I've been dwelling on my view of Ready Player One since I saw it in theaters. I cried when I left the theater, impassioned by my own memories and nostalgia. I felt cause to celebrate the gaming community aspects of the film because, as a lifelong gamer, I completely connected with the intention of the heartfelt relationships the characters built in their virtual world. Witnessing the bond and friendships between the gamers that have never met hit me right in the feels.
To Spielberg’s credit, the movie was action packed, entertaining as hell and full of stunning digital creations and effects. But the effects of the source material could not be undone, and the female character problem remains unresolved. Ready Player One, based on the 2011 Ernest Cline novel of the same name, at surface level is a love letter to pop culture and gaming centered around a boy named Wade Watts. But upon closer inspection, it reveals itself to have female characters that are instruments of the protagonist at worst or shallow at best.
5. F'Nale Zandor is one of the antagonists in the film. F’nale works for IOI and seems to be in charge of doing the dirty work for her boss, Nolan Sorrento. She exists solely for him to achieve power and complete control over the Oasis. Nolan has her do the dirty work because he's trash. She willingly agrees and actually hunts Wade and his friends in the real world. Chaotic evil? Yes. But even bad girls deserve to be treated with respect!
4. Wade Watt’s Aunt Alice is blown up for the sake of character development. Like comic book superheroes, Wade’s parents are dead, so his aunt takes him in. Alice seems to have a very trope-y history of dating abusive men. In the film she is in a relationship with a man who abuses her and Wade. In an attempt to destroy Wade Nolan Sorrento blows up the stacks where his Aunt lives. POOF! BOOM! BANG! RIP Wades Aunt; you deserved better.
3. Aech is Parzivel’s best friend in the Oasis. In the Oasis, her character is male and she often reminds Parzivel that you can’t trust people in the Oasis. People hide their real identities for a multitude of reasons. She ends up saving Wade time and time again in both artificial and actual reality. Aech is clearly the wiser, more skeptical of the two, a capable engineer, mechanic and warrior. She possesses a self-awareness that Wade does not. So much more could have been done with this character, but instead she was used as just another rung on the ladder to Wade’s goal of being the savior of the Oasis. The fact that the story also “hid” her identity from us robbed us of an opportunity to actually get to know her.
2. Artemis is a famous egg hunter (Gunter) in the Oasis. She’s smart, she's quick and she’s powerful. She seems to be doing fine on her own until the story begins, at which point she becomes completely dependent on Wade’s help every step of the way. The film even seems to go out of its way to show her get a clue completely wrong, which leads to a risky fight and chase. Wade becomes obsessed with her in a MPDG-crush fantasy world way, still treating the Egg hunt like a game. By the end of the movie she’s revealed herself entirely to Wade in a pretty bland “I have typical motivations” type way and let’s Wade do the heavy lifting.
1. Kira - the “key to it all.” James Halliday the Oasis creator had a one true love, her name was Kira. We find out that Kira is the trophy, she is the unifying key to hunting down the hidden easter eggs and winning the Oasis. James was always in love with Kira and because of his extreme anxiety, insecurities and light incel (involuntary celibate) nature he failed to kiss her when he had the chance. Since he failed at love, it’s only... obvious…? that he would make her the center of his Easter Egg hunt. Ya know, a puzzle for everyone else to overcome, belitted to a kiss not taken. We don't know anything about her aside from a few men’s perspectives. Maybe if he chose to shoot his shot the Oasis wouldn't exist? If he had would this movie still exist??
There is already so much in nerd and geek culture that excludes the female perspective. Ready Player One is a beautiful spectacle of nostalgia that, unfortunately, refuses to include women in that narrative as anything more than pawns.
Have you seen Ready Player One? Tell us what you think in the comments.