What Does It Even Mean For GTA To Go Woke?

Grand Theft Auto is going woke. Leaks suggest that the upcoming GTA6 will not only star a female protagonist, but in a groundbreaking step for representation, she will also be a sexy spicy Latina with a background in crime – you know, like literally every other South American woman in video games. The whole discussion around Grand Woke Auto has been ridiculous from both sides (although predictably, worse from the outrage crowd), so let’s break it down a little.

If you are one of these gamers screaming at the void that you’ll now have to steal cars and beat up random citizens as a woman, you should know that Grand Theft Auto has been laughing at you the whole time. You have always been the punchline. Grand Theft Auto is anti-America and has always been satirising or parodying the American ideals of excess. If you have thought Grand Theft Auto was all about blowing stuff up and America being cool as fuck, I assume you are still in denial about Homelander being the baddie of The Boys.

If not for the leaks explicitly spelling it out, I suspect the thematic points GTA6 makes would have gone over your head. Aside from the point that women exist, of course, which seems to be at the centre of this meltdown.

On the other side is the argument that GTA was always woke, which is frankly a ridiculous argument to make. Across GTA5’s many ports it had transphobic jokes edited out of it, while beating up and killing sex workers remains a lynchpin of the GTA experience. The game relies on racist, sexist, and homophobic stereotypes frequently. The game was never the right wing wonderland some media illiterate fools thought it was, but it wasn’t a left wing paradise either.

GTA is more like Family Guy than South Park. Seth Macfarlane, creator and star of Family Guy, is a self-confessed liberal and the show has always come down much harder on right wing politicians than those on the left… but also makes repeated jokes about vomiting at the thought of trans people existing. This is as woke as Family Guy and GTA get. It leans left politically but it still relishes in punching down. South Park’s deal used to be taking swings at everyone, but has continuously punched down harder as it soaks up raucous applause for doing so.

Those who proclaim GTA as woke are essentially praising it for not going down this route, which it was in no danger of going down anyway. GTA are like those liberals who mock Donald Trump by saying he had sex with Putin, the punchline of which is just ‘haha gay’.

GTA has always had a broadly liberal point of view, but has mocked its opponents by exaggerating them in order to laugh at their own jokes. It’s not ‘really’ sexist, because the eroticised murder of strippers is a metaphor. GTA was not woke. I know the people in tears over playing as a woman have grossly misunderstood the series and are over-exaggerating, but Sex Worker Death Sim 5 is not a woke experience.

It’s important that we understand that because the leak suggests GTA6 is going to try to punch down less, which means we should probably remember that GTA has historically punched down a lot. Like a lot a lot. Especially aimed towards women, who hopefully will get a fairer deal this time around. It might not make for a better game – would Family Guy be a ‘better’ show if it sought to never offend people? – but it will be a different experience that might offer something fresh.

Of course, the seemingly stereotypical Latina lead means it might not be entirely shorn of what makes GTA GTA, but if GTA6 is to be the first ‘woke’ GTA – itself somewhat fabricated from overreaction to the leaks and Rockstar’s attempts to cut crunch – we have to admit that it means a change from what GTA has been doing. A change for the better, the worse, or maybe just different, we have no idea. But if we believe it will be a woke GTA, it will be the first woke GTA, and we need to be honest about what that means.

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