Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sexualization in Fantasy & Games - PART 2


   Recently I wrote up a blog that talked about the issue of sexualization of female characters in the medium of videogames, a trend that has a long history which is still an ongoing topic. With this blog I hope to bring up some new thoughts that were brought to my attention thanks to our wonderful readers and also to bring up the last domain of the entertainment media that sexualization of women occurs - comics and film/TV.

   In the last blog I brought up the topic of how female characters are presented in the universe of the Metal Gear Solid Universe. One of the readers brought up the very true notion that all characters ( male and female alike ) were highly sexualized, hence the setting was sexualized, not explicitly one character or gender.

   This comment really allowed me to take a step back in terms of looking at the forest for the trees so-to-speak with such and to really think of HOW I wanted to handle this part of the Blog. As a student in college ( and now, Grad School ) one of the things I have been taught repeatedly is that I have my own sense of agency - the only thing holding me back, really, is myself. How then do people work through issues of sexualization for the media and not loose their voice?

 Funny enough, has anybody ever heard of the character called Red Sonya? The character herself is based off a character which first was mentioned in a short story by famed sword/sorcery author Robert E. Howard. Sonya was called Red Sonja of Rogatino in her literary appearance, however the short story would not fully contain her character. The character would most famously be played by actress Bridgette Nielson in the 1984 Red Sonya film that co-stared Arnold Schwarzenegger. The character would then find a new life in fan-fiction, Robert Howard spin-off stories, and comic books.

   The nature of the Red Sonya character is capable of allowing readers to take any camp they wish with her sexualization - Sonya is a peerless warrior and the equal of any man, however her "skills" were gifts from a deity as means for her revenge against the men who hurt her in her youth. Sonya is a character who acts on her own agency, yet Sonya is almost iconic for her highly sexualized attire. Her outfit is actually so iconic that many male readers of comics and fantasy art would know her iconic look even without knowing her character's name.

   Enter Gail Simone. For those who might now know, Gail Simone is a highly accomplished female comic author who has been allowed to write for many, many high-profile DC books including Batgirl, a comic in which Gail Simmone has seemingly defined her career. As one of the only female writers at DC, Gail Simmone has also found a place at the table of Dynamite Comics, the group currently launching a new comic of the Red Sonya character.

   For me, this stood out in the interview ( which can and should be read in full here ). Gail Simmone says,

 But that’s the thing [ when being asked about older female comic characters being written as male fantasy figures ], we appropriated these characters…we loved them almost in spite of how they were written at times, we loved their ferocity and their dangerous sides. I have been at a bunch of conventions since the announcements, and just over and over, I am having female artists come up and say they have always wanted to draw Sonja, they just never imagined that they would be asked."

   For me, this interview coupled with the comments about the Kojima-verse from the last blog was interesting. The nature of what society and media consider sexualization is more contingent on the universe/message of the content, or rather that is how things SHOULD be discussed. Gender and equality are not meant to be topics to be fought over at the expense of creativity and social/literary-exploration, provided the content earns/is-capable-of pulling off such feats. Kojima and Gail Simone might have worked with content that is sexual, but the notion that their works/characters/licensed-properties are explicit and without merit, thought, or that these artists never gave their creative outlets the second-thought of considering how they will be responsible for them? That seems an unlikely argument.

   When watching or reading anything, ask yourself: is what I am reading or watching displaying sexuality in a way disproportionate the other characters and/or the setting? Are sexualized garments and fashion designs something ignored by characters, the plot, or both? Do female or male characters who do promote any kidn of sexualized nature doing so in a way that promotes dangerous/detrimental activity*?  [* Red Sonya obviously promotes slashing her enemies with swords - obviously this means of action does work within the context of her fictional universe and logically any reader would know those outlets do not work in our own world ]

   The factors mentioned helped me come to a better understand of the divide between how some issues have layers that are easier ( or harder ) to address without context. For some, the previously discussed debate over Quiet's outfit was a non-issue, where-as for some the context of Kojima's implications for the character was what was offensive, not the character herself. The distinction is important and I hope in the future you always try to look at all factors behind a story when you read it.    

 See the conclusion to this Blog series next week!





Daniel Efosa Uyi said...

hey nice post meh, I love your style of blogging here. this blog reminds me of an equally interesting Personal Improvement Blog on my reading list which is .
keep up the good work meh and also, please visit my blog and drop a comment even if it's a simple "nice post" reply.


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