(Photo is cropped from an advertisement on the official Rooster Teeth twitter)
As revealed recently at RTX, RWBY will be undergoing a time skip (not sure how long) and most characters are getting new outfits to represent the time that has passed. Most of the new outfits don’t really change a whole ton besides for Ruby Rose’s.
When the series first started, Ruby was fifteen and wore an outfit that basically covered her from head to toe. While the practicality of a skirt could be debated, her past outfit was one of the better female examples in the show.
That’s part of what makes this so disappointing. Ruby is likely around 18 in this new outfit and she has now ventured out into the real world. That means the stakes will be higher and the fights will be more intense. Yet, for some reason, Ruby is less covered than before. She no longer has tights and now has a boob window for some reason. As someone who has been shown to be more interested in weapons than people and who is focused on helping others, there is no real excuse for Ruby to wear this outfit. It seems to be playing off of the idea that older=sexier but it just comes off as out of character and impractical.
There’s this unfortunate trend in media to signal that female characters are coming of age or becoming more mature by shifting them into more revealing outfits.
It happened with Elizabeth in BioShock: Infinite – first in the original (Ken Levine, hilariously, then got upset some fans were, very predictably, further sexualizing her in fan art and fan fiction) and then in Burial at Sea when she turns into a kind of femme fatale:
It happened with Harley Quinn when
Marvel DC Comics shifted from her strictly the Joker’s sidekick to being a more independent character with wider media saturation:
It happened with even Flemeth, who started pretty mature, in Dragon Age when she went from presenting as a cryptic swamp witch to presenting as a cryptic figure of great power and importance.
And now it’s happened with Ruby in RWBY.
Now in isolation these individual characters and others like them are not a problem, however it’s the unstoppable trend and the lack of counters that creates the problems. We rarely see a female character who shifts from sexualized clothing to more subdued clothing unless it’s part of their shifting away from “evil” (or an overall shift in the property) – but we see plenty of shift towards sexualized clothing and stick with it as part of “maturing”.
Indeed, it seems way too many publishers have a very one track approach to development for female characters:
While that may be very relateable to some people, there’s plenty of people who go the opposite way or who switch up at various points in their life (or even day to day). It would be nice if more publishers would consider that when looking at ways to progress their female characters rather than just looking for excuses to up the sex appeal (and then fearing to diminish it later on)
(edit: Thank you to the people who sent it to correct me on which of the Big Two that Harley Quinn belongs to, I apologize for the mental slip there)