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

Kinthey

Avenger
Oct 27, 2017
5,293
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.
Uh, how has it been sanitized of sexuality? Did you miss the gameplay demo? And while not shown to the public, the demo the showed the press at gamescom showed the male character having a one night stand with another man.
 
Oct 27, 2017
2,587
It is a cyberpunk dystopian future right?...quite possibly one we are headed into.

I was expecting stuff like this because it's been part of the corporate hypersexualization that cyberpunk dystopian fiction has always been known to portray.

The question is should a work of fiction portray stuff like this as social commentary/criticism and when does the portrayal drift past that line and become just brazenly offensive?

The author's intent probably has a lot to do with answering that question.
 

dude

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,042
Tel Aviv
Show the screenshot to some trans people and ask them if they feel empathized with.
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.
I think it's quite arrogant of you to assume all trans people would feel the same about this image.
 

oni-link

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,124
UK
Gotta love folks jumping to conclusion in the beginning without input from the creators.
I don't think you need input from the creators, you just need to understand the piece of media as a whole, which is something none of us can do at present

It's fair to discuss what has been shown, and to question it, and as the company have had some issues with this kind of thing in the past it's probably wise to be cautious.

Until you understand the context it's still too early to completely praise or condemn the developer for how they deal with these themes. I like their response but the final game might still be pretty awful when it comes to these themes
 

Coyote Starrk

The Fallen
Oct 30, 2017
16,364
DFW, Texas
The explanation seems fair enough to me. Also I like they are taking that stance on the corporations in the world. I think it will allow for some interesting lore and missions if done correctly. Sort of reminds of how Corporations took over the planet after WW3 in the ED lore.
 

Gestault

Member
Oct 26, 2017
5,967
I don't think the rationale addresses people's underlying issues, and certainly not the concerns from within the trans community; It's incredibly easy to see this as being used as an icon of something "troubling" for the game's audience.

When the artist says the intent is to show an exaggerated, "aggressive" ad, the highlighted factor is basically this group's existence. Yes, the criticism of corps for using sexuality comes across, but the intent described reads to a reasonable interpretation as showing a "scary," exaggerated future that could end up in a dystopia by showing a trans person in an ad like that. As stated, we're supposed to resent these companies for what they're doing, and the artist suggests a current audience should be riled up to those ends by this imagery.

I don't particularly care or think it's pertinent if the artist also thinks the image is attractive. That leads right back into the real-world (not in-game) fetishism of a specific class of people.
 
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Oct 25, 2017
5,343
Atlanta GA
I actually (mostly) like her answer and I'm glad that CDPR has an open minded woman doing this kind of work on the game.

That doesn't change how I feel about CDPR as a company or the wider context of these things in the game. I still fully expect this game to be sexist and racist as fuck and for people in the studio to hide behind the setting and themes when that gets called into question.
 

GrizzNKev

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
948
I wish some folks would understand that trans people are upset because we wanna like the game lol


There are a plethora of reasons why this is transphobic, several pointed out by trans people like myself, in the other thread
I went and read your other posts. I agree with you. The emphasis on the ridiculously sized penis does seem far beyond what would be considered extreme, even in a futuristic dystopia. It would absolutely be possible to have an ad depicting a character with a combination of physical traits considered sexy that communicated the same idea in a way that, let's be honest, sexualized ads depicting cis men and women will in the game.
 

Crossing Eden

Member
Oct 26, 2017
17,353
Can't wait.

I'm ready to fucking dive into some weighty political messages and social themes. That's what I'm excited about. We'll have to wait and see if they pulled it off or fucked up royally. But it's way better than Ubisoft "we are very carefully trying not to be political in any way, please enjoy."
I mean the director of WD:Legion openly admitted that his game is political and makes statements meant to make us reflect on the real world.
 

XandBosch

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,382
If I remember correctly, their statement boiled down to "we're sorry you were offended" which isn't a real apology.

One of Hellblade's central themes is mental illness and it handles it in a very mature, serious manner. They talked to experts, they talked to people actually suffering from psychosis, they took loads of notes, they had those people watch them play the game and tell them if they got shit wrong,... And they were very open about how they approached the issue and that they were doing all of these things. They've also donated significant amounts of the money earned from the game to related charities.
Ah, yeah that's a bummer.

And that's really awesome. I do think it's difficult for a company to make a game in a dystopian setting without stepping on some landmines though - because you're trying to portray something as bad - and that's incredibly difficult when you're wanting to include things that are relevant in today's society, but that many people are also still wrestling with in terms of how they approach certain situations.

Like, let's say they showed blatant racism in a trailer. How could they possibly use a focus group to make sure it was done correctly? It's a game that's meant to be dystopian, but to include racism would be just that - including racism. They could easily just sidestep it and say "we don't want to be political" - but then there would be people who are angry about the fact that they didn't tackle the issue. It's a tough thing, I think. They're not making a game about transgender people, they're making a game set in a nightmarish future and probably feel the need to include something regarding gender, because how could they not? It's who we are - but how do you depict it in a negative way without offending people, even though the game is trying to depict things in a negative way? Do they simply include trans characters without even mentioning it? Would that be the way to go?

I'm talking in circles, but yeah.
 

SolidSnakex

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,847
Can't wait.

I'm ready to fucking dive into some weighty political messages and social themes. That's what I'm excited about. We'll have to wait and see if they pulled it off or fucked up royally. But it's way better than Ubisoft "we are very carefully trying not to be political in any way, please enjoy."
Here's some more about what they've said about getting political

So when you’ve got other studios saying, ‘Oh, no no no, there’s nothing political here’, we say, ‘Yeah, there is.’ It’s not necessarily what you’re expecting, and we’re not going to talk about exactly what we’re going to say- it’s for you to decide when you play it. But Cyberpunk is relevant to today, extremely so. To pretend like it’s not? Come on. Mike [Pondsmith, Cyberpunk 2020 creator] wouldn’t let us. Mike would throw a fit if we tried to say, ‘This is just about cool hairstyles and cool guns, that’s all.'”
And

Developing something new doesn’t mean forgetting its essence and what was important about it. Pondsmith’s tabletop games touched on politics, painting a bleak future for our world, and CD Projekt Red isn’t shying away from that. “Cyberpunk 2020 was created as a response to the Reagan and Thatcher era,” Mills explains. “Then we all kind of got distracted and decided that that whole image of the future is kitsch, but I don’t know if you’ve turned on the news lately, it wound up coming true. I think it’s more relevant than ever and it’s an interesting task bringing it into the modern era.”
 

underFlo

Member
May 19, 2019
106
Germany
I'm not sure if that's the way to increase empathy for LGBTQ+ people, because, like, sure, with that background info I can see the intent but that's clearly not obvious from the info given in-game.
 

Razmos

Member
Oct 28, 2017
3,665
So much fucking hate at the people mocking others for being concerned about this and getting on their high horse about it.

The response is decent but I feel like you people would have accepted any old shit they said, just like how you all creamed your pants over the shitty non-apology they gave for making transphobic tweets and acting like it completely absolved them.

And yeah I'm angry about this because I've seen all of the CDPR threads so far and seen all the bans and shitty opinions while I try and defend the most vulnerable members of my community and to be mocked for actually giving a shit is just peak non-interested gamer bullshit
 

Suicide King

Member
Oct 27, 2017
523
As I said in the other thread, I really feel like this is not a satisfying response. It can be, for the folks that are only interested in the game, but the past CDPR actions are still echoing in the back of my head.

It seems like we have two distinct "contexts" here: the context that the designer wants the public to accept, that is, the context that the game is a progressive take on the cyberpunk genre, treating social issues as actual issues and portraying problematic concepts as negative.

Then we have the real world context, which is the fact that CDPR has not positioned themselves as particularly pro-LGBTQ, going so far as having transphobic jokes in their social media more than once. According to RPS, Cyperpunk 2077 is also not very sensitive towards people of color. Maybe that is also part of their discourse that everything in the game is supposed to be portrayed as bad, but it is interesting to note that the trailers have always featured white male protagonism. There's also the fact that their past games have always had more immature portrayals of sexuality, such as in the cards in Witcher 1.

But even if the context proposed by the artist is the one we should consider, there's still the fact that they have not tried to make this a dominant theme at all. This game is colorful, pretty, full of action, violence and Keanu Reeves, but nothing in their portrayal of their own game have made me think that it will tackle social issues, even in a cynical way. It works in GTA, for example, because of the tone. In GTA: San Andreas, you have black voice actors, black writers, black protagonism, etc. This is why, even when it shows racism, the game itself is not characterized as racist.

Or maybe the actual context is a hybrid between their narration of what we should expect and what we've come to expect according to this company's past: an alienated take on social issues that has to put those commentaries aside to show things that they have been trying to sell (cool future, cool guns, hot cyborgs).
 

Kiekura

Member
Mar 23, 2018
1,332
of this issue in particular? i think she explained it pretty well, and she even goes on to say that this image is not only a representation of society in the game, but also supposed to be jarring in its' oversexualization - just like advertisements are today. in the past tho, yeah, Red has def had issues with this stuff. but i am satisfied with the reply this time. it seems she really thought out the image and this isnt just a ham-fisted quick PR response.
And hey shouldn't we give people chance to change and learn? Not saying it will happen, but maybe they are actually trying now.
 

Eros

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,328
Image, likely made by a cis-person (correct me if I'm wrong), explained by a cis-person (again, correct me), and forgiven by cis-people. This sound about right?
 

Crossing Eden

Member
Oct 26, 2017
17,353
Wow this thread has a lot of people who were just chomping at the bit to feel better about hand-waving these issues.
Frankly they would've accepted any answer. Now then, it'd be cool if some journalist could address the racist gang stereotypes as I can't see any statement being made about that aside from window dressing in downtrodden areas.
 
Oct 27, 2017
4,695
I'm in a holding pattern with this game. The initial pitch of a Witcher 3 quality RPG applied to Cyberpunk is super my shit. But my problem is that I'm not 100% sold on their ability to handle it properly. And tbh that's from the perspective of the themes and it has to tackle... and the gameplay side. So we'll see.
 

Wrellie

Member
Oct 29, 2017
370
Maybe wait until you've played the game and understand the context before critiquing how it deals with complex issues?
I mean, I'm not here to defend CDPR or Cyberpunk, I don't even care that much about the game - But one RPS article doesn't really tell us anything about how the game treats race in the city. When we jump to judgement we're not furthering any cause, we're just muddying up the discourse and being counter-productive to games actually tackling complex issues. Cyberpunk might very well turn out to be offensive or insensitive, but let's at least know that it is before getting up in arms?
This is a great post! Seriously. It's nice to see reasoned thought on ResetEra.
 

Forsaken82

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,123
I think it's quite arrogant of you to assume all trans people would feel the same about this image.
This is a problem don't you think?

You can't make an argument that it's "We'll you don't know the mentality of a trans person, so you don't have a right to an opinion!" and then in the same breath say "Well, even though you know a trans person who approves, they don't all feel the same way!"

This is a thought process I see regularly in sensitive topics like this. There's always the "Well you don't know so why are you commenting argument" followed by a "well actually I do know" followed by a "Well, that's not how everyone feels!" What's the point of a discussion when your opinion is lose lose no matter what?
 

Antiax

Member
Oct 27, 2017
787
Maybe wait until you've played the game and understand the context before critiquing how it deals with complex issues?
I mean, I'm not here to defend CDPR or Cyberpunk, I don't even care that much about the game - But one RPS article doesn't really tell us anything about how the game treats race in the city. When we jump to judgement we're not furthering any cause, we're just muddying up the discourse and being counter-productive to games actually tackling complex issues. Cyberpunk might very well turn out to be offensive or insensitive, but let's at least know that it is before getting up in arms?
Stop making sense.
 

Lesath

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
752
Ehhh...

CDPR's history with trans issues notwisthstanding, the reason I am iffy with it is that negative media portrayals of trans people as sexual deviants, as opposed to people trying to cope with body dysphoria, has remained steadfast in popular culture.

Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, for example, was never even intended to be a transgender person. Could one honestly say that was how the audience of the film interpreted it? Could one honestly say that the film has had no negative consequences for the trans community?

So while I can in good faith believe that the artist is honest with her intent, I could not offer that sort of faith in the audience would read anything other than "of course this sort of trans degeneracy would be common in a cyberpunk dystopia".
 

Andrew-Ryan

Member
Dec 4, 2018
522
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.
I don't agree honesty. The artist that created the picture said:

“Personally, for me, this person is sexy,” “I like how this person looks", "their beautiful body"

So the actual model was intended to be "sexy" and "beautiful", but as will ALL adverts in the game, they're intended to be used in a "aggressive" and "jarring" way. See

"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."

So the content was not supposed to be "offensive". Totally the opposite. It was the way the content was used that was supposed to be "offensive".
 
So much fucking hate at the people mocking others for being concerned about this and getting on their high horse about it.

The response is decent but I feel like you people would have accepted any old shit they said, just like how you all creamed your pants over the shitty non-apology they gave for making transphobic tweets and acting like it completely absolved them.

And yeah I'm angry about this because I've seen all of the CDPR threads so far and seen all the bans and shitty opinions while I try and defend the most vulnerable members of my community and to be mocked for actually giving a shit is just peak non-interested gamer bullshit
You're still allowed to be mad and everyone else is still allowed to wait and see. The problem is when people shit up every thread related to a game based on old drama that is tangentially related.
 

PantherLotus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,108
It really does look like a well-thought out answer, but that doesn't make it thoughtful. I'm imagining replacing trans fetishism with race fetishism and how that would play to help clarify the issue in my own cis mind. Same arguments all around, I think.

You know a path for advocacy, trans perspective, and cyberpunk authority could all be squared through the Keanu Reeves --> Wachowskis path. I'd like to hear what they think and whether Keanu, knowing them, is ok with this type of representation.

I'm on the fence. I don't want our friends being hurt, but I do like being challenged and I do think creating hateful entities/characters to make a point within the art is an interesting thing to do, even if the audience doesn't get it or even if the audience learns the wrong thing. That's why I'm deferring to advocates I respect for now.
 

Eolz

Banned
Oct 25, 2017
7,599
FR
More nuanced and interesting reply than some would have liked, and good on Polygon for asking this question.
Uh, how has it been sanitized of sexuality? Did you miss the gameplay demo? And while not shown to the public, the demo the showed the press at gamescom showed the male character having a one night stand with another man.
This, but hey, can't criticize it as easily if you have to post positive previews as seen with other threads and on twitter.
Doesn't fit 280 characters well to have a nuanced opinion.

But hey, now it's "this reply doesn't count because X happened 1 year ago" (like the twitter thing that people always forget to say the community manager responsible for it was fired over).

edit: and again, I'm surprised some people are expecting/wanting Cyberpunk to be some kind of perfect future. There'll be bad things happening, racism, sexism, and fetichism included. That doesn't mean that developers can't also include stuff (missions, lore, environmental storytelling, etc) that also recognize and defend those issues.
 
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JaxiPup

Member
Dec 23, 2017
244
Massachusetts
I went and read your other posts. I agree with you. The emphasis on the ridiculously sized penis does seem far beyond what would be considered extreme, even in a futuristic dystopia. It would absolutely be possible to have an ad depicting a character with a combination of physical traits considered sexy that communicated the same idea in a way that, let's be honest, sexualized ads depicting cis men and women will in the game.
I appreciate that you went and read!
 

Yossarian

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
5,225
Fair explanation. Hopefully, we get to see positive representation in the in-universe ‘real-life’ to highlight the satire.
 

Alucrid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,583
We are talking about a picture taken from Nvidia's ray tracing demonstration, wherein someone zoomed in all the way to the back so that they could even see the particular piece of art we're talking about. They weren't exactly trying to show it off.
according to waypoint the ad is plastered everywhere and there's even a vending machine that has the receptacle slot right where the penis would be
 

Treestump

Member
Mar 28, 2018
3,432
Seems like the answer some people in the other thread were leaning toward and it does make sense we'd see that side of the issue given the world they're making. Just have to hope they also show the better side with positive inclusion. Their track record may not be good but I do think there's hope for them to do right.
 

plagiarize

Untethered once more
Moderator
Oct 25, 2017
7,204
Cape Cod, MA
I think one thing that's important to understand is that when we're criticizing a game's marketing, we understand that it may not properly represent the game. Which is, you know, a 100% valid criticism to aim at something's marketing. Whether it's this or how Marvel's Avengers was presented to us, those represent a companies decisions. Those decisions are in these cases telling people the game is not for them, and that might not even be true.

But the answer isn't to stifle the discussion about the marketing and tell people to judge the final product. If the marketing misrepresents the final product and portrays something as exclusionary or problematic that isn't, the sooner that marketing is called out the better.

Think about this criticism as akin to 'why aren't they showing gameplay in this trailer?'

However the game turns out, marketing can and should be discussed and criticized. Just as technical problems in E3 builds should be discussed now, rather than waiting with fingers crossed that said issue might be gone by release.

If I take CDPR's comments on face value (and I see no reason not to), this image needed to be presented with context so as not to alienate and hurt people. It wasn't. And that certainly isn't on the people alienated or hurt.