So You Want To Be A Rock n Roll Star

by Cara on November 22, 2007

in media, objectification, pop culture, products, reviews, sexism

[cross-posted from Femniste]

About a month ago, I wrote a post about Guitar Hero III. The main gist was that as a big-time previous fan of the series, I was thoroughly unimpressed with the the changes that have been made to the game, which are quite misogynist, exploitative of women and completely insensitive to the fact that the game has a female audience. To my great surprise, the post became a big hit (and troll target) and was linked to in all kinds of forums and blogs that would normally never give me a second glance. This was also to my slight dismay, because I didn’t spend much time on that post, and frankly, I don’t think that it’s very good. Anyway, lesson learned.

The point is that I now feel compelled if not required to say a few words about Rock Band.

Amanda has already written a more comprehensive review than I’m going to get into. And in any case, I only have a PS2, so I don’t own the game yet. My brother does, though, and since we live very close to each other I’ve already spent a good deal of time playing his (and plan to continue today).

In short, it fucking rocks. The game play is great, particularly in multi-player mode. It really does feel like you’re in your own little rock band. The guitar parts seem easier, but the timing is somewhat different than on Guitar Hero, which means that I’m currently having some difficulty with riffs in Rock Band that I would normally be able to cream without any trouble. I imagine that it’s just a matter of time before I get that down, though. Drums are tough for people like me who have no rhythm, but they’re also a hell of a lot of fun. And I’m not gonna lie: I love singing.

For someone like me, who has always had a strong desire to be in a band but has no actual musical talent, it’s about as good as it gets.

As for the feminist question, the problems with Guitar Hero III mostly don’t exist in Rock Band. You get to create your own character, which is great and a lot of fun. That includes choosing among many skin tones, several face shapes and tons and tons of hairstyles. The weight option is slightly annoying, because no matter how big or small you make the character’s bodies, the body proportions stay almost exactly the same. For the female characters, that means hourglass figure. But I can live with that, because it’s the same for the male characters — you can choose between skinny but buff or body builder. It sucks, but I have to say that if we’re going to give people body issues, I do appreciate that for once it’s not only women who get to have them. The female characters don’t prance around stage like vapid sex kittens; you get to choose whether you want your character’s attitude to be “rock,” “punk,” “metal,” or “goth.” They also give you a million clothes choices — some skimpy, most not, and it goes both ways with the male and female options. And you can apply makeup to both male and female characters.

The game is still male-centric. When you play in solo mode, it seems to automatically grant you all male band mates. [Correction: this must have been a fluke, as I was given female some band mates in another session.] And of course, most of the songs are by male bands (but so is most mainstream rock music, which is what they have included). But they do seem to have put in equal time creating both male and female character options and making sure that those options are highly comparable. Oh, and I haven’t seen any half-naked dancers on stage, yet.

That’s pretty much all I’m going to say before I open it up for discussion because, hell, its Thanksgiving, I’ve got food to eat and a band to rock.

But who out there is a Guitar Hero and/or Rock Band fan? And for those of you who are, I know that you’ve thought of this question before: what would be your ultimate dream Guitar Hero/Rock Band songs?

For me, with Guitar Hero, it would be While My Guitar Gently Weeps. As for Rock Band, I’m going to have to go with Hotel California and Where the Streets Have No Name. Not very original, perhaps, but I’m not really a trendy music person, and in any case, don’t lie: sometimes the corniest songs are the most fun to play.

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{ 5 comments }

1 Milly November 22, 2007 at 12:53 pm

wow this sounds brilliant. I don’t even know if it’s available in the UK but I really want it.

as for my ultimate songs, I would have to choose a decidedly riot grrl mix. Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill, I wanna be your Joey Ramone by Sleater Kinney, and something by Le Tigre but I can’t think of the right song just now…

2 rich November 22, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Any Victory Wooten Band track with a thump off between Victor and Reggie would be a blast.

3 Amanda Marcotte November 24, 2007 at 11:02 pm

Mine is generating 40-50% female bandmates on the randomizer for the solo mode.

4 Cara November 24, 2007 at 11:09 pm

Yup, you’re right Amanda. I realized when I played again that the fact that they gave me 4 male avatars must have been a fluke. I corrected that statement over at Feministe — thanks for the reminder to do it here.

5 jovan byars November 25, 2007 at 10:13 pm

Finally, something that the Guitar Hero series doesn’t have currently: rock epics!

With all of that aside, I don’t have any of the new gaming consoles. :( I have a feeling that Rock Band is going to be slightly more fun than Guitar Hero.

As for my ultimate songs, I have a great mix of classic rock, prog-rock, southern rock, psychedelic and protest rock.

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