It Doesn’t Matter: Hitman: Absolution Trailer Did Not Need to Whore Itself Out

When I first saw the new Hitman: Absolution trailer (below) I was a bit underwhelmed. I didn’t like it. It didn’t draw me in to the game. Nothing about it stood out that says, “This game is different from the rest beyond the main character – Agent 47.” Now much of the internet is outraged by the misogynistic, sexual exploitation of women as Agent 47 effortlessly dispatches them in excruciating detail. I, however, didn’t perceive it in this way, but now that I’ve had a day or two to think about the big picture I can see how it got here.

We all remember that amazing Dead Island trailer. It was shocking, powerful, and pulled on your emotions. The internet was in an uproar about the quality of the trailer as well as the shock value. This time around the Hitman: Absolution trailer was shocking but for all the wrong reasons. The cold-calculation of Agent 47’s typical tactics were put aside for a no-holds bar street fight featuring RPGs, fully automatic weapons, knives, and a flurry of fists. I’m not even going to go into the issues of why these assassins were carrying rocket-propelled grenades to kill one man – no matter how “tough” he may be. The most shocking part was the revelation of what the women were wearing underneath their robes.

To be clear, once those nuns were de-robed we knew what was going to happen to them. They were going to be killed.

The problem lies in what they were wearing. Clad in black leather, fishnet hosing, and high heels, these female assassins were dressed more for a roman orgy versus carrying out a hit. Once these women were clearly identified as sex symbols, the thorough brutalization and killing of them, regardless of their original intentions, became distasteful. Had these women wore outfits you’d expect of assassins then that discomfort felt by Keza MacDonald and countless others may have never been felt. If the assassins were male, we might be talking about something different altogether. The Hitman: Absolution marketing and PR teams had to know this when approving of this message.

This shouldn’t be confused with the content of the previous games in which many set pieces include sexually-charged atmospheres and people. The dark underworld is often portrayed in that way. These were supposedly professionally-trained, and, I’m assuming, paid assassins, gallivanting around in S&M gear looking like whores underneath nun costumes. None of it made any sense. I get that in movies, books, and games there are times to suspend belief for the sake of the story or entertainment value, but there is a good narrative difference between dramatic and shocking.

There was no substantive reason for portraying these women more as mere whores rather than assassins other than to get cheap hits online and target an audience that I would argue has no business playing an M rated game.

Hitman: Absolution | Horrible NightSex and violence have no positive correlation, and any portrayal of such content should be handled in a mature manner because it is a hyper-sensitive subject. When used in a narrative or fictional setting, it should be to push forward a story. It should never be used to shock. It’s shocking on its own, and when used solely to be shocking it becomes gratuitous and cheap.

I have little doubt Hitman: Absolution will follow its predecessors and be a great game experience, and I am willing to bet the trailer will have little to do with the actual game when it comes out. The same happened for Dead Island. The problem is that when something like this trailer gets the reaction it did, it has done a disservice to the game industry. Mature games shouldn’t be pandered out as exploitative shows of sex and violence. Enough people who are ignorant to most of the game industry have negative views on gamers and the content they play already. This only supports their claims when the “M for mature” label is only used as window dressing rather than an approach to the content we consume. In the end, this may be what the Hitman: Absolution team wants, but I am not convinced it’s what the industry needs.

It Doesn’t Matter – We bring the gaming industry and media coverage back down to reality when they overanalyze or miss the point of a particular story or game.

Sources

Giant Bomb (image)
IGN
Mirror

13 Comments It Doesn’t Matter: Hitman: Absolution Trailer Did Not Need to Whore Itself Out

  1. IncreaseBlue

    The sexy nuns weren’t offensive to me, just plain silly. The trailer started out with the awesome stylized drama I’ve known Hitman to bring by showing him changing, tending his wounds, showing his scars, but then the S&M assassins busted out and lost all seriousness. Why don’t we just bring out the dragons and nazis a la Suckerpunch? Because that’s how it came off to me: as pure folly. It’s not misogyny or sexism, just one person thinking “this looks cool” and it doesn’t jive with what they’re selling.

    I remember old Hitman ads in magazines that created a similar uproar when you saw a woman strangled in her bathtub with the tagline “Beautifully executed” or something like that. THAT is the feeling I think they were trying to go for here, but in this trailer it just reduces Hitman to a 70s B-movie feel.

  2. Brandon Coppernoll

    @IncreaseBlue, I really wasn’t “offended”, but when you consider the big picture and the context presented it’s easy to see why people have reacted the way they did. I think it was that one decision to try to be edgy, yet sexy, that plays out in a way unintended and unneeded in a lot of ways.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Josh Lee

    This game looks dumb! That guy looks nothing like Timothy Olyphant! Why do movie games always suck?

  4. Justin Lacey

    Let me start with, on its own I have no problem with this trailer. Bad ass action trailer with cool music. I like it.

    As a promotional tool for a stealth game this is dumber than the emotional trailer for a zombie action game. That fact combined that it does promote the worst part of gaming stereotypes makes me wish this trailer didn’t exist. Even though I know it won’t happen, it’s frustrating that our top franchises don’t embrace this more.

  5. Josh Lee

    At least in the other trailer 47 look like a serial killer. Give me some logical context with my murdering of nude women.

    Also, when did Hitman become a big deal? Did you guys really enjoy the previous entries?

  6. Justin Lacey

    I guess I only say it’s a “top franchise” in the sense that it’s one of the few with a movie that had a chance to pull in its own audience. While I’ve played very little of Hitman just because I suck at stealth games, but this isn’t the way to pull in new gamers by straight up lying to them about how you will play the game.

  7. IncreaseBlue

    ^This, a thousand times this. From what I’ve seen of Absolution gameplay, this trailer is about as reflective of the game as the “cooking with Scorpion” video is to Mortal Kombat. It’s not accurate, just a random cash-in on action and boobs to create cheap buzz.

    And Josh, I enjoyed the second Hitman although I remember it being insanely difficult to be decent at. I think the biggest reason that Hitman is becoming such a big deal is the fact that it had a huge following and it’s been a really long time since we’ve seen an installment.

  8. CaptCalvin

    It’s called style. 47’s attire itself is too fancy and impractical as well. Why is no one complaining about that?

  9. Joe Smoe

    I fail to see the problem with it when you consider all the other games out there that contain hookers and strippers. How about Whored mode on Saints Row the Third, they are all hookers and they have guns, where is the outrage..

  10. Brandon Coppernoll

    @CaptCalvin, while arguments could be made about Agent 47’s clothing of choice, it doesn’t objectify sex and violence and doesn’t add to a “double standard” of women in video games.

    @Joe Smoe, Saints Row the Third is hardly a serious game nor does it try to present the content in the manner this trailer did which is close quarter destruction of women who were ill-dressed for the situation. It’s not just about realism, however, as these women were merely eye candy to be destroyed. No other reason.

    Thank you both for commenting, and thank you @IncreaseBlue for your comments as well!

  11. CaptCalvin

    No arguments need to be made about 47’s choice of attire nor that of the women. The Hitman series have always been highly stylized.

    Hitman games are hardly serious. It’s dark humor, but humor nonetheless.

    As for “objectification” of women in video games, why can’t women look good? Why is it okay for men in video games to be studs with perfect muscular definition showing off their assets but at the same time not okay for women?

  12. Justin Gifford

    I’d say there’s a big difference between “women looking good” and “women who are assassins being dressed in dominatrix gear.” I mean, if you’re going out after the best assassin in the world, you’re wearing body armor, not a bustier. Sorry, @CaptCalvin, that argument doesn’t hold water any more than the one about comic books: http://feministing.com/files/2012/05/574819223.png

  13. ()

    I think it has more to do with women being put as a sex symbol or sex object. The media is constantly trying to remind people that women in video games should be sexy and desirable otherwise they have no place in the game itself. The nuns are used to attract sales or furthermore attract attention to the video game not because they are important to the context of the story or something people should be interested in other than their sexuality. One of the female actors/ motion capture talents had their breasts reduced and buttocks increased in game. They are targeting male gamers.

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