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Super Mario Run’s Not-So-Super Gender Politics

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Last week, after a wait of almost a decade, the world’s most popular video game series, Super Mario Bros., finally came to the world’s most popular video game machine: the iPhone. Nintendo’s Super Mario Run went immediately to the top of the App Store charts, above mainstays like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. According to one estimate, the game was downloaded 37 million times in its first three days.

Unfortunately, despite Nintendo’s history and reputation, Super Mario Run is not a family-friendly game — or at least not one my wife and I will be letting our 6-year-old daughter play. The game is rife with stale, retrograde gender stereotypes — elements that were perhaps expected in 1985, when the first Super Mario Bros. was released in the United States, but that today are just embarrassing.

Super Mario Run begins, as does almost every Super Mario title, with Princess Peach becoming a hostage who must be rescued by Mario. Just before her ritual kidnapping, Peach invites Mario to her castle and pledges to bake him a cake. Upon her rescue, she kisses Mario. The game also includes a second female character, Toadette, whose job is to wave a flag before and after a race, like a character from “Grease.”

By failing to update Super Mario for a contemporary audience, Nintendo is lagging far behind the Walt Disney Co., one of its closest American analogues. Disney’s film “Frozen” subverted and reinvigorated the fairy-tale princess movie; “The Force Awakens” gave us a female Jedi. Super Mario Run doesn’t even try.

In isolation, there’s nothing wrong with princesses or baking. My daughters love those things, too. But Super Mario Run relegates its female characters to positions of near helplessness. Peach and Toadette become playable only after you complete certain tasks, which makes the women in the game feel like prizes. (To be fair, the same is true of a few male characters.) Worse, should you then use Peach to defeat her kidnapper, Bowser, you’ll discover that neither Mario nor a kiss is waiting for her as a reward.

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13 Comments to "Super Mario Run’s Not-So-Super Gender Politics"

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  1. The lunacy knows no bounds!

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  2. They’re comparing the story of a mobile runner to 2 hour movies. Nintendo keeps the story the same because nobody plays a mainline Mario game for the story. Of course the left hates “classics” because anything that’s gone unchanged for decades provides a cultural marker to highlight how much they’ve been able to push on us, and certain things like the Charlie Brown Christmas Special provide cultural messages which would be verboten if made today. Hollywood remake culture is not merely an opportunity for cheap cash grabs, but an opportunity to “update” loved movies to their PC zeitgeist.

  3. God they piss me off. The idea that concepts are wrongthink is ridiculous.

  4. The only Eskimo I met was a pretty young woman who used the word “Eskimo.” Because she was thin and not wearing a fur-trim parka, I thought she was NE Asian.

  5. “should you then use Peach to defeat her kidnapper, Bowser, you’ll discover that neither Mario nor a kiss is waiting for her as a reward.”
    It’s sad, but such is life. If women can care for themselves, they will have to care for themselves. But Peach could rent an escort (wouldn’t that be a reasonable “modernization” of the game?).

  6. Just went and bought it. Fun game, Nintendo knows how to make platformers. Which you’d expect.

    Can anyone think of other diversity-lacking pop culture purchases? I went and saw Dr. Strange, which got in trouble for making Tilda Swinton the Ancient One, rather than Rogue One, which was famously diverse.

  7. Oh please please please please please re-release Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.

  8. Really important things, even about this subject [gender issues] are demonized or avoided, for example,

    demonized = accuse misogyny of others as islamophoby, racism…

    avoided/ostracized = instead debate real-talk, talk about frivolous things.


  9. The author of this article needs to be smacked! There are so many video games with female protagonists / warriors. Look up Metroid, Valis, Great Giana Sisters (a female rip-off of Super Mario), Sailor Moon, Perfect Dark, and so on and so forth. Metroid features a female Rambo, Valis features a female samurai, and Perfect Dark features a female James Bond. The Feminist ideology has truly permeated the world of video gaming.

  10. Another example of how this rag is delving further down the “OMG”/”You Shouldn’t”/”Here’s Why” kind of pieces.

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