Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Effeminate Masculization

I honestly wanted to avoid anything gender focused as far as games go for a very long time (the arguments are tiring to me). However, something a friend pointed out to me this morning has kind of remotely piqued my interest in such topics once again (though only distantly related). Luckily, this isn't some righteous tirade about how women sexually appear in games. Instead I'm going to opt for a development that's not entirely there yet, but a beneficial twist nonetheless.

Anyway, I managed to do a little perusing for Final Fantasy XIII, and came across and newly revealed character by the name of Jihl Nabaat. While her archetype isn't groundbreakingly new, it is something I have a bit a soft spot for myself and doesn't get seen enough in my opinion (as far as games go anyway). This means any female character with a confusingly exerted animus usually catches my eye almost instantly. It isn't tied to strictly masculine manifestations though, rather than what we simply attribute to most men.

From what I've seen, I'm of the opinion that women are far more interesting than men when their stance on the idiotic moral compass isn't so easily defined. By default, I've seen it depicted as ambivalent at best. I could reach outside for the examples here, but I'll keep it Final Fantasy-based to keep the theme going. It may just be me, but everytime I've seen the slightly related male counterpart in Final Fantasy titles, they're typically egotistical horn-dogs themselves and/or are constantly juxtaposed against a female figure to authorize their own persona (e.g. Balthier & Fran, Zidane's relationship to Garnett, etc.). Women of this type on the other hand are always more solitary, and are usually shown being more evasive of any sexual connotations whatsoever. Being cold, cruel, and callous are the terms most people run to (which is probably why I find them so alluring).

In some ways, that's really damn cool, but at the same time it has a rippling effect both aesthetically and as building pseudo-social constructs.

The Social Constructs

How does a woman portray strength without getting masculinity tacked on to them? It's a conundrum to me because the type of strength most people associate with females isn't really structured to come through in a game specifically. There have been a few characters however that exonerate the common tag along (see The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3). Taking that even further though, how many morally ambiguous females have been set up as sexual predators? It's funny and cute when the guys do it (see Zidane and Balthier again...), but the women who've been shown in such a light are usually annoying comic relief and nothing more (the first thing that even comes to my head is Amy Rose of the more recent Sonic the Hedgehog titles). The rate at which people categorize the idealizations of 'sluts' is amusing to me because it relies on outdated perceptions of both genders to begin with. In essence this is an ironic statement I'm making because I'm virtually arguing that women have been denied sexuality in games...yup.

Aesthetically...

Does anyone else see it?


[A conversation from earlier today...]

Snake Link Sonic
10:12:15 AM
Why does Jihl look like a guy to you?

voltwy
10:13:31 AM
facial and neck structure seems a bit too muscular to be a girl, but maybe they're just trying to portray a strong, masculine-esque female...
10:13:39 AM
...rather than the typical effeminate type.
10:13:46 AM
Which, unfortunately, seeps into their guy characters
10:13:59 AM
It's probably just a REALLY bad angle...
10:14:01 AM
...of a photo from a video

Snake Link Sonic
10:14:16 AM
The guys have looked 'like girls' for a long time now...
10:14:21 AM
...and its starting to have an effect.

voltwy
10:14:38 AM
Come on
10:14:42 AM
She looks a LITTLE manly
10:14:46 AM
Don't you think so?

Snake Link Sonic
10:14:51 AM
I'm not arguing with you dumbass.
10:14:56 AM
I just want to hear what you think....


There is some credence to how women are even drawn up as men now. It's not exactly up to scuff with the modern Bish┼Źnen depiction, but it's interesting nonetheless. There's been a very quick run-to arena for designers to pull out effeminate men as their sexual ace-in-the-holes. It's not all the Japanese's fault either (though it was originally popularized in Asia), as I've seen Western games being made with that very same design-set. Androgyny is hardly a term I'd use to describe any character I've seen in games (so don't even start), I've always just seen 'one manifesting as the other' and nothing more.

Now I'm wondering if the West will ever see a rise in whatever lies on the other end of the spectrum. I'll be shocked (and slightly offended) if tomboyish-esque characters don't see some increase in aesthetic design over the coming years. How they slam against 'the social construct' is something I consider far more complex and a duty of developers to surprise me with.

*hops off his throne now*

~sLs~