Can something be done or should people “just deal with it”?
Recently, an issue came up regarding a newly released video game on the Nintendo Switch called Xenoblade Chronicles 2. An image of one character named Dahlia surfaced that troubled a lot of people, and as a result they took to twitter. Dahlia was designed as a character that is mixed between some type of animal and a woman. She was drawn and designed to be voluptuous and to also have overly large breasts.
We have to take into account that this is a Japanese game and their perception of certain topics along with their culture is different from ours. Sexuality or the showing of sexual themes in different mediums isn’t frowned upon there in Japan as it is here in the U.S. It’s been part of their custom probably since the 80’s to portray the female characters as voluptuous and sometimes overbearing. Some may argue this has become more prevalent due to western comics showing characters in skin-tight suits.
Some people will also argue that this can be harmful to kids that read manga/comics or watch anime/cartoons. To that point, I agree. I believe there are certain things that children should not see. Any material that has sexual themes and situations obviously shouldn’t be exposed to kids.
I spoke to a couple of people to get their views on this topic and here’s what they had to say:
Me: What are your thoughts on the hypersexualization of female characters in video games and comics?
Janinah Juliet Rosario III: I mean, in a way I’m just happy to be represented in these mediums even if it is in a hypersexualized way. You know, a lot of women, specifically feminists, would be bothered by it. *But maybe because of the industry I’m in, I see the power in our sexuality. And until there comes a day where we are respected and represented without our sexuality, might as well use it to our advantage. Now I think if there were more women writers, it might be different. But come on, even Wonder Woman is one of the most sexiest characters ever, but she’s also the strongest. Lara Croft is kicking ass in double d’s and booty shorts but hey, she’s kicking ass!
Me: I see your point. So let’s do this: take yourself out of your industry, if possible, and see it from a more objectified position. What would you say?
J.J.R3: I’d say what I said, get more women writers and it’ll change. This is all coming from men’s viewpoint so what does one expect?
The same question was asked of someone else who wished to remain anonymous. For the sake of titles, I’ll just name her “A”.
A: You are talking about two industries that were heavily male dominated so it’s totally understandable why women would be so hypersexualized but not acceptable. A lot of comics, I feel, are trying to make their characters more realistic and relatable but how can they do that when their idol is a woman with chin high perky tits, a waist the diameter of a bagel, and then huge hips? How can a girl expect to look up to a woman like that?
From a woman’s perspective it feels shitty because you give these boys expectations of what a woman should look like and not all of them do. I certainly don’t. Society already expects a woman to look and act a certain way. Comics and video games should be an escape from all of that. I would love to see a more real Harley Quinn. I’m not saying she can’t dress sexy. Show some cleavage, show your midriff, just don’t make her fight in 10 inch heels. However, I’ve learned to accept it because at the end of the day it’s just fantasy role-playing.
Me: Do you think there’s a way for the characters to be portrayed as having SOME sex appeal without dressing provocatively?
A: They’ve done it with Harley Quinn in the new Justice League game. She’s still wearing leather pants and shit but it’s more realistic. Boots, a sexy shirt, a jacket…it’s more realistic. Better than Ivy in the Batman games. WHERE WERE HER PANTS?!?!
It’s functional and sexy, in my opinion. Tifa is a great example of what a woman character should be like.
As you can see, this type of portrayal of female characters is normalized to the point where it affects a woman’s self-confidence, psyche, and based on the conversation, it depicts what “should be expected”. Don’t think I’m singling out how the Japanese, because it’s equally bad here in the U.S. However, to be fair to the companies and the creators, there is a system in place to help with this. I’m talking about the ESRB rating system for video games. The ratings range from “E” for Everyone to “M” for Mature. I think that’s the highest level since I haven’t seen anything above M for video games. The Comics Code Authority(CCA) used to regulate comic books but that was over and done with just a few years ago(ended 2011). This happened because they were too strict with their regulations. Read about it here.
Of course everyone knows about the rating system for movies, no need to explain that one. It’s our job as parents and guardians to monitor what we expose our youth to. If you feel it’s okay for your 10 year old to see women fighting each other in skimpy bikini’s then that’s on you. I hope you have a very good explanation handy for that.
Coming back to Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for a moment. There was a point that was attempted to be made to make this game look bad, as if it’s degrading women by insinuating they are only objects. However, in this game that isn’t the case. Some of the characters in this game are weapons, yes you read that correctly. They are weapons. They take on a human/humanoid form and they are quite powerful. From what I have seen from game play videos they aren’t degraded, talked down to, or mistreated. They are in fact, treated as an equal to their male counterparts. To make this a bit more interesting, this particular character(Dahlia) was designed by a woman. Who knows if this mastermind was influenced by Japan’s norms and customs or if this is based on her own beliefs and volition? All we know is the designs were approved.
As for my answer to my own question: something has been done, but we can always do more. No one has to “just deal” with anything. Of course this topic is a rabbit hole that goes deeper, and at the end of the day sex or sexual themes sell. It’s what draws people in to indulge in these mediums. I’d love to talk about it with you guys. Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts!