NYT misses mark in Super Mario Run gender criticism

Op-eds tend to be hit or miss at The New York Times. The articles are sent in from anyone around the world, although there is a checkpoint since the editors do read them.

Over Christmas break, the editors approved an article by Chris Suellentrop criticizing the gender stereotypes in the popular Nintendo-made iOS title Super Mario Run. The game will soon release on Android as well.

Here are some highlights below from the article, and the counter to each argument presented.

– “Super Mario Run begins, as does almost every Super Mario title, with Princess Peach becoming a hostage who must be rescued by Mario. Just before her ritual kidnapping, Peach invites Mario to her castle and pledges to bake him a cake. Upon her rescue, she kisses Mario.”

What is wrong with that storyline? Super Mario Bros. plotlines were never meant to be taken seriously.

– “The game also includes a second female character, Toadette, whose job is to wave a flag before and after a race, like a character from ‘Grease.’”

So? Lakitu starts the race in Nintendo’s Mario Kart series. Is something nefarious going on there too?

– “Disney’s film ‘Frozen’ subverted and reinvigorated the fairy-tale princess movie; ‘The Force Awakens’ gave us a female Jedi. Super Mario Run doesn’t even try.”

Frozen was a new movie loosely based on a book, while The Force Awakens was the start of a new trilogy. Super Mario Run is based on an established video game series where Nintendo uses the thin plot to get the action rolling. While it would not hurt the “storyline” to change the main character’s gender, why would Nintendo do so?

With that said, gamers can play as Princess Peach (or Toadstool) in Super Mario Bros. 2 for the NES and Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U, and the standalone Super Princess Peach on the DS.

– “Shigeru Miyamoto, the designer of Super Mario Bros. — as well as Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda and other landmark games — is frequently called the Walt Disney of video games. He may have a little too much Uncle Walt in him and not enough Hayao Miyazaki, whose Studio Ghibli movies … are filled with adventurous young heroines.”

Suellentrop fails to mention the popular Metroid series, where gamers play as an alien-shooting space heroine named Samus Aran. The first series entry came out in 1986 on NES, making it a groundbreaking title for its time.

– “The knowledge that video games possess this power, that they allow us to adopt new identities and grant us new ways of seeing ourselves, is as old as Mario’s quest for his princess. Which makes it all the sadder that Mr. Miyamoto, with all his gifts, has yet to seize it.”

Poor Mr. Miyamoto. No one remembers Metroid. How about the Super Smash Bros. series, where gamers can violently attack other Nintendo characters using Princess Peach, Samus or Zelda from The Legend of Zelda?

Super Mario Bros. will never win any awards for groundbreaking storylines or commentaries on social issues, and there is nothing wrong with that. The main series is focused on gameplay over anything else, and that is just fine.

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