Objectification Hall of Shame: Part 1
I grew up on paperback novels with buxom, toned women with metal bikinis on the covers. I wasn’t supposed to be reading these, my sister who was three years older than me was the one borrowing them from the library. But I was a voracious reader, and these nearly naked warrior princesses appealed to me, so I discreetly read and replaced them so that no one would be the wiser. I remember reading a particular passage in which the young male protagonist asked his companion why she didn’t wear more clothing. She replied with some spurious fluff about agility being more important than defense and what if she was on a ship and fell into the water and needed to swim? I nodded my prepubescent head sagely, willing to extend my suspension of disbelief to the idea that she couldn’t just change her goddamn clothes if she got on a boat. Regardless, I am still personally fond of the occasional sexy fantasy armor. It can be fun, it can be hot, it can be well designed. It can even suit a character’s personality and reflect something about their powers. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
There are many women whose opinions that I respect who believe that skin-baring armor should be done away with entirely. I personally think there will always be a place for it. But sexual objectification is like dessert. If you eat it for every meal, you’re going to get sick. A healthy mental diet should contain plenty of diverse representations of women, and then occasionally for a special treat you can break out the stiletto heels and the battle-thongs.
I am for sexy armor. Not all the time, not even the majority of the time, but sometimes. I’m also for both men and women wearing it. Equal opportunity objectification. But sometimes, a costume just goes too far, clashes with its wearer’s personality and distracts from the gravity of the plot.
Welcome to the Objectification Hall of Shame!
This is Rachel from Ninja Gaiden. She’s working part time as a dominatrix to make her way through law school. That’s okay, that’s empowering… wait, what? She’s not doing that? She’s on a quest to mercy-kill her sister who was possessed by a demon? Well… why the hell is she wearing that? It’s not a bad look for a goth-industrial fetish night, but it’s not what I’d pick to wear when I go out for cathartic revenge.
Here’s a design from Hunted: The Demon Forge that really impressed me. The first half a dozen times I saw it I assumed she was wearing a very skimpy tube top, but as you can see, her shirt is actually made up of a few strips of bandages. She’s trusting on a few haphazard windings of linen to hold her in. That, my friends, is the most dangerous game. Despite the structural integrity concerns, there’s actually a nice rhythm about this costume. If it was made for clubbing instead of dungeon crawling I’d dig it.
This one is from Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within and is so ridiculous that even Penny Arcade made fun of it. I’m fairly certain it’s impossible to actually put this armor on unless you weld it into place, like some sort of gruesome avant-garde chastity belt. It’s revealing and offers no real protection, but at least it also chafes horribly.
This one is from Armored Princess.
That’s a… generous definition of armored. I don’t really know why character designers decide to go this far, I don’t think that this looks sexy at all. There’s a general rule in fashion that if you’re going to show off a ton of your cleavage, you should consider covering up your legs to balance it out. Maybe if they’d kept the cleavage but brought her shirt down all the way and given her some pants this would register as sexy in my brain. Sadly, some video game artists seem to be of the opposite opinion, that if you don’t show absolutely every soft part of a woman’s body that she’s never going to be considered sexy… even if those parts are all that you’re showing.
This is showing off inappropriate levels of skin, but it isn’t even sexy. It’s from Torchlight 2, but I don’t know what they were thinking. I have a special sadness reserved for costumes that are regressive and sexist but not actually attractive. She looks like she’s ready to go to the Lawrence of a Labia for a quick gynecological check-up.
God, that last one is just depressing, can we get something fun up in here?
Aw yeah, that’s better. This is from Tera Online. That’s some couture objectification. If Alexander Mcqueen made ridiculous sex armor, this is what you’d get. I’d actually wear that jacket. Not if I was going to go hit someone with a broadsword, but maybe to Burning Man, where you can leave your tits hanging out all day and no one gives a damn. Can we get some more of this kind of armor?
Awww yeah. Now, this stuff is absolutely absurd, but in a weird way I respect the lengths they’re going to. They’re heading out into uncharted exploitation territory. No unimaginative battle bikinis here, no sir. And while many objectifying outfits look like they’d need to be held in place with double sided tape, this one looks like it would require a team of telepaths focusing all their mental energy on holding on your boob-plates.
There is a ton of amazing, ridiculous armor in Tera Online. Unfortunately, even though they go a little further than most franchises in showing some male skin too, the gender divide is too extreme for the creative costume design to be truly enjoyable. My longing for a game universe where everyone of every gender dresses in ridiculous lingerie all the time like it’s no big deal remains unfulfilled. If you’d like to see more, there’s an excellent blog post by Go Make Me a Sandwich here:
And an even better one here:
Anyway, that’s all for this Objectification Hall of Shame roundup! See you next time with even more boobs.
Oh, incidentally, the paperback novel covers did end up giving me body dysphoria. Oops.