…but I really don’t want to play Grand Theft Auto V, despite it getting rave reviews.
Set mostly within the glitzily superficial city of Los Santos, a warped mirror of Los Angeles, GTA V is a sprawling tale of criminal maniacs self-destructing on a blood-splattered career trajectory to hell. Michael is the middle-aged thug, obsessed with movies, who pulled a witness protection deal with the feds after a failed heist many years ago. When his old partner Trevor, a sociopath who bakes meth out in the desert, turns up in town, the two join forces with a young black kid, Franklin, who’s set on leaving his gang-infested neighbourhood behind. The aim is a few final high-paying jobs, but there’s a festering resentment between Trev and Michael that goes back a long way, a fizzing fuse that trails all the way through the carnage.
This three-character format emancipates the narrative, jettisoning the awkward requirement for one protagonist to be everywhere, witnessing everything in this vast world. Switching between the characters can be done at any time while off mission, and all three have their own little pet projects to get involved with, adding variety and a few amusing surprises: switching to Trevor usually involves some bodily function or weird violent episode, while Michael has his dysfunctional family to manage. And overlaying all this is a huge plot about warring government agencies and corrupt billionaires.
Judging by the news, human behaviour in the real world is depressing enough without wanting to immerse myself in more of the same…
Women are, once again, relegated to supporting roles as unfaithful wives, hookers and weirdos. The one successful female character in the story is suspected of just wanting to screw her boss. Of course, GTA is essentially an interactive gangster movie, and the genre has a long history of investigating straight male machismo at the expense of all other perspectives, but it would have been wonderful to see Rockstar challenging that convention. It’s fine to parody the idiotic misogyny of violent men, but how about doing it by providing their opposite? It seems Rockstar North’s all-male writing team is too in thrall to Tarantino and Brett Easton Ellis to really consider this.
So GTA V fails the Bechdel Test then? What a surprise.