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)

Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.