The Feminist Theory of Simone de Beauvoir Explained with 8-Bit Video Games (and More)

Simone de Beauvoir, existentialist philosopher, feminist theorist, author of The Second Sex, whose birthday we celebrate today.

Metroid, an action-adventure video game designed for the Nintendo in 1986.

At first glance, they’re not an obvious pairing. But in 8-Bit Philosophy, a web series that explains philosophical concepts by way of vintage video games, things kind of hang together.


Gamers remember Metroid for being the first video game to feature a strong female protagonist, a character who blew apart existing female stereotypes, kicked some alien butt, and created new possibilities for women in the video gaming space. And that lets Metroid set the stage for talking about the intellectual contributions of Simone de Beauvoir, who, back in the late 1940s, gave us new ways of thinking about gender and gender-based hierarchies in our societies.

Clocking in at just 3:45, the clip offers but a brief introduction to de Beauvoir’s theoretical work. For a longer introduction, you could download this recent episode of In Our Time, hosted by Melvyn Bragg and featuring the commentary of Christina Howells (Oxford), Margaret Atack (University of Leeds) and Ursula Tidd (University of Manchester). You can also listen to a 2015 episode of Philosophy Talk, co-hosted by Stanford professors John Perry and Ken Taylor.

Or, better yet, go to the source itself, and listen to de Beauvoir talk in two lengthy interviews, both featured on Open Culture in years past. They’re pretty remarkable historical documents.

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Related Content: 

Simone de Beauvoir & Jean-Paul Sartre Shooting a Gun in Their First Photo Together (1929)

Photos of Jean-Paul Sartre & Simone de Beauvoir Hanging with Che Guevara in Cuba (1960)

Edward Said Recalls His Depressing Meeting With Sartre, de Beauvoir & Foucault (1979)

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  • Cyndi Simpson says:

    This was lovely.
    Would have been better with a woman narrator…as that would not have attempted to rely on the British male voice for authority. Fail.

  • carmen wrighton says:

    The narrator sounds wrong, in a hurry…However, De Beauvoir changed my life all those years ago. I appreciated the attempt to make it accessible to the younger generations

  • Alfon says:

    Sorry but the video was unexactly. There, Birdo (a pink dinosaur) is signaled as woman because a red ribbon. However, it’s the first transgender character in videogames. Birdo is male.

  • Alfon says:

    *Unexact.

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