What I Found in Xbox Live's "MAN CAVE": Ew.

One of these days, I expect my Xbox Live Gold account to go all Michigan Womyn's Festival in reverse, and require penis-checks at login. (Anyone got a penis I can borrow?)
Publish date:
November 29, 2011
sexism, video games, poison sandwiches

Xbox Live is the online service associated with the Xbox 360 game console. Parts of it are free, but many gamers ante up an additional monthly fee for broadened access, to new games (which you also have to pay for) and online multiplayer gaming (which you also have to pay for) and to watch movies (which you also have to pay for) and, um, to see commercials (which are free).

It’s basically like an Internet connection meticulously controlled by Microsoft. NO FREEFORM BROWSING. Only clicking on the channels we offer you! Like the online game store, or Netflix, or... the MAN CAVE.

The MAN CAVE is a sponsored channel on Xbox Live that hawks products at you while attempting to trick you into thinking you’re having fun and not watching ads because you have nothing better to do with your too-brief life.

You can still see those riveting commercials for Axe bodywash whenever you want, even if you’re too lazy to look them up on YouTube. You can watch Bear Grylls kill a wooly mammoth whilst jumping out of an airplane, naked, peeing and fashioning the skin of the mammoth into a parachute before hitting the ground. Or something suitably mannish.

You can also watch this perfectly awful Klondike "5 Seconds to Glory" ad, in which a dude challenges himself to “actually listen” to his wife for five seconds, after which he will be rewarded with the titular ice cream bar (plus two hot dancing chicks).

It's funny, because wives are total drags, and are only useful for producing edible meals and/or scrubbing the skid marks from a dude's underwear. Or as a semireliable source of marginal orgasms! Am I right?

The ad above might be amusing in a different context (I haven’t seen it on TV, myself), but placed as it is on Xbox Live, I’d argue the spot moves from absurd to downright insulting. Same goes for the MAN CAVE channel as a whole.

The concept of the “man cave” in general originally implied some sort of male-friendly sanctuary, often kept by a married dude as a refuge from the rest of the house shared with his wife. Ostensibly the wife ladies up the place by her mere presence, and so the man requires solitary space to, I don’t know, sit around and stare in awe at his own penis, or whatever such men do with their alone time.

In regular use this term is silly (if not problematic) enough, as it implies there is some essential need amongst masculine-gendered folk to have a basement in which there is a ratty old recliner and a TV, and possibly some porn. Simply because some men LIKE having such a space doesn’t make that space implicitly male, but eh, let the men have their manly indentities, I guess.

What is incongrous about the Xbox Live MAN CAVE is that it is located in a space that is already well and truly infested with mannish mans and their manly shittalking and their ween-focused pursuits. Xbox Live is not even a particularly equitable service in terms of the audience to whom it is expecting to speak; if Xbox Live was a girlypants zone, rampant with ladystuff, then the MAN CAVE inanity might make sense, but it’s not.

The “community” on Xbox Live is actually rather famously unfriendly to chicks, and video games in general are not often real lady-welcoming. (More on this soon, in the form of a post about boobs and video games, two of the most heavily commented-upon subjects on the whole Internets! Are you excited?)

This MAN CAVE business comes across as awfully tone deaf, is my point. Mark’s sweat-laden efforts to listen to his wife for five freaking seconds might be amusing if they took place during a commerical break for “Grey’s Anatomy,” but in this already weencentric space, the commercial seems to be announcing, in a totally uncritical way, how much women suck and how it’s normal and acceptable to hate talking to them, to an audience of dudes to whom this idea is not laughable and ridiculous but is actually a way of life, if the misogynist chatter on multiplayer -- and the rage against any woman who tries to participate in gamer culture without using her tits as a prop -- is anything to go by.

What say you? Does context matter? Should I stop clicking on Xbox Live ads because it’s making me part of the problem? Do you want a sandwich? Think carefully before you answer that last one.