On Wednesday, feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, one of the biggest targets of the ongoing GamerGate controversy, stopped by The Colbert Report. Undaunted by Colbert's adopted persona for the night — an obnoxious, arrogant gamer — Sarkeesian skewered GamerGate and its disciples.
"I'm saving the princess. Am I supposed to let the princess die? Is that what you want?" asked Colbert, referring to a common trope in video games. "Maybe the princess shouldn't be a damsel, and she could save herself," Sarkeesian shot back.
GamerGate has ignited a storm of controversy. Its supporters initially claimed it was about ethics in video game journalism, but it has since devolved into angry mobs of misogynistic gamers keen on attacking any woman who dares criticize the industry's treatment of women.
When Colbert asked Sarkeesian why women seem to be the only targets for the threats, she said that it's because women are asserting themselves — something the hyper-masculine gaming community hates.
"[GamerGaters are] lashing out because we're challenging the status quo of gaming as a male-dominated space," she said. "[Women] are asking for games to be more inclusive. We're asking for games to acknowledge that we exist and that we love games."
She would know: As the creator of the video series Tropes vs. Women and Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, Sarkeesian is a highly visible figure in gaming and feminist circles. In October, she cancelled an appearance at Utah State University after receiving death threats; one person claimed that they would commit "the deadliest school shooting in American history" if Sarkeesian showed up.
The controversy has hit the big time: Sarkeesian's spot on The Colbert Report is notable because, along with an appearance on the front page of the New York Times, it helps push GamerGate into the mainstream. While the controversy has received lots of coverage online, a Colbert Report appearance is a different animal altogether, giving outsiders a clear look at what's going on.
In the end, the show's satirical format was the perfect platform for a GamerGate takedown. Colbert perfectly embodied the childish, arrogant delusions of GamerGate proponents, and Sarkeesian neatly shut him down.
The video's best moment comes at the very end, when Colbert asks, "As a man, am I allowed to be a feminist?"
"Do you believe women should have equal rights to men, and we should fight for those rights?" she says.
"Sure," he answers.
"Great," Sarkeesian says. "Then you're a feminist."