(Not the lack of concern for people who’s sexuality is empowered men, or who prefer to play their fantasy adventure games without tits and ass in their face)
My main thoughts on this were already summarized very succinctly by Jack Saint in a single, evergreen tweet:
So, my recommended guideline for distinguishing between to two types – since the shitty ones will always claim to be the well meaning ones when called out is:
Are they disappointed that Blizzard has not yet done anything meaningful to help real people who have been suffering due to their obscene behaviour, or are they concerned the imaginary people are no longer interested in helping them fap?
Because trust me, the latter were going to have this reaction regardless.
However, whenever something that comes out to challenge this… its always the same cishet men who make this claim who also cry about a male character not meeting their expectations.
That’s because, unsurprisingly given that they’re usually designed by men, those supposedly exploitative images are generally made by men, for men to fulfil not just their fantasy of power but also of being some weird form of hyper masculinity.
Appealing to women is not a priority they actually care about, only the fantasy that their ideal would definitely get them laid. Many don’t allow themselves to consider if its appealing to men-loving-men… and well, they certainly don’t think about nonbinary people or anyone on the asexual spectrum.
Of course, if you read this blog, you almost certainly already knew these guys only thing about themselves – but I thought you’d enjoy the hilarity of them telling on themselves so spectacularly.
This is why we don’t trust explanations for why female protagonists have to have convoluted sexy costumes…. because if nothing else it means that they’ve decided they’re comfortable with making that a cornerstone of their brand.
And… I don’t even know what to do with this except cringe.
So, as you or may not have seen the hilarity of brodudes shitting themselves in anger that the new iteration of Lola Bunny which is going to appear in Ready PlayerSpace Jam was designed to be family friendly and appeal to young girls, rather than be a recreation of porny fan art of the character. (They literally claimed a fan art by a smut artist was the “original”) (VICE article here)
This magnificent tweet by InspectorNerd highlights why what we talk about on Bikini Armor Battle Damage is an important and often overlooked aspect of design for female characters (never male characters) and also another brief point I want to cover first.
Every now and again we do get people spamming us with out of context links to quotes from large busted women who, generally speaking, enjoy been seen as attractive but are sick of being reduced down to their bust size. They supply these as though it is absolute proof that the male gaze is perfect, and if you critique the design of fictional characters – you’re attacking these real women.
(This is why we never just “relax” after a positive example, way too many properties do this kind of back sliding as soon as they are proved successful and execs invite a certain type of devil into the decision making process)
I am talking specifically about women who have large breasts and:
Are sick of being treated as hypersexual because of their bodies
Are sick of having to pay extra or buy alternatives to clothes they want because companies don’t cater for their “desirable” shape
Are sick of, at events like LARPs, paintballs, kayaking etc, being given gear made for smaller chested women and having their complaints about it being uncomfortable or impractical for them go unheard, ignored or ridiculed
Now I said “selectively” above because I noticed that among the group I looked over there was a distinct trend of “liking” posts yelling at Anita, and not liking posts calling for people not to automatically sexualize big boobs – and a lot of liking more misogynistic posts that were very insulting to women in general.
All of this is to say that when we have these conversations, it is important to remember that the goal is to have representation and inclusion in all kinds of fantasies for all kinds of people – and assholes will never hesitate to try to play people against each other in order to try to keep a bigger their overly privileged position.
Apparently a lot of people are having… polite conversations [/sarcasm] about the tiddy booplate puppet being 100% okay because not only is this parody, but the design was the idea of her player/voice actress, who’s a woman of color and size (and known for raunchy sense of humor).
No-one’s here to judge how empowered (and/or hilarious) a performer feels about playing a character with giant breasts and bikini armor, but shielding an uninspired, sexist choice in a mainstream commercial project from criticism with female co-creator is insidious as fuck.
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:
Congrats, Blizzard! You officially care about diverse female appearances as little Disney does! (image sources: [x] & [x])
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.
I am really struggling to write academically about this trend of developers making up bad excuses for not including women because what I really want to say is that it sucks and it’s adding insult to injury and could you please just be honest and say you don’t wanna.
Oh yeah, I’m sick of it too. And it feels like it just keeps happening and it’s insulting to our intelligence. Like
Ubisoft: We can’t have a female protagonist because they’re too hard to animate!
Logical Retort: What about all those female characters you already animated?
What they should have admitted: We didn’t want to make a woman protagonist.
Konami: Quiet can’t wear clothes because she’s infected by a parasite that makes her breathe through her skin and she’d suffocate!
Logical Retort:Well then how come that other guy with the same parasite was covered head to toe?
What they should have admitted: We wanted her to be eye candy.
Bungie: Cortana is rendered without any clothes because it gives her a psychological advantage over her opponents!
Logical Retort:Then how come the “male” AIs are rendered with clothing?
What they should have admitted: We wanted her to be eye candy.
Nintendo: Link can’t be a woman because no one would relate to them!
Logical Retort: 48% of gamers would probably love to see a character like them. And much of the other 52% may appreciate the novelty.
What they should have admitted: We really like making the exact same concept over and over.
Stop. Your BS excuses are honestly almost more insulting than the truth.
When not insisting that “sex sells”, Creepy Markerting Guy and his Creepy Executive buddies, are literally on record saying that “women (as protagonists) do not sell”. And pushing back against their development teams fighting for even slightest bit of inclusivity in their games.
We’ve been saying for years, one way or another, that there’s a direct connection between toxic white masculinity and the refusal in entertainment industry, including games, to acknowledge women as more than eye candy and that people other than white straight cis men deserve to have their stories told. We’re not surprised by the disturbing revelations – there were similar ones before. Moreover, the product itself reflects the toxic environment it was made in, if you know where to look.