Quick Fix : Tisha and Morgana
As I’ve said again and again, I am not against having any sexy women at all in video games or fantasy art. I wish that the trends that I can point out on this blog didn’t exist, and I could sit down and draw up a woman in the most provocative armor design I could think of and make her a decadent sex witch without it reinforcing any kind of negative trends. But we’re not at a point where gender representations are equal enough to do that and we have to do some damage control.
Recently, WotC wrote an article about sexism in fantasy. I found it to be displeasing on many points. First off, I resented them choosing a photo of the work one of my favorite fashion designers, Mother of London, as part of the debate. A fashion shoot is not an equivalent to a dungeon crawl, and Mother of London also makes provocative clothing for men. But that isn’t very important. Far more important is that the article fell back into a disingenuous assumption that you can either have sexy characters, or you can have non-sexy characters. That simply isn’t true. Not every woman you draw needs to have a D cup. Not every man is attracted to women with D cups. Not every man is even attracted to women. He pointed to a female character as an example of a polarizing figure that some people love and some people think is too sexy.
Here she is:
Wait, no. That’s actually my quick and dirty redesign of the character to bring her more in line with what I’d like to see. (Although personally I hate her little bolero jacket.) Here is the original.
The changes I made were subtle. I barely changed the size of her breasts, but I gave them and her cleavage a more natural shape. I laced her top in another inch or two and gave it straps so that it looked like it could support her breasts. I also gave her a wide belt in a shape that highlights her slender waist, providing a little more protection while still showing off a little midriff. I started giving her thigh-highs as well, but then I sort of forgot.
I don’t think my changes make her less sexy. Personally, I think they make her more sexy. I find the way her breasts are drawn in the original image to be distracting. They don’t look like they’d stay in that shirt at all. She’s still showing plenty of skin in my revision, but I feel like the eye moves more easily around the body instead of getting stuck on the torso, even with the distracting contrast from my hastily-photoshopped darker lines.
Subtlety can be far sexier than showing as much skin as possible. It can even indicate a woman who is more consciously aware of showing off her body, rather than seeming oblivious to how provocative she looks. Consider Sniper Wolf from Metal Gear Solid. She’s wearing practical military fatigues, but her shirt is zipped down. It’s obviously a conscious decision, it says something about her character and it’s still very sexy.
As you can see, all I’ve done is made her breasts a more natural shape, adjusted the lower half of her torso to fill it out and give it a less extreme twist and adjust her shoulder placement and make her head a little smaller and more planted on her shoulders.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that i think whoever painted the original Morgana image is untalented. Their rendering quality is very good and I think they were making intentional choices to exaggerate the anatomy. However, I don’t find it sexy. I think the breasts look like helium balloons. I can’t help imagining them squeeking when they rub together. I think it makes her look less intimidating to be in such an extreme pose, and it distracts from my favorite part of the original, which is her intense looking face.
I also tried slapping some quick armor on her. Like I said, I didn’t spend more than a few minutes doing this so obviously it’s not well painted. But if you imagine the general design taken to a polished level… wouldn’t that still be sexy? I mean, I say armor, but that’s basically a metal corset. It’s still pretty ridiculous. But it takes the focus off her body and directs it to her beautiful but intimidating face and the spell she’s casting in her hand.
Designing less skin-exposing costumes doesn’t mean not designing sexy women. It’s not an either/or choice between beautiful women in bikinis and ugly women in plate armor. We can do sexy. But I think we can do sexy better, in a way that’s less distracting from the personalities and strength and power of the women we’re depicting.