Well how do we start on a topic that has struck up so much anger, hostility and frustration in the gaming community?
Something as simple as what makes for a good female character…
With so many gaming stories being told, you think by now we could figure what to do. If they wear too little we are exploiting the female form but if we do not show enough, we are denying them the right of sexuality. The plot should make it that her gender has no importance, but her being a woman needs to be expressed in order for female empowerment.
The counter points and stances go on and on.
But what if I told you gaming has already given us the two best examples of crafting a female character at both ends of the spectrum.
And they are…
Chell from the Portal series and Bayonetta, the titular character of the Bayonetta game series.
Yup… let’s get started!
So well all know Chell, the silent protagonist of the Portal franchise. Trapped in the empty Aperture Laboratories portal testing track, she is left to the whim of overly polite ai GLaDOS, who requires Chell to solve test after test with the promise of freedom as well as cake being the driving force.
Eventually the reveal of GLaDOS as a homicidal false ai driven to test non stop comes and you have a fun, funny, and memorable set of games. While the focus of everyone’s love is left on GLaDOS and later Wheatley, Chell should probably have a fan following the size of the entire gaming community. For she may be the best female character in gaming.
You see, Chell’s gender is never made secret. Promotional materials, box covers, dev interviews, clever glitches. She was a first person game main character who we all grew to know quickly. Add the fact that GLaDOS makes countless attempts at insulting Chell in ways classically assigned to being the triggers of feminine anger.
Chell’s choice of clothing.
Chell’s lack of friends.
GLaDOS uses a verbal assault any old movie or tv show would tell you is just asking for a witty retort. Chell says nothing. Between both games Chell says nothing. The designers of the games say that Chell being silent is by her own choice. A form of protest and refusal to give into her current situation.
And that’s what makes Chell a strong female lead. Her gender doesn’t matter. And yes you might be confused by why that what would give us the strongest of feminist characters. Chell is insulted and threatened. A captive left without answers and alone, but her gender doesn’t play any part of her journey. In fact GLaDOS tossing out what could be considered gender assigned insults is even more proof of that.
Remember the original Metroid? The reveal that the main character Samus Aran was a woman in the end sits in the same category, if not the prototype to Chell. The only reason Chell is on here and not Samus is because of the fact that Chell defeated archetypes set forth in her own games. Her dashing past the insults of GLaDOS felt more unique. As though they framed parts of her personality.
She cared not for your jests, vile machine!
The later metroid games felt like they started to rob Samus of her personality despite giving her a voice and cast of supporters but Chell is character first. She is woman, with an attractive character model, facing a problem that doesnt have her exploited. Acting beyond how she should act and not placing her into strick stereotypes that only satisfy our gender locked understanding of being a female in crisis.
Her gender does not shape her problem or game personality. Her actions are own.
Speaking of Nintendo leading ladies…
You are likely asking, given what I outlined with Chell, how can Bayonetta be a feminist gaming icon?
Because she owns her sexuality. That simple. It can be said because her sexuality has no consequence in the game, as in her being scantily clad and striking poses is completely her own choice, it belongs to her.
Well take the latest Metal Gear Solid and it’s character named Quiet.
A woman who barely wears clothes cause she breathes through her skin… if that makes sense to you, you may accept that but I dont. The designer of her wanted an excuse, when it could have just been he wanted a woman who was barely clothed and I would have been more a fan of that.
That is the most annoying aspect for female character design. When piss poor excuses are made for a character, exploitative in nature.
Bayonetta fights angels, or witches, or gods. I am not really sure half the time. Her antagonist legit have no concern in her poses or skin tight hair suit.
But she does it anyway. She calls her finishing moves climaxes and makes moaning sounds as she attacks because, well, she wants to. That, my friends is a actually a strong point of feminism. That a woman should own her sexuality. Her body is her own and by those standards she may do what she wants with her sexual behavior. Bayonetta as an umbra witch does just that. Yes there are other characters, like from Xblades, Ayumi, who barely wears clothes while fighting her enemy, and while I am a man explaining how the feminist stand point of sexual freedom goes. There is a difference between Ayumi and Bayonetta.
Does their personality and actions match what they wear and where they are placed as characters.
Ayumi and most barely clothed characters no… She exist in a world of constant danger both worldly and otherworldly and she wears what can equate to a bra and thong. And has no inkling of even knowing that she is wearing them, liking them or why.
For Bayonetta I feel comfortable saying yes. I feel like in a world where her enemies are otherworldly, her posing, her climaxing, all of that is because she wants to. That is versus Quiet and Ayumi, one who excuses must be made for why she barely has clothes and is a quiet subtle women, the other just not really wearing clothes.
And she doesn’t know why…
So yeah, Chell and Bayonetta are feminist gaming icons… Next time we will talk about something different.
See you next time!