Deeply transphobic ad in Cyberpunk 2077 represents everything wrong with cyberpunk

The cyberpunk dystopia is here. No, not the one we’re living in. CD Projekt’sCyberpunk 2077is coming to PC and consoles early next year. But just like our own,Cyberpunk’s dystopiahas a transphobia problem.

Nvidiaon Tuesday published an E3 2019 news post about its partnership with Cyberpunk 2077’s developer, CD Projekt Red. The two companies are working together to implementthe game’s real-time ray tracing graphical enhancements. Nvidia shared two exclusive 4K screenshots demonstrating the feature, and one of the two images features an in-game ad for a product named “ChroManticore.”

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The “ChroMantic0re” ad shows a feminine presenting person drinking a fictional product called ChroManticore, with the phrases “MIX IT UP” and “16 flavours you’d love to mix” surrounding their bottom half. The puns don’t necessarily make sense at first. But then you look down at the model’s crotch where they have an enormous erection in their leotard. Nothing is left to the imagination in the photo. It’s extremely sexually explicit.

CD Projekt

Twitter user @neondreamgirlimmediately drew attention to the screenshot and its transphobic messages. Her tweet went viral in just a few hours, with over 500 retweets and 2,000 likes as of Wednesday afternoon. When reached for comment, Nvidia declined to comment and instead directed the Daily Dot to contact CD Projekt Red for any questions about the game. (CD Projekt Red did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s requests for comment.)

It’s unclear whether the person shown in the ad is a trans woman, is a cisgender woman who drank ChroManticore to obtain a penis, or identifies as nonbinary.When aPolygonwriter met with Kasia Redesiuk, the art director behind Cyberpunk 2077’s in-fiction media, sheargued the trans model’s body is used by the game’s megacorporations to sell products.

“Personally, for me, this person is sexy,” Redesiuk told Polygon. “I like how this person looks. However, this model is usedtheir beautiful body is usedfor corporate reasons.They are displayed there just as a thing, and that’s the terrible part of it.”

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Redesiuk also told Polygon thatCyberpunk 2077’s world features gender non-conforming people who expose their bodies in public and that corporations use their bodies in advertisements and sell to them because of their purchasing power. This, senior reporter Charlie Hall writes, can be seen in the ad, which is designed as a “play on the same sort of hypersexualized advertising that modern companies use to sell products today.” Redesiuk also claims the ad was purposefully designed to feel uncomfortably aggressive because of the game’s megacorporations trying to “influence people’s lives” through objectified, oversexualized bodies.

“They shove products down their throats. They create those very aggressive advertisements that use, and abuse, a lot of peoples needs and instincts. So, hypersexualization is apparent everywhere, and in our ads there are many examples of hypersexualized women, hypersexualized men, and hypersexualized people in between,” Redesiuk explains. “This is all to show that [much like in our modern world], hypersexualization in advertisements is just terrible.”

As of yet, it remains unclear ifCyberpunk 2077 has any trans or gender non-conforming characters.

Redesiuk claims “it was never the intention to offend anyone” with the ad and that the image was designed “to show how oversexualization of people is bad.” But while in-game lore may tell one story, real world context tells another. The ad feels heavy-handed at best, and it relies too much on the shock of an unexpected, enormous erection to get its point across. In other words, the ad isn’t jarring because of its capitalist ideals. It’s becauseof its trans model’s penis.

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A closer look at the ad proves this to be the case. The ChroManticore blurbs are all positioned in a way that surround the model’s erect penis, enough for the player to miss on first glance until they finallydo recognize the erection. Then it’s impossible to ignore. It also fetishizes the owner’s genitals without immediately offering any satire that reflects Redesiuk’s values. So for players who read the model as a trans woman, it’s as if she’s visibly thrusting one of her most stigmatized body parts onto others, like she wants the viewer to recognize her penis in its entire length and girth. It makes the model, not the society they live in, seem predatory.

Even if the ad is supposed to depict a trans woman or a trans femme in good faith, it’s terribly inaccurate in a way that furthers harmful stereotypes already existing in our society. Many trans women cannot maintain erections thanks to hormone replacement therapy, while others can only become somewhat stiff for a short period of time without erectile dysfunction medication. Yet cis people generally assume trans women’s penises operate like cis men’s until proven otherwise. That stigma is only further reinforced by cis male-centric porn, which expects trans models to use their penises in a way that operates exactly like cis men’s dicks.

In other words, the ad reflects cisgender peoples’ current conceptions of trans bodies, so for most cis players, the satire doesn’t land. And it calls into question whether CD Projekt Red ever intended the ad to be satirical in the first place. Right-wing gamers clearly didn’t think so. Over on 4chan’s /pol/, one user posted the ad and proudly declaredCyberpunk 2077 “/ourgame/,” implyingthe title’s politics align with the site’s far-right beliefs. And on Gamergate subreddit r/KotakuInAction, users praised the joke and belittled its critics.

“Hats off to CD project [sic] as they don’t tend to give in to the crazies,” another poster said. “They know it won’t affect their sales.”

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