Important Dialogue Analysis: Arkham City

By Alec Meer on November 28th, 2011 at 5:49 pm.

See, no blood! Oh, it's just sleeping. Got it.

“You’re going to bleed like a dead cat.”

At first, I thought this was just clunky dialogue, some poor writer struggling to come up with yet another cat-based reference for Batman: Arkham City’s thugs to bellow at Catwoman, as a break from the rather more disturbing threats and insults they so frequently offer. Many have commented that the game’s dialogue, especially incidental comments from thugs, is unimpressive. And sometimes troubling too. Puzzling, given how lavish and polished the game is in almost all other respects. Then I sat down and thought about it properly. What if there was something I was missing? What if that line, “you’re going to bleed like a dead cat” was rich in subtext and nuance I was just too ignorant and lazy to pick up on? And what if, in turn, that meant all the apparently wretched incidental dialogue in the game had been misinterpreted? What if we’d made a terrible mistake? There was only one thing I could do – a careful, stage by stage analysis of the sentence in question. Only then could I truly uncover its mysteries. Some might ask why this game, of all games, should be subjected to such painstaking analysis. I have one word that perfectly addresses all such queries: “because.”

First let’s look at the context. These thugs are fighting Catwoman – a woman who dresses like a cat, and frequently makes easy cat gags in public, just in case we hadn’t picked up on what her disguise was supposed to be. So, the first nuance I’ve deciphered is a simple one, though it does require some reading between the lines. Superficially, the line is “you’re going to bleed like a dead cat”, an apparent threat of dire violence, but a far more important statement is actually hidden within that:

“You’re… like a… cat.”

Aha! The truth begins to move into focus. This, I now realise, is the thugs acknowledging to Catwoman that they understand what her outfit and name is intended to convey. Of course, the thugs are in actual fact addressing us, the player – this line can be heard very early in the game, in the introductory fight wherein Catwoman, not Batman, is the playable character. It is entirely possible that someone has bought this game not already being familiar with the Batman mythos (perhaps they’ve only seen the Christopher Nolan movies; perhaps they just bought Arkham City because they like bats and/or cities), therefore the thugs’ veiled description of what Catwoman is supposed to evoke is a very clever example of stealth exposition. If they hadn’t noted for those not already familiar with a comic character created in 1940 that Catwoman was like a cat, we would have a needed a long, expository cutscene of the kind we all despise where this was spelled out brazenly. This is remarkable scene-setting and storytelling: straight to the point, all in just one line.

Next, I turned to the other major element of the mysterious sentence. “You’re going to bleed.” This took me a while to figure out – it was just a straight threat, right, and not a particularly threatening one at that? Then I realised, once again, that the first time this line can be heard is in that first fight. What if a new player didn’t realise it was a fight? After all, this is the scene we’re presented with:

Of course! The ring of onlookers, the central figure in a dramatic pose: there is a very real risk that someone might believe, at this stage, that Catwoman is there for a dance-off, or perhaps some sort of body-popping constest. An overt reference to bleeding means the player will now grasp that this is not, in fact, a boogaloo situation, but a violent situation. Again, context is achieved without the need for exposition. I was becoming very impressed indeed by this stage.

The third and, as far as my own attempt at deconstruction could uncover, final element of the sentence was the one that had me stumped for longest. “Bleed like a dead cat.”

This is why I initially couldn’t understand why so apparently banal a line had been approved, in the same way the likes of “your mummy won’t know who are you when we’re done”, “you gonna miaow for me?” and the blinder that it is “eh, Catwoman! We’re gonna kick the crap outta you!”, uttered again and again and again from men who sounded like they all had bunged-up noses, simply seemed, until now, to be poor-quality, obvious and unimpressive Generic Thug dialogue.

Here’s the thing about dead cats: they don’t bleed. They have very much ceased to bleed, in fact. “You’re going to bleed like a cat that has been very seriously wounded, or perhaps has only just this moment died and is still spurting a bit of blood due to residual pumping” would make more sense, but it’s even less elegant than what the game had settled on. “You’re going to bleed like a cat with a particularly nasty papercut” might have been stronger, but then that’s not a very thug-like threat, is it?

Then I got it. The thugs didn’t really mean “you’re going to bleed.” That’s just the obvious interpretation an uneducated idiot would draw from the line. Their true message was “you’re not going to bleed any more ever again, in the same way that a dead cat that has already experienced rigor mortis and thus is no longer capable of any form of hemorrhaging cannot bleed. That is how dead you’re going to be, Catwoman – so dead that bleeding is no longer even a possibility.” Now that is a dire threat indeed. And all that sinister meaning while also including a cat reference. I’m not ashamed to admit it: I applauded.

Genius in its simplicity, and I can’t believe I was too blind to pick up the many deft undertones hidden within “you’re going to bleed like a dead cat.” I am quite sure the same artfulness can be found in every apparently dodgy line in the game.

Join me next week for my 5000 word analysis of the many important differences between “You’re gonna die in Arkham City” and “Arkham City is where you’re gonna die”, and the societal commentary the game intends when it utters these lines within seconds of each other.

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119 Comments »

  1. SighmanSays says:

    I remember doing exactly this kind of analysis for high school English. I got a A- for it…

    • westyfield says:

      I remember writing a very literal analysis of a poem about apartheid in GCSE English. I got an E.

    • Maltose says:

      ^ is that good?

    • Birky says:

      Yeah, replace ‘High School’ with ‘University’ and ‘A-’ with ’1st’ and close reading was the core of my degree.

      (I never did get my dissertation on “Queer theory, the role of the male ego and the portrayal of the other in Doom’s text-cutscenes” approved though.)

  2. NR says:

    It’s been a slow, slow news day, hasn’t it?

  3. Dave Mongoose says:

    My impression of the seriousness of this article varied quite dramatically while reading it.

    The high point of seriousness was “What if a new player didn’t realise it was a fight?” – seemed like a valid point!

    Followed quickly by the illusion-shattering “someone might believe, at this stage, that Catwoman is there for a dance-off”.

    :P

    • gwathdring says:

      The deadpan sincerity was so flawless after the intro that I reconsidered … perhaps the tongue in cheek intro was intentionally subverted into actual analysis. And then I read the “Maybe they didn’t realize it was a fight” line and mentally congratulated Mr. Meer on his deadpan … and admonished myself for believing anything else was even possible after reading the first paragraph–let alone seeing the damn header image. :P

  4. youthful cynic says:

    I don’t really know what the fuss is about with the dialogue in this game. If Batman was calling Catwoman a bitch constantly I could understand it but it’s the thick, low-level bad guys. Is this surprising? Are thugs known for their dazzling wit and shunning of misogynists?
    I just see it as another example of how nasty these guys are and why I don’t really feel bad in beating them to a pulp. They are stupid bad guys, they say stupid bad things.

    • youthful cynic says:

      Interesting article but I was more getting at (and I realise that I didn’t actually make this at all clear) that stupid low-level thugs would call Catwoman a bitch and other such things because they were scared of her and couldn’t handle being scared of a woman on a sufficiently high level to respond with anything other than misogynistic epithets.
      But yeah, I agree with most of the other examples he gave were a really weak justification of the dialogue.
      I still don’t think that just because Chris Nolan didn’t do it in his Batman is any less weak a condemnation of the dialogue, however.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      Thanks for the link! I’ve only read about the film critic Hulk before, but never bothered to read it until now. I assumed that it was just silly comedy with the HULKSPEAK. I was very wrong! Intelligently written and well argued… I’ll be digging deeper into that blog.

    • JehuGarroutte says:

      Here’s what I’m curious about: Why defend dialogue like this?

      Is the game improved, for you or the others who defend it, by the gratuitous use of the lame, half-assed, casually misogynistic insults? Would the game suffer for their absence? If so, how?

      If it’s not actively improved by such shenanigans, why on earth are you arguing that it should remain in the game unquestioned and without dissent?

    • gwathdring says:

      I guess, as long as we have a wild fantasy universe with a guy in a crazy bat suit … I might as well have a wild fantasy universe in which miscellaneous criminal elements have better dialog–either in that it is more in-world clever or more out-of-world clever–the later meaning it is indistinguishable and fades into the game environment without being jarringly crap.

      That said, comic books have developed a particular “campy” aesthetic in which jarringly crap dialog from such criminal elements is part of the expected scenery for many. I’d prefer something a little different which is why I tend not to read Marvel and DC’s main super hero comics.

      I guess more than either of those I pretty fed up with comic book and Hollywood style antagonists. My mother works with students and parents who have been arrested or been in prison. I have family members with severe mental illnesses including Schizophrenia or related psychoses. And while I am not intimately connected to either the issues of mental illness of or of prison social dynamics, I know enough to be utterly bored of cartoon dumb thugs and cartoon crazy asylum inmates. It isn’t even that I want something more sensitive or PC … it’s just boring to me. And as it lacks any sort of realistic immersion factor and is too rarely subverted with clever dialog and other twists … this sort of characterization has nothing to recommend it but tradition. And that is a rather poor recommendation for media. We used to paint rocks for fun back when we were cave people.

      Whoops! There’s another one. Cave people. But those advertisements were horrible and I want to stop thinking about them so I’m going to leave specific argument with criminals and the insane.

      The general argument? Doing the same thing over and over again without any better reason than becasue you did it before? This is not the definition of insanity. At all. By any means. Sorry, I’m getting on a tangent–using the same characterization over and over without any real justification beyond past usage is boring. And just like the idea that it somehow defines insanity, it keeps circling around and around becasue it’s so damn easy compared to actually defining insanity and actually rendering insane character in game in an interesting way. They do it sometimes, with the Joker especially. He’s not a realistically insane individual, but he’s characterized in a valuable way that advances the plot and provides and wonderful balancing point to Batman–especially to Batman’s conviction that he’s doing the right thing by dressing up as a bat and knocking heads together. But applying that sort of narrative intelligence to grunts and goons? That would be a whole new level of interesting.

      But this is Batman. Asking for something new from a franchise almost as old as synthetic rubber, however, probably factors into the definition of insanity. It happens from time to time … but it’s not something to invest much hope in. Let’s have the criminals say dumb things so we can hit them without moral consequence (or for that matter death by way of head trauma)!

    • youthful cynic says:

      @JehuGarroutte I’m defending the dialogue because I think the criticism was out of proportion. The amount of swearing at Catwoman does get a little excessive and it would have good if the developers had undercut the dialogue somewhere with a response by Catwoman or something the thugs say but I don’t know why this has become such an issue.

    • gwathdring says:

      @ Youthful Cynic

      What’s to say it is not in merely emphatically in proportion? What do you mean, then, by “such a big deal?” You are explicitly stating that we shouldn’t talk about this sort of thing … I may be misinterpreting you, but to me that either means you think it shouldn’t matter to us enough to merit this conversation or that we shouldn’t talk about things with zest and gusto unless they are of Grave and Serious Importance. I reject both of those ideas. Especially the second. I reserve the right to talk with zest and gusto about whatever silly nothings I can get other people to talk with me about.

      And really … at the core, we’re talking about writing better game dialog and giving writing as much careful consideration and effort as art direction and graphical improvement. Maybe this isn’t a particularly extreme piece of bad game writing … but that’s exactly why we should care. We are routinely given mediocre writing in games with ENORMOUS amounts of care and effort and money poured into them.

      To be fair, it’s hard to write well for video games. What IS going to sound good after it’s said 300 times by various thugs around the city? But I care a lot more about routine crap writing than the occasional piece of more extreme offense or stupidity. One of them is just funny when I read about it, and one of them detracts from my gaming experience in otherwise fun games. To put it in terms more directly opposed to your own: these small but alarmingly consistent errors are worth making such a big deal about because they pervade the experience and are every bit as jarring and disconcerting to many gamers as graphical glitches, clipping models, and shallow AI routines.

    • JehuGarroutte says:

      @youthful cynic Well, how’re the developers supposed to realize people aren’t happy with their decisions unless people talk about it, loudly and frequently? If a change should happen, as even you seem to agree there should, the only way to get that message across is to keep shouting it until someone hears. No problem was ever solved by a couple of days’ mention followed by months of polite silence.

    • aerozol says:

      @youthful cynic, the criticism was probably a simple blog/ preview article written by a female gamer who was really put off playing the character, for personal, or obvious, reasons. Then the backlash would have come from people (not even having played the game yet, and probably all guys) giving kneejerk reactions as to why she can’t write things like that, and is stupid, and doesn’t understand batman, and the dialogue is brilliant, and if she disliked it she should have kept her mouth shut because the internet is not for her opinions. The page hits it generated then got picked up by other journalists, which then got heated discussion going on each side…
      The defence of it feeds the criticism, and vice versa, and I think it would have died down pretty quick if either ‘side’ had let up a little. Reviews for the game that I’ve seen have been good, it’s been accepted that the dialogue isn’t always great, a bit of a downside, but I think the main ‘criticism’ in articles covering the entire game (not just the catwoman issue) has just been “a bit of a shame”, nothing too harsh..

    • 3lbFlax says:

      As I see it the question is not “Is this how violent criminals would talk?”, but “Is this how good writers would write?”

      Arkham City is a very good game, and the quality of the gameplay and the environment highlights the mediocrity of the writing. In a poor game, poor writing would just be part and parcel of the whole package, but in a good game one weak element can really stand out, and potentially cause considerable damage. The hardest part of the game for me was sitting through (or skipping) the numerous insufferable conversations and monologues. Yeah, Joker was a good performance, but Mr Freeze – oy, vey. And you can’t skip all those dreadful in-game snippets. Again, if the game was as poor as the dialogue, I just wouldn’t play the game and there’d be no problem.

      It’s interesting to compare the game to the 60s TV show in this regard. The tone is very different, but the dialogue in the show is wonderful. It’s playfulness wouldn’t work in Arkham City, but the craftsmanship that went into it would benefit the game a great deal.

    • gwathdring says:

      I would like to second the notion that “such a big deal” is warranted precisely because this is such a typical example of dialog rather than a flagrantly offensive or unprecedentedly horrible example of writing. We have become used to this sort of drivel, and even expect it from certain genres. It is all very well on the one hand to suggest certain types of bad writing do less harm to one genre over another … but to defend poor writing from the horrors of more interesting dialog seems a little bizarre to me. I don’t care as much about the most extreme examples of bad games writing or offensive content. It tends not to happen in the games I play and I can look on from the distance and either sigh, discuss or laugh at my leisure. But the writing on display here comes from otherwise well-produced games with enormous amounts of love, artistry, effort and money poured into every other aspect of design. When my favorite games consistently contain writing of this low caliber, I feel slighted by the way the industry designs games. For myself and many other gamers, dialog this bad is every bit as blunt and disruptive as technical glitches and graphical quirks are.

      Such lines can be humorous in the same way bad movies can be fun to watch and video game bugs can be fun and memorable experiences. But there’s a difference between finding enjoyment in spite of these sorts of mistakes and appreciating the dialog in it’s own right–and I want to be able to enjoy games writing in its own right. I don’t want to have to watch bad movies all the time. I want as much money and effort and artistry to go into the text and audio writing and directing as into the visual design and directing. As I’m sure anyone who plays Amnesia or Battlefield will tell you audio is very much a part of the modern gaming experience and cannot be shunted aside on the grounds that video gaming is a primarily visual medium. It is a primarily video-gamey medium, which incorporates audio, visuals, kinetic interfaces and virtual interfaces into the interactive package. Visuals are not even the half of it.

      Furthermore I want to state my complete befuddlement that any otherwise educated and intelligent individual would give a second thought to the “but violent criminals are misogynist, bulked up, smack-talking, assholes” argument. Even when seductively worded as the much less aggressive “violent criminals are less eloquent than you and I.” I’m not happy that such lazy stereotyping magically became acceptable not only as argument, but as truth in Arkham City related discussions. I’m very disappointed to see that argument repeated here on RPS quite so many times. For anyone not defending the dialog on these grounds, please stop acknowledging the “that’s how criminals talk” argument as valid in your rebuttals. That’s how criminals in Batman-Land talk–which is not only a much more reasonable argument than one appealing to realism in the universe that contains Batman but has the considerable advantage of having some smidgen of intellectual honesty attached to it. I don’t blame people for holding stereotypes. They happen to everyone, myself included. But all the same, let’s stop pretending this particular one makes any sense right here, right now, ok?

    • youthful cynic says:

      Ok, let’s start and end at the beginning here. Whilst I also share the disappointment that the dialogue in Arkham City was generally poor (with the exception of the Joker), the reason I am defending the Catwoman dialogue is because for some reason it has become a totem for complaints about ALL the dialogue and I don’t know why this is. If anything, it obscures the issue as the majority of the criticisms have been about the perceived sexism of the game as opposed to the general quality of the dialogue which I consider the actual problem. The dialogue in Arkham Asylum was also pretty poor, so evidently this is a problem the writers/developers have – perhaps a more all-encompassing critique is in order?
      We all seem to agree that the dialogue is poor and should be improved for presumed sequel, what I object to is us all getting het up about one specific part which some people find frustrating and offensive (as I have said it doesn’t bother me that much) which isn’t even in everyone’s copy of the game as opposed to the bigger problem.

    • GT3000 says:

      It’s entirely possible that Catwoman, is a bitch. Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy to a lesser extent as well. They sure as Hell act like bitches.

  5. Meat Circus says:

    I am going to comment like a calm angry internet man.

  6. pupsikaso says:

    Alec, I don’t suppose I could convince you to please change the title picture of this article?

  7. duckinabox says:

    I created an account just now specifically to thank you for opening my eyes to quite how rich and detailed this game is. I used to be frustrated, even angry, at the fact that the game crashes before I can get past Catwoman’s first fight – but I now see that even this one brief section is more than enough to keep a thoughtful and observant gamer interested for weeks; even months.

    Again, thank you.

  8. Real Horrorshow says:

    Criminally insane thugs and murderers aren’t known for witty repartee or an enlightened view of women.

    …has no one considered that during all this silly hubbub about bad writing and “bitch” name-calling?

    • Wurzel says:

      Unfortunately, the flaw in your argument is that the thugs *don’t exist*; they will only say what the game writer wants them to say. Given that the game has no problem diverting from realistic physics, realistic social planning, realistic criminal justice systems, and realistic injury systems, why exactly are they able to introduce ‘realistic’ sexism (actually pretty immature) without comment?

    • Tyshalle says:

      Is there any reason they should have to?

      They’re the bad guys. Why should the bad guys have to PC up their dialogue for the lowest common denominator (that is, whiners)? It’s not like any of the good guys are saying these sexist things. Surely we should be capable of overlooking some despicableness in our fucking villains, yes?

    • Shuck says:

      “Criminally insane thugs and murderers aren’t known for witty repartee”
      But are they known for making sense? Because this dialog sounds like something from a comedic movie/sitcom about socially awkward characters who are embarrassed after blurting out nonsense when they’re trying to act tough. It’s funny but I don’t think it’s supposed to be.

    • DrGonzo says:

      “Criminally insane thugs and murderers aren’t known for witty repartee or an enlightened view of women.”

      Men don’t dress up as Bats and run around fighting crime with high tech gadgets. Meaning, don’t try to use that logic when we’re talking about a game with a giant lizard man in it.

      Don’t really see why the thugs should be sexist. Don’t see why there shouldn’t be female thugs now I come to think of it. Also, don’t see anything wrong with calling Catwoman a bitch, not exclusively though.

      Haven’t played the game properly yet, so will reserve my judgement until then.

    • JehuGarroutte says:

      If we’re taking it as a given that convicts are sexist (which is silly and reductive, but this isn’t the post for that), why aren’t any of the convicts racist?

      I mean, entire prison cliques/gangs are centered exclusively on race/ethnicity. If Arkham City is such a realistic portrayal of the criminal mindset, and misogyny is given carte blanche because “that’s just how they are,” why aren’t there any racial epithets to be found?

    • Tyshalle says:

      Are there any other races portrayed in the game?

      Besides, I would strongly argue that “bitch” is not a purely sexist term except to the most oversensitive people out there. You can call men bitches in exactly the same context as you would women, and the meaning wouldn’t need to be any different.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      @DrGonzo:
      Don’t really see why the thugs should be sexist. Don’t see why there shouldn’t be female thugs now I come to think of it. Also, don’t see anything wrong with calling Catwoman a bitch, not exclusively though.

      You’ve just contradicted yourself there. You’re looking for a REASON why thugs should be sexist, yet dismiss someone else’s REASON as to why they shouldn’t be simply by saying that the universe by default makes no sense. By your own logic you shouldn’t even be seeking for any reason since the universe in its entirety is without reason according to you.

    • Shadram says:

      It’s not an argument about some of the characters behaving in a sexist manner, it’s about games designers doing the same.

      To be able to justify the blatantly mysoginistic nature of the criminals’ dialogue, there at least needs to be some kind of acknowledgement that it’s not the accepted view of the writers. We don’t get anything like that. I’m not suggesting Batman sit down with the thugs and discuss ethical behaviour, but at least some kind of reaction from the “good” characters should be there. There’s also the ubiquity of the sexist thoughts: every thug says the same thing, and just about every taunt aimed towards Catwoman is mysoginistic.

      To then have Catwoman’s fighting moves include her kissing the thugs and straddling them to knock them out just reinforces the feeling that the designers have included her solely for the intention of titilating a young male audience. I don’t have a problem with sexualising Catwoman, it’s a part of her character, but when it’s the only part of her character on display in the entire game (not that I’ve played the entire game yet) I can’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable about enjoying playing through it.

    • aerozol says:

      “has no one considered that” – Well, actually they have. Very much so. Now please do some reading on the issue before asking retarded questions.

      @Tyshalie Whether people are being oversensitive or not, it impacted their gameplay experience enough for them to want to comment about its effect- and not just females, guys too. Whether it’s empirically sexist or not is a rather mute point.

    • Wulf says:

      I was just about to bring that up, actually. Heh.

      Women can be criminals too, they can break the law, and there are women that could snap any of us geeks in half like twigs. It’s not that the thugs themselves feel particularly misogynist from my experience of the game, it’s that the game feels misogynist.

      For example, if we had a few ladies in there who could trade blows with bats whilst undermining his sexuality, then sure, that’d be great. Hell, I’d love to see a beefy gal in there bringing the size of batty’s nuts into question. But we don’t have that, do we? So the end result is that it all feels a little one-sided. Yes, the thugs can be misogynistic and dirty-minded, but where are the strong, criminally-minded ladies? And really, you could even do that without sexing them up if you really wanted to make a point about the game not being misogynist.

      But that women are left out entirely just seems like women were an afterthought to the developers, or that the developers have outmoded notions of chivalry which were always as sexist as hell to begin with. I mean, this reminds me of what I hated about the first Gothic game (and why it wasn’t the best of the series, for me), was that in a criminal colony you only had men, and if any women were there then they were maids or slaves. That’s exactly the same attitude that this game here, has.

      I can understand the thugs being misogynists, but having only men there, and then making them misogynist? It’s that specific combination that raises alarm bells in my mind. Not because I’m a whiner, but because I’m not a bigoted, sexist jerk.

      To continue to try to praise the good bits of Skyrim (as I’m trying my best to be fair to that game, as it has done some things I like), I’m going to make this point…

      I can grab a Thalmor by the neck, whilst they’re in the middle of insulting me, and I can punch them in the face. It doesn’t matter what gender they are, because man or woman, they’re equally as deadly. I can be caught off-guard by a buff lady wielding a two-handed war-axe and end up clove in two. So why then, sexist chivalry aside, is it that women aren’t capable of being ‘strong enough’ to be considered as criminals in Arkham City?

      They’re strong enough to be bandits, mages, and goodness knows what else in Skyrim. It’s not a big deal, there. So why is Arkham City so different?

      To wrap up, the only reason I can think of is that they’re worried it would offend the sensibilities of their average, straight, geeky male audience if a strong woman was beating the crap out of them and calling the size of their genitalia into question.

    • Big Daddy Dugger says:

      @DrGonzo You’re stereotyping, “criminally insane thugs” can be plenty intelligent.

    • gwathdring says:

      Real-life criminally insane thugs tend not to exist. The sorts of people who get into legal trouble as a result of mental illness, outside of rare high-profile cases, mostly get into trouble for public disturbances, misdemeanors and non-violent crimes. In particular, the population suffering from the infamous psychotic disorder Schizophrenia have a lower rate of violent crime than the average population. Furthermore, there is no such distinction “criminally insane” anymore in most countries. I’m not familiar with UK law on the matter but I’m fairly sure that the UK no longer allows the arrest and charging of people with simply being mad. In the US, there is not longer even a way to compel people into institutionalization except as a direct result of a “not guilty by reason of insanity plea” which is extremely rare as a successful legal maneuver.

      But let’s step back a little bit further. Since when were criminals actually like TV show crooks with the troll-thick accents, and arbitrarily violent tendencies? I hope you realize that criminals are actual people who have committed crimes. It’s not a job one must apply for and behave in a certain way to maintain. Criminals come in all shapes, sizes, and sorts. And while education certainly does appear inversely correlated with crime, that has nothing to do with levels of intelligence, enlightenment or misogyny in the criminal population–it’s a matter of socio-economics. There is also an enormous amount of bad data procedure, poor research and intense debate obfuscating the issue of how to create valid crime statistics and how well various levels of economic status correlate to certain kinds of crime–at the very least, capital crimes tend to be less strongly correlated to education and economic status than robbery or non-violent crime.

      In summation, if you’re going to argue that insane criminals are mostly misogynistic boors … make the argument for criminals in the fantasy universe inhabited by Batman. Not the real world.

    • Tyshalle says:

      Wulf, there are numerous female villains in Arkham City. Just none that are standard thugs, but frankly, that seems to be the norm from my vague recollections of the comics and the Saturday morning cartoons. But every major villain from the series that’s a female is in this game, I think. I can’t really think of any big ones that it’s missing.

      And on that front, it might just be sexist in the same way that almost every movie and game is sexist. Not in that women can’t kick the heroes ass, but just in that there’s a general discomfort among society when it comes to men beating on women. I’m not saying that’s right, but I don’t really feel like Arkham City stands out as particularly misogynistic. Surely Catwoman is an over-sexed, under-developed character geared toward giving fourteen year olds erections, but again, this site seems to be picking on this game as if it’s particularly disturbing in a medium not exactly known for enlightenment. And hell, Catwoman still wears more clothing than your average female PC avatar in any fantasy MMO ever.

      I’m just not seeing the huge deal, here. If someone wanted to point it out as being immature when it comes to portraying women, I could get on board with that. But trying to paint this game as being particularly disrespectful to women just doesn’t ring true to me.

    • gwathdring says:

      That’s a very good point. We should be careful not to make an inverted straw man, blaming the middling bad things for the extremes. But at the same time … this is an enormous game with a lot of content and a ton of money and talent behind it. And these sorts of things are still getting through despite all the effort spent on detail and design. Clearly, even our best produced efforts are ignoring small but important details that matter to gamers. I’m fine with us lamblasting Arkham whether or not it’s the worst thing out there–if we start becoming more consistent about brow-beating other games with similar issues. As with the MW3 article … if we’re going to call out Spectacle Shooters (and here I’m less convinced we need to be opposed to them in the first place), we need to recognize that many of our old-timey, well loved linear shooters were also designed with most of the same principles … or at the least that BF3 singleplayer isn’t a hell of a lot better. Or is it? From what I’ve heard it’s quite similar.

      I agree that some consistency is in order, but personally I think we should start complaining about the low-quality writing, the poor interfaces, and the sexist design choices in MORE big budget, high polished games rather than less.

    • aerozol says:

      @Tyshalle, again, not many people are “trying to paint this game as being particularly disrespectful to women”. They are just stating that the decisions made with the character and the dialogue influenced their gameplay negatively: which is something I expect them to bring up.
      I know you ignored it last time I said it, but whether it’s “particularly misogynistic” (although really, why stand on the side of any of that?) or not is a mute point. Like you said she’s an “over-sexed, under-developed character”, and to be honest, that sh*t turns me off in movies, games, comic books, and regular books, and it bothers me enough in Batman: Arkham City to enjoy those parts less. It breaks immersion, it’s lazy, and it wasn’t a nice feeling. Peoples statement of that fact, and the reason behind it, is not something that should have caused the quite explosive feedback from the community that it did.
      Anyway, at this later point, and as a journalistic (and responsive) site, RPS isn’t picking on the game anymore, but responding to something that has become an issue amongst the community.

  9. Bhazor says:

    Re: B-word use.

    Its worth pointing out that the thugs call *Bruce* that at the start of the game. A usage replete with violent prison rape. So basically the thugs are assholes to anyone. Makes dangling them upside down or spraying bombs on their cocks that much more satisfying.

  10. Tuor says:

    Alas, poor Yorikitty! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite fur, of most excellent fancy; I hath borne him on my back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I fed Meow Mix. Where be your purrs now?

  11. KlaxonOverdrive says:

    Well done, sir.

  12. slight says:

    So, just as an aside on the general topic, should we really be expecting sparkling repartee from thugs?

    Also, seeing picture of kitty, I totally read the headline as “Arkham Kitty”.

    • MajorManiac says:

      I think when dealing with fantasy, its more interesting to give bad guys a quirky theme.

      Take the two henchmen in the movie Sin City for example, or Eddie Izzard’s character in the Myster Men.

    • Snidesworth says:

      It might be nice. My main problem with the whole Bitch issue is how it’s pretty much the go-to insult and it just feels flat and impotent. A bit of variety would have spiced things up. As is it just feels like whoever wrote the dialogue suffered from a dearth of creativity, though the same can be said more a than a fair number of the lines in the game. It’s not all bad, though. Some of the incidental conversations you hear the thugs having make it plenty clear that they’re not nice people without being shoddily written and while also demonstrating some degree of difference between them.

      As for the bigger villains? Even if Two-Face was simmering with rage and indignity I’d expect him to have some some more insults and taunts under his belt that “goddamn bitch” and variations thereof. The guy used to be a pretty good lawyer and subsequently became a criminal mastermind. Arkham City deserves a better class of villain.

  13. Orija says:

    Couldn’t it be sarcasm? I mean, after all that the woman does to appear like a cat, the thugs try to convey that they have only noticed her being feline in nature until she cam and did her stuff right in front of them… or maybe not.

    Also, about the “bitch” stuff, I think why this stuff has been added because the player/reader of the comic doesn’t really look at the sidekick with awe and uum… respect that he does with Batman. Getting called a ‘bitch’ denotes that the thugs consider her to be a pain in their ass. Catwoman at the end of the day, is a woman, fighting criminals in tight latex clothing, you can’t expect them to challenge her to an honorable duel. Worth noting is that the thugs don’t call her a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’ which would disparage her in the player’s eyes from a sexy crimefighter to, well, a slut.

    It’s worth noting that the thugs call Batman a “freak” rather than, say, homophobic slurs, “clown” or whatever, because that would show that they don’t think much of the guy with the cape.

    In coherent babbling aside, I can’t wait to play the game once I get a new PC.

  14. Radiant says:

    Remember when Cliffy B used to run a website called CatScan.com? People scanning their cats and sending him the images.

    Coincidence? I think so.

  15. hernismall says:

    I think I must have taken a wrong turn and somehow ended up in this article… I’m scared :(

  16. Shuck says:

    Clearly that line of dialog was used because it was such an improvement over the previous iteration of that line, which was, “You’re going to bruise like a deceased stoat.”* Either that or the thugs wished to make it clear that although they were going to be doing the character an injury, they didn’t wish to give the impression that it would be grievous bodily harm, as they were, at heart, gentlemen, despite their uncouth language.

    *Other rejected lines include:
    “I’m going to slap you like you’re a baby’s bottom.”
    “I’ll beat you like a red headed stepchild.”
    “You’re going to get it like McGillicutty.”
    “I’m going to feed you breakfast.”
    “There are eels in my hovercraft.”

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      The last one is the best.
      It makes me wish for a version where the thugs do say things like “There are eels in my hovercraft.” duruing fights.
      Actually, that reminds me of God Hand, where the bad guys would shout “You’re not Alexander” for some reason. Ah, God I miss God Hand.

    • Koozer says:

      They will not buy the tobacconists, it is scratched.

    • DickSocrates says:

      “Your nipples are gonna explode with delight, BITCH!”

    • Shadram says:

      “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”

      (Yeah, labours the point and is too obvious, but it’s such a great line)

  17. D3xter says:

    Is this about how games, or virtual boobs, or cats or maybe all of the above are an affront to all women again or something? I never quite get those…

  18. Geralt says:

    Rocksteady should totally make a DLC challenge map where all the thugs are wearing expensive suits, top hats and monocles along with some nice mustaches and they say stuff like “what a glorious day to have a brawl, is it no milady?”

    • youthful cynic says:

      But they should only wear the hats on outdoor maps, they know the etiquette. They should also bow very slightly and doff the aforementioned hats at the start of each round.

    • MajorManiac says:

      Given the imaginative world of Batman. There is probably already a gang like that.

  19. Hakkesshu says:

    Sometimes I think you guys take pedantry too far, but then you wouldn’t be pedantic, I guess.

    • Sleepymatt says:

      Sometimes I think you guys take pedantry too far, but *IF YOU DIDN’T* then you wouldn’t be pedantic, I guess.

      No need to thank me :)

  20. X_kot says:

    After reading one too many posts rehashing the whole “realistic dialogue or not?” argument, I would like to posit a line of thinking more germane to Mr. Meer’s article:

    Why do the thugs need to talk so much (if at all)? Would it be so bad to return to the days of “OOMPF!”, “BIFF!”, and “ZOT!” as a remedy to the repetitive and inane threats currently spouted by random thugs? If anything, less talking during fights would seem more realistic.

  21. Dr. Evanzan says:

    I applaud Alec on his fine analysis of the first two parts of this sentence. However, I feel his analysis of the third part has fallen short which is all the more galling due to how close he was to a true analysis.

    As established in the article, the sentence provides a helpful introduction to the player within the general scene-setting of the initial act with the following intimations:
    1) of the motif which we are to associate with the character of Catwoman and
    2) of the confrontational (and violently so) nature of the character’s interactions.

    Yet the third establishing intimation has been overlooked in favour of a more literal translation when, in fact, this should be interpreted as further fourth-wall breaking guidance to the new player.
    As noted, a dead cat cannot bleed and as such the sentence appears irrational.
    However, within the structural context we should revisit this assertion by asking what important information is being relayed to the player. Clearly this must be read as a reassurance to the player of the nature of the entertainment medium with which they are interacting. In saying “you will bleed like a dead cat”, which is to say, “you will not bleed at all”, the introduction is completed by assuring the player that, despite the violence portrayed by the cat-like persona on screen, the player will not be subject to this violence themselves. It is, in effect, the reassurance that “it is just a game”.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Dammit, you’re absolutely right. How could I have been so stupid?

    • Tally says:

      Brilliant, this is my guest writer nomination.

    • cjlr says:

      And he’s a doctor!

    • youthful cynic says:

      *applause*

    • sonofsanta says:

      As little as I wish to further highlight any inadequacies on the part of your analysis, Alec, I am compelled to point out that you have missed the most important subtext of the second part here.

      You clearly establish that “You’re… like a… cat.” introduces the player to the feline nature of Catwoman, but then fail to recognise that the second part, “You’re going to bleed.” is a reference to the menstrual cycle and is intended to complete the character of Catwoman by referencing the feminine alongside the feline. After all, as the sassy dialogue from Catwoman and the derogatory slang from the thugs frequently reminds us, Catwoman’s gender is central to her as a character and an aspect she draws strength and inspiration from. The “woman” is as important as the “cat”, and the second line is, in the typically unpleasant manner we would expect from those delivering the line, pointing that out.

      Brilliant, though, that such seemingly banal dialogue in truth resonates on this many levels. Such sterling work Rocksteady, bravo.

  22. heledir says:

    God, it’s my late Latin classes all over again. Although I seriously miss the analysis of the dot at the end of the sentence. See, this means that it is considered a fact by the thugs, that they do not believe in an alternative. If there were an exclamation mark, then, well…

    Wait, what just happened? I must have blacked out.

  23. JehuGarroutte says:

    Here’s a line that I heard approximately one-thousand-eighty-three times while playing that I found absolutely confounding: “It’s colder than the Ice Man’s heart out here.”

    Presumably, the Ice Man is Mr. Freeze, given that the goons’ view of the world seems to end at the prison walls (Which is a shame – what an amazing opportunity this game could’ve been for a Wire/Hamsterdam wink-nudge reference). If this assumption is correct, the problems with the line are twofold.

    First off, Mr. Freeze is the only Batman villain driven almost entirely by love. The exo-suited mega-nerd just wants his wife back. That’s his whole shtick. References to him being cold-hearted, while true in a literal sense, are silly as the dickens when considered in a metaphorical context.

    But let’s say they just meant it literally. Why in the hell would hardened convicts, given their choice of anatomy, pick the dude’s heart? A line like this is just CRYING OUT for the low-hanging fruit (heh) of “colder than the Ice Man’s pole.”

  24. vodka and cookies says:

    Well spotted.

    The games outright sexism is troubling the word bitch seems to be thoroughly over used as well when playing as Catwoman but Batman never gets called bastard once as far as I can tell. Still no where near as bad as Gears of War 3 for over use of “bitch” in a game, it was astounding.

    • celozzip says:

      batman gets called bastard and wanker by penguin and i think i heard asshole in there too from a thug? whatever, i dont care about stuff like ‘bitch’ and all the lame cat lines, but hearing them say they’re gonna make me ‘unrecognisable’ to my mother and ‘cut my face off’ is kinda irksome. but then that’s the point surely?

  25. S Jay says:

    Someone just saw the Rum Diaries or something.

  26. Lukasz says:

    Before now i never actually realized that bitch is a sexist word. Is bastard a sexist word too then and we cannot have bad people use it?

  27. Tally says:

    Alec, I love you.

  28. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    By the way guys have you ever tried to come up with something menacing to say? Sometimes when put on the spot it can be quite hard.

  29. sinister agent says:

    Aha! The truth begins to move into focus. This, I now realise, is the thugs acknowledging to Catwoman that they understand what her outfit and name is intended to convey.

    This line just made it clear to me how much fun it would be to have all the thugs (and people in general) consistently “mistake” her outfit for something else, and base all their taunts around that. Just imagine how pissed off it’d make her.

    “Hey, come on out, little wolf girl. We won’t hurt you much!”

    “Panda girl got Mickey! Quick, everybody spread out!”

    “I see you! You can’t hide from us, Panda girl!”

    “I’m a cat. A CAT, GODDAMMIT.”

    “Hey it’s the rat! Get her!”

    • Quizboy says:

      See this, this thing right here? This is the Arkham City from a better universe than ours.

      ‘I’m a CAT! Fucking CAT! C A T CAT!’
      ‘Why you ain’t gots a tail then? An’ do cats really have that much cleavage on show?’
      ‘…’

  30. nootron says:

    My wife thought the expression was “bleed like a stuffed pig”

  31. FataMorganaPseudonym says:

    This article was entirely necessary.

  32. voidburn says:

    So.. nobody here lives in the country side? Where cats don’t die in bed, but splattered all over the asphalt in a pool of guts & blood? I don’t mean to ruin the party here, but that sentence is a clear threat to me as the image in my mind of such horrible accident.

    • adonf says:

      Dude, cats don’t die in bed. They’re taken to a farm far far away where all the other animals we had at home will play with them forever. Common knowledge.

    • youthful cynic says:

      I live in the country but I don’t remember any dead cats – there are however many dead rabbits and OH SO MANY dead pheasants. I can exclusively confirm that these dead animals bleed or have bled… a lot

  33. Josh04 says:

    Judging by the comments thread, not only did a lot of people not get the point of this article, a good number of people haven’t even gotten the point of the *last* article.

    To dash out a quick point, the reason ‘bitch’ remains sexist even though you can call both men and women it is that the usage is different :- a woman who is a ‘bitch’ has male-gendered traits: she is assertive, she is troublesome, she is a range of attributes which would be positive in a man. A man who is a ‘bitch’, on the other hand, gets female-gendered traits: submissiveness, being the receiver in a sexual act, cowardice. The word seamlessly denigrates women for trying to be like men and men for being too much like women, and is sexist in all use.

  34. KingKrapp says:

    Surely a dead cat wouldn’t bleed very well at all, considering its heart wouldn’t be pumping the blood out. Perhaps they’re just trying to reassure her?

  35. pipman3000 says:

    You’ll make a fine rug, cat!

    • Wulf says:

      If I had a penny for every person I’ve punched in the face whilst they were uttering that line, I’d probably have enough pennies to buy another iPad. I’m not sure what I’d do with another iPad, but I needed something that seemed reasonable to the value of how many people I’d punched in the face whilst they were uttering that line.

      So, it’s emblazoned in my head as…

      “You–” *pow!* “–will make–” *thwak!* “–a fine–” *smack!* “–rug–” *kapow!* “–caauuughhhh…”

    • pipman3000 says:

      You remind me of my cousin’s cat, I killed that too!

  36. adonf says:

    Cats having nine lives they must bleed a lot before they’re dead dead. I agree that it should have been something like “You’re going to bleed like a cat before it dies”, but you can’t expect Generic Thug #23 to have a perfect grasp of grammar. That line is very much in character. Good job writers!

  37. Heliocentric says:

    Any conversation about stupid minion chatter needs to include conviction.
    http://www.kotaku.com.au/2010/06/you-gonna-read-this-fisher-the-art-of-enemy-taunts/
    Its dreadful how they make puns while their friends die around them.

  38. Was Neurotic says:

    “An overt reference to bleeding means the player will now grasp that this is not, in fact, a boogaloo situation, but a violent situation.” :D :D :D

  39. Josh W says:

    You know how games used to have a setting to to turn off the gore? I’d like one to turn off the sexism.

    Yes etc etc people bleed when hit, and if you blow someone up their guts come out or whatever, doesn’t mean I want to see it. I don’t mind these thugs being plausibly sexist, so long as I can edit it out of the game.

    I don’t mind seeing either in a game that properly treats the subject, but when the game is already using them as windowdressing to sell the extremity of the situation, I’d rather turn it off.

  40. Snowy says:

    TSk, lazy journalism Meer!

    It is of course Livor Mortis which would prevent a dead cat bleeding, where gravity draws the blood to the lowest points of the body.

    However, Livor Mortis begins to occur ~20 minutes after death, and the coagulation of the blood can take from 6-12 hours to complete. Any wounding to the ground-facing parts of the dead cat could continue to bleed for several hours following its death.

    The bleeding would be driven purely by gravity, and would therefore be a much slower leakage than if the heart were still beating.

    This makes the thug’s comment far more sinister, it translates to:

    “I am going to make you leak coagulating blood slowly over a period of several hours” (either with or without the ‘bitch’ epithet, which while genealogically incorrect given its canine origin could be ascribed to the low intelligence of said thug).

    Must try harder Mr Meer.

  41. Duoae says:

    Welp, whilst acknowledging that this post is parody, if you’ve ever been around a recently deceased cat that’s just been hit by an automobile you know that they can ooze their inner liquids quite readily…. So, maybe that was what the writer was thinking about?

    Now i need to go and think about something happier :/

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