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Fat Princess: Having our cake and eating it too?

11th August 2009

Fat Princess: Having our cake and eating it too?

Sony Playstation Fat Princess

Remember the Playstation game Fat Princess that was in production last year?  It’s basically a dystopian fairy tale trope with buckets of cartoon blood and dismembered cartoon hands to the tune of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” as created by a pair of geek gamers with feeder fetish tendencies.  Here’s an “official” synopsis of it:

Frantic and fun, Fat Princess pits two hordes of players against each other in comic medieval battle royale. Your goal is to rescue your beloved princess from the enemy dungeon. There’s a catch though: your adversary has been stuffing her with food to fatten her up and it’s going to take most of your army working together to carry her back across the battlefield.

Melissa McEwan blogged last year about it here, a post for which she’s still getting hate mail.  Holly from Feministe offered a more detailed critique here.  The game is now out and MSNBC’s Citizen Gamer Winda Benedetti says she just doesn’t know what the “big fat deal” is about a game that both mocks and stereotypes fat women:

I’m a pro-woman kinda woman (Go women!) who would happily pay the dues to join Club Feminist (we do pay dues, right?) And yet, there’s not a single pro-woman bone in my body that is offended by this game. (Does this mean my membership application is going to be rejected?)

As video games go, “Fat Princess” is fun, funny and well-crafted. It’s done in a playful style and has a wicked sense of humor about almost everything. And while it does star two adorable and, yes, sometimes chubby cartoon princesses and does feature buckets of cartoon blood, I can’t say that it seems particularly hurtful or harmful to anyone.

…[Producer Chris] Millar points out that the princesses are in no way objects of ridicule within the game as critics had suggested. Whether they are skinny or fat, they are venerated ladies for whom all characters will lay down their virtual lives to save. Also, Leigh points out, the concept art for the princesses (as well as the entire game) was drawn by artist Weng Chen … a woman.

In a blog post announcing the game’s launch, Chen says she believes even rotund female characters can be “cute and lovely,” and she wonders why only the pretty women should get to be the stars of a video game.

Uhh.. I’m no gamer, but I’d be rooting for a “cute and lovely” fat protagonist so long as she isn’t portrayed as the most insipidly banal of fat stereotypes.  Winda Benedetti may not see how such a game hurts anyone because, as it appears from her many profile pictures, she’s not among the demographic being hurt and ridiculed by the game.  Sure, it’s a cartoon and not meant to be taken seriously, but as they say, art imitates life and life imitates art.  Critiques of the age-old anti-feminist trope of rescuing a damsel-in-distress aside… Not only does the game reinforce stereotypes about women’s emotional helplessness in the face of sugary cake, it also suggests that shoveling cake down your caricatural-fat piehole is why real-life fat people are fat.  The fact that the princess becomes so fat that she’s virtually castle-bound and requires an entire army to cart her off is just the icing on the cartoon cake.

As if the gaming world needed more misogyny…  The fact that Winda Benedetti finds absolutely no problem in reinforcing sizeist stereotypes says a lot more about her than it does me and others who are offended by such a “game.”

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 at 11:02 am and is filed under Arts and Music, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 37 responses to “Fat Princess: Having our cake and eating it too?”

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  1. 1 On August 11th, 2009, cbarrentos said:

    As an advocate of size acceptance, and advocate for gender equality, AND a gamer, I have to say that I see nothing wrong with this game.

    This game is no more offensive then a cartoon featuring Petunia Pig stuffing her face with chocolates. From my view, the red and blue Princesses featured in the game are not being victimized any more than the little mage who gets constantly hacked into a pile of highly animated blood.

    At the end of the day, games are entertainment, just like movies and books and television. Some games convey messages, some games are art pieces. Other games, like Fat Princess, are just made so that the person playing can escape reality and HAVE FUN.
    If anything, the only message that Fat Princess conveys is that cake is ****ing delicious, no matter who you are.

  2. 2 On August 11th, 2009, Bronwyn said:

    I think whether or not you have a problem with it has a lot to do with how you look at the social problems behind it. Do I think that, when the creators made the game, they were intentionally trying to poke fun with their fat princess or reinforce the stereotype that fat people do nothing but eat cake all day? No. I hardly think that much thought goes into it.

    But it seems to me they could have just as easily made the princess fat from the beginning, and really broken some ground. I mean, would the guys even be rescuing the princess if she had always been a porker? You know what I mean?

    The problem with the common excuse that it’s “just a game, it’s just entertainment” is that games (and other forms of entertainment for that matter) reinforce and influence people. All entertainment is meant to help people “have fun” on some level. Sure, watching a depressing movie isn’t going to be “fun” but people do it because it’s enjoyable on some level. A video game is just like any type of media, you can’t say that just because it is a cartoon or just because it’s a video game that it doesn’t have an influence. It does. And it’s all well and good to say “Well, it shouldn’t, it’s just a video game” but the truth of the matter is that it does, and we’re all affected by the media we consume.

    Anyway, now that this is getting quite long.. I don’t know if the game is really harmful, but the problems with society are, and the game really just is another thing on a long list of manifestations of the attitude that fat people are fat because they ate a lot of cake.

  3. 3 On August 11th, 2009, KellyeB said:

    I am also a fan of delicious cake.

    Being a fat female gamer I gotta say this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion since it first started making the rounds last year. All of my big booty-ed sisters agree, Fat Princess looks like a fun, funny, and clever video game.

    I’m all about it!

  4. 4 On August 11th, 2009, Llencelyn said:

    “At the end of the day, games are entertainment, just like movies and books and television. Some games convey messages, some games are art pieces. Other games, like Fat Princess, are just made so that the person playing can escape reality and HAVE FUN.”

    Movies and books and television are also subject to critique of their messages, whether the creators want them to be or not. Do the producers have the right to make whatever kind of game they want? Yes. And consumers have a right to criticize the product for sending crappy messages.

    ALL media convey messages.

    And I’d just like to note that, as a gamer, I’m getting a bit tired of game communities and creators complaining that they aren’t treated as a serious medium on the one hand, but as soon as they come under fire for anything, it’s “just a game” again. Even Candy Land sends messages, and it’s just as appropriate to critique that as it is to critique “The Sound and the Fury.”

  5. 5 On August 11th, 2009, Cute Bruiser said:

    Why is it so hard for people to understand that the game is offensive because it reinforces the stereotype that fat people are fat because they can’t stop eating? Why is that so hard to understand? It’s a very simple concept!

  6. 6 On August 11th, 2009, Halle said:

    I agree with the idea that this little game is generating too much drama, but I also agree with Cute Bruiser. If this game contributes to the the idea that all fat people get fat because they eat too much cake, that is bad and stereotypical. So fat she can’t get out of her castle? Cake does that? My God, how many of us know people so fat they can’t get out of their own houses? How many people of these kind of fat people are there? Is it that common? That fattest person I know (something over 400 pounds) can certainly get in and out of his house, up and down stairs — drive a car ( you know the towing capacity of my little car is over 1000 pounds, so Paul and a similarly sized friend could ride in my car without any incident.) Paul even swims at a health club. and he does not need an army to get him and and out of the pool. How fat is Fat Princess? Part of what is wrong here is that as a stereotype she exacerbates the notion that the OBEEEZITY CRISOPANIC is about gigantic people who are so fat they cant get out of their houses — when it is really made up mostly of the people wandering around who are 20 – 40 pounds over some “ideal weight” — and then there are about the same number of really fat people there always have been. This isn’t the first commercial game that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  7. 7 On August 11th, 2009, GeekGirlsRule said:

    Considering how frequently a friend of mine gets quizzed and accosted by strangers who feel like they have the right, nay, responsibility to police her food choices for her… Fuck this game right in the designers’ ears.

    I’m not fat because all I do is eat. Nor am I fat because I don’t ever exercise. Do we really need to foster these bullshit attitudes in a videogame?

    BTW, my big bootied videogamer ass wouldn’t buy this if you held a gun to my head or promised me a bucket a kittens.

  8. 8 On August 11th, 2009, merri said:

    My best friend is a video game nerd and as I’m also his roommate, I get to see a lot of video games, even though I am really bad at them. His newest favorite game is fat princess. It sounds like maybe it’d be offensive towards fat women, but when i saw the actual game, it didnt seem to be. actually the goal is that they want the princesses to be fat. Its bad for them to be thin. Not horribly bad, because the red and blue princesses are cute when they’re all sizes. The game is also set in back in time (when people had castles and slingshots and axes and magicians that turn you into chickens or steal your life force lol) and also when being fat was considered a thing of wealth and health. I can see maybe women getting upset that the princesses need to be saved, but I think that’s the basis of way more video games than just this one. Also, as a player, you can customize your character, and one of those customizations is making your character female. Female regular characters look basically like the guy regular characters, so you can be a woman feeding, capturing and rescuing the princesses too. It’s a cute game, and kinda addictive to watch (and play).
    That’s just my opinion though. I guess I can see where people might be offended, especially if they’ve never seen the game in action.

  9. 9 On August 11th, 2009, DRST said:

    Note to all women: Being a woman and saying “Well this doesn’t offend me” doesn’t make whatever is in question not misogynist. It just means you’re not thinking about it very well.

    Something being made by women doesn’t make it not misogynist either, btw. It just makes them complicit.

    Our entire culture treats womens’ bodies as property and something men have an inherent right to not only look at and pass judgment on but also possess at their will (see the Pittsburgh gym shooter who was pissed because women recognized his deep brand of crazy and wouldn’t fuck him, so that justified his shooting rampage).

    This game? Reinforces that fuckery yet again.

    It also suggests that fat people are only fat because they overeat, which has been proven untrue countless times by a lot of very smart people.

    It equates fatness with disability and immobility.

    It equates fatness with moral weakness by implying that a fat woman is so stupid and incapable of self control she’ll eat cake until she gets fat, rather than having some when she’s hungry and wants it and saying no other times.

    (If there’s actual force feeding going on in the game? That’s beyond fucked up and I hope I don’t have to explain why.)

    When a bunch of people are saying “This is bad and hurtful” it’s a hell of a lot more useful to listen and think about what they’re saying than go into knee-jerk reactionary mode and deny that it’s even possible, and then call those people names. Where there’s smoke, there’s probably fire.

  10. 10 On August 11th, 2009, Lianne said:

    Hm…as a member of the FA movement, and a feminist, I can see that this game reinforces unfair stereotypes about fat people and women (forced eating = fat, female = victim or goal), and it probably wouldn’t be so offensive if the mainstream media wasn’t SO INCREDIBLY BENT on shaming, hating, and blaming women for being women and fat people in general for being, God forbid, SIZED DIFFERENTLY, and that this is always a result of laziness and crappy eating (which is totally untrue, classist, assholish, etc.). The cultural and media context that a game/movie/whatever is released in is incredibly important, because making fun of people on the short end of the power balance is tacky, tasteless, and oftentimes actively hurtful.

    Then again, I’m also a gamer, and I’m familiar with the gaming landscape that this game is coming into–a wasteland of sexism, violence and sexual violence, racism, etc. To mirror a lot of FA comments regarding the new shows on TV about fat people (such as “More to Love”), when you take a media form that is SEEPED in horrible stereotypes, any step into acceptance territory is going to be very, very small, and is usually still offensive…but it can, if other people follow suit, be a step in a direction more positive than what came before. Just like More to Love obsesses with how much people weigh when sexiness is completely subjective, it’s still actually having fat people (especially fat women) on TV being shown as people with personalities, strengths, and hopes instead of as the butt end of endless jokes and objects of perpetual disgust. With Fat Princess, even though her weight is proportional to her excessive eating (no! argh!), she’s still the star of the game, to be chased and loved and what have you. Sexist and fat stereotyping? Sure. But she’s still a fat woman in a game who isn’t hated or evil, a character that, to be honest, practically doesn’t exist in video games at all.

    So yeah, the game is offensive to a lot of us, and rightly so, considering the last thing our media needs is another reason to stereotype fat people. But I can also see how game designers, used to seeing games about girls in leather bikinis murdering people in-between getting tied up in bondage imagery, thought having a fat princess might be a fun change, even if they clearly weren’t doing it specifically to promote acceptance…if they’d made this game to prove a point about FA or something, they would’ve done things a lot differently. But at least they were thinking outside of the incredibly restrictive, deeply offensive box that most video games wallow in.

    In short: I hate lowering my standards, but our culture is full of suck and has a long way to go. I like that we’re talking about Fat Princess and how it conflicts with actual fat acceptance and feminism, and if the game manages to get those issues out in the open through a misguided (but not fully hateful) attempt to include fat people in video games, at least it has that in its favor…as well as the fact that it thought it would be cool to do something different from “save plastic-surgery-victim, half-naked, underage girl” at all.

  11. 11 On August 11th, 2009, random said:

    I have noticed two glaring things regarding the “Gaming Community”:

    1. It consists primarily of males.
    2. It is highly misogynistic.

    Take this for an example: I play an online game called Team Fortress 2. In some of the available maps, the goal is for one team to push a cart into a “capture zone” while the opposing team tries to prevent the cart from being pushed into said zone. On one particular evening when I was playing, a lyrical young asshole shouted over the voice communications, “Pretend like it’s a girl [meaning the cart]! Get on that bitch and pound it!”

  12. 12 On August 11th, 2009, GeekGirlsRule said:

    DRST: BRAVA!!!!!

  13. 13 On August 11th, 2009, Lianne said:

    P.S.–You know what kills me, though? That Melissa McEwan actually got HATE MAIL for daring to be offended by something. So I guess fat people, women, and anyone who would be offended by something that stereotypes/victimizes fat people and women more than society already does don’t even DESERVE to be offended. An opinion of that sort of person DOESN’T EVEN MATTER. That’s pretty much the most hateful attitude I could possible fathom. (I work in the comics industry, which is plagued with similiar offensive, entitled attitudes that we see in the gaming industry, and I’m sad to say we see the same thing there: see the rage-inducing comments at http://comics212.net/2007/06/12/no-seriously-why-do-you-put-up-with-this-shit/)

  14. 14 On August 11th, 2009, Rachel said:

    Melissa wrote out against rape and received lots of hate mail for that, too. Probably from among the same people who sent her hate mail for Fat Princess.

  15. 15 On August 11th, 2009, joswitch said:

    Bronwyn said:
    “I mean, would the guys even be rescuing the princess if she had always been a porker? You know what I mean?”

    I’ve seen this in nearly *every* critique of this game (which I’ve not seen or played, btw)… I know it’s meant as a rhetorical snark but – you know what – there’s LOADS of guys and girls for whom BBWs are exactly the people they’d want to “rescue”!

    So although I do see the P.O.V. of those annoyed at its anti-feminism (which – as mentioned – covers almost all video games) I think it’s kinda cool that the Fat Princess is represented as adored and valuable and *worth* rescuing… So I’m pretty much in agreement with
    Lianne’s post that *maybe* there’s a much qualified postive in there…

  16. 16 On August 11th, 2009, Rachel said:

    Bronwyn said:
    “I mean, would the guys even be rescuing the princess if she had always been a porker? You know what I mean?”

    The game’s producers said that the denizens love their princess at any size, so I guess this is one redeeming value of the game. Perhaps it’s the feederism fetish element of the game that bothers me most and not that there’s a fat princess. I dunno… even without the fat princess element, this game’s “save the princess” premise seems so hackneyed and overdone.

  17. 17 On August 11th, 2009, GeekGirlsRule said:

    I linked to you in my take on it: http://geekgirlsrule.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/geek-girls-rule-96-fat-princess-is-back/

    Faith in humanity failing…

  18. 18 On August 11th, 2009, Seegz said:

    Let me state that I despise feederism. They get way too much airtime on talk shows and thus people think that just because I’m attracted to larger women, that means I want to fatten them up. HATE feederism.

    I don’t much care for the game here either. I’d like to see an action game starring a larger woman. As a playable character, devoid of as many stereotypes as one can actively remove, just to hear the outcry of folks who aren’t getting their lulz.

  19. 19 On August 11th, 2009, Jackie said:

    Not to mention insulting all female game designers out there, with the notion that the only way they could possibly create a game to appeal to the masses, is one that demeans women.

    I know from reading the credits on some Mario games, note that usually the only way you’ll be able to see the credits for a game is to win the game. I noticed there are plenty of women who work on these games, and manage to not make it a women hating fiasco. In fact Princess Peach has even had her own video game.

    While there was issue with it parodying the idea women are over emotional, by her using her emotions to get through the game. There’s some back story, where the entire town is taken over by the power of the Vibe Wand, which was used after Bowser stole it from Vibe Island. So everyone was made to be over-emotional, as well as Peach. The concept is Peach is supposed to save Mario.

    So, there can be games, made with women in mind that aren’t insulting. It really says a lot for Nintendo, that they hold their standards for quality gaming high enough, that they wouldn’t let this trash be available for their system. They are the gaming company that I’ve found, holds the most respect for female gamers, in an industry where female gamers usually are seen as a joke.

    As far as I’m concerned with the notion this game is acceptable because a woman created it, reminds me of a story where a woman created urinals that were shaped like lips because she found that “funny”, yet was completely clueless as to how misogynistic her “artistic” statement was.

    Women can be round and lovely, and star in video games, but it’s utter nonsense to suggest that makes it reasonable to have a stereotyped version of a round woman. Your not starring in the video game, if your not even moving around. Clearly, this seems to be a case of should have lurked more before designing the game.

    It seems like a rather shallow attempt to suggest she’s concerned about fat women having roles in video games. I guess she could be that ignorant. Although if she were that ignorant, I’d wonder how she manages to stand and breathe at the same time.

    Finally, have we forgotten Ms. Pac-Man? She was rounded, well, rather literally. How about turning this into a fat women you know in video games thread, just to get a perspective on how many there are. By women, I’m including anthromorphized characters that are like women, since that’s just so prevalent in gaming.

    Here are some I’m familiar with:

    Toadette, Tayce .T. and Zess .T. (Oh the puns! lol)

    That’s all I can think of for now. I’m wondering if the lack of fat women in video games are because most video games come from Japan. Although, I’ve seen even less amount of fat people in American video games. At least Japan has tried.

  20. 20 On August 11th, 2009, Charlotte said:

    This game seems very harmless to me. You want a game that demeans woman? Grand Theft Auto springs to mind.

  21. 21 On August 11th, 2009, Sarah said:

    This game seems very harmless to me. You want a game that demeans woman? Grand Theft Auto springs to mind.

    You’ve jogged my memory…. A friend of mine showed me one of the versions of GTF a few years ago. The version he was playing included a character in the streets that happened to be an overweight male. And in the game, you can pretty much do anything you want to him – beat him up, run him over, kill him… And I’m pretty sure he has a line where he says, “It’s glandular!” And I can remember my friend shouting as he beat the character to death, “You deserve to die because you are a fattie!”

    But even though Fat Princess may be relatively benign in terms of content, it still promotes stereotype. And in a subtle way, promotes a violence of its own.

  22. 22 On August 11th, 2009, Cute Bruiser said:

    @Charlotte: The latest Zelda game (Twilight Princess) featured a fat woman by the name of Telma who was actually a GOOD character! That’s all I can think of! Princess Daisy SUPPOSEDLY has a “pot belly” but I can’t say I’ve ever noticed, especially not in more recent appearances.

  23. 23 On August 11th, 2009, Cute Bruiser said:

    Ah, another just occured to me. Queen Brahne from Final Fantasy IX. She’s one of the big antagonists at first (spoilers ahoy) but sort of has a change of heart on her deathbed.

  24. 24 On August 12th, 2009, DJ said:

    Why can’t people just have a look at the game and what’s it about before hating it!!

    What’s wrong with warring kingdoms fighting to rescue their princess from the other side?? Also, why can’t you haters see the strategy in the plan of fattening the captured princess so that it’s harder for them to get her back, not to say that all fat people are critically out of shape and can’t move, but if you just sit in a cage and you’re held captive and forced to eat food, you would be fat and out of shape(HARD TO MOVE)? That’s basically the point of the game (to my knowledge). So just play the game/ let people play the game in peace.

  25. 25 On August 12th, 2009, KellyeB said:

    Look at me! Look at me! I’m a sizeist troll!!

  26. 26 On August 12th, 2009, Rachel said:

    DJ said: Why can’t people just have a look at the game and what’s it about before hating it!!

    I did, at least. The game is out and detailed run-throughs of it are available on YouTube. And it’s precisely the force-feeding element of the game I find so incredibly disturbing. Sure, on the grand scheme of anti-feminist things, Fat Princess ranks low on pressing issues. But it doesn’t mean that anyone with a blog can’t also voice their opinions on it.

  27. 27 On August 13th, 2009, Tiana said:

    but if you just sit in a cage and you’re held captive and forced to eat food, you would be fat and out of shape

    No.

  28. 28 On August 13th, 2009, cbarrentos said:

    “But it doesn’t mean that anyone with a blog can’t also voice their opinions on it.”

    it also doesn’t mean the opinions voiced are well-formed.

  29. 29 On August 14th, 2009, DW said:

    Let’s hear it for cbrrentos, folks! Opinions about why Fat Princess are just plain wrong because the are just not well-formed! All you objectors are just WRONG because cbarrentos says so. Gee, thanx mister for making it all so clear to me now. What was I thinking?

    Perhaps you are just not savvy nor smart enough to understand those opinions? Or you are willfully choosing not to get it.

    It seems the one making all the noise about this turn out to be the gamers who see nothing wrong with force feeding a princess. Which is just a bad message and offensive to many. “It’s just a game!” is a weak excuse. Please don’t breed.

  30. 30 On August 14th, 2009, Rachel said:

    Please don’t breed.

    Bwahahaha :)

  31. 31 On August 14th, 2009, SugarLeigh said:

    Just thought I would share this… it’s more venting than intelligent feminism/FA (and lord, but it was fun!), but I felt compelled to pose a similar scenario in which we exploit men who don’t conform to sexual ideals and came up with this little piece of snark:
    http://sugar-for-sugar.livejournal.com/59540.html

  32. 32 On August 14th, 2009, random said:

    “Please don’t breed” is not an acceptable response in my book.

    I found that kind of attitude in other forums which I thought were _far_ less classy than this one. It appears that I was wrong.

    I won’t be coming back.

  33. 33 On August 15th, 2009, Enomis said:

    Has it occurred to anyone that the fat princess only retains her value and is considered rescuable because she can be made thin again? (By starving her of course.)

    That is my problem with this game, and it is why the game is not FA. If the princess were fat, and you rescued her with the understanding that she would remain fat, would she be rescuable?

    That the princess’ fat is so immobilizing that she can’t actively participate in her own escape? Is an extremely fatphobic concept.

    Also, the fact that the proncess’ body is treated as something that the rescuer (generally male) strategically shapes to his maximum advantage is FUCKING MISOGYNISTIC. Why don’t people get that?

    I’m having a serious brain fail, because I can’t figure out how people think this shit is harmless.

  34. 34 On August 16th, 2009, Rachel said:

    *Shrug* Can’t please everyone.

  35. 35 On August 27th, 2009, carolyn said:

    I feel there are a lot of comments here that reflect the opinions of people who haven’t actually played Fat Princess.

    I just want to put this piece of information out there that no one has yet to mention: In Story Mode, after rescuing your princess and introducing her to the prince (I admit this is misogynistic, but if we’re going to hate on the whole princess is rescued and married off to a prince genre, we need to start with the Disney princesses), he calls her beautiful. At that point in the story she is pictured as being fat, and the handsome prince finds her attractive just the way she is!

    I think that the feeding-the-princess-cake aspect of the game has been so sensationalized and over analyzed that people forget that feeding the princess cake is such a tiny aspect of the actual gameplay.

    That’s just my 2 cents.

  36. 36 On February 14th, 2010, Chris said:

    Without getting into argument about this specific game I would like to say that anyone commenting who hasn’t *actually seen* it has an invalid viewpoint… too many times I’ve seen people commenting on computer games who have no idea what they’re actually talking about.
    I find Fat Princess completely innocuous, there is no ridiculing going on here.

  37. 37 On February 15th, 2010, Rachel said:

    @Chris: I don’t have to try eating a dung beetle to know that the thought of it disgusts me.

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