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Nothing New Under The Sun - Mixing it up some more
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Mixing it up some more
I'm not the only one out here doing this now - here's kkglinka's redo spoofing a recent Catwoman cover, and I've seen a couple takes on the Tigra Beatdown* and a couple others, which even in rough form have (along with a grisly/implausible real Red Sonja cover which still doesn't come near the usual objectification/eroticization of violence against women in pop culture) made at least a couple of male posters concede that they now begin to "get it," so it's having effect, just like raising holy heck about the use of femaleness as an epithet is beginning to result in change on the political forums (yes, mirabile dictu, I really did see a dozen strangers smack someone down for casually using "pussy" as a synonym for "coward" the other day on dKos!)

Here's something from a different genre, the recent Heavenly Sword video game which of course has its "strong" heroine posed in an impossible/implausible skimpy costume and ass-focusing position on its cover, and of course has fanboys drooling over it and proclaiming it not gratuitous simultaneously.

Out of curiosity to see what the costume alone would look like on a male figure, and if it's something likely to be seen on a hero avatar any time soon, or if it was just the butt-out pose that made it seem gratuitous, I rejiggered the promotional wallpaper for the game that has a frontal view of the main chara in what is a surprisingly non-sexified stance and would not be at all problematic - if she weren't wearing an "Oriental Fantasy" version of the Battle Bikini.


Here's the original: (click pics for full size image)


and the genderswapped version, using the Hiro 3 figure with "realistic" and "muscle definition" morphs applied and the clothing retailored in Photoshop:


Oh yeah, that's obviously a practical costume, isn't it? I'm sure we'll see it on a cover dude any day now, right!


* Shorter Bendis: "Nobody cares about uppity catgirls getting randomly depowered and beaten up." Shorter Bendis fanclub: "Catgirls only exist to be exploited, so why complain about it?" So much for the enlightened 21st-c. treatment of the chara introduced to be the embodiment of "Hear me roar!" back in the '70s...

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Comments
shininghalf From: shininghalf Date: October 26th, 2007 05:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
::spit, LOL:: In the box-art version, Hiro there would be flashing us! Just look right under the edge of that hip-sash...
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: October 26th, 2007 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

snerk

I know! I do want to do that one, but I'm lazy and it's going to be a lot harder to set up and get the angles matching. And the wallpaper was helpful in that it reduced the variables, where you NEVER find a guy posed with a sword like that. (I started a project that got out of hand, trying to set up matching images of all the default Poser 5 set poses for M and F figures, and how completely *bizarre* they look when applied to a male figure - the stock "swordswoman" poses (very like this cover), when applied to the guys, create a surreal Conan Chorus Line effect.
acaciaonnastik From: acaciaonnastik Date: October 26th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
He's almost flashing us now. ~snerk~
From: nancylebov Date: October 26th, 2007 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
For some reason, the facial expressions don't work out the same on the female and male versions. She looks serious and a little angry, he looks like he's ready to cry.

In re the game cover illo: Any theories about what men get out of that sort of dangerous woman picture? She's clearly intended to be aiming that big blade at the viewer. Is it like the scarier sort of romance fiction, or something else? (I started reading Nightfever, and put it down when I realized criminal assault/no information guy was supposed to be the love interest. It's a pity, the basic premise wasn't bad.)

Do you ever read Nora Robb? I just read her _Innocence in Death_, and it could be worse, but it's got some interestingly creepy features.
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: October 26th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

I *suspect* that it has something to do with what's coded as ok

for depicted women vs ok for depicted men - we're now used to seeing women portrayed with that up-from-under pout being held up as "badass" even tho' historically in pinup art/old movies/advertising art the up-from-under pout was coded as "seductive"; but when you put a guy into the head down, looking up from under pose, unless he's grimacing and snarling (masculine coded expressions) then the older "seductive" and therefore "feminine" reading overrides the picture. (I went in and *heavily* butched up the face, btw, to try to counteract that, giving him stubble and rugged bone structure, just because the Impression of the up-from-under pout is *so* overridingly feminine, just like the spraddle-legged hipshot pose of the typical supposedly-badass girl-with-gun.) If both of them had been instead looking down haughtily at the viewer, head high and angled, I suspect that many people would read *her* as more masculine and "bitchy," but it would take some heavy-duty editing of the background to test it, due to all the floating hair.

Any theories about what men get out of that sort of dangerous woman picture?

You know, I've asked Traditional Values Conservative guys who nevertheless while pressing modesty on all their womenfolks, admit to being turned on by, say, Sexy Biker Gang Girl In Leather With A Whip pictures, or the Warrior Chick on the Heavy Metal dragon, and I've never gotten a coherent answer as to why they simultaneously a) believe that Women Should Be Dainty, Feminine, And Elegant to be Beautiful, a la Jackie Kennedy, and b) Strong Agressive Women IRL are majorly Threatening, and b) like to look at Warrior Woman type pinups even over and above the usual simpering, nonthreatening Vargas girl. They don't seem to be able to explain or reconcile it themselves, surprise, surprise.

But based on comments and things gamers have said, all around, and other commentary about stuff like the Final Girl phenomenon in horror movies, there's several contradictory things going on, and on the simplest level it's just Eye Candy - here's a pretty sexy butt and some boobs for you chaps to look at when you're killing monsters, just as with Tomb Raider.

On other, possible subconscious levels, there may be something of the Inner Dweeb recognizing that he's not anything like Conan, and feeling less inferior and more like "hey, I could do that!" if there's a girl on screen - I've heard that theory advanced altho' I'm not sure I buy it, but I did come across yesterday something interesting, talking about why *black warrior women* are such a common trope in SF, and what might be the reasons for it (is the sense that a black character is less threatening if female, or that black people are "natural" warriors, or both?) so I'm willing to allow this might be part of it.

I almost think that the response is supposed to be something like the old 70s iconic images of a cobra (with or without Flames) that you'd see on T-shirts and airbrush vans and album covers and stuff - here's something that's pretty and dangerous and you can have it for your manly-warrior-totem! Like a ship's figurehead.

Do you ever read Nora Robb? I just read her _Innocence in Death_, and it could be worse, but it's got some interestingly creepy features.

Ooh, yeah, we did Nora a while back, because I stumbled across her Celtick Fantasy stuff which was just horrifying, and so I had to check out her "futuristic" sfnal mysteries and yeah, you're right, it could be *worse* but...eesh. I think there's tags for her stuff in the sidebar, and there are excerpts in the posts, but be warned it's eyebleedingly awful. (turning the Morrigan into a Glinda-like angelic-fairy-godmother in a BTVS-knockoff kind of lowered the bar for Paranormal Romance right down to zero...but her understanding of RL and what it's like to work outside the home is nonexistent, and it shows right there with her contempt for Research.)
skapusniak From: skapusniak Date: October 26th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Any theories about what men get out of that sort of dangerous woman picture?

I'm thinking you tend to see the dangerous woman pic. when *they're the protagonist*, which means a putative guy reading the comic-book or playing the game, is going to be required to identify with her. And, especially in a game which has you directly playing that character, a protagonist that *doesn't* look dangerous and threatening just isn't going work if the game/story environment is full of dangerous and threatening things that require slayage.

So there *is* actually a tension between amping up the boobage whilst skimpifying the chainmail bikinis and the requirement to have a character that a guy feels is tough enough to be a solid avatar for himself in the game.

My prediction would be the more ludicrously impractical the costume and bodyshape, the more badass the designers have to make everything else about the character to make sure that she's still read as tough enough by the player that they're willing to take on the world with as her. Hence the random, otherwise incomprehensible, outbursts of dominatrix gear you get cluttering up the place. It's guaranteed to read as both highly sexualised and highly threatening (by guys anyway), and thus provides a kind of hideous compromise for unthinking designers.

Also, I'll bet that there's a process of backformation going on. *Non*-ludicrously impractical costumes and bodyshapes will get more and more read among both the designers and the audience as lacking in badassness, because the toughness that they have to layer onto the character in other ways because of that silliness *is consistently over time getting associated with shape and costuming they're using it counteract*.

Well, it's a theory anyway :)
From: deiseach Date: October 26th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Damnation

That Catwoman cover is just - argh. Selina Kyle is tough, smart, dangerous, capable, sexy - and they think this boils down to "nipples like chapel hatpegs" (to quote Lily Savage) when being mauled by a monster-dude.

I don't think Bats would be very happy seeing his friend treated like that, guys. If some night a masked vigilante swoops down out of the darkness and duffs up the artist, well...

The "Heavenly Sword" cover is silly, too. Whatever about the way she's holding the sword, the curvy, swivelly, bendy way she's standing is totally implausible (if you're trying to hold up something heavy at arm's length, you *can't* stand like that, for goodness' sake!) Have these guys never held anything heavier than a pencil? Oh, wait...

Yeah, the male re-do is very, very revealing (ahem). The top half of the costume is not the worst I've ever seen (though I'd love to know what gives these artists the impression that women have torsos of steel and therefore don't need the same kind of armour that males would), but the bottom!

That silly little strip of gauze doing nothing but making it impossible to walk in any fashion other than mincing along! As pointed out, it certainly isn't covering any areas that need covering - or is flashing your bits the new martial art?
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: October 26th, 2007 06:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

If you zoom in close, she's wearing a thong

under that armoured-belt thing - it's rust, or flesh-color, and fades in, but when I zoomed in to silo the clothing it was obviously an undergarment, so apparently a posing pouch is all the well-trained warrior needs!

Have these guys never held anything heavier than a pencil? Oh, wait...

Apparently they've never stood in front of a mirror and tried to hold a pose, either! Someone I saw around the net did for one of these covers and managed with great effort to get her spine into it for long enough to get a sketch, but complained that she almost fell over and her back muscles hurt for the rest of the day.

I don't think Bats would be very happy seeing his friend treated like that, guys. If some night a masked vigilante swoops down out of the darkness and duffs up the artist, well...

Oh, yes. Then there's this, which is getting defended around the block on the grounds that Lex is a villain, so of course he's going to do something like this! Oh yeah, that's getting regendered, all right.
antonia_tiger From: antonia_tiger Date: October 26th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: If you zoom in close, she's wearing a thong

I suppose that, with the picture being a capture of an instant of time, there are poses in cover art which are frozen movement, rather than something fixed. But I can't say I'd expect the artists to be all that good at catching the moment.

antonia_tiger From: antonia_tiger Date: October 26th, 2007 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
These artists have about as much knowledge of swords as they do of anatomy.

(I see a comment about swords being heavy--a lot of people over-estimate how much a sword weighs. But they're not light, and you need the muscle to use them.)
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: October 26th, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

also, unbalanced

I noticed how Implausible - shoot, Impossible - the swords were when I had to clone the hilts and fingers out into separate layers, and I realized there's no bloody way that they're not going to slip right out of the hands, given the disproportion between the size of the blade, the length of the grip, and the fact that the hafts are so flimsy and don't have any proper pommels. And yeah, no way is Miss Twiggy there going to be able to haul ass with not one, but *two* BFS.
antonia_tiger From: antonia_tiger Date: October 27th, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: also, unbalanced

Oh, well. here's one of my efforts.



One of Anton Kisiel's old clothing sets. He's got a pretty fair idea of what looks as though it would work.
the-willow.insanejournal.com From: the-willow.insanejournal.com Date: October 26th, 2007 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought I'd posted about heavenly sword(s) but I guess I only commented on it. Anyway the thing that pisses me off the most about her, is that she falls into a whole bundle of cliches, yet still has potential, but it's not used.

Spoilory for the game:

*

*

*

*

*

*
So she's the chosen child from some prophecy (hey I did write about this, but in relation to prophecies) that seems to have no real origin. And there's absolute shite to be had when she's born "A Worthless Girl'. Then her father changes his mind about killing her as a baby, but she grows up as her clan's scapegoat.

Then in the game she does all this shite, endures all this muck to fulfill the goal of her people. But fullfilling said goal is slowly killing her.

Then she has the bag guy in her clutches (serious bad dude - Andy Serkis in Bizzaro World) but she doesn't final move him. He gets to live, while she dies. And as she's fricking dying, she tells folk/her father that she doesn't believe she was every their reborn Heavenly Warrior anyway and that she was a failure.

My enthusiasm for 'Heroic Female Saves The World' went splat so hard it was like Barney sat on it.

Also, because it's a "martial arts drama in the guise of a game" (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/zeropunctuation/1350-Zero-Punctuation-Heavenly-Sword-and-Other-Stuff), a movie that lets in on some of the action, it's filled with cut scenes and may actually have predetermination for said character, since reviewers have mention that a player's button pressing doesn't always relate to what the character does in a fight.

So misogyny bingo + cliches + cut scenes that take away the chance to enjoy making her fight -your- way + heroine that doesn't believe she's the special one and some man will come along who'll do the job better but who dies for it ANYWAY = HUGE. Ass. Fail. For. Me.
the-willow.insanejournal.com From: the-willow.insanejournal.com Date: October 26th, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

PS

If you go to the game's website. You'll see all I'm talking about in prequel animation episodes. Plus hear the behind the scenes vignettes where her body actor (and possibly also voice actress) is happy that she's a kick ass female in a skimpy costume.

Though truthfully she might just be happy that it's a female protagonist even if she's in a skimpy costume. But it still irked me.

http://www.heavenlysword.com/
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: October 26th, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

oh wow. boooo/hisss

And yeah it could have been way cool, IFF they'd only let themselves think outside the gender role box beyond "chick w/a big fucking sword" - you can do all kinds of messing around with the prophecy tropes like we were talking about, you can subvert them and be self-referential to the cliches like the Evil Overlord LIst, but that's not it. It *would* be cool to have someone be supposed to be the Chosen One, only not - and end up doing it anyway. ("I chose *myself*" - how badass would that be, to have your Heroine say?) And why on earth would she let him go? if she's goddamn Samus with a sword, how come she doesn't get to kill the Final Boss? Oh right, girls can't be winners.

Grr, now I'm all angry too - it's really pathetic that a game like Tomb Raider is actually a *better* example of female power fantasy than this, what, ten years later? More than that now, I think--
nenya_kanadka From: nenya_kanadka Date: October 26th, 2007 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

*headdesk*

Yargh. Way to hit all the Mary Sue fanfiction notes in your original story, guys! And of COURSE she has to die tragickally for the love of Legolas some random reason... Good grief.
the-willow.insanejournal.com From: the-willow.insanejournal.com Date: October 26th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *headdesk*

Dude, you saying Mary Sue reminded me.

The game opens with her dying. And then all the stuff you do is basically relieving her memories as she tries to get back to the point where she dies. Then she dies, comes back, wins but doesn't kill the boss, then dies again (in a kind of acendy thing ala SG1).

Dude, it's in Wikipedia.
nenya_kanadka From: nenya_kanadka Date: October 26th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, the top half of that costume is actually very pretty. In another context, without the bloodstains, I'd find her much more attractive than the average T&A spandex-wearing superheroine. But then I scroll down to the waist, and *sigh*. Where's her pants (trousers)?! I don't think fighting women go out in public like that, unless they are mud-wrestling for the guys at some bar.

(And the swords just look like they're going to slip out from between her fingers, between the slick metal and the blood--there aren't any grips at all. Ouch, losing your swords and maybe cutting up your fingers at the same time. :S Ow.)

So, if she actually had PANTS, it'd be a perfectly reasonable costume--although I tend to think a little armour might be handy, eh, given that she's fighting some kind of scary bad folks (haven't seen the game so no idea what kind) with pointy heavy metal swords.

Hmm. Definitely better than most, and miles better than the box cover, which is just eurgh. Still has a few issues, though.
From: deiseach Date: October 26th, 2007 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yup, that right there is the problem

You tweak it just a bit, and it's fine for chopping up enemies in artistic gouts of bloodspray ;-)

I mean, if it was designed and sold as "Geisha Mud-Wrestling" or the likes, you'd shrug and ignore it as just idiocy.

But dumbass stuff like bad costume design and not getting to kill the bad guy after you willingly sacrifice yourself in the end?!?!!

Would you design a game in which Wellington *doesn't* get to beat Napoleon at Waterloo (and all right, yes, this could work as an AU) but not one where you slog all the way through the Peninsular Campaign, get to the very end, and then the Iron Duke snuffs it and Napoleon has to be beaten by Some Other Bloke Who Just Pops Up (and I don't mean Blucher)?

I genuinely don't see the point of having a female character in this. Why not a male? If all they are going to do is have her die pointlessly - seriously, is that it? no way that this sacrifical death will save her people after all?
the-willow.insanejournal.com From: the-willow.insanejournal.com Date: October 26th, 2007 10:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yup, that right there is the problem

The final boss lives. No one else kills him. Though the evil inside him pecks his eyes out or something like that. And he's weakened, cause evil thinks he's a punk arse wanna-be a b*sh and leaves him.
smurasaki From: smurasaki Date: October 27th, 2007 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Ouch. It's bad enough they forgot her pants, but the game is pointless to boot. Wow. That's just made of fail. (the game, not your art)
From: jenny_islander Date: October 28th, 2007 04:21 am (UTC) (Link)
This reminds me of a Larry Elmore fantasy painting I saw once and have never been able to find again. Elmore does about 50 percent tacky cheesecake for basement dwellers and 50 percent female characters who actually look like they could do something. And then there's the one where he puts all of the cliches--sleeveless cutoff top, skirt reduced to long dingly-danglies fore and aft around a bikini bottom, no cloak/armor/pack but lots of bling, high-heeled boots, big hair, terrified expression, backed into a corner and nothing but a stick to defend himself against the leering loincloth-clad troglodytes.

Only it's beefcake.
From: deiseach Date: October 28th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

That sounds perfect for Daniel!

Daniel Long, wearer of the WitchCup, facing off against his villainous counterpart - and that reminds me, every superhero (snicker) needs a villainous counterbalance.

Who would be Daniel's Arch-Enemy? The Luthor to his Superman, the Joker to his Batman, the Mr. Sinister to his X-Men? (And Mr Sinister genuinely scares me, folks).

Would it be the dreaded Woman Wearing Sensible Shoes? (gasp!) the fearsome FemiNazi (oh, noes!) Or the visually and imaginatively impaired (but that just makes him even more dangerous) L'Artiste des Livres Comiques, who insists on trying to give Daniel (whom he thinks is Danielle, due to the bad eyesight thing) silicon implants because Babes Need Big Boobs and The Bigger The Boobs, The Better The Superheroine? (save me, somebody!)
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: October 29th, 2007 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)

ooh, linkies?

I definitely need to see that - it's exactly the kind of thing I'm trying to do with WitchCup etc!
Re: ooh, linkies? - (Anonymous) - Expand
antonia_tiger From: antonia_tiger Date: November 8th, 2007 07:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Realistic Art is Distinct From Being A Sexist Schmuck.

There are times when I go around, looking at comics, and wondering what makes something good or bad. And the depiction of women is generally pretty rotten. Somehow, if they're anything other than the victim to be rescued, they're presented in a way that suggests moral deficiency. Drop a building on a woman, and she just has to sprawl in a sexually suggestive way.

And then there's the general character design, which seems to draw its inspiration from porn movies.

But, art being art, there are different ways of drawing all this, and some seem to work, at least to the extent that the artist can get away with the distortions. Look at Sin City: the art doesn't even try for photo-realism. That allows Frank Miller to distort some things, such as women with over-long legs. Some of it is in viewpoint angles and perspective, but it never quite looks wrong. The usual T&A features are there, but he's not careless about the anatomy.

I figure you'll all know the criticisms of the sexism in Sin City. OK, the characters aren't people like us, but even at the most general level you have bias. The men don't have to be drop-dead gorgeous. The women do. Not all the women may be conscious of it, but the men have guns as their chief weapon, while the women use sex. The men are extraordinary because of what they do, while the women depend on how they look.

It can make looking in a mirror a rather depressing act.

Age doesn't help.

To be honest, the porn business seems to be more willing than other visual media to employ older women. It looks like a fetishisation of age, and maybe playing on fantasies of the teen and his best friend's mother, and it's not all that positive an image.

Anyway, just how old is Batman?

But I digress. Sin City is an example of how the flaws in comics are not limited to the competence of the artist. The sexist claptrap would be there even if every inch of every page were crafted by a Da Vinci or a Van Gogh.

It's been a long time since I bought a comic.
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