Polygon: CDPR responds to sexualized trans advertisement in CyberPunk 2077 (Read Staff Post Before Posting)

BAD

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Oct 25, 2017
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Original thread on controversy with Staff Post that applies here as well: https://www.resetera.com/threads/this-fetishized-in-game-ad-from-cyberpunk-2077-raises-some-questions-about-how-the-game-may-depict-lgbt-nsfw-see-staff-post-before-posting.122649/

EDIT: please don’t say something like “see it was fine in context” as the controversy has everything to do with this company’s poor history of minority representation and social issues. Context is helpful, but the controversy didn’t come out of nothing. How the game will handle positive representation remains unknown.


Original thread:
Full info at the link

So I asked her: Why was a trans model used in this particular advertisement?

“Personally, for me, this person is sexy,” Redesiuk said. “I like how this person looks. However, this model is used — their beautiful body is used — for corporate reasons. They are displayed there just as a thing, and that’s the terrible part of it.”

Redesiuk said that the world of Cyberpunk 2077includes many people who are gender-nonconforming, some of whom enjoy showing off their bodies in public. They are a demographic group with significant purchasing power, and so, megacorporations use their likenesses to sell soft drinks. It’s supposed to be a play on the same sort of hypersexualized advertising that modern companies use to sell products today, just brought in line with the kind of future CD Projekt wants to portray.

“In [the year] 2077, especially with how much body modifications are available, I think people just mix and match however they want, however they feel,” Redesiuk said. “And even society is more open to different kinds of relationships.”

This is not to say that the player should see this kind of advertising as good. Redesiuk said that it was designed to feel jarring and overly aggressive, like all the other ads in the game, but not because of the femme-presenting trans model.

“Cyberpunk 2077 is a dystopian future where megacorporations dictate everything,” Redesiuk said. “They try to, and successfully, influence people’s lives. They shove products down their throats. They create those very aggressive advertisements that use, and abuse, a lot of people’s needs and instincts. So, hypersexualization is apparent everywhere, and in our ads there are many examples of hypersexualized women, hypersexualized men, and hypersexualized people in between.

“This is all to show that [much like in our modern world], hypersexualization in advertisements is just terrible,” Redesiuk continued. “It was a conscious choice on our end to show that in this world — a world where you are a cyberpunk, a person fighting against corporations. That [advertisement] is what you’re fighting against.”

I asked Redesiuk what she would say to those in the trans community who might be offended to see themselves portrayed this way in the game.

“I would say it was never the intention to offend anyone,” Redesiuk said. “However, with this image of an oversexualized person, we did want to show how oversexualization of people is bad. And that’s it.

“I think that sexy bodies are sexy. Full disclosure: I love female bodies. I love male bodies. I love bodies in between. This is who I am. However, I hate it when it’s used commercially. And that’s exactly what we want to show by doing this exactly, by showing how big corporations use people’s bodies against them.”
For Redesiuk, the fictional advertisement is also an effort to increase empathy for the LGBTQ community among video game consumers.

“We need it,” Redesiuk said. “I honestly think we need it because we need more acceptance in the world, and we need to also show how the goodness of people is sometimes used against them. And I would really love for the world to change and be a better place for everyone.”
Edit 2 - More required reading:
A friend and one of the most prominent trans voices in journalism (especially games journalism) just posted this piece, and it's a highly recommended read because she is super fab at dissecting these kinds of issues, exploring their nuances, and just generally at her job as a writer:

Some great quotes from the article are:
-"In other words, the ad isn’t jarring because of its capitalist ideals. It’s because of its trans model’s penis."
-"So for players who read the model as a trans woman, it’s as if she’s visibly thrusting one of her most stigmatized body parts onto others, like she wants the viewer to recognize her penis in its entire length and girth. It makes the model, not the society they live in, seem predatory."
-"Even if the ad is supposed to depict a trans woman or a trans femme in good faith, it’s terribly inaccurate in a way that furthers harmful stereotypes already existing in our society."
"But it’s unlikely that Cyberpunk 2077 will bring about the change Cole or Baker-Whitelaw want, because its own creator seems happy with capitalism as it stands today."
-"So before CD Projekt starts playing with gender in hamfisted ways, perhaps the company should look to itself, and question whether it’s perpetuating the very same capitalist dystopian fantasy Cyberpunk 2077 is, on the surface, trying to critique."
One of the major problems with this kind of "intended message" is how CDPR hasn't made an effort to show us if this kind of social commentary is going to be a consistent theme of the game, or just edgy background dressing. If we had an idea about the kind of in-world advertisements could be seen in the game, I may sing a different tune, especially if the language of those ads aligns with the claims made by this artist. It feels like a shallow and undeserved piece of "commentary" (if that's their honest intent).

Additionally, the game really needs representation, and we need to see that in the marketing to know it's a matter they care about. Have characters directly discussing how gross and manipulative ads like this are. Even one dissenting voice goes a long way (as long as their existence in the game isn't another joke at the expense of others). That's not me saying "one token trans person is good enough", just "this is the bare minimum". As we've seen with reactions to this ad on Reddit and other awful forums, this kind of commentary has no meaning if people take it immediately at face value (and with alt-right jackasses, they love to mock trans people, so they're eating it up).

If there's one thing that's struck me about everything I've seen regarding Cyberpunk 2077, it's that CDPR's been showing off a lot more "cyber" than they have been "punk". I haven't exactly kept my eyes glued to every trickle of information about the game, but I have paid attention, and nothing's coming to my mind that immediately screams, "this game embodies the themes of cyberpunk", rather, it looks more like a surface-level, "wow, cool future!" reading of the genre. Tech-noir, if you will. They've showed body modification in the game, but the way marketing has pushed it, it seems to be more for "modifying your body to suit your interests is cool" than "the more you alter yourself, the more you distance yourself from your humanity".
 
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cwistofu

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Nov 29, 2017
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I think it's a reasonable point of view and its inclusion in the game is fine. People need to realize that things in media can and often do serve a narrative purpose.
 

Calles

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Nov 1, 2017
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I don't see an issue with what they said, but it's easy to guess it won't please everyone at this point.
 

dude

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Oct 25, 2017
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To me it was clear that this was the intention and it felt quite fitting into the world of Cyberpunk 2077. I think she articulated the place of this ad in the setting well.
 

Avitus

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Oct 25, 2017
4,269
A perfectly reasonable explanation. The game isn't supposed to be 100% comfortable due to the world it's depicting.
 

bluexy

Freelance Games Journalist
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Oct 25, 2017
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This just reads so hollow when everything shown of Cyberpunk 2077 so far has been so completely sanitized of sexuality and LGBT representation. Nothing shown so far makes it seem like brazen depictions of objectified sexuality aren't still considered taboo in Night City, which makes the advertisement just popping up on a wall seem more like an attempt to be absurd and mocking. Especially when the advertisement's design is designed similarly to bigoted jokes about trans people - "Oh, a sexy woman! Ah, surprise, there's a penis. Mix it up! Don't take it personally, It's a joke." which just comes across as bigotry in the guise of edgy social commentary.
 
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SamWilson

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Mar 14, 2019
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Redesiuk said that the world of Cyberpunk 2077includes many people who are gender-nonconforming, some of whom enjoy showing off their bodies in public. They are a demographic group with significant purchasing power, and so, megacorporations use their likenesses to sell soft drinks. It’s supposed to be a play on the same sort of hypersexualized advertising that modern companies use to sell products today, just brought in line with the kind of future CD Projekt wants to portray.
Yup. Pretty much what I said in the other thread. It's an in-game corporation that is out of touch and trying to profit off of a product and a group of people, who ironically, are probably much more accepted in 2077 than they are currently because of how commonplace body modifications are in the future.

I didn't see it as fetishized at all.

I saw it as the drink corporation trying to promote their product with an over the top, out of touch, ad. Almost like a crazy ad in a GTA game.

But again, this is also a cyberpunk world, where people are free to basically have any body they want now. It's an accepted thing. But this energy drink company is trying to make it seem like a bad thjng.
 

Morrigan

Armoring
Moderator
Oct 24, 2017
11,332
Interesting.

So the content of the ad was intended to be offensive. People who were saying that the ad was cool and empowering etc. completely missed CDPR's point. And, in fact, showed themselves to be part of the problem.

It would be if the ad had featured blatant misogyny and objectification, and women said it was offensive, and then dudebros answered "no that chick is hot, what's the problem? it's empowering!", then CDPR said "actually that ad is intended to be offensive".

It's encouraging that the CDPR artist fully understands that and is presenting this as social commentary, too.
 

XandBosch

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Oct 27, 2017
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I mean..people were already assuming that this was the intention in that other thread, but were being lambasted for it lol.
 
Oct 25, 2017
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My issue was by using the image completely removed any form of context and thus is subjected to the question and outrage directed at it.

The response is fine and justifies its use in the game, but the way it was just thrown on stage was problematic to me
 
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Fisty

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Oct 25, 2017
4,949
Yeah if you divorce it from the context of being from CDPR you might be able to get away with that
 

AlanOC91

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Nov 5, 2017
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A perfectly reasonable explanation. The game isn't supposed to be 100% comfortable due to the world it's depicting.
I feel like any game that attempts to approach something uncomfortable seems to inevitably get backlash these days even if it was the intended message. I don't know but it's starting to feel like every dev needs to put a disclaimer with these things which would be unfortunate.

Or maybe this was more because of their past history, it's hard to say.
 

BossAttack

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Oct 27, 2017
16,619
“In [the year] 2077, especially with how much body modifications are available, I think people just mix and match however they want, however they feel,” Redesiuk said. “And even society is more open to different kinds of relationships.”
Oh dear.

So, hypersexualization is apparent everywhere, and in our ads there are many examples of hypersexualized women, hypersexualized men, and hypersexualized people in between.
Um...

“I think that sexy bodies are sexy. Full disclosure: I love female bodies. I love male bodies. I love bodies in between.
mmmmmmm.


I get it, but me thinks their vocabulary is not really up to date.
 

Bleu

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Sep 21, 2018
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as said in the other thread, made perfect sense in context of a cyberpunk game.
 

MechaBreaker

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Jun 26, 2018
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We'll see how this pan out when the game comes out, but I'm sincerely doubting they're going to get it right. I'm still not supporting this game, based on what we've heard.
 

Wamb0wneD

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Oct 26, 2017
15,152
This just reads so hollow when everything shown of Cyberpunk 2077 so far has so completely sanitized of sexuality and LGBT representation. Nothing shown so far makes it seem like brazen depictions of objectified sexuality aren't still considered taboo in Night City, which makes the advertisement just popping up on a wall seem more like an attempt to be obscene and absurd. It feels mocking. Especially when the advertisement's design is rooted in the modern world's framing of - "Oh, a sexy woman! Ah, surprise, there's a penis. Mix it up! It's a joke!" which just comes across as bigotry in the guise of trying to be edgy.
The first trailer literally has you have a one night stand and at anotehr point you rescue a naked women that has her breasts constantly dangling in the camera.. sanitized? Yeah nah.
 

Yasuke

Banned
Oct 25, 2017
11,990
Not that my opinion means much of anything on this topic, cause I’m not part of the offended party, but this strikes me as a reasonable response to the backlash and defense of what they’re going for.

But I’m most interested in hearing what trans individuals think.
 

dude

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,178
Tel Aviv
Interesting.

So the content of the ad was intended to be offensive. People saying that the ad was cool and empowering etc. completely missed CDPR's point.
It can be both. It's ambivalent. I know a trans person who found this ad empowering, like "look at that sexy huge penis in your face, on this feminine body". I think the nice thing about it art is that it can be different thing for different people.
 

Asbsand

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Oct 30, 2017
5,830
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This is definitely better than "We forgot black people existed" as far as public clarification statements go. Also appreciate we got a word from the person who made it and their explanation for it, and not just some PR response.