Modern Masculinity In Red Dead Redemption 2’s Old West

How Arthur Morgan’s Vulnerability Is His Biggest Strength

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By virtue of its thematic setting, Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games, 2018; hereafter RDR2) is inherently anachronistic, in that video games are typically thought of as cutting-edge media technologies, while the Western genre has a more historical appeal. Not only historical in that the game takes place in 1899, but in that Western movies and TV shows had their boom in 1950s-1960s with a post-war “injection of violence” (Cook, 1999, p. 134) into popular media. The Western genre has in fact had several bursts of popularity, with a rich literary history beginning when the frontier still existed in the late 1800s. Red Dead Redemption (hereafter RDR), while not the first Western video game—Wild Arms, Call Of Juarez and RDR’s spiritual predecessor Red Dead Revolver all came first—was the first Western video game to have such a significant cultural impact. Continue Reading

“We Must Be Better”

Hegemonic Masculinity and Dadification in God of War (2018)

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In an interview with Polygon, Cory Barlog, director of God of War (Sony Santa Monica 2018; hereafter GoW4), notes that the studio’s explicit goal is to address the underlying social implications of the franchise in order to “pull [Kratos] back from the brink” and make him “whole” (Plante, pars. 8 and 9). The interview’s headline says it all: “God of War’s director on toxic masculinity and why Kratos had to change.” Barlog attributes this impulse to redeem Kratos to his own experiences with fatherhood and a desire to prevent the continued dominance of problematic notions of masculinity: “This lesson that I hoped to pass on to [my son]: that the concepts of strength and emotional vulnerability and the ability to sort of be free to feel the range of emotions, that these are not two warring or diametrically opposed concepts” (qtd. in Plante, par. 7). Continue Reading