This past Saturday, I worked as a mentor with Hack it Back: a program created by Paty Zablah that aims to teach media literacy to teen girls by helping them identify sexism & create a project to re-appropriate the offensive messages. I worked with two extremely bright and talented students, Petal (12) and Lauren (14).
Our conversation began with a discussion about dress code in schools, but quickly moved to video games. Both girls are gamers, and they were incredibly in tune with which games used only male characters or favored male audiences. They taught me so much! I learned that Pokemon was one of the first games to start including more diversity in their characters. We all agreed that this was a smart marketing tactic, but that it also shows that female and non-white audiences want to play games as much as the male, white audience. Another cool fact they shared was that Super Smash Bros. designer Masahiro Sakurai was inspired to add more female characters to the next version of the game after the birth of his daughter. They had dozens of stories and references about how women are represented in games. Fantastic.
So we decided to create something that re-imagined female game characters as women in the real world with high-powered careers. Because of our time constraint, we decided to choose 1 character to make a project about: Princess Peach: CEO of DelMonte Peaches. Lauren was interested in working with animation & illustration, and Petal wanted to learn code. Lauren created storyboards, grabbed a Wacom tablet, and started expertly drawing out the characters.
I thought working in Processing would allow Petal to experiment with code, and also assemble Lauren’s illustrations into an animation. Petal had never programmed before, so it was an exciting challenge getting her introduced to the syntax. She wanted to create a Warhol-inspired picture of peach cans to be on display in Princess Peach’s office. We started with 1 picture to help her understand how to create a variable, load an image, draw an image, and put a filter on it. She took off and did the rest herself!
We then loaded Lauren’s images into a sketch and created a simple timer to display them as an animation, added some sound, and voila!
Here is the finished product:
In the beginning we wanted the viewer to believe Princess Peach was yelling for help, assuming her usual role as the damsel in distress. After Mario comes running, it’s revealed that he’s actually an employee of Peach’s. Lauren and Petal also discussed that they didn’t want the project to suggest role reversal as a solution to anti-feminist media, which I thought was an incredibly insightful note on their part.
I was so proud of all of their hard work! It was amazing how much they completed in just a few hours. Looking forward to mentoring with Hack it Back again soon!