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Female and Strong; Not Strong Because Female

Female and Strong
Not
Strong because Female:

A look at women in gaming and comic books

By: Xeawn R.

“Let’s see, I’m full figured, I’m a single mom with a competitive job normally held by men, I wear clothing that respects my body, I’m intelligent, I’m friends with guys without chasing any of them, AAAAAND You still all drool over me? See Mai, it’s not that hard!”

So, let’s do that thing I do and talk about a touchy subject that will probably tick off some people and also have others take things out of context or the wrong way, shall we? For those of you just tuning in, this will be fun. Due to a crazy work week and also getting sick, this article has been severely delayed. However, I am now ready to open the floodgates and throw down with y’all! So, let’s begin this fantastic voyage, shall we?

I read an article recently that sort of confused me, and I felt kind of off put by it. The article was an interview with Ann Nocenti, who is in charge of writing the new Catwoman reboot. Is that one word? That looks weird as just one word.

In the article, she decided that in this reboot Catwoman is an “accidental feminist”. That in and of itself is sort of confusing, because I imagine a lifestyle change like being a feminist is something that you tend to put a lot of thought, energy and effort into. I guess you could do that accidentally, sort of. I suppose you could become, say, an accidental activist for instance by getting swept up in a massive turn of events when you were only trying to help or speak out or something…sure…why not…we’ll go with that.

She specifically cited the scene where she decides to become Catwoman and then trashes her apartment as her becoming an accidental feminist. Now, in the context of the Batman movie she was referencing, Selina Kyle was treated in a very chauvinistic manner by the male employees where she was a secretary. The scene where she up and trashed the place became mirrored in that…awful…awful Batman and Robin movie when Poison Ivy totally wrecked her lab.

The thing is, maybe I’m just a stupid man (there ya go, for those of you who have been asking about my gender in e-mails, now you know), but I never equated either scene as being particularly feminist. Honestly I just attributed it to, ya know, the massive psychological breakdown that the characters were having. When Batman gets all angry pants and trashes his lab on a regular basis, we don’t say it’s a masculine movement; we say he was having a temper tantrum. But not to his face, because he would punch us really, really hard.

“Man, don’t I just inspire you to be a strong and empowered young lady who respects herself and knows her self worth? Here, let me pour more diamonds down my cleavage just to make sure!”

More importantly, I feel like to say the act is an “accidental feminist” decision is to not only cheapen the action, but also insult the characters and women everywhere. It basically equates the idea that being a feminist, being a strong woman, means getting emotional and trashing all your stuff when men are mean to you. It means that you then express how empowered you are by dressing really slutty, getting into fights, making out with everyone who is dangerous and wild (i.e. the exact same kind of man that you’re upset with), and living out a wild and provocative fantasy until you meet a man that you’d do anything for.

See what I did there? I decided to go ahead and deflate the argument that I’m being a chauvinist before it could even be made. If being a feminist is having a tantrum and breaking things and then kissing all the boys, well…isn’t that the same thing as living out the typical fantasy of how many men believe a woman ought to behave?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s wrong or bad in any way for a woman to embrace her individuality, freedom and beauty; but to say that the aforementioned temper tantrum is the essence of womanhood is really, really daft.

There is a societal double standard. More often than not, a man who is wild, dangerous, does what he wants and engages in elicit acts with whomever he pleases is thought of as cool, tough and carefree. Girls that do the same thing are called whores.

Honestly, they both are acting like fools.

Now, there’s another double standard. You play video games like Heavenly Sword, Dead or Alive and…umm…Soul…Calibur? Yeah, we’ll go with that. You play games like those, and women and girls get very upset and complain about how women are sexualized and objectified and what have you. They look at girls like Ivy, Nariko and, well, every girl in DoA, and they complain about the outfits, the bodies that no normal human being can achieve, and the male fantasy of sexualized power they portray.

I have said for years and will say again: boys, it’s a trap. A well played one, but a trap nonetheless.

If you want to complain that there aren’t enough positive women in gaming, by all means do! I’m a guy and I’m thoroughly pissed that there aren’t more positive females in gaming! We have pre reboot Samus, pre reboot Lara Croft, Aveline, Princess Peach (have you ever played Super Princess Peach? That girl is a powerhouse), and Nariko. Counting Gears of War 3 we can add Anya Stroud and Bernie Matakie to that list, but those are the only ones I can come up with. And of course gaming’s First Lady Chun Li goes without saying.

Yeaaaaah sorry, being a millionaire with nothing better to do than crunches all day is not on my immediate list of priorities at the moment.

However, if the outfits and bodies of girls in fighting games is your complaint, well…did you stop to look at the men? I don’t know about the rest of the average male gamers, but I’m pretty sure my body type, while not an abysmal mess, is nowhere near the golden Adonis that Jann Lee, Hayate, Ryu Hayabusa and more portray.

Nariko’s outfit getting you down? Did anyone look at The Raven King? What I wouldn’t do to have that twelve pack when I’m like ninety years old! None too pleased with Ivy and Sophitia? Kilik, Maxi and Mitsurugi parade around in their underoos all the time with a body that many of us can only ever dream of attaining. Don’t even get me started on those perfectly chiseled jaws, hair that only movie stars can have, and those perfect smiles with their perfect never faltering mannerisms and behaviors.

The bottom line is, because we’re men we don’t tell you lady types, but I’m gonna break the man code for a second here and say that we all constantly compare ourselves to guys like that and the idea that we’ll never look like them. I don’t know about the rest of you men, but I’ve got stuff to do; I don’t have time to be doing sit ups all day long.

Ah, but by no means am I arguing that we have it worse. Women by and large are treated in abysmal manners that men will never have to put up with, this is very true. However when I see characters like Catwoman being treated like they’re the embodiment of what a woman ought to be, well, I cringe. Really at the end of the day, I see the juvenile fantasy of a girl molding to fit exactly how a man thinks she should be, wrapped in the guise of being told it’s how a woman ought to carry herself.

To further illustrate this point, I’ve selected a small handful of gaming females to look at. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Round 1: Chun Li (pre and post revenge) vs Samus Aran (pre and post reboot)

Vulnerable, powerful, and full of self respect! She’s gaming’s First Lady for a reason you know!

Chun Li is the first lady of gaming. Not only was she the first playable female character in a game as well as the first woman not to be a damsel in distress, she is also immediately the most recognizable powerful female out there. Why more gaming girls don’t look up to Chun Li I’ll never understand.

Chun Li came from humble beginnings with her mother dying in an incident that I don’t know was every really explained (that or they just never, ever talk about her), and her father being murdered when she was young. Knowing who did this and wanting nothing more than revenge, Chun Li worked hard to grow up a positive and powerful individual. She devoted plenty of time to her studies, both academic and physical, and became a top fighter while also attaining a high rank in the Chinese branch of Interpol (or varying other law branches depending on which of the numerous reboots we’re going by).

She beat up a crud ton of fighters, most of which were men, she stormed a rogue military base and kicked all kinds of butt, and she got to throw down with the man who changed her life forever. Akuma swooped in and sorta, ya know, ripped Bison in half for no good reason, but, the end goal was achieved either way…so…yeah…

Chun Li maintained a successful best friend-ship with Guile while not interfering with his married life, and went on to do awesome things that I’ll talk about in a moment.

Pre reboot, Samus was…an impossibly strong character, her stentorian tale told in her silence. Samus didn’t have much to say until the remake of the first Metroid, entitled Zero Mission, or until Fusion, but in her silence we knew…we knew…

Samus didn’t need to go around flaunting “Look how tough I am, I’m a girl and I do cool stuff!”, she just did it, which I feel is the essence of a powerful female warrior. Rather than having to constantly remind you that you should think she’s cool because she’s a girl, Samus went on to stop like, six alien invasions, wipe out countless space pirates, and destroy a myriad of evil alien races (occasionally blowing up their planets too, because nothing says “Don’t mess with Earth” like getting your planet blown up) without ever being phased once.

Like Chun Li, Samus was an orphan who witnessed terrible things happen to her family (and, ya know, an entire colony) and was raised to kick butt. She rose through the alliance military ranks, she became a bounty hunter because why not, and she went into places that clearly no man had the zesties to go into, and proceeded to kill everything that moved because she’s Samus freaking Aran!

Even when she started talking more via her personal logs, we saw someone who was tough as nails, unafraid, unabashed, and stalwart beyond belief. We also saw in Fusion someone who was not afraid to admit when she was afraid (and rightly so; I’d be just a little bit off my game if my suit got blown up and fused to my flesh), not afraid to admit when she didn’t know how to solve a problem, and not afraid to be girly when she wanted to be.

And then the reboot happened…

So let’s go back to Chun Li. Post vengeance and arguable reboot (though resurgence is a better way of putting it), Chun Li opened up her own orphanage, participated in a number of missions both with Guile and with Interpol (also Cammy because I guess they’re BFF’s now). She went on to adopt a daughter, and successfully balance being an awesome mommy, an awesome police officer, an awesome detective, an awesome orphanage owner/runner/maintainer, and an awesome street fighter with ease.

I mean, let’s stop and even look at a single one of those things. Being a mother is a full time job; you literally never get a moment to rest, and it never goes away. Being a good mother is even harder. I would know vicariously, on account of I have the best mommy in the world.

Then there’s running an orphanage. You can’t just get up one day and be like “I’m gonna run an orphanage!” Shoot no! You have to be crazy smart, crazy patient and crazy resourceful! You have to know how to run a non-profit, know how to take care of a ton of kids at once (which she apparently does by herself), know how to write grants, be able to cook, I mean, dang! That is a lot of work. I’m not even sure what all goes into that to be honest, it is clearly way over my head.

How about being a police officer? Or a detective? Or a martial arts master! If ever there was a character that should be pointed to as being all that is woman, it ought to be Chun Li. On top of all those career, tough girl and mommy related activities, she also wears beautiful dresses to attend fancy events and go dancing, respects herself in her clothing while also getting in flirtatious outfits when she feels like it, and is pretty much the single woman that all the street fighting guys would start a tournament over if they weren’t all married…or…wandering the desert talking to the corpses of wolves…Ryu…because that’s not creepy or anything…

Now, let’s look at the “tough and insightful” reboot that Samus Aran was given. Sidenote: this rebooted story was created by Nintendo (and presumably Iwata and Miyamoto specifically), and Team Ninja had nothing to do with it. Say what you will about how the DoA girls dress; they have always been strong and more or less positive characters as far as their stories go. Yes, even Tina. Most of the time… Plus that, for every idiot moment that Kasumi and Lei Fang have…we men have…Bass…and Brad Wong…so…yeah…I think we’re even…

So yeah, post reboot Samus is…different. Very, very different. Gone is the strong, positive, confident and self-assured Samus Aran we know and love. She’s been shot in the hip and replaced by a whiny little girl who all but licks Adam’s boots and calls him master, eager for the chance to be called “Lady” by her big strong man friend.

You think I’m exaggerating? There’s a mission where Samus has to walk through a flaming wreck. She has a unit built into her armor that would protect her, letting her walk on by without a problem. This wreck spans several very long hallways and also has things that want to kill you in it. To reiterate, she has a function built into her suit to protect her from being burnt to a crisp. But, she doesn’t use it. Ya wanna know why?

Because Adam didn’t give her permission, and she doesn’t want to upset him.

Ordinarily Samus has the tendency to randomly klutz it up and somehow manage to lose her powerups at the beginning of every mission for the most inane reasons. Not this time around; Samus decides to be a good girl and seal off her MYRIAD OF WEAPONS OF RIDICULOUS DESTRUCTION, only using each one once Adam gives her permission to do so.

To reiterate, she gets shot, stabbed, blown up, set on fire and dipped in acid on a regular basis, but does nothing to prevent any of those unfortunate things from happening, because Adam didn’t tell her that she has permission to. Geez, I wonder what she does when she has to go to the bathroom…

Round 2: Nariko vs Lara Croft (pre and post reboot)

“This is the part where I bring on the hurt! Feel free to wet yourselves and beg for mercy.”

If being a powerful woman means rising above chauvinistic men, then Nariko is the only female I’ve seen portrayed do it so well. What these “feminist characters” seem to miss, is that being a strong woman doesn’t mean “I’m gonna be a tough and sassy hip chick, all men can die in a fire, and I’m going to show how empowered I am by sleeping with all the boys and being a tough sexy single chick who don’t need nobody…except for that guy over there because he’s the main character that I’m irresistibly attracted to”. There’s a difference between writing a woman rising above men well, and doing it so that girls will watch your movie/play your game.

Nariko has an awful lot in life, with her father hating her because A) her mother died in childbirth, and B) the chosen warrior of legend was supposed to be a boy born under a certain star, but Nariko was born a girl instead. Nariko is hated, abused, unloved and looked down upon by all the men in her tribe, especially her father. What is written tremendously well about this, is that Nariko isn’t hated because she’s a girl, she’s hate because she’s not a boy.

Sound like the same thing? Not really. Clearly the men in her tribe aren’t woman hating chauvinists, because they not only tolerated, but took care of Kai who is both a girl and a mentally traumatized one at that who, during a war where you’re marching all over the place and fighting all the dang time is more than a bit of a burden to have to protect 24/7 from the armies of demons and other guys with swords. Still, Kai is loved and cared for.

Nariko is hated because a boy was supposed to be born to save them and wield the Heavenly Sword, and by being a girl that basically takes her out of the running. This isn’t because girls can’t be heavenly warriors, as we have no idea if there has ever been a female in the past to wield the sword, but because in this specific era it was supposed to be a boy.

What’s so fun and clever about how this story is written, is that everything that is wrong with Nariko is because she is not a boy, not because she is a girl, but it makes clear the point that her being a girl is both a wrong and bad thing. She is made to feel unloved and worthless because of being a girl, and as such also misses both the tender love of her mother and the affection every child needs from their father.

Nariko’s life becomes the pursuit of doing anything that she can to please her father and the men in her tribe, because she is not a boy.  Her subconscious anger towards men is shown in the way that she fights; in a manner that causes pretty much all the guys in the audience to cringe and cover their boy parts, she constantly ends her combos with finishers that involve either impaling, cutting in twine or otherwise eviscerating the zesty bits.

The vast majority of her enemies are men in dominant positions, which is logical because this is an army and they tend to be made up of guys, and the one female warrior pretty much lives to please her king.

Here we see a stark contrast in how to portray a positive woman struggling in a world where she is wrong because of her gender. Nariko has the aforementioned reasons against her, this snake lady has only that, well, she has issues and wants to be the exact same sort of “feminist” that Catwoman is called out to be.

Obligatory screenshot of someone yelling “WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME?!?!?!?!?!”

The snake lady is attractive, powerful, does what she wants, and is pretty much that “feminist” after she gets tamed by the bad boy. She has his kid, she’s kinda half crazy and she lives to serve him. The snake lady (sorry, I don’t recall her name and don’t feel like stopping the flow of this article to look it up) wants to please her man, because he is her world. Nariko wants to please her father because, he’s her freaking father.

In the battle, the stark contrast behind Nariko’s power and snake lady is shown, especially in the snarky slights the woman throws about her being a worthless/scared/scarred little girl. Ultimately, snake lady meets a terrible end as a result of her ways.

                There are some spoilers I’m gonna lay on you.

The importance of the bond of sisterhood and the power of woman is shown clearly in the fight against Flying Fox. There is a terrifying, heart wrenching pulse pounding moment where Kai is abducted by one of this evil lieutenant. Prior to this, we play as the little girl running for dear life trying to get away from this big, strong, terrifying man. We see evidence of Kai’s emotional scars as she screams for Nariko to save her, at one point descending into a sobbing mess crying “KAI’S A GOOD GIRL, KAI’S A GOOD GIRL!!!”

It broke my heart.

When she gets captured, we learn that her scars came at the hand of watching this villain murder her mother while she was hidden away. We find out that Kai is a princess of one of the many kingdoms that The Raven King sacked and defiled. From the things Kai screams as she’s running away to the particular manner in which Flying Fox intimidates and frightens her once he discovers her in the flashback, we get a pretty strong implication of what he did to her, and why she’s so scarred beyond her mother’s death.

You eventually get to find and fight this bastard as Nariko, and to quote Hardigan from Sin City, “I took away his weapons…both of them.”

I’m done telling you spoilers now.

Over the course of her journey, Nariko overcomes and surpasses everything thrown her way, and earns the respect and admiration of the men in her tribe, and the love and eternal apologies of her father. And then she still goes on to be the biggest and baddest warrior on the battlefield. At this point, much like classic Samus, it is unnecessary to point out “I’m strong because I’m a girl!” because Nariko is strong, and a girl.

Everything that is woman is celebrated in her strength, devotion, and the bonds she shares both with Kai (who is like a little sister to her), and her father. It is shown in the mercy to gives her enemies that are undeserving of death, and it is shown in her ferocity in battle. Nariko is everything a strong woman ought to be, and simultaneously celebrates her femininity, beauty and grace in the process.

Now let’s talk Lara Croft. For reasons I can’t understand, men often think writing a strong woman either means making her an ice queen, or a sniveling whelp who relies on men all the time until she has to be by herself and become stronger than all the boys and then decide she doesn’t need them anymore.

So far we’ve seen a strong and positive mom and career woman in Chun Li, a strong and stentorian warrior in Samus Aran, and a devoted daughter overcoming trauma and surviving in a man’s world in Nariko. In Lara Croft, we see what Catwoman does very, very poorly.

If Chun Li is gaming’s first lady, Lara Croft is gaming’s first bad girl. Lara is just…so very interesting. She’s strong, she’s intelligent, she’s adventurous, she’s free spirited, she’s flirtatious…and is not whorish or icy about any of it. Ya know, until we get involved in reboots.

I sort of feel like Lara Croft is the greatest character that never was; in terms of the way she’s written and portrayed she has always been pretty darn fine the way she was. The problems that lead to consistently not great sales were the fact that the games themselves are awful!!!

I’m sorry, but they are! They control bad, they run bad, they play bad! Their collision detection is abysmal, the environments are bland and samey, the controls hate you, the puzzles are either juvenile or chaotically obscure, they are just really poorly designed games. They tend to sell because, well, people think Lara is hot. Not just guys; there are a crud ton of female Tomb Raider fans, because she is as I already mentioned, fun, flirtatious, powerful, intelligent, carefree, positive, and confident in her womanhood.

Also because where else are you going to explore a Mayan tomb and then fight dinosaurs and aliens?

I don’t care what you say; I liked both of the Tomb Raider movies!

Lara Croft has never shied away from liking boys. That’s part of what makes her so fun; most female characters are either all over every guy they meet, or are a total ice queen who don’t darn need nobody no how no way. Lara is the girl who gets flirted with, flirts right back, leaves you in the dust in the dungeons, saves your butt from the monsters/wolves/traps, and never misses a beat while doing it. She’s confidant in her self-image and power, so she doesn’t spend all her time needing to be validated.

She fights because fighting is fun, she explores dangerous dungeons because she has an intelligent interest in so doing (being copiously rich doesn’t hurt), she gathers treasures because it’s a cool hobby she did with her dad back in the day, and she flirts because flirting is fun!

Lara is no stranger to a male co-lead, and normally she has a lot of fun with that. She’s also no stranger to being told what to do when necessary, as we see when we spend time with tweenie Lara seeing how she began learning the ropes from an aged archeologist (who totally doesn’t betray you or anything) after her father passes. In addition, Lara is no stranger to falling in love, and the awful pain of losing that loved one as well.

Lara managed in her career to kill a T-rex, kill some aliens, and also wipe out an ancient cave demon. Why did she do any of it? Because it was there! She’s a dangerous thrill seeker who thrills at danger!

Aaaaand now we’re getting a reboot where she’s scared of the world and can’t do anything without men symbolically saving her until she’S sniveling scared and alone somewhere else where men want to hurt her and she has to learn how to be a toughie and escape a myriad of predatory mean men who are pretty much only there because if you write a scared little girl being chased by scary guys for your whole story then you get to instantly play the “empowering” card and trigger one of two emotional reactions in the process. In men, the “she’s scared and small and alone and I want to protect her” card makes them keep playing typically, and in women it’s the “Oh my God I would be so/was so terrified if that would/when that happened to me!” card.

I’m not ordinarily an advocate of drinking games, but let’s all get some OJ and take a shot every time Lara is either threatened by a man or saved by one in the reboot trailers. You’ll have the calcium c of a super hero in no time flat!

Like I mentioned in an article on www.dragonhousestudios.org, that’s just bad writing! If there is actual depth to your character and story beyond “I’m a girl and men are being cruel/sick towards me”, then grand, you wrote a great story that will help a lot of people move on beyond their trauma/have a deeper respect for people’s trauma. If there is nothing beyond that experience though, you wrote a cheap story that exists to cash in on the heart strings.

Is the reboot anything more than exactly what it looks like (and exactly what the devs keep accidentally saying it is in interviews)? Time will tell, but I don’t have a whole lot of faith in the project turning out well. I really do want this game to do well, and for it’s portrayal of Lara to be far more positive than it’s looking, but honestly if I had a dollar for every interview that stated something to the effect of “You’ll want to protect her” or “She’s so scared and alone” or “She’s like a caged animal; they want to rape her and that’s terrifying!” and lost a dollar for every positive or intelligent thing I read about this game from the dev team, I’d certainly be far more rich than I would be poor.

Final Round: Aya Brea (pre and post relaunch) vs Jill Valentine (Overall)

Aya Brea is a perfect example of why Nomura shouldn’t be allowed near your favorite childhood memories. When she was first portrayed in Parasite Eve, Aya was actually the strongest contender for the First Lady of Gaming title. Women loved her because she was strong, intelligent, beautiful and resourceful, and men loved her because her game was fun, she was pretty, and…reasons that involved her jeans.

Parasite Eve is a game like no other. This groundbreaking title is one that I could spend upwards of a week telling you about how it’s the best thing since sliced bread and one of the greatest RPG’s ever conceived. Maybe it was the cinematics, or the amazing story, or the amazing music, or the amazing gameplay, or the amazing protagonist, I have no idea because it is too awesome to pick out one single reason!

Aya is another example of a fun positive character who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders unflinching, who was rebooted into a sniveling mess of hormones and emotions in an effort to make her more “real” and “relateable”…also who has her clothes get torn when she takes damage and has a maid outfit that says “How may I please you, master?” written in kanji on it…

Are we beginning to see the pattern here? It’s like studios are systematically destroying every positive female lead out there. There’s got to be some sort of conspiracy at work here, because they all get rebooted into either ice queens or hormonal messes. Capcom, I’m gonna tell you right now you stay away from Chun Li or I’m going to…

Ahem, moving on…

Aya just can’t catch a break. Her mother dies in a car accident, her sister goes missing from the hospital during the same accident, her sister returns as a crazy pyrotechnic serial killer, and the first date she goes on in months ends up with a sniveling cowardly brat who wouldn’t quit asking her out…

Oh, and the opera house caught on fire and monsters starting killing everyone. There’s that too.

I really don’t remember this being a part of Hamlet…

Aya’s journey as a police officer trying to stop a super natural foe takes her all over New York and on a path to self-discovery as she awakens the mysterious mitochondria powers locked hidden away deep inside of herself. She positively interacts with her father figure in the story, positively works in the role of a big sister to said father figure’s son, and positively moves forward meeting every daunting challenge head on without stopping.

To Aya, the whole situation is pretty black and white. She’s the only one immune to Eve’s pyro powers and barriers, she’s the only one with the mysterious parasite powers, ergo she’s the only one who can stop this madness once and for all. Along the way she battles everything from giant crocodiles that spit fire to a crazed Cerberus, culminating in a fight against The Ultimate Life Form (no, not Shadow).

When she’s not trying to save the world, she’s a very down to Earth woman who enjoys reading, listening to music, and not being eaten by monsters. She knows her way around a pistol, and is well respected by her colleagues without prancing around shouting “I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR!” all the bloody time. Once again, classic Aya was strong and a woman. She exists in a world where she is respected, loved and cared for by her peers. By not polarizing constant stark contrasts in gender, equity is achieved and the empowerment of a woman who is so darn important and competent in a role where women are typically looked down on gets the point across far more than a tough girl “I’M GONNA SOLVE THE CASE, AND A WOMAN! DEAL WITH IT!” attitude that such stories normally take on.

I really, really wish that any of the above were a rarity or taken out of context…

Then we get the Nomura reboot where she pretty much acts like Samus from The Other M, but with more crying, hormone fits and crawling around trying to please mommy and daddy figures involved…

Then there’s Jill Valentine. I’m going to be unusually candid here and say part of what makes Jill so attractive to many male gamers is the fact that she’s just plain attractive. I’m not trying to get a laugh here guys and gals, I’m being serious. Women always say that confidence is one of the most attractive things in a man. Well ladies, let me lay it on ya: the vast majority of us feel the same way, but about you.

Anime and movies would lead you to believe that we all want a demure little girl woman who exists solely to stroke our egos. Maybe it’s because of my combat background or all the strong women I grew up around, but nothing is more attractive to me (beyond a Godly Christian woman) than a confident woman. Someone who can hold their own, can keep up with the pace, and is confident in who she is and in her beauty and grace. Being able to hurl me through a wall is definitely a plus too 😀

Jill doesn’t need to constantly call attention to her merits; she already knows she’s awesome. She’s free to pretty much just be herself. Jill is one of the best characters out there, because she simply is. She doesn’t have to constantly go “Look, I’m great at lock picking!” or “Look, I’m great at shooting!” or “Look, I’m fashionable and pretty!” or “Look, I’m killing big monsters just like the boys!”

Nope, she just is. I once had someone theorize that perhaps the best minority character to portray would be one who is simply a person and also a minority, rather than playing up stereotypes. I tend to lean towards the ideal that the unique struggles that each minority faces is what helps define them as a character, but I do agree that you should be able to take, say, Master Chief and make him black (like his voice actor) or Spanish or Japanese or Indian or Alaska Native (that would be so incredibly epic) and have that have no bearing on his popularity or relateability. Which is apparently not a word but I’m using it.

“Ah, nothing like a nice relaxing stroll through the rain to wash the monster guts out of your ponytail!”

In that regard, Jill is great because everything she does and does well isn’t because she’s a woman, it’s because she just plain does it well. Characterization has never, ever, ever been a strong point in Resident Evil…or any Capcom game for that matter. I mean, let’s face it, you can run down the list pretty easily like this:

  1. Chris Redfield: Strong, focused, confident, vaguely racist
  2. Claire Redfield: Bubbly, a bit of a ditz, sorta klutzy, will break you in a fight
  3. Jill Valentine: Confident, powerful, driven, has a secret crush on Chris that will never come to fruition because we have had enough horror unleashed upon us with Wesker Jr… (and will also be constantly either trying to kill or trying to babysit Chris)
  4. Leon Kennedy: Cool, cool, cool, cool, cheesy, and cool. Seriously, he is like the Dante of Resident Evil; there is literally nothing that will ever phase him. I mean, the guy gave a spinning heel kick to a Zombie pretty much because it was there. I do have to retract a lot of cool points though due to his absolutely AWFUL MUSTACHE IN RESIDENT EVIL 6!!!!!

So yes, characterization is less than great in Resident Evil, and characters never change. What’s nice about this is Jill will pretty much never become a ditsy sex symbol; she will always be strong, cool, and so darn sure of herself that all you can do is run along in her shadow and hope to someday be a fraction as awesome as she is. Adding to this is the fact that Jill is pretty much the skilled, competent individual that is surrounded by a steady stream of musclebound idiots and feather haired pretty boys with such witty comments as “YOU ALMOST BECAME A JILL SANDWICH! A HYUK HYUK HYUK!!!!”

She is also to my knowledge pretty much the only woman in gaming to successfully survive a reboot with her intelligence and strength intact.

Listen folks, it really boils down to this. I love a good positive female lead, and we bloody need more of them. But that’s it right there; we need actual strong positive female leads, not ice queens, broken waifs and sex addicts masquerading as “empowered females”. Anna Williams, La Morena, Ivy and Catwoman have their place in the world just as much as Jin Kazama, Hayate, Kilik and pretty much any male super hero do, but don’t tell me even for a second that they’re there to fulfill the quota of strong empowered females. Again, there is a time and a place for these things, but every single portrayal of women in gaming is not it! And ladies, it’d help if you’d stop perpetuating the stereotype too, huh?

In closing, if even after reading this anyone still thinks Catwoman deserves Strong Lady of the Year, I will be the first person to slap you in the nose with a newspaper and make you go watch episodes of Claymore and the movies Appleseed Ex Machina and My Wife is a Gangster on repeat until you understand how to run the gambit properly.

Xeawn, out.

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2 comments on “Female and Strong; Not Strong Because Female

  1. Pretty good article. The only character on this list I have any real invested time with is Lara. I haven’t seen any trailers/footage from the new game, but if what you said is true, I can only hope it lasts just a little while and she grows into the Lara that H and I love to play/watch. I am digging the new, more realistic look though.

    One thing I feel I should say because I’m a little hazy still, you can be a strong female without being feminist. Feminists give women an strong women bad names.

    Also, I don’t play DoA comparing myself to the over the top muscles and chins, but maybe the fact that Mario has been around for 30ish years is because he has the “average” physique. 😉

    Overall, great read. Maybe you can compare Catwoman (one word, btw) to other strong female comic characters. I know it’s pretty hard because you have decades of muddled continuity. But, overall, the Storm and Jean Grey we grew up with were decently strong. Storm more so than Jean. I don’t believe Storm was married, at least, during the heyday of my youth. But, you’re not much younger than me.

    Hopefully, my mind isn’t too rambled and I stayed basically on topic.

    • I heart Storm something fierce; not only is she one of the only strong and positive women in the comic book scene, she’s also pretty much the only strong black woman in comics I can think of. Vixen maybe, but I haven’t really read her books.

      There are definitely some tough girls out there in the comic book world, and among them there are a surprisingly large-ish number of positive ones. Certainly more so than what you find in gaming. Off the top of my head I’m also thinking of Batgirl Cassandra Cain, X-23, Echo (or Ronin depending on the continuity), Huntress (from the Batman and Catwoman had a child universe), Oracle, and heck, even Kitty Pride, Jubilee and Mrs. Fantastic.

      I’d like to find some women and girls to add to that list that aren’t all grim femme fatale types, but those are really the only kind I can think of that aren’t demeaned in some way shape or form. All in all it’d certainly be an interesting article to write some time! Let me know if you can think of any others to add to the list 😀

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