>Anatomy: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG (Chun Li)

>I felt like it was time to use my artistic powers for good again, so I went looking for another image to correct. (Note to my readers: don’t EVER Google Image search Cortana. Yuck.)

Amusingly, when I was looking for characters to mock for another lesson in how game companies are doing it wrong, I had initially thought I was going to pick apart the Dead or Alive girls. But then I was looking through all the DoA cheesecake I could find and discovered… no… they’re anatomically correct, as long as you assume that they’re doing around two hundred crunches a day. They’re disgusting, but not actually inhuman. Check this out:

She’s got big boobs, sure, but they’re not perfect spheres and they are affected by gravity. Furthermore, she has a ribcage and actual organs. So Capcom, you should be doubly embarassed that I’m picking on you today. If you’re lower on the food chain than Dead or Alive, then I think that really says something.

I wound up settling on this picture of Chun Li after I found this photo of an official Capcom figure of Chun Li. It’s currently $75.00 on the Capcom store:

Okay, so before I pick on anything else, just check out how small her head is. It’s smaller than those ridiculously puffy sleeves of hers, and way too small for her body! The average human is about 7 heads tall. This Chun Li is almost 8 heads tall, which combined with her exaggerated proportions makes her look bizarre and inhuman. So first of all, before doing anything else, I PhotoShopped her head to the correct proportion:


Uncorrected on the left, corrected on the right.

You’ll notice that already that does a lot to make Chun Li look more human. Now the only problem is that her costume, with its ridiculous sleeves, makes it hard to tease out the actual anatomy. So I’ve drawn in her actual anatomy over the corrected 7-head-tall figure:

 

Chun Li’s sculpted anatomy is in red, along with my notes in green. First, you’ll note that Chun Li’s ridiculous thighs are actually 7/8 of the height of her head, despite having such waifishly thin arms that she looks like she’s not used to carrying anything heavier than a newspaper. Second, you’ll note that Chun Li’s ass is precisely the width of her shoulders, despite the fact that her waist is approximately the width of her head. So like Taki, Chun Li has no rib cage. One supposes she’s storing her organs in that prodigious ass of hers.

All of this is, I suppose, sort a refreshing change. For once it’s not the boobage that’s being completely distorted. But still, this is entirely unrealistic.

So, time to make corrections:

I gave Chun Li some more muscular arms. I figure if she’s going to be smacking people around on a regular basis, she should at least have guns like Michelle Obama’s (who I modeled Chun Li’s new biceps on). I also toned down her absurdly muscular thighs, though I left them plenty muscle-y. As someone who takes tae kwon do, which is much more about kicking than blocks or punches, this is a much more reasonable physique for a practitioner of martial arts whose technique focuses heavily on kicking like Chun Li’s does.

Lastly, I gave Chun Li a freaking rib cage. Once I did that, I didn’t need to correct the boobage, and I only had to tone down the ass just a bit. I left Chun Li’s washboard abs. I’ll cut these fighting game girls some slack and assume that they’re doing a regime of crunches so as to be in better shape for all that ass-kicking. (Oh, and I also de-muscled Chun Li’s knees since they just looked absurd.)

I realize some of that is a little hard to see, so for the sake of clarity:

(I couldn’t resist adding some shading to make it pretty)

So this is just to illustrate the adjusted proportions. When properly proportioned, her ass is still 3/4 the width of her shoulders, and her thighs are 3/4 the height of her head rather than 7/8. When you look at it this way, it’s really not a huge difference. My Chun Li is still thin, muscular, and athletic and still manages to be attractive. And most importantly, she’s human! So let this be a lesson, Capcom. I’m not asking you to make huge changes. Small changes like these would be great.

28 thoughts on “>Anatomy: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG (Chun Li)

  1. >I can't believe anyone – even indiscriminate young men – could find the original model appealing in any way whatsoever. It just looked so…weird. Just altering the size of the head to a realistic proportion made a huge difference.I love it when you do these.

  2. >I've always been fond of Chun Li's ridiculous proportions, not because I find them alluring, but because they're so over the top, just like every thing else about Street Fighter. Those arms are awful, though. I've never understood why video game (and comic book for that matter) women are so often drawn as if they have no muscle mass. I know body-builder style musculature is a turn off for a lot of people (myself included) but a suitable, reasonable physique that comes with being an action hero? Are there really people who think that's off-putting?

  3. >Doug S: Um, it has the same color scheme? Seriously, wow, the difference is astounding. Chun Li's sprite there has actual arm mass and her head is reasonable sized to fit on her shoulders.

  4. >If we’re talking sins against reality in Street Fighter, I think figure proportions are probably the last topic. The aesthetic behind the game has always been stylized rather than realistic. As said above, this figure doesn’t seem to depart from reality in order to enhance sex appeal. It is simply part of the style.I wonder if a similar analysis of the male figures would find them to be more anatomically realistic. (It is an interesting analysis.)Of course, Street Fighter has its share of apparently sexist elements. I’m just having a hard time seeing this as one of them.

  5. >Oh the men are unrealistic as well – I mean Ryu's biceps are almost as big as his thighs. But the men at least all have space to store their internal organs. But the problem is you can't just dismiss this by saying "it's just the style" because the problem is that gamers get so inculcated with this imagery that they stop being able to see the distortion. And that's why I'm doing these corrections – to point out the obvious stuff, but to also make visible the more subtle distortions.

  6. >Agreed.If a woman finds a particular representation of womanhood or femininity offensive, particularly if that representation was male-created or exists primarily for male consumption, then the allegation of sexism has to be taken seriously. Which is not to say that masculine representations and/or overall style aren't relevant…but those should be considered additional problematic elements, not justification for the inclusion of imagery offensive to women.And I think, too, it's important to remember that all of this stuff exists in a context of a larger culture that supports sexism and misogyny. Would this particular model be getting deconstructed right now if women could look anywhere on television, film, or even gaming, and see more than one or two isolated examples of other women they could relate to? Maybe, but maybe not. I know while reading this blog there are a lot of time where I'm like, "wait a second…is that really so bad? I mean, I might like to dress like that once in a while. I can own my gender and sexuality that way." But then I reel myself back in and remember that we're not talking about solitary incidents of self-driven personal expression, but a culture where a largely male creator-base chooses to depict women in a way that is artificial and unnatural…and then the culture punishes us for not being that way, but also punishes us if we are (the Madonna/whore syndrome).That's kind of the long way of saying, if a woman says something is sexist, it doesn't make a lot of sense for a guy to come along and say "no it's not."

  7. >Renee: You're definitely right overall, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would be, as Anna put it, 'unable to see the distortion' of Street Fighter character models. They're so deliberately over the top that I can't really imagine anyone regarding them as normative, just as nobody regards Dragon Ball Z hairstyles as normative.I'd say that overall Dead or Alive is much worse in its portrayals of women because literally all its female characters are there to look pretty–but never strong… and most of them, more than just pretty but outright sexpots, who are ported into a side show volleyball game whose primary purpose is to show off bikinis and breast jiggle physics.Just my two cents anyway. Take whatever I say with as many grains of salt as necessary since I'm a dude.

  8. >@ Chaltab I definitely get what you're saying, but I don't really think the concern is that people will mistake Shun Li (as depicted above) as "normative" or not. I think it's about the fact that, once again, women gamers are deprived of characters and avatars they can relate to, and how easy it would be to fix that if anyone cared. And I don't think that DOA being more more or less sexist means anything in relation to this conversation; being "better" than DOA (in terms of its depiction of female characters) doesn't free Street Fighter from critique.I want you to know, though, I don't immediately discount your opinion because you're a "dude". I do think, when we're talking about sexism, that women have a stronger position in the conversation…marginalized communities are always more finely attuned to the nature of their own oppression (which is why the whole "but DOA is worse" thing is such a problematic deflection…do you think Anna was somehow wrong about what was more offensive to her, DOA or Street Fighter?). But it's been said elsewhere, and I've found this to be true in all of my advocacy work, that no marginalized group has ever became less marginalized without at least a few allies among the privileged class. Having men who are willing to stand up to other men and say "no, this is wrong" is really helpful…but it's not helpful at all if you're only willing to go as far as DOA and not all the way to Shun Li. Because at that point it's still just you voicing your concerns, not you using lending your voice to ours.Anyway, I don't even know if you're interested in my whole ally spiel, so I'll get off my soapbox now.

  9. >@ Chaltab I definitely get what you're saying, but I don't really think the concern is that people will mistake Shun Li (as depicted above) as "normative" or not. I think it's about the fact that, once again, women gamers are deprived of characters and avatars they can relate to, and how easy it would be to fix that if anyone cared. And I don't think that DOA being more more or less sexist means anything in relation to this conversation; being "better" than DOA (in terms of its depiction of female characters) doesn't free Street Fighter from critique.I want you to know, though, I don't immediately discount your opinion because you're a "dude". I do think, when we're talking about sexism, that women have a stronger position in the conversation…marginalized communities are always more finely attuned to the nature of their own oppression (which is why the whole "but DOA is worse" thing is such a problematic deflection…do you think Anna was somehow wrong about what was more offensive to her, DOA or Street Fighter?). But it's been said elsewhere, and I've found this to be true in all of my advocacy work, that no marginalized group has ever became less marginalized without at least a few allies among the privileged class. Having men who are willing to stand up to other men and say "no, this is wrong" is really helpful…but it's not helpful at all if you're only willing to go as far as DOA and not all the way to Shun Li. Because at that point it's still just you voicing your concerns, not you using lending your voice to ours.Anyway, I don't even know if you're interested in my whole ally spiel, so I'll get off my soapbox now.

  10. >I don't think Street Fighter is a wonderful example because, as mentioned, they're pretty consistent across the board with the exaggerated anatomy. In SF4, Ryu's arms are the size of his head, Sagat is more built than a G.I. Joe.The designs are unrealistic, but most aren't done so in a sexualized manner.It's true that Chun-Li's tiny waist is probably to make her more attractive, but it's overshadowed by her (practically iconic) massive legs which are exaggerated to suggest their function (kicking the hell out of people) as opposed to their visual appeal.Renee: If a woman says something is sexist, I think it's entirely appropriate for a man to say "I disagree, why do you think so?"

  11. >What I suppose I’m struggling with is this: Do we damn every portrayal of unrealistic female anatomy while giving Dead or Alive kudos for getting the anatomy right? It seems to me that the realism of the anatomy isn’t really the issue.Isn’t there a danger that highlighting Chun-Li, where there doesn’t really seem to be a sexist motive involved, weakens your message rather than strengthening it?Renee: “That’s kind of the long way of saying, if a woman says something is sexist, it doesn't make a lot of sense for a guy to come along and say ‘no it’s not.’”If it wasn’t clear that I was trying to be part of the discussion rather than declare wundergeek wrong, I apologize. I have a daughter. Not to mention a girlfriend, mother, sister, and niece. I read this blog in order to try to get a better understanding. I refuse, however, to take anything anyone of either gender says as gospel.Let me be clear: I respect wundergeek’s opinions. I’m not here to tell her that her feelings are wrong.I will freely admit I am far from an expert on sexism. I’m a student here. But there is one form of sexism that I can easily recognize. It is when someone says my opinion doesn’t matter because of my sex.But to put it in your own logic, I am offended by your sexist comments.

  12. >There are some good points on both sides here, so I'm not going to say that you guys don't have valuable stuff to say just because you're dudes.These corrections are something a bit different from the rest of what I do here. If I have to rate them, then OF COURSE DoA is more offensive than Street Fighter – by, like, a mile. But at the same time, there's some seriously distorted anatomy that I wanted to highlight.I would do corrections of Ryu as well, only I fear that I'm not as knowledgeable of what is a reasonable body-builder physique for a guy who's not a roid-a-saurus. So for sure, if I had the skills I'd be correcting Zangief and Ryu as well. But I don't.

  13. >This has about as much merit as an article describing the ways in which Wile E. Coyote doesn't look exactly like a real coyote (complete with a good scrawl over one of Chuck Jones' sketches and a mention of the coyote's improbable longevity given his many fatally flawed schemes).Of course, everyone must aspire to photorealism or exact anatomical representation, and if they don't, they're obviously 'doing it wrong'.

  14. >Like Anna says, I don't discount anyone's opinion because they happen to be a man. However, when it comes to sexism, women's opinions carry more weight. We happen to be the experts on the subject, and for all the shit we put up with, we at least deserve the benefit of the doubt. I don't tell blacks what is or isn't racist. I don't tell gays what is or isn't homophobic. I do tell cisgender people what is or isn't transphobic and cissexist. The marginalized community knows what upsets and offends them.As has been said elsewhere in this blog, it's nearly impossible for a marginalized group to improve their lot in life without at least some allies among the privileged group. But my experience in advocacy has shown me that allies who insist on shaping and directing the conversation aren't very good allies at all. It really isn't helpful to be told we should be offended by DoA but not Street Fighter; we're offended by what we're offended by and if you're only willing to go DoA and not all the way to Shun Li, then you haven't lent your voice to our cause…you've just used it to shift the ceiling to a place you're comfortable with. Which, frankly, is what we already have.Am I saying not to share opinions on the subject of sexism? I know it sounds that way, but I'm really not. But these conversations are way more meaningful for some of us, and I think that needs to be respected. In advocacy circles, it's considered bad form for a privileged ally to make assertions about what is and isn't offensive…questions are better, more conversational, and tend to lead to understanding (rather than arguments and shouting). Ultimately it means trusting us to be right about this stuff. At any rate, this post wasn't about the worst representation of the female form in video game history. It was one more piece in the ongoing discussion about how really difficult it is for women to find characters or avatars in video games they can appreciate and relate to, and how easily that could be rectified if the game companyies actually cared. If you feel similarly about the male characters in Street Fighter, by all means say so…I would totally sympathize and I wouldn't tell you that you were wrong (although I might ask tons of questions).

  15. >Renee: I'm not trying to tell you what you should or shouldn't be offended but offering an argument for why I don't find it offensive. You've brought up something I hadn't thought of, however, in that some people find it difficult to relate to depictions of people unlike them. That's admittedly a blind spot for me as a member of the privileged class: because I don't experience being othered based on race or sex, those factors are rarely a big part of whether I can relate to a character.

  16. >@ ChaltabNo problem. I wasn't just addressing you, but rather the whole train of conversation where people were defending Street Fighter (although I admit, you're deflection towards DoA did sit heavy in my brain).It's not so much that women can't relate to depictions of people not like them. It's that we almost never see depictions of people who are like us. It would be easier to forgive some of this stuff if it were an exception to the rule, rather than the rule.You should see me tear through modern media representations of trans people in popular culture and media.

  17. >@ ChaltabWell said.(although when you do see us represented, the imagery is pretty much always the same…we're either all prostitutes or porn stars, or white middle-aged upper-middle-class married with children).

  18. >@ kmvalexa, but mainly at this general idea as it's presentedI'm always bothered by the thought process that somehow men being over-muscled is the same thing as women being presented as sexual objects who are more about turning guys on than actually being fighters/warriors/. People try to equate the two but it can never really be equal at all. They're just not the same. One is being valued for how much they can satisfy your sexual fantasy, one is being valued for who strong and fierce they are. Does no one see a difference there? It doesn't matter if the guys have exaggerated anatomy, they have it to make them look more intimidating.. the women have it to give any guys watching a boner.There's the implication that women apparently only get to be allowed when they're showing off ass floss/camel-toe, panty shots, having ridiculous breast sizes, or yeah.. jiggle physics. It can't be consistent if only one of the sexes is being sexually exploited and objectified. Y'know?I'm not going to rank Dead or Alive against Street Fighter on this, because I see no point to. Street Fighter is plenty problematic all by itself, even if they weren't that bad in the past. http://borderhouseblog.com/?p=3364 – As this article over at Border House shows. Street Fighter definitely has presented it's women in a sexualized manner, there's no getting over that. It's better than DoA about it, sure, but that doesn't mean it has no issues whatsoever.Anywho, I really like your blog Wundergeek. I've read through almost all the posts but this one inparticular made me want to comment.

  19. >The Border House article does demonstrate there's still a ways to go, certainly. I'm sort of arching an eyebrow though since it lists Cammy as American (she's British) and claims that none of them have wounds or scars (Cammy has a prominant scar on her face.) Also, Chun Li's legs are not bare, though I guess that barely counts as tight as her tights are.But yeah, glaring factual errors aside, Street Fighter is far from perfect.

  20. >@LilithXIV: I fundamentally agree with you. Male character designs tend toward "you want to be like him" while female characters tend toward "you want to have sex with her". Both assume that the player is male.My comment more relates to the fact that most of the SF4 designs are heavily distorted, and in many cases the distortion does not focus on sexualization (I acknowledge that there are definitely some designs that do). I think that Chun-Li's thighs and Ryu's biceps are a fair comparison. They're both exaggerated to the point that they're actually comical, not desirable.

  21. >I was a bit puzzled over your 7xHead=Body thing.This is only the average and therefore ideal of human proportion, and not everybody can live up to this high standard. So please be nice to people falling out of your definition ;)I for one need more than 8 of my Heads to reach my height, and even Wikipedia gives as range of 7 to 7,5 heads.I don't know Chun Li, but maybe she is over 200cm :DWhat I find more out of proportion, are the legs, compared to arms and torso.regards RdGkA

  22. >It looks to me like your sketch has a boob job.Being as ripped as she is, her breasts ought to be almost nonexistant. I would prefer to think that Chun Li is wearing a padded bra just because she doesn't want to show off how steely her chest has become. Her intention is given as wanting to give up fighting soon enough, at which point she can get a more "normal" figure when her bodyfat goes back to normal levels. I would hope she never felt the need to go under the knife in the meantime.I do agree with you about bulking out her upper body, though I think they just wanted to emphasize her famous quads.

  23. >Okay, just because Chun Li does martial arts doesn't mean she can't have boobs. Martial arts training does not leave you looking like this: http://www.lacrossefittribe.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/female-bodybuilder.jpg I know, because I have a second dan in tae kwon do and still, in fact, have rather large boobs. Nor will they go away as I advance in rank. (In fact, bulking up to that extent is bad for martial artists who use a style like Chun Li's, since that actually robs you of speed.) My boobs are about as big as the corrected Chun Li's and I assure you that they are not fake. Now sure I'm not in the top few percent of women who do world-class competition sparring – but I can assure you that they don't look like that photo either. As much as Street Fighter wants us to believe it, martial arts physiques are NOT the same as bodybuilding physiques.Sure, not all martial artists have boobs that large, but I left them as is to make the point that once you give Chun Li a ribcage, her boobs are not actually abnormally large or unnatural. By leaving them as is, I'm making the point that Capcom doesn't need to make BIG changes to make their women more realistic – little ones would be just fine.

  24. >Okay, is it deliberate that your sketch appears to have an 8cm flat-chested gap between her larger than average breasts?I will concede your point that too much muscle is a drawback, but Chun-li is depicted as ripped, which means very low bodyfat.If I seem bodybuilder-centric, that will be because it does annoy me that there has been a move toward all female bodybuilders (including the one you linked!) getting salines because they somehow "need" them. At best they look like someone has glued a softball to their chest.

  25. >8cm?? Um. No. Cleavage doesn't happen naturally, unless you're much, MUCH chestier than Chun Li here. Also, I've learned from my time in art school boobs are surprisingly unique in their shape and the direction in which they hang. I've seen a lot of naked women in my drawing classes, and no two of them had boobs that were alike. I'll admit that this Chun Li probably isn't wearing a bra, which would kind of suck for jumping around and stuff. But the "gap" is not 8cm, and it's not unnatural. It's called the sternum.Again, I stand by my Chun Li as accurate for a martial artist. If you'll notice, I de-muscled her ridiculous thighs, ass, and knees. But honestly, I think her exaggerated lower half isn't so much about emphasizing a bodybuilder physique as it is about emphasizing other things.

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