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Bad Sexy Vs Good Sexy in Games

Bad Sexy Vs Good Sexy in Games

Or Why Lollipop Chainsaw and Bayonetta are OK and Hitman Absolution isn’t.

So you’ve all seen that Hitman: Absolution trailer right?

The internet exploded in condemnation, but why? There have been lots of games and games trailer with more lady flesh on display, more violence or more blood. Despite the fact that I think this trailer is only mildly shocking, I think it is distasteful, and I think its as much to do with the execution as the content. It’s infantile sure, but I think the main reason it’s seen as offensive is that it simply doesn’t work. While comedians can to some extent get away with being shocking if they are funny, it’s when they are both offensive AND their jokes fall flat that they will be most heavily criticized. Similarly, this trailer’s tone is so uneven – with its gritty realistic opening that clashes with its comic book characterisation – that it leaves itself open to such criticism.

Other games can balance sexy female character design and ridiculous wardrobe choices by making them something integral to the experience rather than as childish titilation. Bayonetta overcomes the lead characters sexualised appearance and ridiculous proportions by balancing it out with a weak and ineffective male cast who all play second fiddle to the sassy females.

Similarly, in the upcoming Lollipop Chainsaw the lead character turns the damsel in distress dynamic on its head by being the games main protagonist while the male lead is relegated to a supporting role (as a disembodied head). In this case he is not only emasculated, but completely beheaded. While he worries and panics in the action scenes, it is the female lead who humorously keeps her head (sorry) and quips like an eighties action hero as she eviscerates her enemies.

Of course much of the good will and tongue-in-cheek charm of the game is undone with this utterly toe-curling feature. *Warning!* Although pretty ladies feature in this video it is thoroughly un-arousing due to large doses of the the reprehensible Greg Miller and as much casual misogyny as a bunch of labourers reading the Daily Star.

One of the problems with the Hitman: Absolution trailer is the total lack of logic in the nuns appearance or attire. Perhaps the game will fill in relevant details, but lacking context the whole thing begins appears more like an S&M fetish movie than a scene setting trailer for a gritty, realistic game. In the Hitman: Absolution trailer, the sexy nuns are there to be perved over, then have their noses broken in brutal combat with Agent 47. Perhaps if they weren’t wearing so little (although what they ARE wearing is waterproof) and tottering about on high heels and suspenders they might have been able to take him down with their nun kung fu more effectively.

That being said I think over the top female characters with ridiculous costumes are a part of gaming culture now. Just look at some of the outfits of Samus Arran or Chun Li or Jack to see characters that can be sexy AND appealing to women as well as men. Crucially, these characters have personalties and motivations that anyone can relate to and as such are more than just curves and costumes.

At the end of the day I like slutty kung fu nuns in latex as much as the next man. Probably quite a bit more in fact. The problem with this trailer though is that it puts characterless female antagonists in incongruous and illogical costumes that makes them look like prostitutes before showing them being beaten badly and realistically by a man. Presumably domestic violence is something we don’t want to evoke in games unless we have something mature or insightful to say about it. Despite this, you can’t help but think that showing both over-sexualised women and violence towards those women is probably something that puts the creators on shaky ground. To put it bluntly, if the outfits are sexualised, is the violence too?

There’s something thats just not quite right about it. I confess my feeling on this has changed even as I have typed this post. At first I though this was at worst a poorly judged trailer rather than an offensive one, but the more I think on this the more I realise the whole things just not quite right. If I was watching this trailer with my partner I would feel ashamed and a bit guilty. We have some great young female writers on the team here at CalmDownTom, and when I think of them seeing this in a game I can’t help but feel a little bit sad. Whats this teaching them? I have no idea, but its nothing good. Haven’t we come further than this?



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  1. Mickey says
    01/06/2013, 1:50 AM

    There is so much wrong here.

    The main reason for the uproar amongst fans was that the trailer showed Agent 47 behaving in a way that was as garish as the outfits the nuns were wearing. He is an assassin, the most nondescript, understated of all the video game assassins, and there was no display of stealth tactics whatsoever, just a straight out brawl.

    Secondly the nuns were presented way out of context. The entire Hitman Absolution world is as the nuns are, a twisted circus.

    Lastly, I’m sorry, but what’s on display in this trailer does not register on any scale of domestic violence, really. The nuns were fucking armed to the teeth and making an obvious effort to kill 47. He killed them instead. In a typical fashion he was able to dispatch his opponents with less at hand while they were at an advantage.

    The reason for the trailers bad reception amongst most of it’s viewers is the lack of context (as was admitted by the developers). Players don’t know who these other characters are, what’s significant about them apart from their dress and what’s the reason behind their dress.

    Nuns with Guns. It has been done A LOT. Machete. Come on.

  2. Daniel says
    06/21/2012, 1:13 AM

    Surprised by all the folk rushing to defend what is actually a pretty lame trailer. Good graphics, very lame ideas. Looks like Grindhouse done cynically and badly.
    Tom says it like it is and the reaction? The usual shite about censoring or trying to dictate what is allowed in a game. Tom wasn’t dictating – simply saying that games can do better that the crap that is that trailer.
    Or the typical dumbass ‘so why is it OK to kill sexy men’ type non-argument from someone who appears to have stopped reading after the first paragraph of the original article. Tom didn’t say anything about it being wrong when people of either gender are killed in a game, or when women are made to look sexy, ok Khan & Benz? Read articles before you post, guys.

  3. Herbman says
    06/06/2012, 2:32 PM

    Personally I thought the Hitman trailer was flipping awesome!

  4. Lemondish says
    06/02/2012, 5:04 PM

    I’m really confused why you think that your opinion is more relevant than other people’s. Certainly you understand that not everything in this medium you will like, and not everything in this medium needs to be liked by you. My friend below me posted about how its a pulpy grindhouse inspired action romp, and I’ll have to agree. You may call this infantile, but its the same infantile genius that made the recent tarantino grindhouse inspired flicks such a fun ride. Only this time, instead of just watching, I get to be part of the silly action.

    Please, oh dear gods please, stop trying to dictate what can or cannot be in games. There’s enough of that around from legislators and political pundits. Games are a creative medium, and gamers need to stop taking it personal when their precious games include things they don’t like, don’t agree with, or just don’t find appropriate. Black/dark comedy, grindhouse, and various other classic movie genres would have no place in videogames if we followed your limited viewpoint. That makes me sad as those are some of the most entertaining cathartic films I’ve ever watched. Certainly they’re not for everyone, but they don’t need to be either.

    Surprise newsflash, developers don’t need to come to you for approval at every step of development. If you don’t like the product, vote with your wallet. If the experiment here doesn’t work, or finds only a niche market (like grindhouse), then we’ll likely not see it repeated.

  5. Kris says
    06/02/2012, 4:56 PM

    Hitman looks like a pulpy grindhouse inspired action romp. Why is it suddenly not okay for a game to be inspired by classic movie tropes? If you don’t like the genre, don’t play the game. The issues with this industry is that its still so young in comparison and has yet to get out of the “I want to control what everyone else plays, buys, and creates” mentality.

  6. Randy says
    06/02/2012, 2:44 PM

    He’s right about one thing: Greg Miller is reprehensible

  7. Jeffrey says
    06/01/2012, 10:33 PM

    I loved the Hitman trailer with the Nun’s,. I pre-ordered the game after watching it. We need more trailers like that :)

  8. Syanara says
    06/01/2012, 10:20 PM

    It is not that big of a deal. whether people like it or not, the sex appeal depiction of women is a part of society now and if games or anyone want to market off of that then that is entirely their right. whether they do it good or bad doesn’t matter because either way it should not be taken as offensive due to the fact that it is a video game advertisement. Sex sells, even when it is used in a horrible cheesy or faulty manner it still sells.

  9. Nurotic says
    06/01/2012, 9:33 PM

    I have no issue with the trailer…it was actually kind of badass. If you’re offended you clearly aren’t this games target audience.

  10. Matt says
    06/01/2012, 9:28 PM

    Hopefully this trailer is a product of clueless marketers and not an indication of the actual game.

  11. WTF says
    06/01/2012, 8:50 PM

    Or maybe its because its religiously offensive to dress people up as a sexy nuns. Ever think about that?????. Gee, i wonder why people were offended by this.

  12. daTE says
    06/01/2012, 8:45 PM

    I dont know. i loved that hitman trailer, and it made me like 37 even more. So am i misogynist now. No, because i dont give a fuck. Why are you even complaining. Whats wrong with this world, cant enjoy anything without someone complaining about something irrelevant.

  13. Dexter McCabe says
    06/01/2012, 8:22 PM

    It’s a trailer get over it. The only reason people are complaining is because women are getting shot and killed while wearing sexy outfits. If it was guys dressed in S&M outfits people wouldn’t complain. But since a group of women are wearing tight latex ect and getting shot its the end of the world.

    And not just that the women are kickass in the trailer. RPG’s, guns, CQC. And they are giving 47 a run for his money. Also think of Sniper Wolf from MGS. When i saw the trailer i thought of what she said to Snake “two thirds of the worlds greatest assassins are women”. Why should a game censor itself when just censoring the issue is going to make more of a hastle for the developers.

    And one more thing. If agent 47 was a woman and she killed a group of guys. Would you be complaining then. Or of the domestic violence that some women inflict on men. No you wouldn’t.


  14. BENZ says
    06/01/2012, 7:58 PM

    Stop being the progressive politically correct person, nuns, cleavage, women in tights lets all raise our sexist flags! People didn’t freak out when Vanessa hudgens dressed like a “slut” in the movie Sucker punch, Or when Rodrigo Santoro dressed like a Greek transsexual prince in 300. Get over yourself, there is no such thing as bad-sexy vs good-sexy.

  15. Khan says
    06/01/2012, 6:59 PM

    People should stop whining, there are plenty of horror movies with pretty girls getting killed. This whole uproar is just hypocritical, its okay to kill a bunch of men but when it’s women we start complaining? Sigh, idiots the lot of them.

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