96: Resident Evil's Second Sex

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According to our friend on the internet, one book makes him out to be ugly. A few others make him out to be bisexual. Ultimately, though, dude killed a lot of stuff but also went around behind his friend's back to sleep with his wife, so I'm not sure he's exactly a classic hero.

Bongo Bill:
I don't believe that it's just a matter of preferring to look at pretty things. That would explain why attractive characters are more common (and they are), but not why unattractive characters are absent.

Russ Pitts:

Actually, I believe it does. When given a choice, one will defer to one's preference. After all, game devs (who are mostly male) have to look at all of those female characters, too. Often for far longer than we do. Why not make them pretty?

I'm kind of with Russ on this. It's not that I'm disappointed with having attractive characters... I'm put off by the stereotypical attractiveness we see. Ada, in RE4, is stereotypical. Her appearance is unimaginative. The trick would be to present an attractive character in a common, believable way. As we get older, our appreciation of physical beauty matures as well.

I also realize that videogame characters serve to market the game and that the target audience is teenagers. I guess gaming will have to grow up a little more before we see mature takes on physical attractiveness.

However, I'm also a hypocrite... did I mention that? ;-)

Bongo Bill:
As I recall, Lancelot was supposed to be ugly, and none of the Arthur authors ever really dwelled on that, just mentioned it.

Joe:
Ultimately, though, dude killed a lot of stuff but also went around behind his friend's back to sleep with his wife, so I'm not sure he's exactly a classic hero.

Mallory pegged Lancelot as a number of things, mainly as an honorable warrior of "great prowess," and the best of all of Arthur's knights, never beaten in honest combat (he also has Merlin prophesying that Lancelot will kill Gawaine and bed Gweneviere, perhaps as a result of bearing his magnificent sword, or perhaps through some fated hamartia or whatnot), but nowhere that I found is it mentioned whether he's pretty or not.

He was also (mostly) virtuous, refusing the love of all comers to remain pure for his queen (platonically - at first), and even refusing to acknowledge her affection for him for a long time.

So we basically have a ferocious, unbeaten warrior, honorable to a fault, who plays hard to get and has devoted himself to doting on a woman he knows (assumes) he can't have. Whatever he looks like in the face, he's basically the archetype of the male romantic lead in any girl's fantasy. And in his own time, too - every woman in Camelot wanted him, but he turned them all down. Except, you know, his best friend (and king)'s wife.

Fair enough. Overall, I don't think it's a good example.

Joe:
Fair enough. Overall, I don't think it's a good example.

Yeah, that was my smarty-pants way of saying the same thing.

But I think I had a larger point, that male fantasy characters aren't burdened with the same need to look pretty as their female counterparts. Whether this is some unfair double-standard enforced by our patriarchal society or a Truth having to do with the different wiring between the two models of humans, is irrelevant. It's a fact of life for most of us. Tough, capable men will attract attention whether they're nice to look at or not (I'm reminded here of that quote about power being an aphrodisiac, but I'm drawing a blank on the source.), whereas ladies seem to have the opposite problem.

Perhaps I'm oversimplifying, but it's hard not to when discussing the battle of the sexes. Allow me then to append a "generally speaking" to all of the above.

Well, I'm not sure there isn't an emphasis on being attractive if you're a male hero. If you look back, the majority of heroes are in good shape and are good looking. Hercules, Jesus, Superman, Rett Butler, and so on. And tough and capable is part of the package, too. It's a symbol of reproductive capability in terms of the whole animal pecking order ideology.

In terms of successful heroes, I think they really have to be good looking and possess ideal traits, otherwise they aren't heroic. Part of what makes a hero a hero, or a heroine a heroine, is they're representative of what a society thinks a person should strive to be. Nowadays, that means men need to be good looking with little body fat, just like women.

It's a fair point, but I'd say that good looks are a secondary requirement for the male archetype, whereas smarts and/or physical prowess are similarly secondary requirements for the ladies. You can be an ugly male hero and still get by, but a female pretty much *has* to be hot.

OK. Am I the only one thinking about those old "could Batman kick Superman's ass" debates right now?

Dude, he so could.

Agreed. But could Ada kick Marcus Fenix's ass?

Joe:
Well, I'm not sure there isn't an emphasis on being attractive if you're a male hero. If you look back, the majority of heroes are in good shape and are good looking. Hercules, Jesus, Superman, Rett Butler, and so on. And tough and capable is part of the package, too.

True to an extent, but they're not also presented in a 'I'm as ready to have sex as I am to fight crime' kinda way, which is what I think was on the author's mind. Superman has a pair of tighety-reds over blue tights, and barely shows any skin. The only time Jesus flashes some skin is when he's vulnerable, up on the cross dying, getting pieced with a phallic lance. Rhett Butler is dressed for the board room, not the bedroom. And Hercules, well, he *does* come from a culture that was more accepting of male-on-male sexuality, which kinda explains why he's outfitted on the nekkid side of the equation. And he's from Greece, where it's pretty warm; yet women in games show up in tube tops no matter what the latitude.

On the other hand, females tend to not only be attractive, but depicted as ready for sex. Most female characters look like they're ready for a date, if not ready for a paid 'date'. Even Samus from _Metroid_ winds up taking off her power suit as a 'reward', right? I don't play _Gears_--only because I don't have a 360 yet--but does any amount of achievement points get Felix to take anything off?

I'm not sure if Ada could kick Felix's ass, but she does seem way more prepared to get some ass at a moment's notice.

An interesting angle to me is that the men in video games tend to be men *other* men find attractive, in the 'he could kick my ass so I better let him get first pick of the ladies' kinda way. When really, the most lusted after heroes in recent film have been Legolas, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Leonardo DiCaprio's character from _Titanic_. Even when men are held to a standard of 'handsomeness' in a video game, it's a butch male one, one that's way different from what seems to get women buying movie ticket after movie ticket.

If game designers were trying to appeal to women--especially 18-24 year old women--with handsome men, the funny thing is they'd make the heroes look more like Link then Felix.

This week's first letter to the editor has finally inspired me to stop lurking and post a contribution:

Dragoniz3r:
Don't you guys ever get bored with hammering the same topics over and over and over? Jesus, I can't count the number of articles I've read in The Escapist about sex in gaming. Enough shit already. Stop always trying to do the "controversial" stories and start covering some of the cool stuff that's actually happening in the industry.

I know, as web trolls go this one is small fry, but it hurts to read. That quote equals wrong like two plus two equals maths. "Controversial" stories about issues aside from "cool stuff that's actually happening in the industry" is what makes the Escapist the only must-read gaming publication. Leave the other 12 million identical gaming websites their industry gossip! This is the only site or magazine I know of that has articles which always, always make you think.

Lara's piece was brilliant. Encore! :D

Thanks and welcome Fraser.J.A. That particular letter was striking in a number of ways, but I do like to see what everyone has to say about The Escapist, even when it's bad. Although in this case (as my reply indicated) I think, even though Dragoniz3r clearly doesn't like the direction of some of our content, the negative feedback means we're clearly on the right course. We're a different kind of game magazine, and our content reflects that. Some people will not like this. For them, the internet offers many alternatives.

It's also amusing that for topics which are apparently so rehashed (sex in video games, treatment of the female gender), very little advances have been made in those domains, in our industry.
It will be right to stop complaining when there won't be reasons left to complain anymore.
That said, did Dragoniz3r wish the articles would focus on more original subjects?
I'm not sure how long you can keep exploring this path.
There are "heavy" themes which have to be readressed from time to time, nevermind if it's almost like beating a dead horse, as long as it keeps the ball rolling.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

If game designers were trying to appeal to women--especially 18-24 year old women--with handsome men, the funny thing is they'd make the heroes look more like Link then Felix.

Just recently we had a female guest in our house who was about the complete opposite of a gamer you could come across. But when she found out that I had twilight princess on the wii she got incredibly excited and asked if she could watch me play for a bit.

Why?

"Because Link is hot!"

@Arbre: I agree there are very few advances despite the coverage these topics get, I think because that coverage is incredibly shallow. The original article/this thread probably went deeper than 99% of the coverage out there on these topics. Usually there's this cautionary overtone highlighting the excesses, with almost no actual analysis.

@Goofonian: Man, no wonder the Wii is sold out everywhere! It must be all people who were over a friend's house where something similar to your experience transpired!

Cheeze_Pavilion:
@Goofonian: Man, no wonder the Wii is sold out everywhere! It must be all people who were over a friend's house where something similar to your experience transpired!

And don't Nintendo know it! They put live ads in cinemas - that's like hundreds of people's friend's houses at once!

Fraser.J.A:
And don't Nintendo know it! They put live ads in cinemas - that's like hundreds of people's friend's houses at once!

Man, the Wii is totally to the '00 what the Jeep was to the '90. Maybe they'll release an 'elite' edition in a color called 'spanish fly'.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

Fraser.J.A:
And don't Nintendo know it! They put live ads in cinemas - that's like hundreds of people's friend's houses at once!

Man, the Wii is totally to the '00 what the Jeep was to the '90. Maybe they'll release an 'elite' edition in a color called 'spanish fly'.

Note to self: Call Ubisoft. Pitch a game called "Spanish Fly" for the Wii.

Ha--funny because it *does* sound like the title of a Wii game.

If you stop and look at personalty archetypes before gender stereotypes and what not,gender suddenly dose not play a role in thought process, drooling over pretty people not withstanding of coarse ^^

It's not that the girls are attractive, it's the the over-sexualization. There are strong female characters, but they are all dressed inappropriately for their role. Cleavage to the waist, slits, high heels. Yet these are "serious" fighters, adventuresses. Male counterparts are always dressed appropriately.

However, I think that it's appropriate to cite the horror genre as perhaps breaking the mold a bit. Heather in Silent Hill 3 is certainly no bombshell.

I love this discussion, especially as one of the things I feel needs to change in the gaming industry is the depth of female personalities. Even in games where there is a strong story, the female characters often seem as if they were written by a guy with no clue how real women think or act. I also find it a bit ironic that I just wrote up an editorial on GameTrailers.com's latest "top ten gamer babes" video, basically ranting on how every single "top ten female game characters" lists degenerate into nothing but "which one is sexiest".

First thing I want to note is that I find the "if I'm going to look at something, it may as well be hot" argument. I'm sorry, but I never tossed my Ninja Turtles or G.I.Joes aside and picked up my sister's Barbie dolls simply so I could be looking at some fake sex appeal instead. At least polygons in recent years don't look so much like cheap plastic as they used to, though. And yes, I grew out of toys around when I hit puberty, but I feel the argument still stands. :P

Second thing, on the whole "you see ugly male protagonists but not ugly female ones", well, this has been true for years. I mean, look at Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. I haven't read any sort of book looked upon as good literature written by a woman where her female protagonists became ugly monsters. In fact, the only "ugly" female protagonist I can think of from a book written by a female is Hermione from Harry Potter, and she was never really described as ugly. Simply described as having bushy hair and large front teeth (but not enough to be bucktoothed). Granted I've read more novels written by males, but even when you look to film and television the fact remains the same: female writers rarely write their protagonists as ugly. I'm sure some of them do, but far less than you'll find a man writing about a male hero that is made ugly.

In some cases, such as, say, Blanka from Street Fighter II, it's just easier to imagine such a character being male when coming up with the premise. However, I think another part of it is simply differences of the sexes. I've known far more female artists than I have males, and they would always draw attractive female characters. Non-human female characters always wound up looking human in the end. They were fairy characters, mermaid characters, Elvish, vampires, etc. They were always beautiful, and possibly eclipsed a form of beauty unreachable by man.

However, the male artists I have known, including myself, never drew non-humans in such a manner. While our humanoids were always bipedal, they were also constantly alien. Lizard men, werewolves, ogres, orcs and just anything we could think of. Of course, my male artist friends would constantly draw hero characters with muscle, whereas my characters were, well, incredibly covered. I don't like muscle bound heros, but more realistic ones with either a balanced value of muscle or even a lankey appearance. Usually they are either covered like ninjas or completely covered head to toe in sci-fi armor, like the nameless rookie who gets shot in the head in Gears of War. The only time I go bulky is full power suits like those described in the book Starship Troopers.

Now, I reference my own tastes because they seem to be popular among many other game designers and artists. You'll find muscle bound Terminators, but also lanky ninjas, and simply realistic looking men as well. Further, a designer may want to represent someone's personally in a beast form, such as the Lizard Man from Soul Calibur. Why are these things common? Well, because it's easy to look at male characters as being ugly, and part of it is because men are certainly NOT the image of beauty.

Think about it. Men are not curvy or smooth. They are covered in hair. They are big blocks. They cannot sway and move their bodies in a way that entices you because it suggests sexuality. Women, on the other hand, are not bulky. Everything is a smooth curve, and body hairs tend to be so short and unnoticeable you'd swear it's just skin. They can sway and move their hips in a way that can give a guy naughty thoughts. So, it's only natural that, if you're going to represent something as being ugly, do it to something that's not beautiful: man.

Of course, women still find the male physique attractive, but a lot of it has to do with what these things represent about personality as well as digging into primal instincts. However, that wouldn't answer the question of "why no ugly female protagonists". That's right, all this jibber jabber and I AM still on topic!

It really all is psychology, though. I mean, how many people do you know that are ugly compared to those that are attractive? I don't care if they are playboy material or not, just attractive? Me, I see TONS on campus every day. There are far more attractive people than there are ugly ones, and plenty of them have a good physique anyway. So, why should it matter if someone makes a character attractive? I don't think that's the problem, and I don't think it's a problem that you rarely, if ever, see an ugly female protagonist.

My problem is more in how they are dressed. Mai Shiranui, anyone? From King of Fighters? I mean, Jesus. Also, the Dead or Alive girls. I actually find interviews with Itagaki on the topic interesting, because he believes the female body is incredibly beautiful. That is why he makes his girls beautiful. Why does he dress them as he does? Because he believes such clothing is quite enticing. I mean, he doesn't lie about it. The interesting part, however, is that he can't stand nude patches. He thinks that no longer makes it sexy or enticing. To him, part of sexiness is the mystery, and honestly, I agree (though the Xtreme Beach series is complete trash).

Nonetheless, while I agree with him on those ideas, I do find it irritating that all his female characters are dressed to be giving something off. Even Akane's most conservative outfit shows the sides of her boobs. However, we are also discussing a Japanese game.

Uh oh, now we have to hit cultural issues. Which is where I end this post, because discussing Japanese culture is something completely different. I mean, the video games are just ONE example of their entire entertainment industry. You're not just tackling gamer culture, but Japanese culture, when it comes to how women are portrayed in a Japanese game.

Nonetheless, when it comes to Western games, there's not so much an excuse. Why no personality yet so much cleavage? Well, we need better writers is why.

I have more to say on the matter, but think I should save it for a later time.

Joe:
Ultimately, though, dude killed a lot of stuff but also went around behind his friend's back to sleep with his wife, so I'm not sure he's exactly a classic hero.

Simply put, because Lancelot isn't a hero. He's the friend of the hero. He's meant to represent several ideas, one of them being that even the best of men can fall to temptation. Going with this, he represents the caution that, no matter how well you know someone, there is always the possibility they may betray you. Yet continuing with THAT, he also represents redemption and that, no matter what, a friend should be forgiven. In the legend, Arthur sought to forgive Lancelot, and in the end Lancelot came to Arthur's aid to fight alongside him one last time. They never actually stopped being friends. And then Lancelot dies.

So, Lancelot isn't meant to be interpreted as the hero, but as many other things.

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