So whenever i would watch movies and see The Badass Female Character fighting in various ways, something about it always bugged me. I just assumed it was internalized misogyny that made me dislike characters like black widow and Tauriel and tried to make myself like them.
Then I was rewatching Mad Max Fury Road the other day and I noticed that nothing bothered me about watching Furiosa fight and I realized the problem wasn’t watching women fight in movies that got on my nerves.
Watching the stereotypical Badass Female Character she always has these effortless moves and a cocky, sexy smirk on her face as everything is easy. Watching Furiosa, she grunted and bared her teeth. Her fighting was hard and it took effort and it hurt like fighting is supposed to. For once her fighting style wasn’t supposed to seduce the audience it was to be effective.
I wasn’t disliking these characters because they were women I was disliking that their fighting was meant to remind me they were women. High heels and shapely outfits and not showing effort or discomfort because it’s more attractive to effortlessly lift a long leather clad leg over your head rather than rugby tackle someone.
It’s the same with the Wonder Woman movie too. Fighting is hard and it takes effort, blocking bombs and bullets with a shield makes her grimace and bare her teeth with the effort it takes. She’s not flip kicking bombs she’s yelling and straining, not because she’s weak or bad at fighting but because that’s what it would be like.
I really hope we’re moving into an era of women having fighting styles designed for realism and not how hot it looks for the men in the audience.
The visual framing of women in media, especially female warriors, is something we talk about a lot. For obvious reasons.
And even before I started this blog, it’s gotten to the point when the phrase “Strong Female Character” lost all of its meaning and is used ironically as a synonym to “Fighting F*cktoy”.
Same goes for “weaponized femininity”, which I personally feel never had any real meaning beyond “we need to constantly assert that this character is indeed female and fuckable to cishet men, even when putting herself in mortal danger!”.
We as well hope that more media gets away from those tropes and starts portraying women fighters as just that – people who fight, with no pretense that their precious femininity needs to be preserved at all times. Especially when male characters are treated completely seriously.
So in total, there are six female characters in the core fantasy game Massive Darkness kickstarter pack (some more in expansion packs). Four have an aggressive focus on their boobs, all of them have some degree of bare leg on display and one of them has actual armor that protects her actual body (though as we see later, she’s a distaff version of a male character stretch goal)
What do the dudes in the stretch goals look like?
So the female High Elf gets a mask to hide her face (but still has long hair out because woman) and the male Thief gets his cleavage covered up and body bulked up. As for the barbarians… yeah.
I feel that this perfectly sums up so, so many issues that the fantasy genre has with women…. and how’d they go you ask?
These are, just the default characters but there are also characters in expansion packs that further perpetuate the double standards – though there is one which at least includes an female gendered monster that is isn’t sexualized… shame about the two female adventurers in the same pack.
Ostara would have been pretty good if they’d have avoided the showing thigh fetish, but Moira (who covers up her thighs) well….
I’d dare to even say they break the theme symbiotes had going – Venom is twisted, evil reflection of Spider-Man and Carnage is the same for him. Yet all of these women could be described as “just like Venom, only sexy”. They pretty much look naked. There are, however, two notable exceptions, both hosts of the same symbiote, that I want to bring to the spotlight.
Patricia Robertson, the second She-Venom, was a host of artificially created clone of Venom symbiote and was notable in that she looked exactly to her male counterpart. Marvel Database mentions the artist would give her a more feminine look, but only occasionally, when the main measures taken to tell her and male Venom apart (coloring them with different sheen and having She-Venom’s tongue hang out more often) would not be sufficient. However, as she only meets Eddie Brock towards the end of her short-living series, for the most of the book she simply looks like him.
The symbiote clone would end up being absorbed by the original only to separate in 2012 and find a new host, Andrea Benton, who took codename Mania. She gets a look that, while still having some issues overall (Sonic the Hedgehog hair, for one) it does not look like painted on her skin, nor does it feature boobsocks. And thank heavens for tat, since she is still a teenager. It even visually reflects her personality – an angry teenage punk – just like Venom’s modern, militaristic look reflects Flash Thompson’s history in military.
I’m sure some would argue that Marvel universe symbiotes are supposed to look naked, therefore clearly visible boobs are obligatory when the host happens to have a pair… But why exactly would that be? It’s not like Venom or Carnage are fully anatomically correct either with their primary or secondary sex characteristics.
Also, since symbiote tends to distort the host’s body, it’s highly suspicious how when bonded with a woman, it would make sure to always fill that thin feminine silhouette with big, round perky boobs and butt (and “sexy” posing, of course!).
It’s refreshing to see at least two takes on female Venom that deny double standard and either make the host equally monstrous as male counterpart or look more experimental.
I think it says a lot about comics that when the symbiot suit joined with Eddie Brock, it immediately transformed to give him the monstrous mouth – but it’s taken a few iterations for Marvel to be comfortable with the idea of having a female character with a symbiot suit express some individuality.
In the 90s Capcom was adapting Stardust Crusaders story arc from Hirohiki Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga into a fighting game. They wanted to feature Midler, one of very few women antagonists in the story, as a playable character. However, in the manga Midler kept very safe distance from the protagonist and we never fully saw her, besides one panel after her defeat
As you can see, she is wearing a normal dress here. However, when adapting het to video game, Capcom had a problem with the fact we never saw her face. But instead of doing a sensible thing and asking the author to draw a face they could put on her original design, they asked him to completely redesing her to look like a belly dancer. And the results you can see above. When I first saw it my reaction was somewhere along those lines:
From a sensibly-dressed character who keeps her opponents at long distance, she turned into a character who goes into close-quater combat almost naked.
And for bonus creepy points, another character featured in the game is Alessi, who can de-age his opponents and turn them into children. If Midler gets hit by this power, she turns into a little girl wearing the very same costume.
Interestingly, while this outfit has been featured in one of manga artbooks, leading some fans to declare it canon, the anime adaptation, which is known for it’s strong loyalty to the source material and listening to author’s input, restores her original looks, while giving her a race lift, suggesting this is the one author prefers.
Video game fans consider Capcom removing R-Mika slapping her butt from Street Fighter or Blizzard removing Tracer’s controversial pose from Overwatch an assault on creative freedom. They defend Quiet’s ridiculous outfit to the point of yelling that people who mod the game to replace it are “playing it wrong”, because it’s “straying away from Kojima’s vision”. But somehow they are not up the arms at Capcom forcing Hirohiki Araki to stray away from his vision? Go figure…
I… don’t want to know what was Capcom’s in-studio explanation for making her look like that.
This is the main character of a fantasy-science fiction comic book Falka. When I was 12 these books has been published in my country. Even then I was sure it was straight up porn.
Continuing with the theme of female-lead fantasy adventure comics that could be easily mistaken for pornography… How (in)appropriate!