Hard Mode: Bayonetta

22 Nov

Sexy women wear glasses.

An overweight man hoists his pants up after pissing on a gravestone. He stands in the middle of a darkened and misty graveyard, complaining endlessly to a nearby nun. She stands in front of a coffin, dressed in white from toe to head, intoning prayers in a near whisper over the Good Book.

“Jesus.” He says. “You really get into this shit, dontcha?” He laughs, and she ignores him.

The graveyard is suddenly filled with light. Angels begin to descend from the sky, and the dumpy man falls on the ground, overcome with fear.

“I see them,” the nun rhapsodizes in a perfect English accent. “They are instruments of God.” She whispers a prayer as she reaches up into the sky, and ascends into the heavens towards the angels.

And that’s when the ass kicking starts.

She flies through the air, a flurry of kicks and punches. Angel feathers and blood drop to the ground beneath her. “You look tired. Let me tuck you in.” She smirks as she delivers a swift knee to an angel’s groin. She lines the angels up in a row, delivering a kick to the rear that sends them all bent over each other. “Don’t you naughty angels deserve a good spanking?”

She jumps up into the air again, where her clothes are sliced off accompanied by the sounds of pleasurable moans. In a moment she goes from nude to wearing a magical suit made out of her own hair, and this is when we meet Bayonetta.

In the meantime, a man with glowing red eyes has burst out of the coffin she originally prayed over, and he begins flinging her guns, which she shoots from both her hands and high heels. She flips, she kicks, bullets fly out of her as she destroys a litany of angels. “Guns!” She cries out, and he throws her a new pair. Seconds later she flings them to the ground, out of ammo. “More guns!”

Finally the red-eyed man tells her it’s last call, the coffin is empty of its supply of weapons. Bayonetta smiles. “As long as there’s music, I’ll keep on dancing.”

Bayonetta has been called cheesy, obscene, offensive, creepy, designed by horny twelve year old boys, tasteless, and immature.

Me? I thought she was empowering.

Bayonetta is not a princess in need of saving. She is not a love interest for a male character. She is not a sidekick struggling to be seen as an equal. She is not super-sweet, peppy, or somber. Bayonetta is smart, sexy, and deadly. In Bayonetta’s world, women hold the power. She’s an Umbra Witch, an ancient line of women with the ability to walk on walls, shapeshift, and wield magical guns. Trust me, you’ll never forget the torture attacks.

In Bayonetta the tables are turned. Bayonetta, along with her counterpart and fellow witch Jeanne, take center stage. They destroy angels. The male characters in the game are props; Enzo, the fat man from the graveyard scene, is pure comic relief. Rodin, the red-eyed man who burst out of the coffin, dispenses weapons. Luka, the bumbling reporter trying to investigate Bayonetta, seems to need constant saving by her (sound familiar?). More often than not, Bayonetta is either mocking or mystifying the male characters that surround her in the game.

Bayonetta is sexual. She struts on six-inch heels. She has long legs, a nice rear, and she is beautiful. Angels bleed; Bayonetta releases rose petals when damaged. She flies through the air on the wings of a butterfly. When she locks onto a target, red lips appear in their center. When Bayonetta executes special attacks, her hair flies off of her to become powerful demons that smash angels into a pulp, leaving her temporarily nude.

Some might say that her body demeans women in video games. I would rather have a female lead in a video game that takes power from sexuality, than one who dresses in a frumpy sweater. Bayonetta is hypersexualized, in much the same way that any male lead in a video game is covered in bulging muscles, or a massive suit of armor (or sometimes both). However, she is in no way dependent on a man or trying to attract one. She is beautiful for the sake of being beautiful, not because she’s a seductress.

Bayonetta makes men uncomfortable, both in game and out. Perhaps it’s her overt femininity. Maybe it’s the way she kisses her guns after dispatching a squadron of angels. It could be that she’s nearly always sucking on a lollipop.

Or maybe it’s because she’s kicking ass, and she doesn’t need any man’s help doing it.

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One Response to “Hard Mode: Bayonetta”

  1. Joe November 22, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    I’ve heard this point made about Bayonetta quite a few times–I like it. Both the idea in itself that sexy *can* be empowering, and the fact that there are many, many women who agree. I guess if there’s an issue, it’s the fact that typical game designers as well as typical game consumers *themselves* don’t possess enough maturity to tackle the subject of well-conceived female characters–or if they do, they’re clueless on how to expess what they’re doing with honesty and maturity.

    A sad example that still bugs me: The creator of the (absolutely fantastic) games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus was discussing the design process of their current project, The Last Guardian. He mentioned that the child protagonist was originally intended to be female. This idea was scrapped, so he explained, because why?

    Because they were afraid of awkward camera angles with someone who wore a skirt, and because women do not possess the upper body strength to do the climbing the character would be doing in-game.

    Evidently the thought that having a female character wear PANTS was alien to them. Evidently SCIENCE has been wrong all this time about differences in musculature not really being present prior to puberty–bear in mind again, this character is a *small child*, and was purportedly always designed as such.

    I expected far better of the designer of a couple of legitimately awesome games–and I’m not sure if it bothers me more that this was an issue in the first place, or that he didn’t realize how foolish he sounded when he described it. Why even mention something if you cannot explain your reasoning without coming across like that?

    It’s not at all a problem exclusive to video games, to be sure, but GOD is it annoying.

    So, Bayonetta. I need to play this game at some point. It’s not just the protagonist–EVERYTHING about it looks beautiful.

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