Brigitte and Overwatch’s continous female design problem
We talked already about Brigitte’s costume, but there’s a whole lot of other issues about her character design that shouldn’t be overlooked. Again, it’s a nice idea to have a new lady in actual armor in the game, though we wouldn’t be BABD if we didn’t point out some obvious and less obvious problems that can be spotted with her.
She’s, after Moira, another white European lady in a row, while still the closest to black female representation among playable heroes is Orisa, a robot (and before anyone says it – nope, none of the dark-skinned female characters are black).
For a game that prides itself in having diverse international cast, Overwatch can not imagine people of color color coming from places that wouldn’t be POC-dominant already (also lots of their heroes of color somehow happen to be morally dubious compared to white ones). And just because Brigitte is a pre-established character doesn’t yet excuse prioritizing adding her to the game over someone with different background.
It’s kind of funny how after being unnamed for no reason in her last major media appearance, the Reinhardt animated short, now Brigitte got elevated from a supporting lore character to one of main heroes. This, paired with ridiculous lack of consistency in her cross-media appearances gives us a strong feeling that no-one at Blizzard is overseeing writing and art direction of Overwatch as a franchise. Fans who spot constant retcons in the story would agree.
Speaking of no visual consistency, seems like from comics to the animated short to the actual game Brigitte finished her long journey from a unique-looking person to another standard issue pretty face.
And no, different artists working on each of those appearances isn’t an excuse for how only her hair and skintone remain relatively consistent. Her crucial features like jawline, freckles, nose shape and size, how big her eyes are and how strong her chin is shouldn’t alter so widely just because of art style change. Blizzard is perfectly capable of making and using style guides – and when they don’t, it’s either by choice or negligence.
And if you wondered what we meant by “standard issue pretty face”, this pic, for obvious reasons, has gained some major mileage around the Internet:
Not to mention that Blizzard can’t make up their mind on what Brigitte’s body type is supposed to be. Is she thin and curvy as virtually every other Overwatch lady? Is she almost as buff as Zarya? Something inbetween? Who knows.
I saw some fans trying to excuse her twig arms from Christmas comic as being possibly earliest in the timeline, but no official channel would confirm or deny any speculation. Overwatch is pretty satisfied with fans using their headcanons to justify whatever information the story canon won’t commit to. Why make an effort when fans can do your job for you?
“Brigitte Lindholm, squire to Reinhardt Wilhelm, is a former mechanical engineer who has decided to take up arms and fight on the front lines to protect those in need.”
If I didn’t know anything about this character and was just reading her background blurb, I would be imagining a character design more akin to this:
Why build a regular armor and shield when I can pilot a 12-foot-tall exoskeleton? Her father builds turrets during combat, it would have been cool if she had skills related to building and adjusting her own armor in-combat.
Her design doesn’t inform me of her character at all, which is a problem with several of the Overwatch cast (mostly ladies, I wonder why that is). She wears armor, but so does Pharah; is she also a soldier? She has no welding mask or a tool belt that would indicate that she’s a mechanic type. I get that she doesn’t want to just fix things on the sidelines, but she does throw out armor for her allies. It isn’t a stretch to flavor it as her fixing her team’s equipment in the heat of battle, and she does get a welding mask in a different skin but not the primary one?
Her color scheme is almost the same as Mercy’s, with silver (instead of white), yellow and black being the core, which really isn’t helping that same-face problem, Blizzard. Not to mention the shapes are very similar to Pharah’s. There’s just nothing new here design-wise, and I am disappointed.
So since the screaming baby rage machine is still going full throttle, it’s probably worth bringing this back to highlight how this issue goes and the general expectations regarding fictional buff ladies.
After decades of pandering, capital-G gamers will accept buff ladies if:
- They’re clearly in the service of a manly (cishet) man
- They have some cute costuming to make them non-threatening
- They are easily Disneyfied
They will lose their shit if the lady:
- Has no binding loyalties to any (cishet)
- Has the same level of utilitarian style fashion as a standard male protagonist
- Is clearly not designed primarily to appeal to men
It’s never really about what they say it is – it’s always about “does this clearly prioritize me above everyone else, to the extent of excluding others”.