Though we’ve known for a while thanks to the leaks, the new GTA 6 trailer (which itself leaked, in a bad sign for the game going forward) confirmed that it would have a female protagonist. The first female protagonist for the series, and-
Actually, this is not the first female protagonist GTA has had, as there were female avatars in the first GTA. I am very smart.
Okay, sure. Lucia is technically not the first female protagonist in GTA history. This ‘correction’ has been wheeled out time and time again ever since the first leaks emerged, and while it was initially a fun fact style tidbit, it’s now getting rather annoying. Grand Theft Auto is a series that, despite the satire of its writing, has always been very chauvinist in its worldbuilding, and stereotypically hysterical, stupid, or lubricious in its depiction of women, with a core factor of its open world play the ability to murder sex workers. The fact that way back when it was a top down driving game with a little bit of crime sprinkled in you could be vaguely feminine pixels does not take away from that – an avatar is not a protagonist.
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Lucia might not be the first female protagonist officially, but she is the first since GTA changed itself and the idea of a modern video game with GTA 3. That marks her as significant, and players who are interested to see how GTA handles its first female lead are correct to wonder so – the fact GTA once used a stickwoman alongside a stickman does not change things one way or the other for how Lucia will be depicted.
I speculated about this back in September last year (where does the time go?) when the first wave of leaks appeared, and it’s difficult to tell from the trailer where Rockstar is going with it. In some ways, I want Lucia to be just like a regular GTA protagonist, warts and all. Considering we see her start in prison and watch her rob a store at gunpoint, we clearly aren’t getting a sanitised version. But at the same time, having a woman move through this violent and debauched world just as she would if she were a man is unrealistic, and I hope we get to see that.
There are two very different GTAs we all play whenever the game comes out. There’s the narrative side, which features its fair share of colourful characters, dirty deeds, and moral ambiguity, then there’s the free roam side where we hit people with our car. People will play the latter half of GTA 6 as Lucia as if she was anyone else, and no doubt she’ll get her chance to wreak havoc – and in the hands of seasoned GTA vets, that havoc will likely be unleashed on innocent female bystanders.
What matters is how well GTA understands the differences of having a female lead for the main narrative. GTA gets away with a lot under the guise of ‘it’s satire’, and for (almost) the entirety of the series’ existence, this has meant male characters satirising a male-dominated world by making women the punchline or victim, often both. It’s unlikely – and would be unwise – that Lucia is a kickass feminist with girl power, equal rights, and the tampon tax on her mind at all times. I don’t need Lucia to be a sister doing it for herself. But with women relegated to background roles and comic relief so often, I also don’t want Lucia to be a Pick Me in her storyline, even if she has no control over being one in free roam.
Given that we see several near-naked women twerking in the trailer, including one riding on the top of a car in what appears to be an advert for the game’s improved jiggle physics, it’s clear that New GTA is just like the Old GTA. That’s not the issue itself, but how this world collides with Lucia is.
It’s a difficult balance for Rockstar to strike. It still needs to be GTA, and that means a certain amount of South Parkism – commenting on politics but with the general air that caring about things is stupid and pointless. But it has made a conscious choice to have a woman of colour as its lead, and it cannot take that choice lightly. It’s stepping into a new arena with this decision (for the first time, regardless of the original GTA), and it must be ready for those challenges.
No doubt we’ll get several more trailers before GTA launches in 2025, ones that delve into Lucia’s history more, as well as showing more of our other protagonist Jason, and exploring the gameplay, new-look Vice City, and teasing Rockstar’s latest technical feats. But right now, the jury is out on whether GTA can do its first significant female protagonist justice, and what it means if it can’t.
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