine are all shopaholics who constantly drop names of clothing lines, Horst constantly watches sports, raids the fridge, and wants sex from Maxine. This instance of Fiona being heavily involved in a male dominated niche of animated media is too poignant to be an accident on Pynchon’s part, especially in the face of his colorful, but traditional depictions of gender in the rest of the book.

In relation to what we have read in class so far outside of Bleeding Edge, I drew a couple of parallels to Haraway’s A Manifesto for Cyborgs as well. Machinima as a genre is a great example of the elimination of the dichotomies that Haraway talks about. Here we have a method by which movies are acted out by virtual beings, in turn being controlled by humans. There is no longer a distinction between the human and the technological because they are inextricable in the final product. Like Haraway suggests, I think that Pynchon is showing that Fiona has found a certain haven in this absence of dichotomy and is one of the first young women to really thrive in it at the turn of the 21st century.

References:

Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.

Lowood, Henry, and Michael Nitsche. “16. Pink vs. Blue: The Emergence of Women in Machinima.” The Machinima Reader. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2011. N. pag. Print.

Haraway, Donna. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s.” Australian Feminist Studies 2.4 (1987): 1-42. Web.

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3 Responses to Boys will be boys…and so will girls?

  1. tspace22 says:

    While I agree with the notion that Fiona is subverting gender roles, I wouldn’t say that Maxine doesn’t subvert gender tropes at all in the novel. For example, there is the scene where Maxine goes shopping with Cornelia, yet ends up at the firing range, which is something I find to subvert gender tropes, even if that instance isn’t as overt as Fiona’s case.

    Like

  2. cso9 says:

    Tspace22 pretty much took the words right out of my mouth. I think you make a valid argument about the gender roles, and how Fiona seems to counteract those typical to a female.
    However, I think it is a bit of a stretch to throw Maxine in there since she is the protagonist of the story (which, if we’re going off of traditional masculine and feminine roles, defies the norm). This is solely my opinion, but I feel that Maxine is strikes me as very different from Heidi and Vyrva when it comes to the female gender role.

    Regardless, I do see your point about Fiona because it is not typical for a female to engage in machinima gaming, and as a fellow gamer myself, I appreciate your dedication to look further into the subject.

    My question is, while Pynchon may have done this intentionally, why do you think so?
    If so much of the novel is based upon the aftermath of 9/11, why would he dedicate a generous amount of attention to gender roles?

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  3. hamiltonjonesii says:

    I very much so liked your argument for Fiona going against gender roles in this part of the book. I agree that Pynchon is certainly trying to make a point with this short mention of the machinima summer camp. I do believe that, while Maxine can fall into several female stereotypes, she also finds several ways to defeat these stereotypes through her work as a rogue fraud investigator. I also really like your connection to Haraway here. I think this is a great comparison and certainly in the direction that Haraway was taking us earlier in the semester.

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