Memo to Disney: You know how you were spending a bunch of time and billions of dollars indoctrinating little girls into princess culture, and you took a bunch of heat for that? Well, this new game of yours, wherein you instead teach young women how to “climb the social ladder” by mimicking the worst of chick lit tropes, is not the right direction to move from there.
The City Girl video game apparently attempts to bridge the gap between watching The Little Mermaid DVD on repeat and watching Sex and the City reruns, aiming to capture 20-something women interested in gaming. In some ways, it’s a clever marketing racket, since 20-something women are the ones who grew up during the height of Disney’s princess culture, which is now a dying business thanks to Dreamworks’ cooler cartoons and, one can hope, some more progressive thinking on the gender-role front.
This game, however, does not bode well for Disney’s grown-up girls. It takes the broadest strokes from the worst hot pink-covered paperbacks and reductive rom-coms and makes them steps in a simulated life trajectory “from country bumpkin to glamour girl.” (Has Girls not disabused everyone of this fantasy yet? It ain’t always as sparkly as it looks over here in NYC, kids! Props for the diversity and the hot girl with glasses in this logo, though.)
In some ways, the game reveals some truths, but they're more about the literary and film genres it’s emulating than about real life. Namely, it shows how consumerist our societal vision of young women has become: Highlights of the game include customizing your avatar to compete with friends in “daily look” competitions and decorating your dream home. (Hahahaha, incidentally. Decorating my dream home in my 20s consisted of getting splinters from trying to assemble the $99 futon I bought at Walmart and eating off of a cardboard-box table. How about you?) Oh, the City Girl will also “discover the best places to shop and hang out, choose from a variety of glamorous career paths, and visit exotic locations.”
Having played for a few minutes, the game seems not only unrealistic but just plain tedious to me. I like makeup in real life, but interacting with the physical stuff — the pretty packages, the sensuous colors — is what’s fun. Clicking on “black eyeshadow, heavy,” is not really engaging to me. And minor quibble: I couldn’t seem to find boots to put on. Apparently it’s only heels or sandals in this world, at least as far as I could tell. I’m a boots girl, so this upset me.
Of course no one expects any gaming to be realistic. Neither Super Mario Brothers nor Halo is an accurate depiction of young men’s lives. But that’s just the point — couldn’t young women get games with a little more imagination, a little less OMG shoes!? Hell, even the little mermaid and Belle from Beauty and the Beast had more interesting adventures than trying to social-climb their way up to a Park Avenue penthouse. That is, before they settled down with those princes, anyway.
You can get a peek inside in the trailer here:
Hollywood.com correspondent Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the author of two forthcoming books, Sexy Feminism and Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, a history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. For more information visit JenniferKArmstrong.com.
Follow Jennifer on Twitter @jmkarmstrong
[Photo Credit: Playdom]