All right. It’s one thing to talk numbers. It’s another thing entirely to actually see some of the pictures represented by all those numbers. And it’s especially important given that my criteria are intentionally engineered to under-count suggestive female depictions and over-count suggestive male depictions (just so nobody can claim I’m being biased in my counting.)
(I’m just looking at art from the 2011 core set for this post, as I’m more concerned with criticizing stuff that Wizards is doing right now rather than ranting about art from fifteen year old cards.)
So, let’s get started…
All suggestive depictions are not created equal
So, case in point – let’s look at Magic’s vampires. Here are two vampires from the M11 set that were both counted as suggestive:
The male vampire was counted as suggestive because of the amount of chest that he’s showing; any character of either gender showing that much chest was automatically counted as suggestive. But looking at the two, it seems a little ridiculous to put both pictures in the same category. I mean, the male vampire just has his shirt unbuttoned a little, while the female vampire is wearing a bikini and a sarong. Talk about your double-standards.
That’s not to say that there aren’t images from the M11 set that I would say really are suggestive. Take, for example, the Frost Titan:
Mr. Frost Titan is pretty clearly designed to be sexy. He’s ripped, is wearing a minimal amount of clothing, and is posed in such a way as to put his… *ahem* attributes on display. Which, honestly, is pretty great. I get so tired of “boob perspective” (camera angles designed to best display boobs from below) that it’s actually pretty refreshing to see “junk perspective”.
Still, as awesome as the Frost Titan is, there are a lot of male figures who were counted as suggestive that, like our male vampire, really don’t belong in the category. Now some of them, I’ll admit, you could at least make an argument for, like these:
It’s my opinion that images like these probably don’t deserve to be counted as suggestive. I know we had this argument before about tauren, but I’m really skeptical that the top two images are intended to be viewed as sexy. The whole lack of pants thing really seems more about making a statement about their “primitive” culture than about making bipedal cats seem sexually appealing. (I know furries would tend to disagree with me, but I am so not having that argument here.)
The bottom two are ones that I would also say probably shouldn’t be called suggestive. Sure they’re both super-buff shirtless men, but they’re also being engulfed in some pretty nasty spell effects. Condemn almost looks like the guy is on fire, and Unholy Strength looks… well… unholy. And also kinda gross. Again, I’m willing to acknowledge that an argument could be made against my position. But looking at these images, it just feels like there’s a huge difference in how these figures are being presented from, say, Barony Vampire.
So let’s call those edge cases. These, however, are really, really not edge cases:
On the left we have a pretty gruesome looking corpse, and the other two are shirtless old men. I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s pretty ridiculous to count a corpse as suggestive. And with Flash Freeze and Pacifism, neither of the figures depicted have what we could call an appealing physique. And you know what? That’s cool – it’s great to have non-idealized body types represented. Unfortunately, it’s only male figures who are ever depicted as non-idealized or otherwise unappealing. All of the women in the Magic universe are young, nubile, and attractive. (Which is really kind of creepy, upon reflection. Does the Magic universe have some kind of female eugenics program?)
Anyway. Moving on…
Suggestive women are always just that – suggestive
The problem with female suggestive figures is that, unlike their male counterparts, you couldn’t really make a case for any of them not being suggestive the way you could with a subset of the male suggestive figures. Even female figures who are blatantly not human still have their feminine attributes emphasized in ridiculous ways:
Okay, so maybe it’s cheating to include the Siren. I mean, they are “supposed” to be sexy, after all – at least according to modern interpretation. But what about the Merfolk Sovereign? If she’s a sovereign, then what exactly is she ruling? I have to say, if my sovereign was doing bikini shoots on some weird seashell set piece, it would make me question her judgment. The worst, though, is the Conundrum Sphinx. They slapped boobs on a lion and covered them with a ridiculous plate-mail bikini top. Just how exactly did she get that thing on? I’m pretty sure body-glue doesn’t stick to fur, and she wouldn’t exactly be able to work a bra clasp with paws. (I mean, hell – those are tricky enough for those of us with opposable thumbs…) And then the cherry on the cake is that they drew her with “boob perspective” to boot.
Which reinforces my opinion, actually, that Ajani Goldmane and Ajani’s Pridemate really shouldn’t be called suggestive, because Wizards doesn’t really seem to be able to grasp subtlety. It seems like they think that either something is not sexy, or it’s REALLY SEXY and WE NEED TO CALL ATTENTION TO IT OMG. And because everyone knows that the sphinx is female SHE NEEDS BOOBZ AND A BIKINI.
But let’s not forget that suggestiveness isn’t the only problematic tendency that hounds female figures. There’s also the issue of active versus neutral poses – something that Magic is actually pretty good about. Still, active figures are not always preferable to neutral figures:
Aether Adept was counted as active because her pose shows movement while Reverberate was counted as neutral because the figure is planted and static. However, if I had to choose which of these two was more awesome, it would be Reverberate – hands down. Here’s the thing, Aether Adept’s expression is so passive it’s almost vapid. And Reverberate? She looks about five seconds from feeding you your own spleen.
(Also, as a side note, whoever invented the halter-top with a slit down to the belly button, long skirt with slits everywhere to shot lots of leg thing that so many women in fantasy art wear… I would really love to punch them in the nose. That would be awesome.)
Speaking of awesome, fully armored female fighters don’t get to have it
This is a big part of my pet peeve with the under-representation of women as fighters in Magic. Sadly, I have yet to figure out a numerical way to represent “AWESOME” – but, man. When I look at the fully-armored fighters from the M11 set, there are some seriously awesome figures doing seriously awesome stuff. Check this out:
Dude! He’s riding a lion with wings! That’s awesome! And the Palace Guards are fighting off hordes of zombie orc things with just the two of them. Also incredibly awesome! Seems like the heavy fighters get to do all the cool shit, right?
So, here’s the thing. I don’t want to seem ungrateful or anything. Knight Exemplar here is pretty cool. She’s got plate mail that doesn’t have the ridiculous breast cones you see all too often and she’s strong. Moreover, she’s even shown as a leader. All of these are super-great, because they’re all super-rare. But it makes me a little sad that all she gets to do is sit around and look tough instead of fighting hordes of zombie orcs or riding winged lions. She is strong, yes, but is she AWESOME? I’d have to say no. Which is disappointing.