Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Feminist Stance on Bayonetta

Confident. Bold. Dynamic. And in charge of herself.
Yep. Feminist.

It’s no surprise to me that I am a fan of Bayonetta. But it’s probably a huge shock to a few people who read my blog because of all of the things I speak about, Bayonetta is so far over on the line of rational feminist sanity that I should be bashing on it left and right.

From the first CGI sequence, Bayonetta is all out there in the glory of being over-sexualized and saturated for the eyes that they cannot comprehend the vision of austere lush being thrown into their faces. And then you have to shake your head out of its sexualized-coma and start fighting the bad angels. It is so blatantly obvious that Platinum Games designed the game in such a style that you’d need to be hit with a hammer if you don’t realize it. And if you are that dense well then you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog anyway. In all of its hyper-sexed up senses, Bayonetta forces the gamer to look at how the industry has grown in some aspects, changed very little in others, and to confront our views of sexism. For all intents and purposes, the only way for the community to see how bad sexism is, is to be confronted with it head on and Bayonetta does just that.

One of the features to the game that I feel a number of people overlook is just how authoritative Bayonetta is. When she speaks to Rodin, it’s on an even playing field. He respects her just as she respects him as business partners and equals. There is no mussing about with her looks and charm. She acquires the tools that she needs through him without any jokes about her image. In fact as you play the game, you’ll find how little, to almost non-existent, that characters comment on her appearance. It’s not until Bayonetta blatantly throws her sexuality at the gamer, that we are confronted with her image and how little people within the game world fawn over it. She commands that much respect that people don’t see her as eye candy. She’s a bad ass witch that will kill you in no-time flat if you mess with her. Her image isn’t an issue. It’s how deadly she is in combat.

Next point to bring the first one home: Bayonetta’s attire is completely of her own design. Why? Well her outfit is made of her hair, along with a few attack combos. She has the ability o add, subtract, hell even completely remove her outfit at a whim because of the control she has over it. She’s willingly and thoughtfully wearing that outfit. It wasn’t imposed on her by her environment, like so many female game characters can attribute their looks too. Hell even the gun on the heels is totally unnecessary, and yet, that was her choice. She’s choosing to be feminine. She’s choosing to flaunt her sexuality. If anything, that helps support feminism in leaps and bounds beyond what any other game has shown so far. Why? Feminism is about equality; letting men and women express themselves without harm. Bayonetta’s form as sexy as it is, in her game world she’s viewed as a person. She’s neither male, nor female. She’s given the same rights as everyone else around her and not viewed any differently by her comrades because of her looks. The only other person I can equate that too is Leila from Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, but even then she’s still left vulnerable to be cared for and defended by her companions and D in order to make it through the movie. This is more from an image stand-point where Leila is a sexy woman; there is no doubt about it. But she’s portrayed in a manner that allows the viewer to see her as a strong, confidant person. Not just a woman.

Glasses can be hot. Just saying guys.
And really, for as sexy as Bayonetta is, she’s pretty well covered up. Compare her image to that of any RPG female. Yep, bikini armor. Bayonetta’s sexuality is in her actions, her emotions, her touch, and her figure. What better way to argue equality then to make a character that isn’t dressed anything like we come to expect from a female protagonist. So much of what the game focuses on is trying to trick you. We become absorbed at how sexy Bayonetta is that we get blinded by the increasing difficulty of the game-play, the challenge of the story, and the dynamic character interactions. In many ways, Bayonetta is showing how powerful women are by showing how easily distracting she can be.

By the way, Bayonetta is so campy. I mean, so we really need to have a boss that’s the size of 20 football fields, with one eye, 3 mouths, and 2 noses, with wings, spewing fire? I mean…really…if that’s an angel then I don’t want to go to Heaven. But in the land of excess, Bayonetta’s message of equality becomes stronger. We see her and she becomes that beacon of hope for greater things. We want out video game women to be like Bayonetta, in that they can be females, they can say and do girly things, and not become victims of circumstance due to their gender. (SPOILER WARNING) Even towards the end of the game when she is trapped by her “father,” her state of detainment has nothing to do with her gender like so many other games willingly fall into that pit. Her situation is very matter-of-fact: she’s the last one, she’s the key to the beginning and the end, and she has to be stopped. If it were a male character, he would have ended up in the exact same situation. Gender is not an issue in that scenario. (And isn’t it all the more appropriate that Jeanne is the one to break Bayonetta free?)

Look, I could go on for pages about how I feel Bayonetta exudes feminism. But I won’t because you all would get bored and wander off to Kotaku. And I realize that a lot of people are not going to agree with me. I get that. But I see what Bayonetta has done to the culture of gaming. It’s allowed us to ask questions about sexism and really, that’s a big leap forward for a medium that we want to mature. Hell, my experiences cosplaying as Bayoentta and Jeanne have taught me that women love that game. Way more than men. The fan base speaks volumes towards the end result.

14 comments:

  1. you are awesome. I think exactly the same.
    Bayonetta even tell cereza at one Point that a Girl has to be strong to protext the persons she cares about.

    There is no single Point in that game in which bayonetta seemed weak to me until the end fight against balder, which she made up for by pwning him

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    1. Yea! I'm glad I'm not the only one. :D Sometimes it feels like I'm alone on this stance, and then I go to a convention as Bayonetta or Jeanne and I see more women responding to the costume as fans versus men. It's such an eye-opener at how unique the game has become and varied the audience is.

      Thanks so much for the comment!!!

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  2. The game itself may be feminist, but the creator is purportedly sexist, with a sexist agenda. It'd like to hear your take on his comment about why they created her the way they did. http://www.gamespot.com/articles/qanda-hideki-kamiya-on-bayonetta/1100-6207621/

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    1. Thanks for the link, Anon. Let me get back to you about a response piece after I read the Q&A. I'm curious to see what Hideki Kamiya has to say, and if his point of view has altered since the release of the first game (since the Q&A is dated 2009).

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    2. Okay. I'll have to source out a few more articles to get a proper response, but this is my temporary one:

      I'd argue that while Kamiya may be sexist, many of his comments could easily be derived from his cultural standpoint. While women in Japan have better standards of living by comparison to the West, they're still on the bottom tier for everything. Only 11% hold a senior position (and this can range from a store manager to a company VP). Their history is centered around male domination, upholding value and honor to protect their family of women and children. http://www.businessinsider.com/afp-japans-bid-for-economy-driven-by-women-faces-big-hurdles-2014-9 It is almost unheard of to have a female Empress or any women in power: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_empresses (heck, on that list one was removed because she's "mythical" and one takes up 2 slots). Now by comparison to say, extremist Muslims in the Middle East, Japan respects women physically and emotionally WAY BETTER. But only now are we seeing how the patriarchal lifestyle is harming their society. It's why we see video games and manga of girls and women wearing barely nothing, and no one there bats an eyelash at it. It's their norm. Is it right? Well it's not for me to judge, but if enough people point it out, then maybe Kamiya's stance will change.

      He has been very vocal about Bayonetta fan art featuring pornographic material, in that he's against it: http://www.giantbomb.com/bayonetta/3030-20710/forums/hideki-kamiya-angered-at-bayonetta-porn-416458/ So he does hold some respect for the character. And if we want to be technical, Kamiya-san didn't design Bayonetta. Mari Shimazaki, the character designer behind Okami, did. A woman. In fact, she had control over all of the characters from start to finish. Were things altered in the process to fit Kamiya's vision? Sure. But it was a mutual partnership that produced those results. http://atlantafriedcritic.blogspot.com/2014/06/on-bayonetta-and-women-in-gaming.html

      So there's the start of my response. I'll have more later. :) Thanks for the great topic!

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    3. He isn't against the porn itself, he's against people portraying Bayonetta as submisive in it, and, frankly, I think that's even better (just my male oppinion thought) because portraying her as submisive takes power away from her.

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    4. I don't understand why the original link makes him sexist? Are men not allowed to have sexual feelings? Is that why it is wrong for him to design a character after his ideal woman, and insist that she be sexualized? I don't think it's wrong for him to feel that way, especially about his own character..

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  3. Wow, I appreciate this blogpost very,very much! Thanks for the read! ^^
    I agree with very much of what you're saying here - no, everything. The only "problem" i have is more about the lingering crotch shots and the pole dancing by the end of both games. But even those.....how do you say it. I feel they are unnecessary, but at the same time I don't think Bayonetta would mind. Like she says "No one said you could touch" - she's flaunting it and doing whatever she feels like, be it pole dancing or whatever. She doesn't care if you're watching - if you are, great, then she can belittle you with her whole being. It's not for anyone else's enjoyment, but her own.

    Also if you didn't already know, all her "dances"/movements are done by a female dancer who was told to just do some improvising. In that way Bayonetta is more of a "real" female than many other female characters in games (or even films) because her sensual movements are a female dancer being herself and her appearance is a female character designers vision of a powerful female character.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment! All good points! :D

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  4. I see this is an old postbut anyway i wanted to share my opinnion.
    I thought the same about you and I thank Kamiya for open this new door in the female character of videogames and of any other kind of female characters, I'm sick of seeing women in videogames beeing submisive or sentimental (in a romantic manner for males) I just love how this witch kick ass of anyone and still does not lose her femininity.

    I agree with everything you said and, at least for me, Bayonetta is one, if not the most, sexy female character ever and not because of her looks but for her attitud.

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    1. Old post or not, I still read every comment that passes through the walls of Mordor.

      Thanks so much for the comment! I'm continually energized by gamers who appreciate Bayonetta, not because of her sexual appeal but her attitude, her style, her persona - everything that makes a great character.

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  5. Considering that the definition of sexism - according to Wikipedia - is "prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex or gender", I can't at all se how Bayonetta could be considered anywhere near sexist. Yes, she's oversexualised, but not at all in a disciminating way or anything. She's just an amazing and very strong character.

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  6. Bayonetta is the furthest thing from sexist there can be. She's a strong, badass main character who shows and flaunt her body because she wants to, and not because people want her to. Actually, the oversexualization is so extreme that i'm pretty sure it's actually meant to be parodistic and satirycal.

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    1. Knowing the creator's stance on women, that's questionable about the character being satirical with her sexuality. Kamiya has never wanted Bayonetta to be submissive, but more assured with herself. But he's also very vocal about liking big boobs and butts. So...take that as you will.

      I personally love Bayonetta. I adore her confidence, her sensuality, and she's dynamic. She's sexualized, but not in a way that is meant to be demeaning.

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