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Tips for Buying EarthBound

July 4th, 2009 | EarthBound

James sent this in a little while back – I’ll just post what he said for simplicity’s sake 😛

For my final paper in my Philosophy of Feminism class, I wrote about the overt gender roles presented in EarthBound and what they might point to from a philosophical perspective. I wish I would have had more time to work on it, but it turned out alright as is. I thought you might get a kick out of it.

You can check out his report here if you’re interested.

Anybody else written reports or done projects that are EarthBound-related? If so, let me know!


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40 Comments to EarthBound and Feminism

chimera said on Jul. 4, 2009

I once wrote a sort story for english in which the rough draft was EB related, but the final draft had almost no references, if any.

MagusDuality said on Jul. 4, 2009

I recently wrote a report on satire in video games and used Earthbound as one of my three major examples.

Someone Else said on Jul. 4, 2009

It’s kind of unsettling for negative things being said about EarthBound like that when you know the person wrting it has to be a true fan of the series to know any of this.

Though I did groan when fetus was mentioned.

Mrs. Saturn said on Jul. 4, 2009

I’m a girl and I don’t really see it. Some women do choose to behave in the way that we see in EB; I think it’s too simplistic to just say it’s misogyny. (Plus I always thought Paula was a pretty tough character; her physical attacks aren’t bad and her PSI is positively deadly. Itoi could have made it so that she could only heal, but she gets thunder, fire and ice attacks…)

Mrs. Saturn said on Jul. 4, 2009

Oh, this actually reminds me of an EB-related project I did. In one of my sixth-grade classes we were supposed to replicate a page of a newspaper on a big poster, and we could write any stories we wanted. I called mine the Threed Tribune and made up stories about how the zombies were attacking, with pictures of zombies from the game and everything. I got a good grade, but I think it ended up being thrown out 🙁

amorerana said on Jul. 4, 2009

Actually, for a final project in English, my topic was the Videogames=Art argument, and to discipline myself, I avoided mentioning the MOTHER series. Yes, I know. That was stupid of me.

About the article: Yeah, it was pretty good. I definitely never saw EarthBound from that perspective. Thanks for showing this.

ShirowWolf said on Jul. 4, 2009

Oy. There are some problems in that paper…It is indeed kind of hard to believe if this paper was written by a fan of the series, but I too can certainly fairly criticize things that I like, but this paper doesn’t really provide clear thougts.

The game does play into gender stereotypes, and character archetypes, but there’s nothing new about that in games. Are all game creators ‘sexist’ then? That’s a tired old argument. Instead of posing his ideas as simply his inferences, there are times when he presents his views matter-of-factly, such as when trying to get inside Itoi’s head. The writer isn’t very mindful of the difference.

The stuff about Giygas being an aborted fetus also needs to be given a rest…The writer also fails to mention that the movie Itoi watched doesn’t actually have a rape scene in it- Itoi just remembered it that way, for some reason. Also, his claim that ‘there is little room for coincidence’ just because the purpose of the Devil’s Machines is not explained is…just plain wrong. He’s basically just saying ‘I’m right because the game doesn’t say I’m wrong’. Yes, there is room for coincidence because his evidence isn’t too solid. He also fails to mention that the Giygas ’tiles’ scroll and warp in the background, so the…’image’ of the ‘fetus’ is not constant, and it seems he took a convenient screenshot. You can actually see on the image he provides that the ’tiles’ are uneven, and not uniform. Hasn’t Itoi himself even addressed this idea and debunked it?

I also doubt 100% that Itoi was trying to “vocalize—consciously or unconsciously— […]that the female reproductive system is something evil”. There’s…no basis for that at all.

The arguments just don’t add up, the writer tries too much to get into Itoi’s head, and he presents his own views as ‘Because I say so’, more or less.

entropicdecay said on Jul. 4, 2009

While I can see where he’s coming from in several places, a lot of his points don’t really sit well with me.

Saying that Paula’s only role in the final battle is “to passively pray for help” doesn’t seem fair, exactly, when you consider that after a certain point in the battle, there’s no use attacking Giygas. Is her praying inherently more passive, even when actively attacking would accomplish nothing?

I don’t see how the lack of in-game elaboration on the nature of the Devil’s Machine must necessarily indicate that the article’s author is correct in his assumption that it’s womb-like qualities mean it is Shigesato Itoi “vocalising – consciously or unconsciously – the oldest form of sexism, that the female reproductive system is something evil”. I really don’t think there’s enough basis to conclude that.

Perhaps this is just me being defensive, I don’t know. On the other hand, I may have misinterpreted the article somewhat – the conclusion states that “even though Itoi has created a world of stereotypes, he does so to demonstrate how unreal it all is”. Perhaps the intention of the article was not so much to criticise Earthbound as sexist as to suggest that it uses sexism satirically, or something along those lines.

On the whole, however, I’d have to say that while I found reading the article interesting, I remain unconvinced by several of its arguments.

Devaux said on Jul. 4, 2009

My Latin teacher once had us make posters based on Orcus, the Underworld. She put the best projects outside for all to see, so I was determined to make mine perfect. Almost every single picture was from EB or M3. I had everything. I glued Carbon Dog and Diamond Dog’s heads onto Boney’s body for Cerberus, had the three mayors (Pirkle, Pusher, and… the one from EB0, I don’t remember the name) for the judges Aeacus, Minos, and Rhadamanthus. Hades’ throne was Poo’s, the Elysian Fields were filled with flower sprites from M3, I even had the Mystical Shoes in the place of Hermes’s winged sandals. It was incredible.

My score on that project was a 34/40. To put that in retrospect, a guy in my class who drew his on an 8 1/2 × 11″ piece of paper during lunch got a 33/40.

Unfortunately, in my frustration, I trashed it. Hindsight is 20/20, after all.

Saturnome said on Jul. 4, 2009

I once wrote about EarthBound, but it was in a history of video games class. I got an excellent score! I focused on the auteur theory approach and told much about Itoi.

PonPonchoCho said on Jul. 4, 2009

I wrote a Mother 3 essay for my Mythology and Folklore class where we had to compare a modern book, movie, comic, game, etc. to ancient stories. It came out to about 12 pages (double-spaced) and I got a perfect score. I’m a pretty bad writer and I didn’t have a ton of time to work on it, so maybe I’ll rewrite it someday. It probably needs editing and fact checking anyway. I barely touched on the first two Mother games and I actually still had some stuff left to consider for Mother 3 as well, and it would be nifty if I could keep adding to it.

spaz said on Jul. 4, 2009

I’ve done SEVERAL eb related projects. almost all of’em in art class.
heres a few. A GIYGAS ABSTRACT SCULPTURE, A PSI ROCKIN WEAVING, A NINTEN WEAVING, 2 POP CULTURE EARTHBOUND T-SHIRTS, (i am a very good artist, i might post some of these to starmen.net. here’s one that i posted http://starmen.net/vote/vote.php?id=25251 ), a few psi fire and pk love radial designs, a painting of onett, an abstract painting of giygas (similar to the abstract sculpture, and a clay mr. saturn wearing that red bandanna. My favourite is the abstract sculpture of giygas, because it resembles his sprite in earthbound, but physically is just as creepy, with all that dark red paint and black flames.
i’m an artist. heh, i named my starmen net account off of sonics form in SATSR.

spaz said on Jul. 4, 2009

Oh, and i did a project about the evolution of video games 2 yrs. ago. EB was the example of copyright infringement, and i dressed as mario.
My poster was of what i hoped SSBB to look like, but ninten or shadow the hedgehog didnt appear. Ness, lucas, and Sonic did though! ^-^

Dr. Meat said on Jul. 4, 2009

Ah the lovely fetus theory. I too enjoy trying to see familiar shapes in clouds.

It’s pretty lame to essentially say that Paula’s role in the final battle is to be subservient to the male characters when you literally cannot win the final battle without her. But then misinformation, dubious theories, and omitting facts are the cornerstones of trying to connect points which don’t exist.

Luis said on Jul. 4, 2009

Sorry, but I can’t agree with the writer.

He (or she, I don’t know) says Traicy has a bad work because she is always at home with the mobile phone. Well, isn’t working from home an improvement? Ness Mother is always home, yes, I agree, but I cannot blame that after seing his father is never home. It only demonstrates that she cares for her children more than her husband, or maybe, that her husban had a terrible job that forces him to be always abscent. I guess Traicy’s job is better then.

The fact that there is only one girl in the group is not so important as the writter says. At least there is one girl in this group, and she is there because Anna was in the first game. By that time most games (spetialy RPGs) didn’t add a woman in the group, or did add one that could only heal the party. Paula is actually the killing machine in the group. The fact that she can “only pray at the end” could also be pointed out as “the only thing you can do at this point is to pray, ando only she can do that”. So she actually plays an important part in the last battle. It’s she who defeats Giygas.

Then we have the falic symbol with the weapons. I can’t say I see anything falic in those. Well, maybe the sword, but Poo stays almost the whole game with his fists as his only weapon. Indeed, getting that sword is very very hard. The bat (like the frying pan) is there because that’s what the character first would think about. Remember there are yo-yos in the game too. As for the gun, Jeff’s weapon starts as an air gun he repairs himself. All the weapons are made to give some background about the kids.

And finally Giygas. A fetus? A fetus? Sorry, I need to see that image again. All right there seems to be some resemblace in this particular frame. But have you seen how does that red somke move? Noticing that is so rare! I cannot belive that the fetus was intetional. Whoever has played the first game in the series knows it is not supposed to be a fetus. Well anyway, I don’t see this as an abort, and I am against aborts. The way it talks is because of how crazy it has become. It’s desire of revenge has become so strong that it is now just the esence of evil. It is completly mad and cannot controlate itself. I actually feel sorry for it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is trying to kill me.

Finally, when the game ends and the kids leave the group you should notice how does each one do it. Poo teleports to his palace in a “cool way” because he is supposed to be a cool dude. The fact that so many girls in his country like him could be paired with the fact that a lot of men like Venus in Topolla Theatre. So he had to show some kind of attitude as a proof of how an interesting boy he is. Then Jeff doesn’t go, he simply stays with his father. He may do that in the hope of his father to notice him. Come on, Tony notices him more than his own father. Now that I think about it, I didn’t mention Tony, but that’s another story. Finally Paula asks Ness to escort her but not because she needs protection any more. She goes with him because she likes him. It’s like that scene in the first game where Anna asks Ninten if he loves her. Paula may be a bit shy to say that, so she just asks him to escort her in hopes of him to understand her feelings.

Yes, the other characters are the typical stereotype, but that’s changed in the last game.

The style of the article in the other hand is priceless. The writter is a good writter and probably a good philosopher too. Most important, he (or she) knows what he/she is talking about. He/She has played the game and understood it before writting this, and that’s something many writers don’t do. I just can’t see his/her point about this. I never thought the game was sexist at all. Paula is a bit dependent, I admit it, but that’s all.

Sarah said on Jul. 4, 2009

In my 7th grade art class (6 years ago already) we had to do a large perspective drawing of a city. I modeled mine after Onett as much as possible (I had to end up changing a few things around to fit the requirements of the assignment, though.) The main focus was the street with the Drug Store and the Burger Shop, but I also threw the arcade in there somewhere too. I wish I still had it!

Spitball Sparky said on Jul. 4, 2009

I skimmed the thing, and I gotta say that Paula is portrayed in this essay as being rather week.

We’ve all played the game; we all know that Ness would not have had a chance in hell of defeating Giygas without Paula by his side for many reasons.

Just because a girl is feminine and pretty does not make her any less important or any more of an object. I think we can all agree that the Department Store is particularly difficult without Paula’s presence.

Jungyin said on Jul. 4, 2009

Why can’t a girl wear pink and be strong at the same time? What makes physical strength superior to mental/psychic strength? Why is having a person who cares for and raises children a bad thing when said person happens to be female?

madgolfertom said on Jul. 4, 2009

The fetus thing fits in nicely with feminist critiques of literature and art. There have been essays comparing the water of the rivers Huck Finn floated his raft down to amniotic fluid. I wish I was making this up.

I agree with a lot of what’s been said above. Paula was not the stereotypical support/healing female character/nurse, which could have been mentioned in the article to give the EB perspective a little more dimension, since it came off as mostly one-sided.

The author makes a good point about Paula being accompanied/abducted a lot. Something could have been added about stereotypical romance roles, but the main points of this philosopher were there.

The phallic symbol analysis seemed to be thrown in halfheartedly, but it’s more of a critique about stereotypical hero roles than EB’s stance on it. All in all I was impressed by the essay, but wanted more, as the author seems to want as well. 😛

EarthBoundRules said on Jul. 4, 2009

I don’t understand why everybody hates the fetus theory. I personally agree with this writer.

James said on Jul. 4, 2009

Hey folks. Thanks for reading my little essay. In fact, I am a tremendous fan of EarthBound, but a philosopher should always be able to examine the philosophies behind the subject, regardless personal affiliation.

If you don’t agree with my assessment, that’s totally okay. In fact, I don’t agree with it entirely either. I agree with feminist ideology about half the time, but for this assignment I wanted to put myself into a feminist mindset. Believe it or not, liberal feminists would almost invariably see tremendous sexism in the characters of EarthBound.

The question was posed, wouldn’t most video games be considered just as sexist as EarthBound? The answer is yes. But I wrote about EarthBound because I’m a big fan of EarthBound and I thought it would be fun to examine. But truly, most video games would be considered sexist because they all stem out of the same culture that is steeped in sexist tradition. At least, that’s the feminist perspective, which I do not always share.

As for the bit about Giygas, I’m well aware that I cannot prove anything I’ve said. Actually, that whole bit about Giygas was rather last minute. It was a thought experiment, of sorts. If you get into philosophy, you’ll no doubt run into book after book that examines possibilities not in an effort to describe the way things truly are, but simply for the sake of examining them.

I just wanted to clear things up, since I admit that my essay, being written for the express audience of one philosophy professor, can be easily misunderstood by anyone who hadn’t just had a semester of feminism.

I still contend that Giygas is a fetus, though. I’m going to stand by that theory until the day I die.

Deiphobus said on Jul. 4, 2009

needs to be longer and more supported to make a point. however, any additional evidence for this point is nonexistent.

Assorted Astrology-Related Names said on Jul. 4, 2009

Well, after watching stuff about the Russian Revolution in English for an essay on Animal Farm, I’m highly tempted to throw the famous little book out the window and compare Mother 3 to the Russian Revolution and other wars. But I can’t. I’m tempted to take up Senior History just so I can write this potential piece.

The essay here, however, was an interesting read. I’m not in the mood to pick it apart (and personally I’m a female non-feminist) but it was a rather nice, concise little assignment. That phallic symbolism was totally bull, though >.>

rawpower said on Jul. 5, 2009

I wrote an ungraded argument for typing class once about how the Mother series should return and by localized to America. It wasn’t good at all. I used the first draft but I got a good grade cause she really didn’t care as long as it was typed without grammical errors.

Schrodinger said on Jul. 5, 2009

This was a very nicely written paper from a point of view one doesn’t really get to hear from when talking about the Mother series. I don’t see why everyone seems to dislike it so much. The author made some good points and some bad ones–the one problem I have with it is the bit thrown in about Mother 3. It seemed unnecessary and that is a frankly terrifying image of Doria. Why not one of the more fully-clothed Magypsies? Why did you have to terrorize my eyes like that?

But I digress. I once wrote a paper in English class comparing and contrasting Romeo and Juliet to Mother 3. It involved a lot of grasping at straws and making stuff up because no-one at my school had ever heard of Mother 3 or cared to look it up. I am fully aware that I am a terrible person, by the way.
I’d submit it, but it was horrifically written. Oddly enough I got one of the highest scores on it, which says a lot about the people at my school.

Deraj626 said on Jul. 5, 2009

I can’t understand a word he’s saying.

entropicdecay said on Jul. 5, 2009

Thanks for responding, James. I think I understand what you were going for a little better now. I don’t mean to be too critical, it was an interesting read. I do agree that Paula being kidnapped twice, when no other character in the party ever is, is problematic from a feminist perspective. It does seem like sort of a callback to the “save the princess” scenarios of so many video games.

I would venture to say that Earthbound is somewhat less sexist than a lot of other games, but I accept that “somewhat less sexist” certainly doesn’t mean that there’s no sexism at all.

Elobo said on Jul. 5, 2009

The article’s good, and if you do take the time to go through it, it’s obvious that he _is_ a fan of the series.

The context of the article is definitely good for the class. He confirms in his reply here that he did try to write it in a certain mindset.

One woman in EB who breaks the trend is the Topolla Theatre owner. Takes the R5 for more than the Chaos Theatre owner ever did and the theatre still operates even after they leave. She’s not necessarily a good person but she does one better than Twoson’s guy and is more savvy for long term business.

I’ve never written about games in school, it’s never really come up. Action figures and cartoons, though, certainly.

Viewtiful_justin said on Jul. 6, 2009

I’ve never heard the fetus theory before. That’s fairly interesting, even if it has been debunked.

The report was intellectually incomplete, for sure. I think the fact that the person who really defeats Giygas is Paula, with her prayer, is significant, and it doesn’t get discussed. If anything, the woman in this game is the most powerful one of all, much more so than the men and their weapons.

I think maybe the absolute opposite argument could be made and well supported.

Zade said on Jul. 6, 2009

As an English Major and a Feminist, I’m doubly disappointed with this essay, disagreeing both with the content and the form. I wonder what grade it got…

As far as my own classwork goes, I mentioned EarthBound in an essay I wrote on how Monty Python influenced world culture, but it was an off-hand example.

Luis said on Jul. 7, 2009

Thanks for answering, James. I gave you my points about why I don’t agree with your essay. This doesn’t mean I don’t like the way it is written. It is actually quite good.

I just wouldnt judge this particular game so severely because (at least) it does give some role to the femenine characters. Paula is a very important character and she is not what you would expect for an RPG femenine character at all. Ness mother and sister also help Ness on his quest. I could go on, but you already know what I mean. By the time this game was made, other games payed absolutly no attention to the femenine characters. Think about Super Mario World.

I don’t like feminism much. In my opinion (and I don’t need anyone to agree with me about this) it is just as bad as machism is. Not beter nor worse. If you remember Platon (I don’t know his name in English, sorry), you know what he said about balance. Neither the white hores nor the black one must run more than the other. So when boys and girls can be treated equaly, let’s forget who is male and who is female.

TheMindGamer said on Jul. 16, 2009

Honestly, I didn’t like it at all. Not because I disagreed with it (I did, though) but because it felt a bit forced. Granted, the stance itself was quite interesting but the methods used to achieve the points were less than spectacular. All the corner-cutting and lack of completely examining all the information bothered me. The essay merely forced the games content to mean what it wanted to say and anyone who knew enough about the subject would find flaws easily. This left me less than impressed. This felt more like propaganda than an honest analysis. =\

ToXiXXX said on Jul. 20, 2009

How could you bring something as great as earthbound into something as twisted and paranoid as feminism?

I’m against feminist for the sole fact that they rally for equal outcome ass opposed to equal opportunity, and when the outcome isnt what they expect they have a one sided sexist rally against men being the primary cause for it.

Misogyny, You better believe it.

Thenumber1Yoshi said on Oct. 26, 2009

You know I’m suddenly reminded of one of the changes made from Mother 2 when they localized it to be in English for Earthbound I remember hearing somewhere (though I think it was Chuggaconroy’s Let’s Play) that when she first meets Ness she says if he didn’t come she would have cried while we all know that in the English version she says she would have had to try to bust out on her own, so I think that might have been one change to keep some feminists off their case.

I skimmed through the thing, but I didn’t think I saw that particular bit about that one change or fact about the Japanese version anywhere, it wouldn’t have hurt to have had it in there somewhere, of course if you did mention it (sorry its just I don’t want to read something that long just to check if one thing is in there) I’m sorry. But still this can’t help but remind Me of how differen the Japanese and English version’s of the dialouge when she first meets Ness in the cabin are (you know the whole saying she would have cried in the Japanese version and saying she would have had to try to bust out on her own in the English one)

Duder said on Nov. 5, 2009

Wow James your a damn good writer. What a lot people need to understand is that he was writing towards an audience as most college professors suggest to do. In this case the audience was feminists or students of feminism. When writing essay you often need to be biased in order to receive a good mark.(We all have to do it).
Yet in this case I think EB was a bad choice. The game is in itself a parody. It satires three main things; American culture, western values and typical role playing games. For all we know Itoi purposely injected sexism, to indicate the sexism in American culture. I think this is the case because these injections are, as you know, not very subtle.

Mister Crosser said on Nov. 29, 2009

In japanese class, I’m allowed to make my own illustrations. I made one for the sa in hiragana. Sa as in Mr. Saturn

NessBound2 said on Oct. 29, 2010

Cool! I wish more people in my school liked EB!

GiegueStrikesBack said on Aug. 25, 2011

Very interesting! I guess this is a good way to look at it, but for mani’s sake, please keep the fetus theory out of it :/

Paula Polestar said on May. 23, 2012

In English class, we were learning how to place commas and I used EarthBound characters as the subjects of my sentences!

For Example: Ness bought chicken nuggets, fries, and a soda at McDonalds.

Octibbles said on Oct. 18, 2012

Funnily enough, every bit of school work that I do I try to make it related to EarthBound in some way shape or form. This has resulted in several EarthBound-y stories and such in my English class and four EarthBound ceramic things that I’ve made. Currently in ceramics I’m working on an Ultimate Chimera gargoyle.


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