One Father's Issue With Peach Getting Kidnapped In Super Mario Run

Super Mario Run, Nintendo's first mobile game, follows the standard Mario formula: Princess Peach gets kidnapped right away, and it's up to Mario to save her. It's for this reason that Chris Suellentrop doesn't want his daughter to play it, as he wrote in an Op-Ed for The New York Times, saying, "the game is rife with stale, retrograde gender stereotypes ... that today are just embarrassing."

When I spoke to Suellentrop about his Op-Ed and the comments he made on his podcast, I expressed surprise that he was so passionate about the tropes at play in the game. "I'm a little surprised, too! But yeah, it pissed me off," he said. "This bugged me more than it normally would because I have a daughter, who is in first grade, whom I was hoping to play Super Mario Run with. Like most Kotaku readers, I grew up on Nintendo games and think of them as the 'family friendly' video game company. This didn't feel family friendly to me. It felt like she would find it alienating and insulting."

"I decided we weren't going to play the game when Toadette introduces herself at the start of the first Toad Rally," he said. "She claims she is going to judge the contest, and then ends up just explaining the rules and waving a flag at the start and end of each race, like a girl at a 1950s drag race as viewed through the nostalgia of something like Grease."

These tropes -- the helpless damsel being saved by a brave, er, plumber -- are ubiquitous to the point of parody. I can't get too out of shape about them when, well, they're everywhere, and have always been. But Suellentrop's perspective as a father prevents him from taking it lightly. "Adults can do whatever they want. And they can enjoy some stereotypes in a well-crafted industrial Mario product. But don't feed this shit to my kids," he said.

He isn't wrong, these tropes are retrograde and embarrassing, and every parent has a right to say what media their child can or can't consume. But focusing on old, tried tropes on a case by case basis is missing the forest for the trees. It's like -- my mum has this persistent cough that she's had for a few years. She's treated the cough in all manner of ways, to the point that she now enjoys drinking glasses of warm water (gross). Eventually she went to the doctor, and discovered that she has some underlying health issues, resulting in a cough. The causes were deep and insidious and invisible. But the only thing we saw was the cough.

Like Suellentrop, my parents also tried their hardest to stop me from interacting with media that would make me feel like I couldn't do things just because I was a girl. But I still grew up thinking that some things were off limits to me because of my gender. I remember the exact moment where I decided I no longer wanted to work in Hollywood: It was when I realised I could not name any currently working black female directors.

Now of course times have changed, and Ava Duvarney even has her own Barbie. But when I look back on the things that held me back as a child, it has a lot less to do with women in fiction, and more to do with not seeing real life women doing the things I wanted to do.

Suellentrop is aware that this is a small, small piece of a much larger issue. "There are very few women directors of movies, as you know. Women have to fight to win literary awards," he said. "These are not problems that are unique to video games. Video games are just what I know the most about and care the most about."

The effects of sexism -- the retrograde tropes and Toadettes and Bowser kidnappings -- are all around me. I live them. So for me, I'm not sure the effects of this particular case are worth my emotional energy, when I feel like deeper, invisible causes are still holding women and girls back. Everyone who cares about these issues has their own line where they feel like speaking out is necessary -- this very publication, in fact, sometimes reports on instances of tired tropes in video games and the surrounding culture when it seems worthwhile. I do hope Suellentrop's plea for a more inclusive Mario game can lead to a game that he feels comfortable playing with his daughter, even if this isn't a thing I personally am fired up about.

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Comments

    Don't like it? Don't play it. Done

    They need to get over it... If you don't like it... don't buy it...
    Stop forcing your ideals on a market that it is not intended for

      That's what Suellentrop did; it's the entire basis of his point. He's not buying Mario Run because he disagrees with it, and thus wishes there was a Mario game he wasn't embarrassed to let his daughter play. And the author of this piece is expressing her agreement.

      To use your argument:
      [You] need to get over it... If you don't like it... don't [read] it... Stop forcing your ideals on a [target audience] that it is not intended for
      Goes both ways champ.

      and RIGHT at the end, we get the worst take of 2016

    I can certainly see and understand it, but it's also just boring.

    Have Bowser steal the castle and have the Toads + Peach try and take it back over. Subvert the trope and have Mario get kidnapped but have Peach save the day. and that 'Super Princess Peach' game was pretty blah, not to mention probably a bit sexist as well, seeing as the game was all based around a woman's emotions.

      Done in Super Princess Peach. It sold TENS of copies.

        Yes, because they made it super easy, boring and marketed it at girly girls. Not even just girls.

        Hell, just do another Super Mario Bros 2 where you can pick who you play as. Maybe Luigi's been kidnapped so Mario and Peach go after him, then pick who you want and have either one play identical.

          You mean like Super Mario 3D World which also sold poorly?

            Because the change of mechanics wasn't popular, yes.

    There are also people who refuse to eat steak because it is an animal product... Their loss.

      Not really.

      Suellentrop's issue is a BS feel-good nothing issue.

      Massacring 50+ billion animals a year for food is quite literally the most evil thing thing the human race does. Imagine an alien visiting our planet and seeing our death camps.

      People are too full of their own importance. And it leads to complete nonsense like this article.

        but bacon is so delicous, And goes so well with eggs.

          To quote a facebook review on the Bacon Brewfest earlier this year...

          "Yes bacon is murder.... delicious delicious murder. Therefore we should eat it all to hide the evidence"

          I agree! :D

        An alien coming to see our death camps? Look at the way most organisms operate. Eat breed die. If an alien race comes here, chances are it will be to eat us. Not to hop on some moral high horse that's of purely our own invention.

          I like to think that any species technologically advanced enough to manage interstellar travel would probably be intelligent enough to be interested in life on other planets beyond eating/conquering/exploiting for resources.

          I think humans are pretty greedy, stupid, and shallow, but I think that if we encountered macroscopic life on another planet we would probably spend a long time and a lot of resources on trying to understand it before we'd even consider eating it.

    Over this shit. Guy had a daughter, is now feeling hyper vigilant and packaged his paranoid fantasy as an article by leveraging off the fact we are all confused as fuck while we settle into our new societal standards.
    The only thing offensive about Peach getting kidnapped is how stale it is.

    There are six playable characters - two males (Mario and Luigi), a female (Peach) and three presumably genderless characters (Yoshi, Toad and Toadette). Seems mostly fair to me.

    I do agree that Mario rescuing Peach is indeed a little tiresome... I'd rather them rescue Yoshi or something... but seriously, his daughter wouldn't see it as being stereotypical, she has no idea. Just let her have fun man.

      The fact she wouldn't see it as stereotypical is precisely the problem though, kids internalise things in media very quickly: to show my age here when I was a kid I thought terrorists and asylum seekers were the same thing because the news often referred to them with the same tone or depicted people that referred to them in a very similar manner (specifically the Howard government).

      As a kid I didn't understand the subtleties that I do now and absorbed many media messages that I shouldn't have. The exact same goes for any sort of stereotype: Asians are better at maths, girls don't like science and boys don't like art are all things I distinctly remember as widely accepted fact at my primary school because that was how things were in the media we consumed. I personally began to question these things myself as I grew older (and more interested in art) and rejected them by the time I finished primary school, but a lot of classmates still bought the stereotypical norms as some sort of guide for their own behaviour and you'd see them doing things like denying that they liked art because that wasn't 'manly' or avoiding sport because that wasn't typically feminine.

      To an adult this is just another lame trope and not a big deal, but to any mother or father this sort of message is definitely not the sort of thing you want to expose your child to.

        While I completely agree with you that there is implicit messaging in our communication that could be influencing to a young inexperienced child's mind, it's really really difficult to be empirical about this.

        The news sent you the wrong message, so it's up to good parenting and education to pick up the slack. After all, if you just didn't watch the news at all, your simple childhood assumptions would have been just as ignorant, just a different ignorance.

        You can't just fight these stereotypes and tropes by removing the concept that laid them. You don't take the Asian kids out of math classes to to remove the stereotype, nor force girls into science classes or boys into art classes. You figured it out on your own and then saw how everyone was beholden to the messages. But I doubt that removing the message would have changed their behaviour. Adding to the message and improving everyone's ability to read between the lines is the best course. I want to see a boy or girl enjoy art or sports or science because they're ALL as manly or girly as they want them to be.

        To an adult this is just another lame trope and not a big deal, but to any mother or father this sort of message is definitely not the sort of thing you want to expose your child to.

        I'm not a parent, but like all of us, I was a kid. They will be exposed to it.

          Thank you so very much for hitting the exact damn point of the argument on this!

          The world is big and bad and no amount of babysitting will ever prepare them for *everything* and guess what it's not your job as a parent to shelter them either.

          It's your job to make sure your damned kids are smart enough and prepared to be able to understand and cope w/ all the shit life will fling at you. Hiding and sheltering someone breeds nothing but a person who cannot handle reality that not everything is sugar and candy. Give them the capacity to think and parse what is "bad" and let them handle it and "grow up"

    It's a game about improvising jumps and coloured coin collecting.

    Sure there's a story in there somewhere, but that's like refusing to let your offspring play Overwatch because there's homosexual(s) in the story.

      That's the thing that really bugs me too. He's happy to control their child's exposure to these things, as he have the right to do, but where in the article did they say he ever talked to his daughter about these things? She's not going to never be exposed to tropes and the most important skill for people nowadays is to have critical thinking; they need to encounter things that they have a desire to understand and then form their own informed conclusion about it.

      Considering this game is targeted towards children and not an adult-themed experience, everyone would have been better off with letting the kid play it and then actually sitting down with her and asking: "what do you think of Princess Peach?"

        Yeah but you don't get articles written about you on the Internet for actually being a parent.

          "Check out 10 insane things this parent did to make their kids turn out kind of OK!!!"

    "She claims she is going to judge the contest, and then ends up just explaining the rules and waving a flag at the start and end of each race, like a girl at a 1950s drag race as viewed through the nostalgia of something like Grease."

    So is she not being the judge of the race then? Because it looks like she does just that in that screenshot there. In fact based on that description, it looks like she runs the race, starts the race, ends the race, and judges the race. It looks to me like this female character is entirely in charge of this event.

    In fact, as I've defended these stupid Mario tropes before: I've noticed that most female characters in the series are independent, full of personality, usually occupying positions of authority, or performing some task entirely of their own volition. Literally the worst example of a female character in Mario that I can think of is the mother penguin in Mario 64 that can't locate their own child.

    Last edited 31/12/16 8:01 pm

    Peach: The Revenge

    Bowser in a Mario Disguise takes the castle, Peach must escape the dungeon and retake the castle.

    My god the people on this planet are getting boring.

    As Freud is attributed as saying, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes women really do need rescuing (as do men). The problem with the trope is it's overused, not that it exists at all. You fix that by indulging in a mix of different tropes, not by ostracising and eliminating the overused ones.

    I agree with @snacuum above. The world is not and will never be exactly the way we want it to be. It's better to show children the reality of the world early and teach them how they can change it into a better place, than to insulate them from reality and let them believe everything is perfect until one day they're shocked to find it never was.

    Last edited 31/12/16 5:04 pm

      Yeah, it's a good assessment that the trope is overused.

      However, it's is also THE iconic trope of Super Mario. It's the bedrock story beat of the whole series and is practically as memorable as Mario and the mushrooms et. al. I mean think about it: what depth and complexity is the Mario series actually known for? Not much. The characters and universe are absurd the very story presented by the platforming is no more complex than 'I ran and jumped until I got where I wanted to be'. Like what do you even say to people who know nothing about Mario when they ask, "What's it about?" or "What the purpose for going on this adventure?"

      I do want Nintendo to branch out in their stories and I'm happy to praise their Mario RPG and Paper Mario series (and Mario Galaxy had a neat little variation). But to blame them for staying predictable on the release of their first ever official IOS Mario game? Heck if he wants to give his daughter the experience of Mario, he's got a cavalcade of options, not just some shallow phone game. Unless, I sincerely hope he hasn't written off the whole series based on this single trope.

      Last edited 01/01/17 11:47 am

    Super Princess Peach, Mario 3D World, Super Mario 2 all had Peach either helping Mario or rescuing Mario.

    Sure it might be stale as far as Nintendo goes rehashing the same "Peach needs a rescue!" story.

    What's also stale is the fact you can no longer have a story these days that involves a female ever needing rescue because someone, somewhere will go off about how "wrong" that is.

    Utterly ridiculous.

    Maybe one day Ninty can release a mario game where a random cast member gets kidnapped n u pick your char from the remainder. Would that work for everyone?

      That would be crazy cool. Especially if the character gameplay and levels are different each time. Man, just look at the variety in Mario Maker.

    Kinda weird, but when I was a young boy growing up and I saw pieces of media where men needed to be rescued it didn't make me feel completely worthless and powerless in my own life.

    Incidentally, 'man needs to be rescued by somebody' is also very common in fiction. Almost like the trope is more 'innocent person needs to be rescued by the hero' than 'helpless woman needs to be saved by a man'. And if you look at victims of violence more generally in popular media I think you'll find that the majority of them are men. By a wide, wide margin.

    It is true that women are put in the role of rescuing hero with considerably less frequency than men and it would definitely be good to have more stories with women heroes. That's probably a more sane direction from which to attack the lopsided representation of women in media, rather than saying they can never be victims.

    This Times piece in particular seems to be a case of "I became a parent and now I am hyper-sensitive about bullshit that relates to my child" which is common, understandable, and extremely boring and unconvincing to anyone who didn't breed or did but didn't lose their minds because of it.

    I'm not sure it makes sense for the reigning monarch to run off to save a plumber or his brother.

      Just like the President flying a fighter jet in the original Independence Day. Don't let sense get in the way of a sub-par story.

        They needed every available pilot and the whole of human kind was at stake. Even if mario mario was the only plumber in the country I'm sure they could Figure out how to get another......

    some people just need to be in a constant state of outrage, and seek to find offence in everything. This sort of hyper-vigilance is both disturbing and dangerous.

    Disturbing as it seems to be becoming the norm, and in my mind is a form of psychological/personality disorder. Much like how a "workaholic" becomes 'addicted' to being in a hyper-aroused/"stressed" state, these are people who are constantly seeking the "buzz" from both being outraged at their latest perceived injustice, and the attention it garners them when they "educate" others on how enlightened they are.

    Dangerous as there's this increasing trend in certain sections of society and the media to view everything through a lens of sexism/racism/whatever-ism to the point where we're now calling out Mario games as being a negative, sexist influence on children. This is doing more harm than it is good, particularly on their children... it's the same negative psychological effect as if you where constantly telling your child that there are bad people who are going to hurt them.

    Show me one child who has ever played a Mario game and taken away from it a gender stereotype, and I'll show you a parent who has influenced their child to view it in that way.

      Not wrong. I wrote a comment saying Suellentrop was overreacting and apparently somehow contravened the community guidelines - and I would definitely contend there was *nothing* that did so.

      Apparently now if you disagree that something is sexist, the Internet police shut you down.

      Seriously, if mods are going to remove posts that don't explicitly agree with the articles written here, it may as well just be an echo chamber of confected outrage.

      Very disappointing, Kotaku.

    Point is this: it's not clever to point out Princess Peach getting kidnapped ad nauseum is potentially a gender stereotype. Getting PISSED OFF about it, like fucking Suellentrop, demonstrates one's lack of cognitive prowess in rationalisation and how limited his reasoning is as a journalist. It was a bad article. Completely self centric based on a survey of ONE fuckwit with a narrow view based on HIS boring world of parenting and whatever the shit goes along with that. I personally am NOT a parent. My wife had fucking cancer and we can't have kids. Which is shit. I want three of them. I'd like a son. I'd like a daughter. And I'd like a gay son. Together, the four of us would play games and give zero fucks about your stupid fucking ideals being placed upon the fucking Mushroom Kingdom. And it would be perfect. Fuck Sullentrop.

    Mario rescuing peach. If you don't have that then it isn't a mario game... fuck his PC bullshit and get over it. The game is the way it is because that's the way it's has always been.

    If you want to get technical well it does represent real life as women are three times as likely to get kidnapped then men.

    I have a daughter and I sure as fuck will let her play this game because guess what. It's just a god damned game.

      My son doesn't play Mario, but he likes to watch me play it and fail miserably when I don't make a jump because I suck at jumpy levels. Sends him into a happy laughing fit when he hears that 'woops u didn't make the jump' sound. If it makes him laugh, that's all I want for him. He's too young to understand Bowser's obsessions and Peach's kidnapping fetish. He also loves the Ghost Houses with Boos. Always asks me to go there just so he can see that massive Boo at the end in Level3 in the Wii version.

    Let 2017 be the end of this PC crap, honestly.

      It'll get worse. As life gets easier in western societies people need to justify their self worth. What better way than invent a moral crusade to prove to everyone else your a valid person and you left this place after achieving something worthy.

    im guessing this is the same dad who complained about tracers pose.

    I would like to congratulate many of you for actually discussing this, as opposed to slinging crappy propaganda slogans from either side of the fence. Quite refreshing.

    A bit tangential to the discussion but

    I remember the exact moment where I decided I no longer wanted to work in Hollywood: It was when I realised I could not name any currently working black female directors.

    What? Shouldn't it have made you perseverate to make a point? If a certain industry or activity lacks female (and/or racial) representation and women prefer to blame the system and give up /because/ the lack of representation, they themselves are being part of the problem.

    I understand that the established system is discouraging and even hostile for minorities (I belong to one) but you cannot expect the system to change out of the goodness of its patriarchal heart to be given an opportunity on a silver tray. Every time positive and progressive change has occurred in the world is because someone decided to claim a stake on a position within a system regardless of the odds against, then succeeded and demonstrated that being whatever you are is no impediment to do whatever you want to do.

    That's why sexist tropes exist, you know. Mario saves the princess because historically, men used their inherently superior physical strength to execute noble deeds that required the subjugation of an enemy. However, nowadays physical strength is a requirement for very few human endeavours, replaced by intelligence, dexterity and social skills that make no inherent distinction between the sexes. The only thing we now need is that women, as a collective, rather than saying "why is a man always depicted doing X? we can too!", go and DO whatever they think they can do and show the world instead of telling it until it becomes blatantly ridiculous to believe that a woman has no place in any given career.

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