Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cross Posting Fun

My friend Alexa posted an article about a Comic-Con panel here, responding (as I believe) to this article here. This is my response to her, posted on the comments on her post.

Hey Alexa,

I wasn't at the panel so I don't necessarily feel able to comment on the appropriateness (or not) of Jacques-BellĂȘtete's comments or drawing, but I know you're in part responding to the article on this panel on Kotaku which detected an undercurrent of sexism in what he said and what he drew, so if some of my points seem a little out of left field it's because I'm responding in that context.

I agree that idealized and exaggerated characters aren't unique to games, and I certainly agree that looking at beautiful people is one of the wonderful draws of visual media like video games or film and television. That said, I think you're drawing a bit of a false dichotomy here; I don't think the issue is really, "to show breasts or not." The issue is that there's a tendency in video games, which Jacques-BellĂȘtete seems to be following, to always sexualize female characters and not male characters.

When I say sexualize I don't just mean "make a character sexy as opposed to not sexy," as there clearly are sexy male characters. The issue is in how a character's sex appeal is presented to the player. Take your example of Commander (John) Shepard as a sexy male character. Fair enough. But Shepard is sexy without us ever getting an ass shot, or a crotch shot, or a close-up of his mostly naked chest. Actually, that's one of the things that makes Commander (Jane) Shepard so incredibly cool: she has all the same camera angles and animations as Broshep, so none of them are designed to show off her tits or ass. How often do you see that, a female action hero who's ass is never emphasized once? Now turn it around: how often do you see a male action hero who's ass is at any point emphasized?

The issue I see isn't "Why do you draw women looking so hot?" Nobody has a problem with that. The issue I see is, "Why do you only draw women looking hot while you draw men doing tons of other stuff too?" All too often the main criteria for female character design - in video games and in other media - is "Is she beautiful? Do I want to sleep with her?" Whereas the main criteria for male character design is "Does this design express what's important about the character?"

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