Anita Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter to raise a few thousand dollars to fund a series of videos examining sexist tropes in video games. Gamers responded to the ludicrous assertion that a cultural commodity mass produced by a billion-dollar industry dominated by men could ever possibly embody misogynistic aspects by helpfully pointing out that Sarkeesian is a cunt who should get raped. Backlash to the vitriol spurred over $160,000 in donations for Sarkeesian’s project, which will presumably pay for the expense account of a crack team of forensic investigators to meticulously search for any mote of evidence of misogyny from self-righteous reactionary manchildren.
One such manchild, Ben “Bendilin” Spurr of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, created a video game where users are invited to beat up Anita. Some news sites have openly imbedded graphic images from the game, but I consider it so visually revulsive that I’ll only link to it. I am not fond of trigger warnings, but I will make an exception: anyone with a history of deep loathing for humanity be warned.
Bendilin’s game has precipitated another round of outrage over the online harassment of Sarkeesian. Yet lost in the vitriol was one key fact shamefully overlooked by the mainstream feminist media: Bendilin is not merely the creator of domestic violence video games. He is also the creator of dozens of complex fine art images of Sonic the Hedgehog characters. And, surprisingly, throughout his body of work one can find powerful condemnations of patriarchy and an emotional celebration of feminism and queerness.
Once again, slacker journalists have ceded their responsibilities to me, Virgil Texas, to probe deeper into this story. I present to you a collection of Ben’s most notable works along with my analysis.
“ROUGE WITH A GUN”
“RED NINJA ROUGE”
Digital Media, 2005
In the Sonic mythos, Rouge the Bat is symbolic of patriarchial loathing of feminine sexuality, and these depictions of Rouge as a “vamp” trope attempt to take this loathing — which emanates from a masculine standpoint — and invert it through celebrating artistically a fear that began as antifeminist propaganda. The fact that Rouge is dressed like a sexy ninja is a consequence of the artist’s “Nipponese” phase.
“BLAZE ATE ROUGE”
Acrylic On Pictionary Pad, 2005
The sexual desire to see a video game cat woman’s distended belly after eating another female video game animal was, of course, first diagnosed by Freud (“Remarks On The Question Of Do Sonic And Knuckles Kiss,” 1908). Blaze bears an alluring facial expression as she languidly holds up a single Chaos Emerald, which imbues its owner with the power to change gender at will.
Mixed Martial Arts, undated
Vanilla the Rabbit is an ingenue, yet it is rage, not innocence, that is the focus of this image. Vanilla’s eyes are absorbed with blood red, and she appears to be bursting out of the weak lines that demarcate her body. A single clawed middle finger assaults the viewer. Ultimately, this image is a towering expression of Ben’s thunderous rage against patriarchy and one of what historians consider the artist’s three greatest masterpieces.
“SONIC AND AN EMBRYO”
Promotional Taco Bell Cup, undated
As the symbolic Father of the Sonic the Hedgehog hierarchy, amusing icons such as these deflate the myth of masculine authority, thus enervating it. Sonic is depicted mid-sprint in the classical Greek pose, totally oblivious of his responsibility to the embryo attached umbilically to his cloaca. In Ben’s time, this image would have appeared on ceremonial death masks, counterfeit Hi-C juiceboxes, and middle school backpack patches.
Mancave Painting, 2005
Metal Sonic is a doppelganger created by Dr. Robotnik as a sexual substitute for the actual Sonic. Metal Sonic is, thus, the symbolic representation of what Lacan called “object-Hedgehog” (Zizek, “Movie Time Is Fun Time,” Paris Review, 1998). Ben critiques the fundamentally anti-feminist institution of marriage by expressing his disgust through the disappointed automaton. The blue-white-gray gradients that comprise Metal Sonic hint at the ephemeral nature of objectification. The wilting roses are a fading phallic symbol representing the slow death of illusory love within the confines of patriarchy.
Erotic Lite-Brite, undated
While the caption obviously suggests transphobic shaming of healthy sexual desire, Dr. Robotnik’s highly eroticized come-hither expression and inarguably gorgeous, perfect breasts urges the viewer to overcome the threatening caption and engage in the liberating self-gratification to trans-Robotnik that the artist himself enjoys.
Blood On The Dance Floor, undated
Despite his empty masculine posturing, Shadow the Hedgehog is revealed here to be the most sexually naive of the group. One can argue that Ben is taking aim at society’s expectations of men to be sexually dominant and in command. An alternate interpretation is that, since it is implied that Shadow has had sex, masculinity is depicted as a nefarious force borne of ignorance of the consequences of sexual violence.
“SONIC ULTIMATE LIFEFORM”
Superfluous Watermark On Vellum, undated
While a facile interpretation is that this work is a crude rendering of phallic power, the obvious censorship of Sonic’s erect penis makes clear that “Sonic Ultimate Lifeform” is indeed an assault on the stifling sexual restrictions of patriarchy. The censor bar being the focal point of the piece represents a negative image of the male gaze that simultaneously encourages and subverts the viewer’s strong desire to see Sonic’s penis. Knuckles, frequently a representative of regressive sexual mores in Ben’s work, gazes at Sonic’s genitalia, his jaw literally dropping, making clear that while Sonic’s erection is shielded from the viewer, it is a fully visible and potent force to the other inhabitants of the image, breaking down heteronormative barriers to healthy sexual desires among video game animals.
Teens Smoking Weed In The Park, undated
Goggles. High tops. A cool surfboard. A fist raised in defiance. It is easy to see why “Tails Xtreme” has become as ubiquitous in dorm rooms across the country as “Rosie the Riveter,” the iconic poster to which Ben pays homage, 90s style.
Rhinestoned Steampunk Accessory, undated
In the Sonic mythology, Tails is variably portrayed as male, female, or ungendered; yet most critics will describe Tails as fourthgendered (Dr. Robotnik’s trans-expression as Dr. Eggman represents the third gender). In “Tails Stare,” Tails’ gaze is drawn towards Sonic’s genitalia, as Sonic ambiguously implores, “Let’s go, Tails!” Here, Bendilin tactily subverts misogynistic portrayals of the male gaze by ascribing it to a cartoon fox looking at a hedgehog’s dick. While Tails’ lided eye suggests sexual contentment, the storm clouds and piles of old tires hint at an ambiguous and turbulent mental state.
“SONIC NO GOOD”
Paper Mache On Whole Wheat, Hold The Mayo, 2005
In this subtle yet potent commentary on gender performativity, Sonic’s posture is reminiscent of the stern mother tasked with enforcing through guilt the social expectations of gender expression that keep her in bondage. An erect finger is directed not to the viewer but to God, demanding obedience to natural law. Sonic’s chili dog — in more pleasant contexts, a symbol of personal fulfillment and gender equality — has been transmuted into an offensive phallic figure that invades the image and imposes its own rapacious desire upon the viewer. The allusion to Roy Lichtenstein is too obvious to warrant explanation.
“SONIC IS DEAD”
Quipu Fashioned From Rope Salvaged From The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, undated
Despite the lack of date, art historians are certain this piece was produced late in Ben’s career, after the artist fell into a long period of self-loathing after masturbating in a public swimming pool. A common interpretation of the blood stain on Sonic’s left glove is as metaphor for suicide; yet the placement is obviously suggestive of stigmata. At the end of the Ben’s corpus, Sonic has died for our gender sins.
Plainly, in its rush to judgment, the media has once again trampled over the reputation of an innocent artist. You can view all of Bendilin’s agitprop Sonic drawings here, and also see his fine art comics, magic realist short fiction, and pictures of him dressed as a woman begging the 4chan for money. At last, please take a moment to thank Ben for being a staunch feminist ally on Twitter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Virgil Texas is an internet user. He has visited several websites, including the New York Times, Le Monde, Gawker, and HelloGiggles. “Follow” him on Twitter @virgiltexas. “Like” this sick filth on Facebook.