Girl in the Machine
Monday, July 16, 2007
Bra? What Bra?

In the vast and exciting paradigm of video games, fighters provide some of the most common examples of grossly exaggerated stereotypes in femininity and masculinity. Granted, what's important in a fighting game is the gameplay of the combat itself and not an engrossing story or deep characters. However, game developers far too often fall back on needlessly overused gender roles to delineate these characters. There are many familiar faces among the hulking and emotionless specimens of raw masculine power and slender, buxom portraits of smoldering feminine beauty. Why do we see these particular archetypes in fighting games again and again?

The age-old disparity between male strength and female strength burns brightly on in fighters: men must be physically strong while women must be alluring. However, these stereotypes are severely amped up in the fighting game context. Often enough, "masculinity" reaches levels of pure machismo (preposterous amounts of muscle, extreme aggression) and "femininity" approaches misogyny in its emphasis on sexual characteristics (comically large breasts, crotch-exhibiting moves). For example, in the Soul Calibur series, there are no female equivalents to the thundering heavyweights Astaroth, Rock, and Necrid, while pretty Sophitia and Seung Mi-na run around flashing their white panties with every kick and leap.

This disparity unsurprisingly reveals just what it always does: men dominate, women seduce. A particular trait of machismo attests to a superiority in fitness and strength. In the framework of a fighter (wherein all participants are obviously in combat), the exaggerated gender roles make the strangeness of female physical prowess more "acceptable." While there is a wealth of opportunity to see women beating the crap out of men, or even beating the crap out of each other without the tired "cat-fight" cliche, their frequent hypersexualization keeps the notion of female strength from being taken seriously. The gratuitous panty shots and exorbitant breasts lovingly rendered to move independently of their owners facilitate the idea of a physically superior female by transforming women fighters into strippers and porn stars. One need not look farther than Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball to find sufficient evidence of this manner.

As grim as it all appears, this isn't all true across the board. While fighting games certainly have their formulaic characters, we have more choices than just Impassive Over-Muscled Strong Guy and Hot Booby Ninja Chick Who Wears No Bra. Feminine men often make appearances, such as resident pretty boys Vega of Street Fighter or Alba from King of Fighters, and sometimes we get pleasant rarities like Guilty Gear's Bridget, a young yoyo-wielding boy dressed as a nun. Unfortunately, these exceptions are usually just as the above: all male. Even more unfortunate is the irregularity of women of color in the character rosters.

Fighters' hyperbolic gender roles present a conspicuously male bias. Simply reversing the roles reveals their absurdity: imagine playing a game full of robust female body builders and men performing spin-kicks around enormous, turgid erections. And honestly, as fun as that would be, I can't imagine it would get by very well in today's society.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 12:09 AM + Link to this post

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