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Every GTA Game Has The Same Problem (& We Expect 6 To Fix It)

The "Grand Theft Auto" series has always aimed for a level of high camp and stinging satire, particularly since it entered the 3D space with "GTA 3" and onward. In that time, the series has lampooned every form of visual entertainment, from reality television to famous noir films, skewering America's obsession with celebrities and the crime genre itself. Critics and fans have differed in their opinions regarding whether or not the series' sense of humor hits its mark, but the general consensus seems to be that "GTA" is at its best when it's a bit more self-aware.

That's all to say that the series is not without its flaws, particularly when it comes to representing characters outside of the typical "tough guy" mold that its protagonists usually represent. "Grand Theft Auto" has made moves to be a bit more progressive in recent years — removing offensive depictions of trans women and sex workers from "GTA 5," for starters — but it's still come under fire for poorly-aged jokes about the LGBTQIA+ community and body positivity, and that's just for starters. Another area that is still particularly frowned upon is the franchise's treatment of women.

In many of the "Grand Theft Auto" games, female characters have largely been depicted as either annoying side characters or NPCs who only exist to provide comic relief (or just to contribute to the male gaze of it all). Many of them meet ignoble ends or are otherwise humiliated in spectacular public displays. This is one of the biggest sources of criticism that's been leveled at the series over the years — and "Grand Theft Auto 6" has a chance to set things right.

Criticism of GTA's treatment of women

"Grand Theft Auto" is a franchise that revels in problematic material, offering thrills and laughs in equal measure. The series' brand of in-your-face satire has expanded beyond the crime genre, critiquing the US government's treatment of suspects, decrying police brutality, and lampooning America's obsession with social media. Similar to contemporaries like "South Park," "GTA" often makes these points with a heaping helping of tasteless humor and gross-out gags, which often rub people the wrong way. Writing for The Telegraph, Tom Hoggins went so far as to say that "GTA 5" and other games in the series are "designed deliberately to degrade women," creating sequences that are sure to make audience members squirm in their gaming chairs.

It's hard to disagree with this sentiment entirely, as several missions in "GTA 5" are built around the harassment and public humiliation of women. One mission sees players filming a starlet in the midst of a sexual act, then chasing her down as she attempts to flee in her car. Another mission ends as a woman is suddenly and violently killed by a jet engine. There are also plenty of anti-feminist jokes at every turn, and an interview with The New York Times revealed that Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser agrees the devs didn't consider the game's portrayal of women "as much as [they] should have" when making "GTA 5."

Considering one of the company's former bigwigs has pointed to this issue as a failing on the part of the development team, it would make sense for the series' next entry to try and course-correct.

Rockstar has copped to GTA's female representation problem

Of course, as many hardcore fans of the "Grand Theft Auto" series have argued in the past, the series doesn't just go after one group of people. "GTA" makes fun of everyone, from aging hippies and uptight businessmen to cult members and even video game developers. No one is safe from being skewered by Rockstar's writers. But as the series has continued, it's become more evident that it's stuck in the past in many ways, particularly when it comes to old-fashioned misogyny.

Even gamers who greatly enjoy the series overall have admitted to being put off by the treatment of women in "Grand Theft Auto" games. "There aren't any female characters to root for, be impressed by, or even fall in love with," Helen Lewis writes of "GTA 5" for The Guardian. "It was the same in the last game: women were there to nag you, or be bribed – whether with fancy dinners or cold, hard cash – into having sex with you."

Still, there are good reasons to believe "Grand Theft Auto 6" will move things in a better direction.

How GTA 6 could change the series

"Grand Theft Auto 6" has a real opportunity to stand apart from its predecessors, at the very least because of the fact that it stars the series' first female protagonist. Though we don't know too much about her just yet, leaks have pointed to the main characters of Lucia and Jason being a couple, as well as old school bank robbers in the Bonnie and Clyde mold. This presumably means we'll get to see Lucia take charge of heists and incite a bit of classic "GTA" chaos of her own.

According to 2022 reports, Rockstar is seriously attempting to clean up its act when it comes to "GTA 6." The game's writers are taking care to avoid any humor derived from racial stereotypes or jokes made at the expense of marginalized people. With these new directives in place, Lucia may indeed end up being the strongest female character in the franchise's history, with "GTA 6" standing as a turning point in the series' overall tone.

Of course, it remains to be seen just how closely Jason and Lucia's story will stick to that of their real-life inspiration. Those who recall the history of the most famous criminal couple of all time will know that things ended pretty heinously for Bonnie and Clyde. The couple went down in a hail of bullets while attempting to evade the police, and it's possible that the same fate will befall Jason and Lucia. 

If the series' first female lead does indeed meet a bloody end, hopefully it'll at least be her choice to go out in a blaze of glory, with one last thrilling mission — but that would still be a bummer of a choice on Rockstar's part. We'll just have to wait and see how many steps forward "GTA 6" really takes.

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