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”.
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.
First let us begin with a summary of many of the reblogs by individuals who have very predictable responses.
The basic arguments being spewed up are the usual suspects:
- “If you knew about this fictional thing then you’d know…”
- “I found something I think is good so the rest doesn’t matter…”
- “Girls/you don’t play games so it doesn’t matter…”
Basically all variants on the “I am threatened by examination of my hobby and would prefer we maintain a world where I am unfairly celebrated than move toward one where I am expected to recognize other people as human.”
Really there’s only two reasons we keep getting this trash:
- Developers who want to make out their personal fantasies and expect everyone to praise them unconditionally for it
- Creepy Marketing Guy convinces the stakeholders to follow an old myth that sounds appealing but, in reality, doesn’t work.
Obviously, neither of these is really a good explanation so instead of the honest truth we get the a worrying state on ongoing denial of both the problem and the consequences.
I figured this would be an appropriate throwback, in the light of Ubisoft, one of developers mentioned, being exposed last month for their massive sexual misconduct claims, and then, on top of that, evidence of absolutely shamelessly toxic, cishet white male-centric development philosophy at their studios, despite bragging about having diverse teams working on games.
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.
Remember that time when dudebros declared that Fury in Darkseiders III, sporting a (vaguely jiggly) metal boobplate, was “unfeminine and almost no more clearly recognized as woman”?
Well, now we have a version of that devoted to sexualization of the undead. How… precious.
If this is that dude’s idea of “satire”, I prescribe him reading more Point and Clickbait before attempting again to commit his comedic genius to a keyboard.
Throwing this post back not because sexyfying the undead is particularly topical* right now, but because of the point it’s making about satire at the end.
As I explained in the comments under the original copy of this post, “Political Correctness Gone Mad: I Barely Want To Fuck This Zombie” is clearly satire.
“For the sake of boner culture, hopefully the sexy outfits are still viable option via the gear customization” is really not.
Believe me, I would not be able to make a whole rhetoric bingo if I haven’t seen a big deal of people unironically defending stuff along the lines of “boner culture”.
* Sadly, it’s always topical to some degree
I’m a lady-type person with a large rack (Around european cup size 75j-80j). At this size binding doesn’t really work (at least for me – sports bras don’t really do enough either) What kind of armor you reckon would work best for a large bust?
I don’t have a lot of experience in building armor myself, but I reached out to a friend who’s been into extremely enthusiastic for several decades and happens to be a woman. Her recommendation is a globose breastplate with padding for additional support. Something like these:
It is possible that one made off a peg suit you, but more likely that you would need one custom made. Regardless you’d be going to a smooth deflective curve such as in the illustrations above. Plate armor like this is actually quite roomy in order to allow movement, so there’ll be plenty of room to add supportive padding.
Globose breastplates are held on with a harness, so with firm padding should be able to restrain even the mightiest bosom. Similar armoring techniques were often used when making custom suits for rotund nobles, Henry VIII of England armors show a gradually increasing girth throughout his life.
(Photo by Chuck, King Henry VIII’s armor in the Tower of London’s Royal Armouries.)
Today’s throwback: a question that comes up in our inbox and notes sometimes: whether large-breasted people need special adjustments in armor.
And a quick reminder that since all armor requires padding underneath, resulting in a
silhouette across the genders, people with masculine and feminine figures can’t be easily told apart when in full armor. Height and weight of a person are much bigger factor in armor customization than secondary sex characteristics are.
See also: How do I Armor? – Common Gender Signifiers and Armor | whole How do I Armor? comic post series | Resource & Reference tags
Hi LG. So on the female power fantasy thing: I agree that the sexy warrior babe thing is overused, and women should have WAY more options. But, in interractive media-video games & rpgs, shouldn’t women have the OPTION of playing that, as well as not?
Nope! No more sexy! Sexy has been hereby banned. No more sexy for anyone!
Please remember that I’m a dude, and my opinion on what media “should” or “shoudl not” look like in regards to a) how women are portrayed and b) what women should enjoy is pretty close to irrelevant. I try to throw in a cheap joke here or there, or offer some practical application for what women (or any other group regularly discrimnated against) have said about it. I’m not about to start criticizing women for liking what they like or how they interact with video games.
I will say that any game that markets itself on it’s ability to appeal to the male gaze (especially through super-sexy / absurdly revealing clothing on its female characters) isn’t doing it for their female audience. I’m all for fully-featured, rich, comprehensive character customization, both in physical traits and clothing. Let folks do what they want with their character (including skin tone, muscle & fat composition, size, height, weight, etc). I’m more suspicious of a game in which it is incredibly difficult to find female clothing that is both functional and non-revealing.
I’m guessing @bikiniarmorbattledamage can offer better insight into this, but for me, I’m casting a side-eye to any video game that markets itself using half-clad women as marketing gimmicks.
This is a nice summary of the quoted post and of what our response to things like “do you want to ban all sexyness in media?” is.
Thank you, @lawfulgoodness
In a perfect world, all RPGs will give the player the ability to play as any gender, and wear armor in all levels of protection/nudity. But that’s not the world we live in.
We don’t want to remove all sexiness from all mediums in past, present and future. What we want is for the media’s default representation of women to NOT just be “hot chicks” for the presumed cis het male audience to consume as objects. We just want women in media to be treated with as much respect, complexity and care as the men. And maybe then we can also explore more male power fantasies besides just “big muscle.”
if your female character doesn’t look like she has lived the life she leads and you can’t get a sense for her actual personality by looking at her because you’re too focused on making her pretty and perfect and palatable it’s bad character design and you should feel bad
It’s worth noting that, generally speaking – this is why concept artists want to be concept artists. They want to convey feelings, story and inspire the imagination. It’s not uncommon for concept artists to do staggering amounts of research in order to find ways to convey a type of character in a type of time period.
So, if you come across a product created by a major studio where they have extensive executive and production staff – it’s safe to say that any aggressively boring female character designs are done at the behest of a particular type of individual pushing a ridiculous myth to try to seem like a genius.
It is important to call out this kind of absurdity, not just to try to reduce the amount of gratuitous objectification in media – but to also spare these poor artists the indignity of having a guy try to convince them he invented anime tiddy.
Also to note, some creators try to “justify” their boring, pandering designs. Character design should speak for itself. You shouldn’t need someone there to explain it, unless there’s worldly lore the viewer needs to know (like family crests, or magic stuff, etc).
Does the character look nothing like a sniper, while the creator insists that she is? Probably a bad design. Is the character’s backstory strangely convoluted, while also not impacting the character at all besides making an excuse for her to look hot? Probably a bad design. Is the character wearing clothes anachronistic with the setting, just to look hot? Definitely a bad design, unless she sneaked in some stockings from a parallel future universe. (Looking at you, Witcher 1.)
Don’t let em fool ya.
Personally I am one hundred percent supportive of orcs being allowed to feel pretty whenever they want. I don’t understand the final panel, surely it should be full of celebration!
The whole above comic, though, we’re throwing back today as a reminder that @thehawkeyeinitiative (as well as @theliberationofmanfire) was a thing because nerds, especially white cishet dudes, are socialized to not question female bikini warriors in media… But as soon as sexy male equivalent is put forward, they suddenly can empathize with how uncomfortable women feel about objectified female characters.
While the sexy Hawkeye and Manfire blogs are largely archival (and marked NSFW, because Tumblr is a hellsite) these days, there’s always @magicmeatmarch every year 🙂