I grok that both stupidity and the quality of being offensive are in the eye of the beholder. Nor would I consider either of these traits to be mutually exclusive of the other. But when it comes to the Hitman Absolution trailer, I, as a male gamer, need to let it be known to the world that I find the latest from IO Interactive so stupid as to be offensive.
For anybody who hasn’t seen the offending piece of promotional material, here it is. It’s a mildly NSFW due to cartoon cleavage and excessive violence.
Violence unto women dressed for a night of parochial school themed S&M has never been a motif of the Hitman franchise. The series has always put a premium on stealth and a Bond-esque level of subtlety in the protagonist’s wet work. To fire a bazooka into a no-tell motel is to miss the point of the Hitman games. To do so attired in a puerile attempt at titillation is as intuitive as obeying traffic signals in Grand Theft Auto. Kudos to IO Interactive; in two minutes you’ve managed to mortgage a large quantity of the critical credibility that you acquired through four successful video games and one average theatrical adaptation.
IO Interactive’s efforts to make something that looks “cool”, their own words per a recent apology for this trailer, are a colossal failure in marketing at its most fundamental level. Conceivably, I’m a member of their target audience. Yet the presumption that a union between PG-13 sexuality and violence will arouse my interest is as faulty as a Kardashian wedding. Violence turns my crank (and if you’ve ever watched a single episode of Game of Thrones, Spartacus, or True Blood it does yours as well so don’t judge me). Sex turns my crank considerably more than violence. Assuming that the two would go well together is the sort of juvenile syllogism that argues being drunk is fun, and driving fast is fun. Therefore driving drunk at very fast speeds would be super fun. Moreover, the trailer tells me, the consumer, nothing about the game, or perhaps more accurately how the game plays. I dare say this trailer speaks volumes about the game and the “creative” minds behind it. To put a finer point on it, I, and I expect any member of the target audience who has seen more than fifteen minutes of pornography in their life, have evolved past the crap that Hitman Absolution is selling.
To the other issue at hand, does it offend me to see Hitman 47 laying some slaughter on a bunch of women? No more than it offended me to see a Roman throw an axe into Mira’s chest in Spartacus. No more than it offended me to read about mixed gender matches of Rollerball in Rollerball Murder. What I recognize as a problem is the trailer’s shameless sexposition, which attempts to normalize a gender hierarchy between the Hitman and his foes. Further, I object to the assumption of stupidity on my part whereby I won’t pick up on this passive audience programming.
47 is wearing his trademark suit; the subtext is that he remains a professional. By dropping their habits, the female assassins are symbolically shedding their credibility as guns for hire. Thus the killer nuns’ termination at the hands of the Hitman was preordained via their fetish-wear as an indication of their naturally inferior state compared to 47.
Therein rests some of the inequality within this particular rogues’ gallery. But before we decry the gaming industry as an evil empire of misogyny, remember that this sort of gender issue is by no means limited to video games. HBO’s Game of Thrones illustrates hierarchy through sex scenes where men remain clothed but women bare all. Arguably if everybody was naked in the Hitman trailer, don’t ask me why assassins would go about their business in the buff, perhaps they were all attending the same Roman orgy, it would be less shameless then it stands now. It certainly wouldn’t make the trailer any more stupid than it already is.
Among the sort of folk for whom the above trailer finds traction, I expect walking erect, opposable thumbs, and running water to be a novelty. Certainly these people are to be pitied for their retrograde ways, rather than framed as agents promoting an agenda of chauvinism and heteronormativity.