Grand Theft Auto is the Great American Novel
September 17th saw the release of Grand Theft Auto 5…
Grand Theft Auto, if anything, deals with the evolution of American excess and desperation. It also deals with the evolution of American masculinity, how we’re determined to make a name for ourselves by any means necessary, even if it involves violence and crime. Has masculinity sunk to a new low? Perhaps…after all, desperate times call for desperate measures.
First, Grand Theft Auto is one of the most popular videogame franchises in history. It has left an undeniable mark on pop culture and has been referenced numerous times in television, music and film. It’s as American as baseball or apple pie (but considering I can’t remember the last time I had a slice of apple pie, I’m not entirely sure how “American” it actually is).
If you haven’t played any of the Grand Theft Auto games, you may know them as the games where you steal cars and beat up hookers with baseball bats. Some believe the games to have a negative influence on the nation’s youth, but since we’re not faced with an epidemic of baseball bat-wielding teens roaming the dark corners of our cities and finding mini-skirted ladies of the evening to beat up, I think we’re ok.
The game has been criticized for many things, one of which is that each installment (thus far) has featured a male protagonist as the lead character. What’s interesting, however, is that this was intentional. Rock star Games co-founder and vice president of creativity Dan Houser had this to say: “The concept of being masculine was so key to the story.” This is interesting and here’s why: Grand Theft Auto isn’t just a series about pointless violence and testosterone rage, but a Great American Novel charting the desperate de-evolution of this nation’s masculinity and the urban plight that goes along with it.
The fifth installment, however, will change things a bit. There will be three protagonists and since the game is also multiplayer (there’s an online mode), you can create female avatars. The game will feature a greater sense of the American milieu. One protagonist, for instance, will be a retiree living with family. These adjustments, it seems, demonstrates a greater ambition on the part of the creators to create an all-encompassing view of contemporary American masculinity. What do you think?
Post by Geoff LaPlace