I honestly searched around for an hour or so looking for some way to tie this particular subject to something also having to do with recent movies... and came up mostly blank. So, yeah - this week I guess we're talking about videogames.
If you're not aware of the myriad comings and goings of the gaming scene (given the general focus of the site where this column runs that's a bit unlikely, but still) this week's big angry word generator was The Sorceress, a character in the long-hyped upcoming Vanillaware brawler Dragon's Crown. If you've seen the pictures or the video, then you already know what the big brouhaha is. The game's design aesthetic is grounded in manga-flavored exaggerations of Frazetta/Vallejo-style High Fantasy art, and The Sorceress is its variant on the Voluptuous Magic User type: Implausibly thin waist, structurally impossible legs and comically oversized breasts.
Images of her (and the rest of Crown's similarly preposterous crew) have been on the web for well over a year now, but it seems like it took the first trailer exclusively focused on The Sorceress in motion - breasts flailing independently of one another like peach-colored gelatin desserts, voice cooing in the tone and meter of a Tokyo phone sex operator - that finally set off the "Oh, come ON!" alarm across the interweb. Since roughly 8 in 10 of all currently simmering issues in gaming lately have concerned the juxtaposition of the words "female" and "representation," those thus inclined were more than ready to weigh in with the expected complaints ("This is juvenile!" "Exploitation!" "Industry sexism!") while their opposite numbers mounted similarly reflexive counterpoints ("Feminazis!" "First Ammendment!" "Misandry!").
Things got a little more animated when Kotaku's Jason Schreier took what could be described as a somewhat childish shot at the design, offering that "As you can see, The Sorceress was designed by a 14 year-old boy." George Kamitani, the game's art director (and president of Vanillaware), took some offense to this characterization and tossed a drawing (presumably also from or related to the game) of three burly, bearded men onto his Facebook with a caption implying that this might be closer to his detractor's liking. Haw haw.
Look... on the business and cultural sides of this, there's not really much new to see here. The games industry is in a difficult moment of transition where the monolithic singularity of vision and direction (read: that of heterosexual men) of gaming's creators and audience has begun to splinter just enough for dissenting voices to be heard but not quite enough to make a dent in such things in pre-production. That kind of situation leads to shouting. Always has, always will. I don't have much to add to that beyond the observation that it's possible that three relevant statements such as "This is what makes people take our medium less seriously," "This is part of what makes gaming-culture inhospitable to women" and "I have the right to either create and/or enjoy this" can, in fact, be simultaneously correct.
I tend to live on two sides of blowups like this. That's not unfamiliar territory for me, being that I'm jointly an artist and a professional critic of other people's art, but it can be disconcerting all the same in a media culture where one is expected to be either wholly against something, wholly for something, or standing on the sidelines unconcerned over whatever is being contested. On the one hand, I'm a feminist, an out-and-proud "social progressive" in the parlance of American politics and a full-bore proponent of knocking down, busting up and sweeping away the white/western/heterosexual/cisgendered/male power structure not just in gaming but in everything, so of course I'm sympathetic to those who looked at The Sorceress and saw just one more neon-lit "No Girls Allowed!" sign going up in the window of the Game Culture Treehouse. I get it. I know where they're coming from - or, rather, I understand where they're coming from as best I'm able.