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May 19, 2014

So What’s the Deal with Sexy Characters? (Part 2)

I need to watch more Seinfeld.

I’ve been thinking about doing a post on BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma over the past couple of weeks, but given that I’ve had material gathering dust for ages, I figured I should get that stuff out there first.  So until then, I want to bring it into the discussion of sexy characters -- however briefly.  Again.

CP is the first BB installment I’ve played since the original Continuum Shift from years ago -- and the new installment offers up a chance for me to start fresh and learn to play more characters with some competence besides “easy mode” Ragna.  I’ve long since started maining Hakumen --the sickest character -- but I can’t help but think back to one night when I was on the character select screen for the trials.  I spotted Litchi’s picture nestled in the corner, and I thought to myself, “Hey, why not?”

Well, I can think of one reason: because she’s a sexy character, and if you play a sexy character, you’re clearly a terrible person who deserves to get kicked in the junk, right?  And by default she’s awful and sexist, and her creators are awful and sexist and deserve a million kicks to the junk.  At least if a subsection of the internet is to be believed.

Strawman?  Never heard of it.  Is that some kind of scarecrow superhero?

I’ve talked about Litchi before when it comes to character design, but I’ll go ahead and reiterate.  And I’ll start with this: I think Litchi’s a cool character.  Not the coolest character, mind you (Tsubaki is my favorite female of the cast, while Hakumen is my favorite in general…for obvious reasons), but certainly one that I find myself liking.

Opinions seem to vary on her -- especially post-Continuum Shift, by virtue of the way her story goes and the crisis of faith instilled upon players -- but you know what I think?  She’s a pleasant and charming character, with no shortage of intelligence, a few neat quirks, and a little sass to her underneath her motherly exterior.  It’s probably worth mentioning that, IMO, her VA Lauren Landa kills it with the role; Litchi’s voice is more soothing and dreamy than a chorus of unicorns.

I’ll be the first to admit that I prefer Litchi’s out-of-battle attire to her in-battle look, because -- as you know -- a woman wearing clothes will pretty much ALWAYS beat out a woman not wearing them.  But for what it’s worth I don’t think her standard costume is that bad.  Much like Chun-Li, it’s there to reinforce her ethnicity (even though China doesn’t really exist anymore in the BB universe, but whatever). 

The key difference is that the costume pushes Litchi’s femininity -- her sexuality -- far more than her raw strength.   That said, what sets her apart from, say, Soulcalibur’s Ivy, is the fact that her sexuality takes on a character in its own right.  It has a unique style, as shown by her fighting style; her animations are full of flowing, graceful motions and poses for some genuine flair.  She’s communicating nonverbally, as she should.  Even when she’s standing still; she may have some physics to her, but I’ll take her confident, cross-legged stance over Ivy’s “just stand there, I guess” pose any day.

What I find supremely interesting about Litchi in-universe is that despite looking absolutely insane, she’s never devalued because of her looks.  Hell, they’re not really a factor in a lot of cases.  She may be called “Boobie Lady” by one character, and spark jealousy in two lesser-endowed characters, but all told?  Nobody (besides her “secret” admirer Bang) really seems to put too much stock in her looks.  Well, barring a gag ending or two in which she plays an evil witch out to monopolize the world’s bustiness, but that doesn’t count…as far as we know.

The story leaves her free to be who she wants to be -- which in this case would be 1) a doctor, 2) a scientist, 3) a counselor and matron to anyone who needs help, 4) a fighter, and apparently an upper-tier one at that, 5) an unwilling agent for the bad guys, and 6) a tireless seeker of a cure for her contemporary-turned-blob monster by any means necessary.  She may look absolutely wild, but that’s no detriment to her character.  (The same, infuriatingly, can’t be said for one of her contemporaries in the game, who might as well have walked into a fight wearing tissues on her no-no parts.)  It’s just one asset that informs her -- not defines her.  It doesn’t strip her of her respectability, and it doesn’t suddenly invalidate everything about her. 

She’s a sexy character, but she’s more than just a sexy character -- the way it should be.  Just as there are sexy people in the real world who have more to offer than their picturesque bodies, so too do sexy characters have plenty to offer.  You just have to be willing to give them a chance.  Keep yourself from making snap judgments, and there’s always going to be a chance that you’re going to walk away with a smile.  Maybe even a tear in your eye.

As a wise man once said, ain’t that some shit?

You can use a character in a lot of ways, regardless of (or maybe because of) the way they look -- but you can’t use them like Ivy “I Love Me Some Silly String” Valentine.  It goes beyond just using sexist depictions of women, or inviting scorn upon yourself and your work…and make no mistake, those are pretty awful in their own right.  When you do stupid crap like that, you do something that’s almost as bad: you disgrace your character.  Honestly, I would expect creators to take pride in their work and their creations, and try to portray them in the best light possible.  Give them a chance to make a case for themselves, and they will, earning fan loyalty and respect.

But when you go down the Ivy road and strip her down “just ‘cause”, you take something away from a character.  Something important.  And taking that something away is easier with sexy characters than it is with any other type -- because when you pare down the result of hundreds of hours of effort and years of canon into “I am become sex”, you’re a lot more likely to lose than you are to win.  We all know that.  And we’re ready to point fingers when we get the chance -- because we’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again.  And again.  And again.  We are nothing if not sentinels against stupidity.


Sexy characters are not -- I repeat, are NOT -- an instant failure state.  Like I said, you can use a character in a lot of ways; their design is one great big honking example of that.  So bringing the hammer down on those that just try to throw some would-be sex symbols in our face?  That’s all right.  But the line between what’s right and isn’t right starts to blur when everything that doesn’t suit one’s tastes starts getting filed into the same GTFO category. 

Nintendo, Sakurai, and all the rest likely didn’t mean any harm when they gave Zero Suit Samus high heels.  They just mixed up her design a little for the sake of form and function (and probably as a tribute to Bayonetta since Platinum Games got in bed with the Big N).  That’s what they should do; they shouldn’t have to defend themselves from accusations, or justify basic creative principles.  They haven’t crossed a line.  Those that start kicking and screaming might do that long before Nintendo.  And as you’d expect, they might do more harm than good to creators -- to characters -- not really at fault.

I said before that I intended to play devil’s advocate.  And I stand by that.  I pretty much have to, because in order to conclusively prove my point, I’m going to have to get my hands dirty.  See, I can make assumptions and arguments about the works of others, but in the end I don’t have perfect insight into their thought processes.  In the end, I can only speak for myself.  And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  So you’d better hold on to something -- and tight.

For one reason or another, chapter 63 of I Hraet You has been a top-scoring post for weeks now, if not months.  I can make a pretty solid guess why: that’s the chapter where the improbably buxom Sheila momentarily makes a motion to take off her clothes to try and seduce Lloyd.  (I find that weird, because I’m pretty sure she wears less clothes just a couple of chapters later.  And long beforehand, for that matter.)  It being an OTT comedy, the chapter ends with an all-out kitchen brawl, which feeds into Lloyd taken hostage and tortured vis a vis Sheila’s extreme attempts at love.  Whatever the case, Sheila’s design, I hope, is distinct in its own right; she may have ridiculous curves, but that’s offset by her being a literal snot-nosed nerd -- and vaguely reminiscent of Pippi Longstocking, now that I think about it.

But she’s hardly the only case.  My intent is to make every character in IHY at least a little visually distinct. You can see that just by glancing at the blog’s header; Lloyd’s got that crazy purple hair because it’s meant to flag him as miles beyond real.  And while he may be a total bishie build-wise, his general idiocy and insanity offset whatever charm points he might have earned from his good looks.  While the others don’t look quite as extreme, they do run the gamut. 

You’ve got JP (tiny tween), Patton (freakin’ huge guy), Trixie (tall and athletic), Mrs. Overdose (short and stout, with a vague “old” age), May (petite, which feeds into a future plot point), Lien-Hua (graceful and elegant…for now), Arjuna (scrawny and rodent-like), Rosco (goon incarnate), and more -- written-up or not.  Admittedly, they’re going to be memorable -- in a perfect world where tons of people are reading it -- because of what they say and do, but those looks of theirs are going to contribute at least a little bit.  Indeed, appearances are really going to matter to one of the later characters -- a model who uses the catch phrase “Because I’m beautiful” to justify everything she does…and by virtue of her past and present actions, is THE WORST, MOST DESPAIR-INDUCING CHARACTER IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND.

Monokuma, what are you doing here?  Go on, get outta here, you crazy bear, you!

But I’m not done yet.  I can try to cover my ass make a point with IHY, but there’s still one big ace in the hole I’ve got.  See, I’ve got more up my sleeve than just Lloyd and IHY, and even more than Arc and…well, whatever that story will end up being called in the end.  I’ve got a stable of leads that predated both of them by a pretty wide margin, to the point where getting them out and into the world is just as important -- probably more -- than getting the more recent stuff out there.  I’ve talked about them before in the past (and I probably will again someday, as soon as I stop doing stupid things and invalidating months of work), but right now I’m going to have to dip into that well again.  So bear with me.

If you’ve only recently seen the stuff on my blog -- which is probably the case since I’m working under the assumption that some of you are only here because of the title/promise of breasts -- then let me start fresh and give a quick primer.  I’m on record of saying that it’s my intent to create a story about a Godzilla-sized single mom who wrestles giant monsters (and ancient Greco-Roman mechs, but that’s a given).  That is pretty much a non-negotiable goal in my mind; its leading lady, Ursa, is one of my ten ideal leads -- the sixth born out of ten, as it so happens.  And I think she’s a character with lots of potential.  With the unique factors built around her, I’m pretty excited in seeing what I can do with the toolset she gives me.

And one of those factors is, irrevocably, her appearance -- which would help explain why I haven’t said much about her in any of my posts.  For the record, this is what she looked like sometime in 2012:

And this, barring highly-probable changes to her design, is what she looks like now. 

(I like how my art style has improved in the time between drawings, but there are still some massive-ass holes in my skill level.  One of these days I’ll learn how to draw toes.  Or feet in general.  Or be comfortable in positioning arms instead of finding ways to hide them as if my life depended on it.  Or actually manage to fully capture anatomical details so -- you know what?  Maybe my art hasn’t gotten any better.  In my defense, I was being lazy and tired with the feet.  I'll fix 'em someday, though.  Because quality, I guess?)

I would hope that the face and head in general would draw the eyes of viewers more than anything else -- that’s my favorite part of her and of drawing in general -- but even I’m not that naïve.  I know she’s improbably buxom, because I made her that way.  It’s been an element of her design from day one, and that’s going to be true for as long as I’ve got a working brain.  Hell, if my head was a notebook, you’d probably find a note beside her info/drawings saying “no other character I make will ever be bustier.  Non-negotiable.”  Far be it from me to conflate sexiness solely with bust size, but let’s set that aside for now.

In any case, it goes beyond that.  You saw her, right?  She’s (supposed to be) pretty attractive!  She’s wearing tattered scraps and trying to pass them off as clothes!  She’s got a sashay in her hips that can’t possibly suggest she’s the modest sort!  She’s got a slight blush to her face that CAN’T mean anything good!  At a base level, things are not looking good for me; if you were to find this picture randomly on the internet without someone trying to beg for your understanding illustrate a concept, you would likely respond in a different way than you have now.

But you know what?  Whether you agree with me or not, and whether you like the design or not, I can run you through every single line of reasoning I had for this character.  EVERY ONE.  Everything I added is there for a reason.  That, I can guaran-damn-tee.  So let’s run through it, and run through it on two fronts: why does she look like that out-of-universe?  And just as importantly, why does she look like that in-universe?

Oh, but first?  It’s proper music time.

One of my character creation conceits is ascribing an “element” to each character.  Arc’s element is fortune, for example, and Lloyd, as you’d expect, gets heart.  (For now.)  And Ursa, meanwhile, ends up getting earth.  So what are the qualities of earth?  What would that mean for her potential skill set, and how would that inform some of her particulars?  Well, I can come up with plenty of answers; in terms of her abilities, “earth” brings up traits like vastness, and size, and power -- but with it, great beauty and warmth. 

So while I can’t say there’s anything beautiful about wrestling (at least for others), I think it’s fitting for her to be some kind of grappler a la Zangief.  Or, given that I made a mock moveset for her -- because I’m me -- she’d be a hybrid of Guilty Gear’s Potemkin and Marvel 3’s Nemesis.  ZERO mobility and not much in the way of fancy moves, but compensating for that with outright-BROKEN levels of power and defense.  If she gets her hands on you, you’re dead.

But going back to the character’s look, what’s the rationale?  Well, if she’s going to be an earthly character, she needs to have an earthly look about her.  So her color scheme had to change; she needed more tans and browns, and I needed her to have a wilder look about her.  She needed to look untamed.  And I think I captured that essence at least a little bit.  The colors are more subdued, especially with her eyes -- they’re still green, but they aren’t quite the piercing orbs I gave her last time (which was in itself a means to make sure that the focus was on where it mattered…so there’s always the chance that change will be reverted.  The eyes have it, after all). 

Eagle-eyed readers have probably long since noticed that Ursa’s packing some very interesting equipment -- namely, that she’s got horns and a tail.  That’s something that came in semi-recently, because I thought her design looked a little bare at the time.  But since then, they’ve become vital parts of her character; they’re traits that, in-universe, no normal human should have.  I’ll get to that later, but for now I’ll go on and say that the intent is to keep up that wild, earthly theme -- and if she’s vaguely animalistic, that’s another tool in my belt.  That would explain the cow print on her clothes, and in more ways than one. 

To a lesser extent, I wanted her to look like she “made the best of a bad situation” -- as if the clothes she put on were put on out of desperation.  Or alternatively, because that was all she had left (which is technically true, given the story).  In any case, the intent with her clothes on yet another level is to invoke the spirit of the “jungle girl” -- by and large, she’s separated from society, so it’s only natural that she looks like someone who was born and raised in the wild.  Emphasis on looks, but let’s save the backstory mumblings for later.  I can only imagine what’s on your mind right now.

Okay, so let’s pretend for a minute that I didn’t screw up my art too badly, and I could bring all the design elements in my head into an image with 1:1 perfection.  Let’s pretend that every body part had the proper proportions and not just a stylized approximation (whether that’s “stylized” in high-quality anime aesthetics or just “stylized” to avoid looking realistic, I’ll let you decide).  Why that look?  Why that figure?  Well, the first thing that’s worth mentioning is that Ursa is NOT -- I repeat, IS NOT -- even remotely close to having hourglass measurements…or being the fabled 36-24-36…or having a build like Jessica Rabbit.  (Christina Hendricks, on the other hand?  Getting warmer.)  Ideally, Ursa is plus-sized; she’s notably thicker than most, or if not that then certainly more than you’d expect from the usual busty lady design.  No dreaded “tits on a stick” here.

Part of her figure is to help create a recognizable look, but part of it is also because she pretty much has to be on the thick side.  On one hand, she needs a heftier shape to support her monstrous size; she’s got super strength by default so as to avoid tripping up the Square-Cube Law, but I wanted to at least try to be mindful of it and give her a more reasonable build for those giant-sized operations.  (Though technically she probably wouldn’t work anyway, but let’s just sweep that under the rug.)  On the other hand, it goes back to the whole “earth element” thing.  What is she?  She’s a single mom.  Mom. Earth.  Mother Earth.  And with it, Mother Goddess -- symbols of motherhood, nature, fertility, and more.  Idols and artifacts feature those exaggerated proportions, so why not have that carry over to this character?

I know why.  Because this character’s designed to fuck with you.

Details are likely to change, but as it stands, I know Ursa.  I know a lot of the major plot points in her story.  And I know what kind of character she is.  So at a base level, you look at her and see…what?  A really curvy woman?  Setting aside her figure, what else?  Okay, it looks like she’s giving a warm and gentle expression, so that must mean she’s one of those “gentle giant” types. 

But again, would a gentle giant really wear clothes like that?  What does that say about her character?  And compare and contrast her pose from 2012 to the one from 2014; one’s got her in a more modest stance, while the other (again, correcting for my just-passable art) gives her a little sass.  A little sway of the hips, and legs kept a good bit apart.  So there’s warmth to her, but there’s an air of confidence about her.  She’s saying plenty without saying a word.

Good thing I’m here to compensate, eh?

The thing is, both she and I are lying to you.  Like I said, I know her.  I know what she really thinks, and what she can, has, and will do.  Same goes for her.  This character is all about defying expectations, and standing out -- for better or worse -- because of it.  Without giving too much away, there are elements of her character design that are there to lure you into assumptions and opinions. 

It’s a multi-tiered approach; for those who venture into the story, they’re given a glance of what she is and branch out from there, and have their biases set until there’s a big shake-up that throws them off.  More to the point, once plot details are revealed, suddenly certain elements make more sense.  Simply put, she’s a character who’ll make you think one thing, but with one action or one word she’ll prove to you that everything you knew about her was wrong, wrong, wrong.  In-universe, she’s an INCREDILBY flawed character…but she’s the leading lady, and ultimately the story’s hero, for a reason.

Speaking of in-universe, there’s one question that needs to be asked: is this something that Ursa would justifiably wear?  And the answer to that is yes.  When asked about why she dresses the way she does, she gives a straight answer: “Because I look good, and I want to show off.”  Maybe not in those exact words, but I’m paraphrasing.

Alternatively, you could just assume that she does it because she’s a pervert.  Put a sexy man or pretty boy in her path, and…well…

But let me back up a bit and say this: as fate would have it, Ursa can’t really put on much more than she has on now.  A few months before the story starts, she’s thirty feet tall -- not exactly the best height to be for clothes-shopping, I’d say.  When the story does start, she’s three hundred feet tall.  Then bad things happen, and she ends up growing to the size of a mountain.  Then worse things happen late in the game, and…well, let’s just say from then on, she would have to be measured in miles.  Or, alternatively, that she could stand in the ocean, and on average it would only reach her knees.  Said ocean, on average, is 14,000 feet deep.

By that point, the science bit would…probably be non-existent.  Likely because it would turn into a horror story by then.  Ursa trying to interact with people by that point would be something like the average person trying to talk to microbes -- to say nothing of the fact that merely by existing she’s causing collateral damage on a sub-continental scale.

But I suppose I should pull back a bit.  Because whether it’s that point or well before it, Ursa’s life suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.

Everything in her life ends up turning to shit before she even turned nine.  She lives in a Hellenistic world full of giant monsters, but also magic -- and since magic > giant monsters, it’s what separates the haves from the have-nots.  So of course, she and her family have ZERO aptitude for magic, which makes puts them at the lowest societal rung, which makes them laborers in name and slaves in effect.  And what little happiness they have ends up getting lost when her family gets sacrificed to a kaiju to save some aristocrats, leaving little Ursa -- still human-sized, albeit taller and stronger than most -- with a grudge the size of an aircraft carrier.

So begins her solitary quest for power, which ends up leading to…certain places.  I won’t say what in the interest of space/time/spoilers, but after that moment and one desperate decision, she starts to change.  She effectively gives up her humanity for power, and as such starts turning into the bountiful behemoth pictured above over the course of many years; she grows horns and a tail, her strength goes through the roof, and she goes from just being on the tall side to friggin’ damn huge.  The tradeoff, of course, is that she’s turned herself into a big target.  She’s not exactly a kaiju, even in her default thirty feet, but that’s still five times bigger than the average man.  And in her world, being different is a big no-no.

Little wonder, then, that when she doesn’t end up harassed and assaulted, she’s made into a slave, a living weapon, a fighter in illegal circuits, and effectively a circus attraction.  In no particular order.

Ursa’s life is one full of hardship and struggle, but prior to the start of the story -- and even well into it -- she’s actually content with her life.  She’s found a good sweet spot; things tend to go poorly when she’s around others, but she’s compensated by willingly putting herself into isolation.  She lives in a hidden cove in the boonies, sleeping in caves, hunting fish, raiding the occasional passing ship, and generally spending her days lounging around on the beach.  (So if it looks like she’s ready for a little sunbathing, that’s one reason why.)  By and large, that’s all she needs.  She’s long since learned to fend for herself, and is happier for it.  She’s got her freedom, her peace of mind, and herself.  And she’s proud to be who she is.

Too proud.

By default, Ursa’s willing to live and let live -- be kind, be gentle, and be a little goofy.  But despite making it to the big 3-0, she hasn’t done a thing about the grudge she’s held inside since she was a child.  If anything, it’s only gotten worse because of what she’s been through; cut past her pleasant surface, and she’s a nexus of fury, resentment, and outright hatred.  And she knows it.  She exists well outside the law because of who she is and what power she wields -- and as such, knows that she’s free to be whatever she wants to be.  She doesn’t care about rules, conventions, or even others in general, even if she puts on airs of gentility; she’s a free spirit that’ll defend her freedom with every ounce of strength she can muster…and it’s only getting worse as time passes.  Because she’s getting even bigger, day by day.

And then there’s her son.

...who I was too lazy to draw, so here's some art from Disgaea to give you a general idea.
Canis is Ursa’s foil in pretty much every way, their appearances chief among them; whereas she’s big and bountiful, he’s tiny and typically looks like he’s minutes away from biting it.  (It’s almost as if those two aren’t really blood related, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmmmmmmm.)  But while Ursa goes out of her way to be bold in every aspect, Canis is reserved to a fault.  Being an albino -- of “cursed blood”, much like the kaiju -- his default costume hides who and what he is, in stark contrast with his mother’s “Look at me!” ensemble. 

It goes further than that, though; Ursa looks warm and inviting -- and is genuinely good deep down, assuming you don’t cross her -- but she’s consciously and subconsciously projecting her rebellion and hatred outward.  She’s making a statement, and couldn’t give a shit about what people think of her.  Conversely, Canis (despite spending most of his days riding around in his giant mother’s skull barrette) is more than willing to abide by laws and standards, and as such is more than willing to hide himself.  Or to put it another way, he doesn’t project his hate.  He contains it -- and he directs it at himself.

All told, I can’t really blame him.  The thrust of Ursa’s journey is about finding a way to save her son’s life since an envoy of the goddess of fate reveals he’s only got a year left to live, thus necessitating a journey across the planet despite the fact that she’s getting bigger by the day and acting as a walking societal and political disaster just by being on the move, and the fact that Ursa’s final option if all else fails is to kill the goddess and pray that it frees him from the worst destiny imaginable, all while putting herself at risk from armies hailing from every corner of the globe, on top of battling fellow kaiju that -- assuming she doesn’t have a monstrous growth spurt bred from fits of rage -- are as big or even bigger than she is.

To reiterate: Ursa’s life suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.

But that’s okay.  Because by and large (ha), she’s taking it in stride.

There’s always going to be that question of how much of Ursa’s personality is a façade, given what she could end up doing in the story.  (Her eyes can turn from deep green to bright red.  Make of that what you will.)  But whether it’s post-development or before it, she is a genuinely good character.  She can be that gentle giant.  Taking on Canis as her charge mellowed her out, and can -- maybe not always, but can -- bring out the best in her.  

He’s the one person who’ll always accept her, and let her be who she wants to be.  He’ll accept her smiles, her laughter, and her kindness…just as he’ll accept her selfishness, her childishness, her goofiness, her haughtiness, and more.  They’ll both carry that hatred within them -- but bit by bit, they’ll both learn how to love.  To mend their scars of the heart.

She’s not ashamed to be who she is.  There are times when she fears her power and what she can do -- just one more set of particulars for her arc -- but she’s glad that she became the monster she is.  Without that overwhelming physical form, she’d be nothing.  Probably dead, most likely.  Or worse -- chained up by a society she’s long since outgrown.  And while she may make mistakes, or put her faith in all the wrong things, or have her crises of confidence, she’ll stay true to herself without backing down.  She knows what kind of person she is, and what she wants, and what she wants to be.  And whether it’s in physical, mental, or emotional terms, she’ll do all she can to move toward her ideal state.  No matter what it takes.

…Did I mention she loves her some sexy men?  I did?  Sorry, I just feel like I should toss that in there.  It’s such a vital detail, you guys.

And there you have it. 

Characters create opportunities.  That should be obvious by now, whether you’re a would-be writing hero or not.  And indeed, those opportunities -- those tools you can give yourself, or others can add as needed -- are practically limitless.  The moment you start to limit yourself is the moment you start to fail -- so if sexiness is a tool that you can use to your character’s advantage, why not use it?  The alternative, I’d bet, is a world full of grizzled space marines.  Or “strong female characters” that are anything but.

But if we think of sexiness as a tool, then we have to think of it as a tool that has to be used wisely.  In the same sense that you wouldn’t use a hammer to bash everything in arm’s reach, you can’t just overload a character with sexy attributes and leave it at that.  It takes a clear mind, and a steady hand, and a will to use those attributes for the audience’s benefit.  And the character’s benefit, even more so; pay respect to them, and you just might get one step closer to making a damn good story.  In turn, they’ll do their part to bring in the fans -- whether or not they’re some real bra busters.

I expect -- or at least hope -- Ursa can do the same.  After all, no matter how big she may be, her curves aren’t her favorite body part.

It’s her face.  And with it, her smile.

And that’ll do it for now.  See you guys --

Oh, wait, I just thought about one more thing with Ursa.  In her story, a lot of the characters have exaggerated form.  She and her son are notable examples, but they’re hardly the only ones.  The main villain (such as he is) is an absolute cheesecake heartthrob.  He’s sexy and he knows it…along with being a badass emperor in his own right.

Shit, am I going to have to do a post rationalizing him, too?  Well, I guess I could do that.  Or, alternatively…


1 comment:

  1. "The problem with stories in videogames is the existence of the player."

    O brave new medium, that has such players in it! Or to paraphrase Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame, developers would love nothing more than for the players to be removed from the equation. And I suppose the money would just teleport into their pockets, or some sort of black magicks.

    In any case, thanks for that little insight into what made -- or MAKES -- Metroid tick. Like I said, I've only played Metroid Prime (and would have played MP3 in earnest if my disk didn't stop working), so it's good to be able to get some perspective into what made the old games so special to others. Although now I can't help but feel sympathy for those who felt truly wronged by Other M. Not a pleasant feeling, that.

    In any case, you bring up a good point...well, a lot of good points, but if I started naming them all I'd be here for the next week. Setting the story aside, Samus has always been a character defined by physical attributes -- an avatar, like you said. She was that perfect mix of form and function -- and now that there's been a change, it's threatening to change her into something different, and potentially worse, than what she was before. I get that. (Apparently people are still having bilious reactions to Sonic getting longer legs and green eyes.)

    But you know what? In some cases -- and I stress SOME, not all -- I think that it can be okay for games to (within reason) try to have good stories. Try to be more cinematic. But the requirement for that is that they have to be good, and prove WHY we should enjoy or even care about the story being told. They tried doing that with Samus and Other M, and...well, it didn't end very well. So maybe she's a character who should stay away from stories until things are 100% airtight.

    Maybe her return in SSB4 is a blessing. If she's in a fighting game -- one of the gamiest of all genres -- then maybe that'll help repair her image, independent of her looks.

    Maybe. We'll see.