M:TG – Part Two, Pretty Pretty Pictures

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.

/headdesk

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?

…or not.

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.

73 thoughts on “M:TG – Part Two, Pretty Pretty Pictures

  1. Cursory glance shows me that the better female art seem to pop up on instants and sorceries instead of creatures, which is depressing and hilarious. At least nothing is anywhere near as bad as 7th edition Serra Angel’s art.

    Now another thing: I’m reading that sphinx as pouncing at something. Why does she have breasts? Well, to quote Wikipedia: “The sphinx, in Greek tradition, has the haunches of a lion, the wings of a great bird, and the face and breast of a woman.” (Egyptian tradition doesn’t work for out purposes because Egyptian sphinxes are male, and the core sets don’t make up shit like like the rest of Magic because that alienates potential customers) As to why it has a bikini, well, the game’s made in America, and Americans freak the hell out whenever they see a boob outside of porn. Am I the only one that thinks it’d look less tacky as a nude?

    Oh, and if you want to do more research, try magiccardss.info. High resolution scans of every card in print with one of the best searching and organizing engines ever, superior to Wizards’ own site, even.

      • Yeah, but Lion rampant is a pretty big symbol, after all. Perfectly iconic for an introduction. The only reason our eyes get drawn to the tits is the bikini, which I agree is ridiculous. If only this continent was more like Europe in terms of nudity.

        • Mm, but, if comparing to the Lion rampant though her hair could’ve covered her chest or an arm/paw could have. Just sayin’. The alluring siren (I thought the sirens called you with their songs.. and looked like bird women that weren’t necessarily attractive..) probably annoys me a little more, especially when compared to the Captivating Vampire (seriously that captivating guy isn’t even bishonen-like D:)

          • Yeah, honestly, that stuff is annoying, but I can’t get too angry because the siren thing goes back way before Wizards. From Wiki:

            “By the fourth century, when pagan beliefs gave way to Christianity, belief in literal sirens was discouraged. Although Jerome, who produced the Latin Vulgate version of the Scriptures, used the word “sirens” to translate Hebrew tenim (jackals) in Isaiah 13:22, and also to translate a word for “owls” in Jeremiah 50:39, this was explained by Ambrose to be a mere symbol or allegory for worldly temptations, and not an endorsement of the Greek myth.”

            Just another example of an awesome monster being turned into a boring allegory.

            The vampire thing though, that’s what’s got me annoyed. You don’t even need a bishie vampire; Hellsing’s Alucard has legions of female fans, and he’s the furthest thing from bishie (hell, his pre-vampire bishie form from the flashback turns most of the fans off, for fuck’s sake). You’d think that a Captivating Vampire would at least have hypno-eyes or something.

            • The vampire thing though, that’s what’s got me annoyed. You don’t even need a bishie vampire; Hellsing’s Alucard has legions of female fans, and he’s the furthest thing from bishie[…]

              There’s a difference between a character garnering a female fanbase and a character being designed for women, which is what Lilith is getting at. If there’s one thing I know about fandoms it’s that virtually every male character will wind up with a host of fangirls who think he’s the hottest thing ever, no matter how bizarre he looks or acts (many of whom will then proceed to ignore how he looks and acts to make him more attractive to them personally). That such a group exists says nothing about the character or whether he’s a legitimate example of sexualization.

              And it’s not that there’s some kind of rule that vampires need to be attractive — it’s just that if you’re going to make your female vamps look like the Barony Vampire up there, it’s really quite unfair if your male vamp (whose very name says he’s supposedly “Captivating”) looks like a scrub.

              • “There’s a difference between a character garnering a female fanbase and a character being designed for women, which is what Lilith is getting at.”

                Well yes, but it’s impossible to know why a character was designed as it is, unless you ask the creators of every single character encounter. (barring spontaneous telepathy)

                Either way, whether a character was intended to evoke something is irrelevant next to what that character does in reality. Aesthetics is a science, and science demands empiricism. (and even if you don’t agree, understand that we don’t hold our criticism from terrible artists with good intentions; consistency demands the reverse as well.)

              • Well yes, but it’s impossible to know why a character was designed as it is, unless you ask the creators of every single character encounter.

                True, but it’s usually pretty obvious when a character is designed specifically to appeal to a certain demographic — and it’s the obvious cases I meant to refer to, not the case where the pandering is so badly done that there’s a question about whether it was intentional or not.

                In other words, it’s about fanservice. Barony Vampire is clear fanservice; Captivating Vampire isn’t (and neither, presumably, is Alucard). Bishie vampires are useful not because there’s any mythological reason for vampires to be bishie, but because “bishie” represents a bare minimum of fanservice for a male character.

              • The issue here is that there’s only tastes and methods of stimulating them. What does not seem to be understood is that any and every possible thing is sexy to some demographic. There’s no such difference between obvious or niche sexualization: there is only sexaulization and it is omnipresent.

                Consequently, any situation where we pretend the artist is relevant in a critique of art will get inevitably be bogged down in “I thought it was [X], but is it meant to be?” which will go nowhere because “meaning” is a solipsistic concept.

                Let’s apply this “it’s only fanservice if it was created to be such” logic to a practical example. The show K-On! was created specifically to appeal to the moe sexuality of it’s target male audience.

                If this exact same show had been made a mere ten years previous, before the moe thing really got started, then, by your logic, it would not have been sexaulized even though nothing at all would’ve been different. That’s clearly absurd. It also puts to rest the idea of “obvious fanservice,” as there are non-otaku female fans that aren’t even aware that the characters are sexualized at all.

                Hell, there are videos of women crushing cell phones that are used as masturbation aids. They are porn, entirely sexualized, but you would never guess if you had no knowledge of the fetish and just stumbled on one on Youtube or whatever.

                That gets back to the original point: everything is porn for someone, whether or not it’s creator intended it as such. The only difference between “obvious fanservice” and the rest is that the obvious stuff is simply that the un-obvious creator is oblivious to what they’re doing, which is why their creation will generally be of a poorer quality. (See: every heroine that has giant tits slapped on her design reflexively like a nervous tic)

                There’s no platonic realm of sexualization. It’s entirely subjective, which means authorial intent is null. All that matters is the phenomenology of the consumer’s experience, which we can easily aggregate via statistics. Hence, given that:

                1, horror enthusiasts by a large proportion, (>60% at last check, and still a majority in every sub-genre, including hostel style torture porn, even) 2. that a lot of that enthusiasm comes from sexual attraction to said horrors, (Pyramid Head, Freddy, Jigsaw, Pinhead, etc.) 3. that there are many more horror fans than anime fans, and 4. that horror enthusiasts statistically tend to also be geeky in other ways,

                I can make the argument that Gorn stuff would be a more “obvious” form of pandering to the female audience than sparkly androgynes would.

                Do you get what I’m talking about?

              • Hazmat Sam:

                I don’t even know where to begin with that. “There’s no such difference between obvious and niche sexualization?” Really?

                Look, I’ll take the artist out of it completely (though I think that taking the artist out of their art is overly-reductionist, because art is often as much a form of communication as it is of aesthetics). The reaction of those who aren’t targeted is completely different, too, so there’s a rather big difference there.

                (I also have to point out that “obvious” and “niche” are not innately opposed — it is often very obvious when a piece of art is intended to appeal to people with certain fetishes even if that fetish isn’t exactly common)

                What’s really important, in my mind, is the audience’s perception of the artist’s intentions. If a portion of the audience thinks the artist is blatantly targeting another group while ignoring them, they’ll feel excluded. If that same portion of the audience thinks the artist is targeting them, they’ll feel included. The more mainstream the form of sexualization, the more likely someone is to feel excluded by its use, but people really do tend to notice if something’s given undue attention in an artwork whether they’re familiar with that fetish or not.

                As for your K-On! example:
                If this exact same show had been made a mere ten years previous, before the moe thing really got started, then, by your logic, it would not have been sexaulized even though nothing at all would’ve been different. That’s clearly absurd.

                I don’t see anything absurd about it. Both the artist and the audience’s minds are in completely different places when moe is considered to be sexy as opposed to when it wasn’t. The guys who are now into moe would have had to have a different reason for watching the show (though it could still be sexual, considering the short schoolgirl skirts), and the women who think moe fetishists are creepy would have been way more likely to have enjoyed the show before moe started being fetishized (because moe isn’t exactly problematic if it isn’t treated sexually). The only people whose reactions haven’t been changed are people who have never heard of the moe fetish.

                It also puts to rest the idea of “obvious fanservice,” as there are non-otaku female fans that aren’t even aware that the characters are sexualized at all.

                No, it doesn’t. It just means that “obvious fanservice” is often used to refer to something that’s obvious in cultural context, rather than something that’s obvious universally (and expecting “obvious fanservice” to be universal is just silly, considering the enormous differences in what different cultures consider acceptable).

                The only difference between “obvious fanservice” and the rest is that the obvious stuff is simply that the un-obvious creator is oblivious to what they’re doing, which is why their creation will generally be of a poorer quality. (See: every heroine that has giant slapped on her design reflexively like a nervous tic)

                Wait, are you suggesting that those designs aren’t obvious fanservice? o_0

                And it’s absolutely absurd to say something is of poorer quality for failing at a purpose it was never intended to have — it’s like saying a Picasso painting is a poor quality portrait because it’s completely unrealistic. There are surely some limitations to the extent one should consider creators’ intentions, but allowing a work’s creator to define its basic purpose is essential to avoid ridiculous criticisms like that.

                To address your silly “gorn is better fanservice than bishonen thing,” I think it’s entirely ridiculous (though I admit that I might be less inclined to ignore it if the first point made any sense). You’re assuming that the bishonen look is only fanservice to some portion of female anime fans, which is not exactly an easy claim to prove if you take into account the popularity of stuff like Twilight, the guys on the cover of your average romance novel, Justin Bieber/every boy band ever, etc. You’re also implying that attraction to the killers is really common, which I’m not really sure I believe unless you have some kind of sample outside of internet fora to back it up.

                And, in any case, “bishonen” is generally used nowadays to refer to any character whose looks are valued, so you’re essentially saying women prefer psychopathic murderers to guys who look good, which I would certainly hope you’d agree is problematic.

              • One thing I forgot to mention: the reason why I used the word “fanservice” is because of the implication that there really isn’t any other justification for it. (I’m not convinced that the moe artstyle is fanservice, because it could easily be used for the cute factor if there weren’t any sexual implications — hence the popularity with girls who don’t know about its origins) Fanservice is usually pretty intrusive to those to whom it doesn’t appeal, so it doesn’t apply to, say, a shot of a character’s bare feet if it’s contextually appropriate.

                And that’s what really makes the horror-movie-versus-sparkly-bishonen thing fall apart as an analogy. Making a vampire that looks like a horror movie villain can’t be fanservice, because it’s completely expected by everyone whether they find it attractive or not. Bishonen are the better comparison, because it’s blatantly obvious that the only reason for it is to make a pretty character (like practically all of the impractically-clothed fantasy women ever).

              • -opens her mouth-, -reads what Ikkin says-, -closes mouth-… Yeah I got nothing, could not have said it better. That was fantastic, Ikkin.

              • “You’re assuming that the bishonen look is only fanservice to some portion of female anime fans, which is not exactly an easy claim to prove”

                Yeah, given that bishonen is basically a very slightly more specific form of “pretty boy”, I’m inclined to agree. In my experience, women tend to like the type, even if they’ve never heard of anime.

            • Yes, the Gorn example was supposed to be silly, because it was a reductio ad absurdum of (my percption of, see below) your argument.

              The general point is that whatever you’re doing is going to be taken sexually by someone, so the sex appeal of a work is an inherent part of it’s quality, whether you care about it or not. Now, sex appeal is not the greatest quality, of coruse, and I would never begrudge someone of reducing it if it interferes with another design, but something being neglected in an area for no purpose is, all other things being equal, worse than something that was crafted well in that area.

              But let’s put that aside and focus on your points in specific form:

              “Look, I’ll take the artist out of it completely (though I think that taking the artist out of their art is overly-reductionist, because art is often as much a form of communication as it is of aesthetics).”

              Oh god, more cults of the “message.” Yes, let’s use the “artistic intent as gnosis” paradigm: Ray Bradbury said that Fahrenheit 451 is about the evils of television. Should we believe him? No, that would be stupid. The only message that matters is the one the audience invents out of the experience.

              “The reaction of those who aren’t targeted is completely different, too, so there’s a rather big difference there.”

              Except that, as I demonstrated, people who aren’t targeted have a very good chance of being unaware that there was even a target in the first place. See also: political “dog whistles”.

              “(I also have to point out that “obvious” and “niche” are not innately opposed — it is often very obvious when a piece of art is intended to appeal to people with certain fetishes even if that fetish isn’t exactly common)”

              But that’s becoming less and less obvious all the time because culture has been giving way to niche ever since the invention of the Internet. Touhou’s another thing that’s aimed directly at the sex drive of it’s audience: can you tell me anyone outside the fanbase that would pick that up?

              “What’s really important, in my mind, is the audience’s perception of the artist’s intentions.”

              Omit “artist’s intentions” and I agree with you 100%. The trouble of the last part is that knowing the “artist’s intentions” is like knowing the “will of God”. People have argued for centuries over what Shakespeare and Jesus “really meant” and it’s been equally useless.

              “If a portion of the audience thinks the artist is blatantly targeting another group while ignoring them, they’ll feel excluded.”

              Why do you have such an artist fetish? Do you know anyone that even knows the director of their favourite movie? The designer of their favorite game? Here, let me fix that: ‘If a portion of the audience thinks the art is blatantly targeting another group while ignoring them, they’ll feel ignored’

              Note the last word. Crucial difference.

              “If that same portion of the audience thinks the artist is targeting them, they’ll feel included.”

              Same thing here. you’re very close, but remember that ‘pandering’ is an insult for a reason.

              “The more mainstream the form of sexualization, the more likely someone is to feel excluded by its use,”

              Have you ever talked with actual human beings? The more mainstream the form of sexualization, the more likely the more likely someone is to fail to realize that it’s sexual at all because the behaviour has been normalized.

              ” but people really do tend to notice if something’s given undue attention in an artwork whether they’re familiar with that fetish or not.”

              Really? Because I’ve had to actually convince people that have seen Kill Bill that Tarantino movies are foot fetish films. Stop overestimating human intelligence.

              The real way this happens is when either someone specifically calls attention to their fetish appeal or when the work puts undue dedication on the fetish, to the detriment of the peripheral audience’s fetishes. (Like, the CGI in Transformers 2, which was such graphics porn that it obscured the actual fighting. Or, more germaine to our conversation, Team ninja’s breast fetish getting to the point where they literally abandoned the “fighting” part of their fighting games)

              “I don’t see anything absurd about it. Both the artist and the audience’s minds are in completely different places when moe is considered to be sexy as opposed to when it wasn’t.”

              No, the only difference is that the studio would be unaware of that audience during creation. (Which would’ve resulted in a much inferior show, but this is all hypothetical here)

              “The guys who are now into moe would have had to have a different reason for watching the show”

              Nom they’d have the same reason. That stuff was always sexy to someone. We can see clear antecedents to it in Japan’s fixation of cuteness. There would’ve been an audience watching it for the exact same reasons.

              ” (though it could still be sexual, considering the short schoolgirl skirts),”

              That’s not how this form of sexuality works. KyoAni even went out of their way to remove pantyshots from the source material to strengthen it’s fetish appeal. (Now consider that the show is one of the most popular in the entire decade. The death of culture means that signifiers now have infinite signified objects, most of which are other signifiers. That’s why there’s no longer any “obvious” meaning to anything. See also: hyperreality)

              “and the women who think moe fetishists are creepy would have been way more likely to have enjoyed the show before moe started being fetishized”

              Most women still don’t know that. K-On! was one of the most popular shows among women in it’s season. Are you starting to understand this yet?

              ” (because moe isn’t exactly problematic if it isn’t treated sexually).”

              Ahahahaha, what? Moe is a glorification of weakness and helplessness, and usually female weakness at that! No problems, are you kidding me?

              “The only people whose reactions haven’t been changed are people who have never heard of the moe fetish.”

              Can’t argue there. People that don’t know about moe wouldn’t be any different before it was recognized.

              “No, it doesn’t. It just means that “obvious fanservice” is often used to refer to something that’s obvious in cultural context,”

              Stop right there. Culture doesn’t exist anymore, only subcultures, each of which is ever-balkanizing, each of which has signs that are unreadable by those unfamiliar with it. (Fox News, the most populat news channel in America, has less than 30% of the country as viewers, if you want to start to graps how fundamentally culture has fractured)

              Sign example: There’s a group of people on Youtube that masturbate to pictures of women crushing iPhones with stiletto heels. The clips are like ten seconds long. there is literally nothing but the fetish here: it’s actually porn. What would the average person think upon viewing it? “Wow, those women hate Apple,” probably. They won’t enjoy it, not because they’re being shunned or whatever, but because those movies are terrible entertainiment for anyone that doesn’t find phone-crushing erotic.

              ” rather than something that’s obvious universally (and expecting “obvious fanservice” to be universal is just silly, considering the enormous differences in what different cultures consider acceptable).”

              Okay, that’s good. It seems we misunderstood each other agian, because I assumed that you meant exactly that.

              “Wait, are you suggesting that those designs aren’t obvious fanservice? o_0”

              Have you ever talked to these people? I would say that the vast majority are completely unaware of what they’re doing (See: all those comic creators and fans who are so unaware that their females are sexualized that they can compare heroine costumes to hero costumes). Things can become so ubiquitous that they cease to be understood as sexual (but only to the suvculture it’s normalized in: there’s always another clique that thinks IDF women in actual military gear is sexier than lingerie, for example). Seeing women’s hair used to be holy-shit-hot once. Seriously. And yes, these characters are still a problem: They’re generic (because costumes give personality, so less costume = less personality), horribly drawn (Wundergeek’s gone through that a lot, so I won’t repeat it), and much less appealing to women (see above).

              So yeah, talk to the actual men. I’ve spent hundreds of hours arguing against entire forums that WoW armour is objectifying (much different than sexualizing, take note), and I don’t believe entire forums being trolls or part of a conspiracy of lies is a very likely occurrence, so I conclude that they honestly believe this.

              “And it’s absolutely absurd to say something is of poorer quality for failing at a purpose it was never intended to have”

              You are not entitled to excuse criticism by saying “I don’t care about doing [X] right!” It’s simply a less honest form of “It’s not for you!”

              Let’s put it in perspective: what would you do if someone made a movie that glorified domestic abuse and said “Oh, well, it’s not intended to be feminist?”

              “— it’s like saying a Picasso painting is a poor quality portrait because it’s completely unrealistic.”

              Oh, god, there’s so much wrong with that statement. Read this. The entire site.

              Quick summary from Alex Kierkegaard’s “Genology of Art Games” (and yes, Kierkegaard is being deliberately provocative, but try to focus on his points):

              “To return, for example, to the case under consideration, and see how the above applies here, the process begins with the Impressionists and goes something like this:

              “—”Here’s my painting, Mr. Critic. What do you make of it?”

              —”A painting? But that’s barely more than a rough sketch! Absolutely terrible!”

              —”Ummmm, but, you see, I wasn’t trying to make something that looked good, I was just trying to create an impression.”

              —”Oh, in that case magnificent, A+, keep up the good work!”
              […]
              Thousands of excuses are produced in this way, each one of them more absurd than the last: “WE WERE NOT TRYING TO MAKE ANYTHING BEAUTIFUL BUT”: “to create an impression” (as if all art did not create an impression), “to express something” (as if all art did not express something), “to experiment” (as if any given masterpiece did not contain more experimentation, and at an immeasurably higher level, than all artfag abortions ever put together), “to convey a message” (as if everything in existence did not convey messages, and in fact an infinity of them; also, as if the most effective way to convey a message was not to actually write it down), “to make art for art’s sake” (as if this phrase actually meant anything), and so on and so forth.”

              Now, back to you:

              ” There are surely some limitations to the extent one should consider creators’ intentions, but allowing a work’s creator to define its basic purpose is essential to avoid ridiculous criticisms like that.”

              but then we run into the fact that certain things are much better at different purposes than those for which they were ostensibly designed (which we don’t know, remember, as we are not telepathic). A great majority of movies designed as horror movies make much better comedies, to use the easiest example.

              The point is that works will be sexual to someone whether the artist wills it or not. The sensible conclusion is to identify the target sexuality (say: “strong female characters” to be relevant) and put as much quality into it as everything else.

              “You’re also implying that attraction to the killers is really common, which I’m not really sure I believe unless you have some kind of sample outside of internet fora to back it up.”

              I was sarcastically using logic I thought you ascribed to to ridicule what I thought your positions were. Once again, imprecise language led to us having pseudo-problems.

              But, being serious here, discounting the Internet in this day and age is narrow-minded beyond reckoning. People will admit things there that they will never fess to off-line. You want to pretend the Internet isn’t real? Well, fine then. your problem. Here, emprical data that women are into horror movies: Check this. (Note that their stated theory that women watch these movies to feel empowered is entirely compatible with the reality of women being aroused by characters that do violence to their audience avatars. See: Rape-fetish romance novels)

              “And, in any case, “bishonen” is generally used nowadays to refer to any character whose looks are valued,”

              Oh god, this again. Look, can we, just this once, define a word in a useful way for the purposes of communication rather than equivocating between every definition of the word ever used arbitrarily?

              ” so you’re essentially saying women prefer psychopathic murderers to guys who look good, which I would certainly hope you’d agree is problematic.”

              Well, it’s better than moe.😉

              But seriously now, it’s not a problem, for the same reason rape fantasies and the popularity of tragedies are not a problem: fantasies are entirely consensual (unless we develop thought control) whereas actual rape and murder aren’t, and are thus easily compartmentalized. How many people or Gurochan are actually murderers, do you think? Moreover, how many do you think are women? (answer: Around half, which is conincidentally the number of posts involving male snuff Women aren’t particularly picky in their cruelty.)

              On another note, what makes you think that women don’t think that Alucard looks good? Obviously, we know that there’s no objective “good looking,” even if you go by sociobiology (like, large breasts were considered repulsive from the classical age to the Victorian era, for one), so the obvious conclusion is that women and men will find appearances associated with things they value to be beautiful, like how Asian and African people thought pale skin was sexy even before they met white people because it meant you were so rich you didn’t have to labour outside.

              “One thing I forgot to mention: the reason why I used the word “fanservice” is because of the implication that there really isn’t any other justification for it.”

              AH, well that would’ve been nice to know before we wasted hours talking past each other. My definition would be “the value of the inherent sexuality of a work to either the majority audience or a stated statistical average.”

              We’ll use your definition, because I have a point to make:

              ” (I’m not convinced that the moe artstyle is fanservice, because it could easily be used for the cute factor if there weren’t any sexual implications — hence the popularity with girls who don’t know about its origins)”

              Okay, so, using your definiton, you’re saying this:

              ‘Moe isn’t fanservice because weak little cute things have a purpose outside sex appeal.’

              were fanserivce defines to said “no purpose outside sex appeal,” Correct?

              That doesn’t hold because anything could be anything. There’s a ghost in the Philippines that smothers children with it’s gigantic breasts, and it sure as hell wasn’t meant to be erotic. Hell, to get back to anime, watch the Witchblade anime and try to tell me with a straight face that you were actually supposed to be aroused by it. Now, if huge breasts have some other use besides sex appeal, what could we feasibly say doesn’t?

              Your definition is completely and utterly useless.

              ” Fanservice is usually pretty intrusive to those to whom it doesn’t appeal, so it doesn’t apply to, say, a shot of a character’s bare feet if it’s contextually appropriate.”

              Let’s do the replacement thing again:

              “[Thing with no purpose outside sex appeal] is usually pretty intrusive to those to whom it doesn’t appeal, so it doesn’t apply to, say, a shot of a character’s bare feet if it’s contextually appropriate”

              The problem with this is that an artist creates the entire world. Anyone with a bit of creativity could make being naked or being barefoot plot-relevant. Ar Tonilico 3 made Dragon Ball Z Abridged joke about “nudity makes you stronger on this planet” and made it a metaphysical reality of the setting. That makes it contextually appropriate. Everything, in fact, is contextually appropriate because the artist generates the context. Your definition doesn’t count Ar Tonelico as fanservice, therefore I say that your definition still doesn’t work.

              • Seriously? Your post is way too long, Sam, I’m not reading all of that. I have my limits and frankly I don’t see how anyone could keep reading after you accused Ikkin of having an ‘artist fetish’. Cause, yeah, why criticize the artist for their art? Because we can. So instead I’m gonna go all the way back to the original subject and say, very plainly, Captivating is nowhere near as sexualized as the Barony Bikini Vampire. He looks more like a creepy drug dealer or minion talking about his precious.

                I don’t care if people find Alucard attractive, that does not make him sexualized or sexually suggestive. There is a difference. I feel like you completely missed my entire point from the very beginning and then went on this rambling mess of words. Ikkin already explained what my point was, and please stop misusing the ‘intent doesn’t matter’ shtick. Intent doesn’t matter if you’ve perpetuated harmful ideas and think you don’t have to take responsibility for that or apologize for it because you ‘didn’t mean to do it so no big deal’. You can’t use intent as a shield for sloppiness or thoughtlessness that leads to reinforcing oppressive mindsets, because intent does not negate the result.

                And in the end, to me pandering to one while ignoring and treating the other side of the audience as invisible the majority of the time is the actual insult, because the one-sided pandering is a way of exclusion.

              • Hazmat Sam:

                I’m not replying to everything, because I just don’t have the time for it (and that’s really saying something).

                Besides, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that trying to debate something as basic as the existence of meaning usually is about as productive as ranting at a wall. Suffice it to say that we have some really deepseated disagreements here that probably won’t be worked out in a comment thread, and I’d rather avoid that level of frustration.

                So, I’m just going to go with some general highlights.

                The general point is that whatever you’re doing is going to be taken sexually by someone, so the sex appeal of a work is an inherent part of it’s quality, whether you care about it or not. Now, sex appeal is not the greatest quality, of coruse, and I would never begrudge someone of reducing it if it interferes with another design, but something being neglected in an area for no purpose is, all other things being equal, worse than something that was crafted well in that area.

                I don’t think you should rule out the possibility that a quality in and of itself might have negative value. 😉

                Oh god, more cults of the “message.” Yes, let’s use the “artistic intent as gnosis” paradigm: Ray Bradbury said that Fahrenheit 451 is about the evils of television. Should we believe him? No, that would be stupid. The only message that matters is the one the audience invents out of the experience.

                My position is not as extreme as you’re assuming. I don’t think the author has the authority to make claims about his work that the work itself does not substantiate; likewise, valid positions can be created that the author does not agree with. The author’s intended message is not the be-all and end-all of a work’s meaning, but that doesn’t necessarily require that it’s irrelevant.

                Except that, as I demonstrated, people who aren’t targeted have a very good chance of being unaware that there was even a target in the first place. See also: political “dog whistles”.

                It doesn’t matter if some people don’t notice it. If even one person notices that targeting, it changes the effect the work has (and it’s unlikely the effect will be that small, because that one person will probably point it out to others).

                Omit “artist’s intentions” and I agree with you 100%. The trouble of the last part is that knowing the “artist’s intentions” is like knowing the “will of God”. People have argued for centuries over what Shakespeare and Jesus “really meant” and it’s been equally useless.

                It doesn’t matter if the audience’s perception is correct or not, merely that their perception (right or wrong) affects the way they think about the work.

                Why do you have such an artist fetish? Do you know anyone that even knows the director of their favourite movie? The designer of their favorite game?

                Ha. Ha ha. Hahaha.

                Have you ever been in a fandom? Ever? Interaction with a work’s creators is crucial to the way fandoms work. Interviews with the creators are valued so highly that they might as well be new works themselves. Trying to figure out what the creator knows that we don’t is half the fun.

                Sure, they might not know the creators on a face-to-face basis, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important to a lot of people’s enjoyment of the works themselves.

                Have you ever talked with actual human beings? The more mainstream the form of sexualization, the more likely the more likely someone is to fail to realize that it’s sexual at all because the behaviour has been normalized.

                Right. I’m sure there are a whole lot less people who know high heels are sexualized than there are people who know moe is sexualized.

                Normalization does remove sexualization in some ways, because sexualization almost always involves things that are in some way forbidden (eg. if every infant’s mother went around breastfeeding in public, your average person wouldn’t consider breastfeeding to be sexual at all). But that doesn’t necessarily apply to things that are only common as forms of sexualization.

                Really? Because I’ve had to actually convince people that have seen Kill Bill that Tarantino movies are foot fetish films. Stop overestimating human intelligence.

                …is it sad that that’s the exact example I was thinking of?

                Nom they’d have the same reason. That stuff was always sexy to someone. We can see clear antecedents to it in Japan’s fixation of cuteness. There would’ve been an audience watching it for the exact same reasons.

                I’m not convinced that’s the case. The fixation on cuteness exists in many places without any sexual elements at all (see also: the popularity of cute kitties on the internet), and manga creators probably would have realized it sooner if the sexual element existed all along. I’m more inclined to think that tastes are influenced by culture — understanding moe in sexual terms isn’t inherent to moe, it’s something that was grown in the audience and changed the way it made them feel.

                Ahahahaha, what? Moe is a glorification of weakness and helplessness, and usually female weakness at that! No problems, are you kidding me?

                Once you get rid of the sexual aspect, that “glorification of weakness and helplessness” is more of an appeal to the mommy/daddy instinct than anything — the same thing that makes people say “aww” when they see this.

                Then again, that might have something to do with the fact that I’m way more familiar with the female-targeted sort of moe than the male-targeted form. It’s hard to think moe is inherently sexist when one of your first associations is Axis Powers Hetalia.

                Stop right there. Culture doesn’t exist anymore, only subcultures, each of which is ever-balkanizing, each of which has signs that are unreadable by those unfamiliar with it. (Fox News, the most populat news channel in America, has less than 30% of the country as viewers, if you want to start to graps how fundamentally culture has fractured)

                The rising importance of subcultures doesn’t prove that a shared culture no longer exists. There are definitely still shared ideals and signs that affect all Americans, regardless of subculture (for instance, men are expected to shun anything feminine — not every man will go along with this expectation, but they’ll be judged by it anyway). And, in fact, I’d suggest that it’s the shared aspects that have the most potential to cause trouble, because it’s not that hard to leave a sub-culture, but it’s impossible to shed that super-culture.

                Have you ever talked to these people? I would say that the vast majority are completely unaware of what they’re doing (See: all those comic creators and fans who are so unaware that their females are sexualized that they can compare heroine costumes to hero costumes). Things can become so ubiquitous that they cease to be understood as sexual (but only to the suvculture it’s normalized in: there’s always another clique that thinks IDF women in actual military gear is sexier than lingerie, for example). Seeing women’s hair used to be holy-shit-hot once. Seriously. And yes, these characters are still a problem: They’re generic (because costumes give personality, so less costume = less personality), horribly drawn (Wundergeek’s gone through that a lot, so I won’t repeat it), and much less appealing to women (see above).

                So yeah, talk to the actual men. I’ve spent hundreds of hours arguing against entire forums that WoW armour is objectifying (much different than sexualizing, take note), and I don’t believe entire forums being trolls or part of a conspiracy of lies is a very likely occurrence, so I conclude that they honestly believe this.

                I’ve seen those arguments, and I don’t believe them for one second. Especially as far as the creators themselves are concerned. Fanboys themselves might have become so inured to the ridiculous costumes and quadruple-D chest sizes that they don’t realize they’re supposed to be sexy (though their reactions to said characters rather disagree with that interpretation), but anyone who traces pornographic images to pose their characters has no right to say anything like that.

                This is relevant.

                You are not entitled to excuse criticism by saying “I don’t care about doing [X] right!” It’s simply a less honest form of “It’s not for you!”

                Let’s put it in perspective: what would you do if someone made a movie that glorified domestic abuse and said “Oh, well, it’s not intended to be feminist?”

                Heh, that’s the trick, isn’t it — how do you determine what standards all works should be held to, when it’s clear that not all works can be held to the same standards in all cases?

                What I intend to do — which I know is going to be incredibly hard to phrase — is to choose a spot somewhere in the middle. There are some things a creator can’t define (eg. whether his work is “for feminists”) and some things a creator can (eg. whether his work is a romantic comedy or a classical tragedy); there are some sets of standards that are chosen and others that are obligatory.

                Which ones are which, of course, are subject to vast quantities of debate, but I’m convinced there are at the very least some of each.

                but then we run into the fact that certain things are much better at different purposes than those for which they were ostensibly designed (which we don’t know, remember, as we are not telepathic). A great majority of movies designed as horror movies make much better comedies, to use the easiest example.

                That’s just about the worst example you could have possibly chosen.

                Bad horror movies make better comedies because they fail at being horror movies. If the terrible special effects and awful script-writing weren’t presumed to be created for the purpose of scaring the audience, there wouldn’t be anything to laugh at. (A horror parody can be “bad” on purpose, of course, but it’s still asking the audience to pretend it’s a horror movie)

                There’s a reason people say stuff like that is “So Bad It’s Good” — the entertainment value comes solely through the work being utterly terrible at its designated purpose.

                But, being serious here, discounting the Internet in this day and age is narrow-minded beyond reckoning. People will admit things there that they will never fess to off-line.

                I’m excluding the internet because it’s very easy to feel like you’re in a majority when you’re actually a minor sub-sub-culture, not because it’s “not real.”

                You want to pretend the Internet isn’t real? Well, fine then. your problem. Here, emprical data that women are into horror movies: Check this. (Note that their stated theory that women watch these movies to feel empowered is entirely compatible with the reality of women being aroused by characters that do violence to their audience avatars. See: Rape-fetish romance novels)

                So you proved… women like horror movies. Which I have absolutely no stake in contesting, since the article itself offers some really good reasons for that which don’t involve sex.

                On the other hand, I see little to no reason to consider your hypothesis anything more than a hypothesis, given that the article gives no statistics at all in that regard.

                Oh god, this again. Look, can we, just this once, define a word in a useful way for the purposes of communication rather than equivocating between every definition of the word ever used arbitrarily?

                Okay, sure. How about the first definition on Urban Dictionary?

                Bi-sho-nen (n)
                1. Japanese word literally meaning ‘pretty boy’. Now universally used by anime fans and Otaku to describe attractive males.

                That good enough?

                On another note, what makes you think that women don’t think that Alucard looks good?

                Because his slasher smile practically extends from ear to ear, the yellow glasses make him look like he has giant glowing yellow eyes, and the overall effect is of something barely even human.

                (I’m going to assume, of course, that you were referring to this look rather than this one, for obvious reasons)

                That doesn’t hold because anything could be anything. There’s a ghost in the Philippines that smothers children with it’s gigantic breasts, and it sure as hell wasn’t meant to be erotic. Hell, to get back to anime, watch the Witchblade anime and try to tell me with a straight face that you were actually supposed to be aroused by it. Now, if huge breasts have some other use besides sex appeal, what could we feasibly say doesn’t?

                The Phillipine ghost is obviously not fanservice, so it doesn’t damage my definition in the slightest.

                The Witchblade anime… I’m going to disagree with you just from what I’ve heard about that thing (though I will say that, as a straight female, it means very little that I would find it unarousing xD).

                And I’m sure that almost everything has a potential purpose apart from sex appeal, which is perfectly acceptable as long as it’s only being used for that other purpose and doesn’t seem like a transparent attempt to get away with sex appeal.

                The problem with this is that an artist creates the entire world. Anyone with a bit of creativity could make being naked or being barefoot plot-relevant. Ar Tonilico 3 made Dragon Ball Z Abridged joke about “nudity makes you stronger on this planet” and made it a metaphysical reality of the setting. That makes it contextually appropriate. Everything, in fact, is contextually appropriate because the artist generates the context. Your definition doesn’t count Ar Tonelico as fanservice, therefore I say that your definition still doesn’t work.

                Well, that’s an easy enough problem to fix: all justifications and meta-justifications must follow the same rules as the things they’re justifying (ie. that the most obvious reason for their relevance to someone who knows of the fetish is separate from or even contradictory to sex appeal).

              • “Seriously? Your post is way too long, Sam, I’m not reading all of that. I have my limits and frankly I don’t see how anyone could keep reading after you accused Ikkin of having an ‘artist fetish’.”

                So, you’re going to criticize my argument without reading it? Just being clear here.

                ” Cause, yeah, why criticize the artist for their art? Because we can. ”

                Okay, and here’s why not: Because the singular “artist” is an anachronism. It takes hundreds of people to make a movie or game, and that number is only going to increase as technology becomes more sophisticated. There’s no shared intent there.

                So instead, It’s best to criticize works. Like I’ve been doing, which you’d know if you actually read what I posted. (Fuck, I read Ikkin’s stuff, and you’d best believe that wasn’t a fun experience)

                “So instead I’m gonna go all the way back to the original subject and say, very plainly, Captivating is nowhere near as sexualized as the Barony Bikini Vampire. He looks more like a creepy drug dealer or minion talking about his precious.”

                Which I agreed with, remember? Or were you also too busy to read those three paragraphs?

                Here it is, clearly then: This character isn’t as sexually appealing to women as a group as the Barony Vampire is to men as a group.

                “I don’t care if people find Alucard attractive, that does not make him sexualized or sexually suggestive. There is a difference.”

                that entire argument was a reductio ad absurdum of Ikkin’s argument. You weren’t supposed to…

                Fuck it, nevermind, not important.

                ” I feel like you completely missed my entire point from the very beginning and then went on this rambling mess of words.”

                Oh no, I understand perfectly: Your point, and Ikkin’s, is that something has to be intentionally designed by an artist as sexy for it to be fanservice. That’s a flawed definition, not the least because sexual objectification is a normalized unconscious behaviour. Please understand that people can disagree with you even if they understand your argument. Shocking, I know.

                “Ikkin already explained what my point was, and please stop misusing the ‘intent doesn’t matter’ shtick.”

                Misusing? There can be no misusing of this. Either intent matters or it does not. I’ve simply been applying it consistently.

                “Intent doesn’t matter if you’ve perpetuated harmful ideas and think you don’t have to take responsibility for that or apologize for it because you ‘didn’t mean to do it so no big deal’. You can’t use intent as a shield for sloppiness or thoughtlessness that leads to reinforcing oppressive mindsets, because intent does not negate the result. ”

                EXACTLY. Results are what matter, not nebulous ‘intent’ that may or may not exist in a person’s head, especially in an age where artistic endeavour is increasingly collectivized, and thus “intent” become useless and less applicable.

                “You can’t use intent as a shield for sloppiness or thoughtlessness that leads to reinforcing oppressive mindsets, because intent does not negate the result. ”

                And I don’t intend to. I’ve already said that our Captivating Vampire isn’t very captivating. Maybe the artists wanted him to be, but failed. No matter. Authorial intent matters as little here as it does elsewhere.

                Now, I’m totally against the current aesthetics of female characters, but let’s get something straight: All mindsets are oppressive. Yes, even yours.

                “Off goes the head of the king, and tyranny gives way to freedom. The change seems abysmal. Then, bit by bit, the face of freedom hardens, and by and by it is the old face of tyranny. Then another cycle, and another. But under the play of all these opposites there is something fundamental and permanent — the basic delusion that men may be governed and yet be free. ” -H. L. Mencken.

                Your ideology will oppress people that you feel deserve it, as will mine, as has and will every ideology. Don’t assault me one second then claim to being a pacifist.

                “And in the end, to me pandering to one while ignoring and treating the other side of the audience as invisible the majority of the time is the actual insult, because the one-sided pandering is a way of exclusion.”

                Nothing can appeal to everyone because many tastes contradict. (you don’t believe me? Try writing a romance novel that appeals to every orientation equally, then. Or an SF novel that attracts as many old people as teenagers.) The goal is to engage the right people, the superior tastes. We are both both disgusted by the styles of the larger companies, and both seem to genuinely want the same sort of thing. What’s the problem?

              • Summary for those with short attention spans:

                1. Authorial intent matters nothing whether the result is good or bad. Only the audience reaction matters.

                2. If fanservice is defined as “knowingly appealing to the sex drive of the audience”, then anything sexy done for the second time is fanservice, and therefore everything is fanservice because everything has some people aroused by it.

                3. A definition should be used to categorize tings. This one can’t. Therefore, that definition is flawed.

                4. Nevertheless, I criticize the art in question for being bad art that doesn’t appeal as much as the opposite-sex alternative, in that less of the audience will be stimulated by it.

                5. If this is too semiotic, we can “agree to disagree” yet again.

              • I didn’t your /entire/ post, because tl;dr. No one’s going to read your novel (Note, i’m talking about your very last post before your two current ones), Sam (now, in an actual blog post instead of a comment section, sure but..). They’ll just get lost along the way. We’ve actually pointed this out to you before, except it was on blogger. Ikkin did not post nearly as much as you in one post.

                Re: The artist thing. As usual, it depends on the situation. You’re over simplifying things, there’s nothing wrong with criticizing and artist /and/ their work when appropriate, it doesn’t have to be an either/or.

                “Your point, and Ikkin’s, is that something has to be intentionally designed by an artist as sexy for it to be fanservice.”

                Nope. Intentions are murky things, and anyone can just claim ‘they didn’t mean it that way’ and then you’ve hit a wall. The result matters more than the supposed intent, how the art/game/whatever presents the character. Just because, in someone’s mind, it’s normal and acceptable to present women in barely anything while men are fully armored in doesn’t make it magically not sexist and magically not a double standard. It’s still fanservice, even if that wasn’t the first thought and it was just ‘this is what women usually wear in these situations’. We’ve just become used to pandering solely to men it’s become the default setting while ignoring women’s desires as well. Also, sexual objectification /can/ be an unconscious behavior.. and sometimes it can be a fully conscious behavior (‘Sex sells’). Situations Will Vary, it’s /not/ one or the other. You don’t understand my argument at all.

                Now, I’m totally against the current aesthetics of female characters, but let’s get something straight: All mindsets are oppressive. Yes, even yours.

                Nope, sorry. Power structures, the marginalized cannot oppress the privileged, context. All mindsets are not oppressive, you’re gonna need more than that to back yourself up. The mindset that women shouldn’t be treated fap toys and sex objects constantly is not oppressing anyone (only privileged fools with entitlement issues to the degradation of others think that). Your argument is a dead end to equality, don’t expect me to accept your zero sum game thought process.

                Nothing can appeal to everyone at once. But no one ever said anything about ‘at once’, and one should still try to appeal to as many as possible, to be as inclusive as possible (while not taking it so overboard on the ‘need’ of sexual appeal that you reduce personhood). You think of the world as a hierarchy, because that’s all our world is about, but it does not have to be that way.

              • Okay, Lilith, I’ll be keeping this quick, then, because that appears to work better. Each point addresses the corresponding paragraph:

                1. Why would it matter where you read my comment? It would be just as long if I put it on it’s own blog. Cut the Nnon sequiturs.

                2. The artist is irrelevant. Do you even know who the artists for these cards are? Do you even care? No, because you realize instinctively what I’m saying. Besides, it saves time: if an artist doesn’t take criticism of their work as incentive to change, I doubt that personal attacks will do much either.

                3. You’re repeating my entire argument, specifically, the part about normalized behavior. Maybe you should have read more than my Cliff’s Notes. The only thing that’s different is that you assume that some messages are intentional and some some not while you explicitly state that you cannot tell them apart. How, then, did you arrive at your first statement? This does not follow.

                4. Once again: Off goes the head of the king, and tyranny gives way to freedom. The change seems abysmal. Then, bit by bit, the face of freedom hardens, and by and by it is the old face of tyranny. Then another cycle, and another. But under the play of all these opposites there is something fundamental and permanent — the basic delusion that men may be governed and yet be free.

                Now, you could sidestep this by being an anarchist, but you’re a feminist, and feminism is (insofar as it can uniformly be anything, what you you all balkanized like Yugoslavia) totalitarian; ‘The Personal is the Political,’ remember? I’m not using ‘totalitarian’ as an insult, though. Hell, I’d be totally on board with you if I wasn’t friends with some of the people that’d be up against the wall when the revolution comes. (and before you argue on empirical terms, consider that the Swedish Feminist Party, the most successful feminist party on Earth, has proposed man taxes and reversing the presumption of innocence in cases of sexual crime. Every empire needs it’s barbarians, after all.)

                5. “As many people as possible.” that’s what corporations do too, you know. Go for as many people as are worth it. Who defines what isn’t worth it? Why, the ideology in power, of course, and ideology always has it’s priorities. If you disagree, please read this first before you respond. It’ll save us both some time.

              • Hazmat Sam:

                I guess my last post was in moderation for too long for it to appear relevant or something, so I’ll respond to part of your response to Lilith instead:

                The only thing that’s different is that you assume that some messages are intentional and some some not while you explicitly state that you cannot tell them apart. How, then, did you arrive at your first statement? This does not follow.

                That’s not exactly what she’s saying.

                As far as I can tell, she’s saying that the effect of intent differs based on the situation.

                Something that is hurtful is hurtful, whether it’s intended or not. This is the category into which the “random girlybits thrown together” female characters fall, as well as the unintentionally-insensitive comments that are given the response “intent doesn’t matter.”

                However, there are other things that aren’t hurtful in and of themselves, but could still do damage depending on what the intention behind them appears to be — and that’s where most of your fetish examples fall, because the thing being fetishized could easily be harmless, while treating women only as a thing to display that fetish is just as problematic as treating them only as a thing to display girlybits.

              • Yeah, Ikkin put my general feelings about intent pretty well. You just keep mispresenting them, Sam.

                On the ‘why would it matter if it was on a blog or not’, on a blog one is prepared to read something that is quite long. These are the thoughts of someone else in their personal space, one expects things to go on at length and respects that. A comment section is a discussion, too long and you risk looking like you’re just rambling off. Don’t expect people to stick around for the walls of text, Sam. Only so many hours in a day and all that.

                You don’t think an artist matters, you think an artist is irrelevant. Feel free to state this as fact as many times you wish, it doesn’t mean anything more when you do. To me, both matter, but situations will vary, as I have been saying all along.

                Your repeating of a quote means nothing. Your zero sum game thought process on Feminism and general equality is not acceptable. If you will just repeat yourself, I will do the same. And thanks /so much/ for generalizing feminism like it’s some kind of monolithic force. Because swedish feminism some defines /all/ feminism right? Oh and without any links or context to show whatsoever as I make accusations of the supposedly most successful feminist party, surely that’ll go over well. Gimme a break, Sam. Can’t forget the vague talking about feminists starting some violent revolution. Don’t presume to tell me what my feminism is, and don’t project your narrow-minded idea of it onto me.

                “that’s what corporations do too, you know.”

                No, they don’t. Or have you been living under a rock with how most, lets say, gaming companies treat women? They are often anything but inclusive. You seem so very in the dark about so many things it’s astonishing. Also, note, I spoke nothing of ‘worth’ in my other reply. That’s you and your hierarchy-speak all over again.

              • One more thing. Please explain /your/ definition of the Personal is Political, I’ll humor you even though I have a strong doubt you even know what that phrase actually means.

        • I feel that the Sphinx breasts aren’t really…attractive. I feel the sphinx-crotch is highly questionable. I mean, that’s personal preference, but it makes me wonder…

          Where’s the touchy-line of it? I mean, guys have two “nasty tidbits” to cover, while women have three?(there’s a “heh, boobies” argument for ya :P) How does an endowed woman not be seen as overtly sexual then? Any number of natural stances becomes easily sexed. Everyone has a butt, so that nudity embarassment can be shared, but…I dunno, it’s hard to have a chest and not be taken as “oversexed”. Meh, the whole bra vs. bare chest argument might be outta place. Besides, there is always the option of small-breasted women! That could be pretty interesting if explored. Gymnasts are pretty damn formidable!

          But there’s probably less money in it. I imagine that’s a problem. But I still feel like it’s valid! And it is a world of “Magic”…everyone has a spell in place of a bra…

          • There’s a huge difference between drawing a woman in a neutral pose in which nothing is emphasized and drawing them in ways that emphasize their bits. If a woman was standing in a pose similar to the Ajani cards, then no I would not say she was having her bits emphasized, nor would I say she was thrusting out her bits – even if she was particularly well-endowed. What I’m talking about are things like the Sphinx and the Siren who are either contorted into poses designed to display their attributes to best effect or drawn from such an angle as to best display those attributes.

  2. ‘ 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. ‘

    This is a rather different stance than the one you took on Tiger Lady in your Wayne Reynolds post. The Lion Dudes in Ajani’s Pridemate are wearing about the same amount of clothing as Tiger Lady, and have plenty of lion bits on display(notably heavily muscled arms, chests, and thighs). Would you have accepted a “primitive culture” justification for Tiger Lady?

    Also, Condemn is pretty suggestive, IMO. It’s a physically powerful, ripped guy being forced into a really submissive position.

    • This tiger-lady?

      I’d say there’s a significant difference between her and the lion-men, in that their fur is rendered in a completely different way. Tiger-lady’s fur looks like it’s practically painted on, at least as far as her legs, stomach, and breasts are concerned. The two lion-men, on the other hand, are so heavily furred that they might as well be fully clothed (or, at least, that’s the impression I get from looking at the picture, which might not be technically correct considering that Ajani himself seems to have the skintight-fur look).

      In fact, I think tiger-lady would be less suggestive if they ditched the tube top completely and just gave her really thick fur and a loincloth like the lion-men have.

      I’d agree with you about Condemn, though. There’s nothing particularly gruesome or squicky about it, and it’d definitely count if it was a woman in his place (though that probably would have been drawn more suggestively).

      • That is a more reasonable explanation.

        At the risk of being a bit provocative, I don’t think WG would accept such excuses as “primitive culture” or “spell effects” when it comes to suggestive female depictions though, so I found it odd that she seemed to be looking for excuses like that when it comes to suggestive male depictions.

        • Well, the “primitive culture” thing is something that we’ve been trying to pin down for a while now, because the loincloth barbarian archetype is so common in contexts that clearly aren’t intended to be sexy. It’s less of a reason why the character isn’t sexy (because a “primitive culture” character could obviously be made to be sexy) — it’s an explanation for why a character is scantily-clad when you’re already thinking he wasn’t made to be sexy.

          • Because fantasy and science fiction associate the natural world with the whole natural selection thing. “whoever gets away is strong as the devil” is the impression we’re meant to receive.

            But don’t worry about it: we have to have to have axioms here lest we just look at rule 36, throw our hands up because everything is fanservice, then say “well, everything is equal” and then go home, having done nothing of value.

        • You would have to define what is ‘sexual’ for men and WG would have to know what /your/ definition or an example of what you think suggestive is. I agree with her that the two tigers are not cannot be compared to the tiger lady’s body. She’s in full zoom, at an angle that shows off her breasts with her ass in the air. What sexual suggestiveness do you see on the those two tigers up there (How are arms sexually suggestive…)? For example, I see no bulge slipping out of the tiger men’s loincloths and for the first his arm and blade covers his chest (his chest is turned /away/ even).

          My general idea is that, with men, you have to try harder to sexualize them to be convincing. Because women are the ones who have their bodies fetishized as sex objects most often and that is what is normalized. To reach suggestive on a man, it has to be more than just a muscled arm. That’s not really trying very hard in my opinion, it’s just not enough to earn that gold star. I mean… Women get ass shots, cameltoe, crotch shots, upskirt shots, cleavage shots, jiggle physics, iron-tipped nipples, skin-tight spandex.. and probably some more I’m forgetting.

            • Ohh right, the ‘oh no, we forgot to put both tits /and/ ass in this picture of a woman. That’s the most important part!’ mindset with that kind of art. Thanks for the reminder C’nor, I did forget the pretzel posers😄

          • I actually agree that Tiger Lady is more sexualized(mostly due to posing, though the fur is also an issue, as mentioned by Ikkin). And in no way do I intend to imply that men are typically just as sexualized as women.

            I am simply pointing out what I perceive as a double standard here. The reasons WG uses to write off those male images as non-suggestive would not be accepted here if they were female images, I don’t think. When a standard isn’t applied equally, the goal of equality is undermined.

            • As with my comment below, it’s not a double standard. If Ajani was posed the same way as Tiger Lady, that is to say if he was thrusting his junk or other manly bits at the viewer, then sure I would say that he’s equally sexualized. But he’s NOT. He’s standing in a very neutral, not bit-accentuating way.

            • “And in no way do I intend to imply that men are typically just as sexualized as women.”

              No, no, I think I said that wrong. I meant, because men are not the typical ones to be sexualized, to do it an artist has to try harder to reach that level. It basically has to be more explicit to reach the same level as women are sexualized. There really already is a double standard, but it’s in the favor of men where they don’t have to be put in the poses/positions, suggestive gestures, and don’t have their more sexual characteristics put on display as often as women do but still get the ‘sexualized’ label.

              It’s like the idea that showing a cameltoe and crotch shot of a comic superheroine is A.OK but the minute you show a noticeable bulge in superhero’s crotch and actually zoom in on that… well I’ve seen some rather extreme responses to that like how ‘sick and wrong’ it is. And god forbid if it’s erect (erect nipples though that seem to shape through all kind of material? That’s okay). The limit put on the sexualization of men is /much/ lower than the one put on women.

              • Yeah, the only comic that got away with dude bulge I can recall is Bomb Queen, and that’s because one of the running jokes in the comic was showing how superhero costumes would (not) function realistically. Wardrobe malfunctions galore for everybody and the title character’s areolae are visible in her cleavage window, f’rex.

          • Jiggle physics, when done -correctly- and not just to call attention to the breasts, adds to the realism of a female character in a videogame. If you see a female doing the sort of movements that these girls in fighting games do, their breasts would move. Granted, I have yet to see this done correctly. They often move wildly and more than they should, plus fighting game females almost never wear clothing that supports them.

            The point being that I don’t think “jiggle physics” is a problem in itself. Like any physics engine, it is capable of bringing an extra layer to the realistic depiction of the game. It’s the common use of it, and the combination with other sexualization methods, that is the real issue.

            • I see absolutely no reason whatsoever for jiggle physics. And that you haven’t seen it done right is kind of a big sign to the point it’s not there to help realism (I’m not sure why realism even matters in that situation x.x. Seriously, it brings nothing to the table, what kind of immersion do you need to see bouncing breasts?), it’s there for ‘heh.. boobies’.

              I’m pretty much always going to count jiggle physics under sexualization content, not something that’s actually legitimate.

              • And on another note, really calling them physics is a stretch since they have almost no basis in reality in the first place (it’s like treating more like water balloons than actual breasts. And the /shapes/). And, really, the realism thing doesn’t click right when it’s ‘weird’ how women and their bouncey ladybits seem to be the ones getting the one-sided focus on for jiggling.:\

              • I’m replying to both of your replies here. It wouldn’t let me reply to the one below.

                1) I don’t think that it’s there FOR realism’s sake, but it does add to it. Characters dressed in those fashions, running, jumping, kicking the way they do in fighting games, their breasts would move. Not as much or in the same ways as depicted right now, but they would. If they toned the effect down and/or dressed their characters more appropriately and/or had more characters with cup sizes below a D, I don’t think it would be nearly so much of an issue.

                2) You can’t really blame the physics engine or it’s programmers for the shapes of the breasts of the characters. That’s a problem the character designers put in there.

              • 1. You have not given any reason as to how it actually adds to the realism in any kind of significant way, bouncing breasts is not necessary to be immersed in a game. And again, I don’t see men jiggling around as they would in those situations. If you don’t actually agree they are there for realism then what is your point? If it’s there explicitly to be ‘heh boobies’ then it should be taken out anyway because it’s obviously not there to add anything except further sexualizing women. Jiggle physics is staying in my list, I really don’t care about ‘what ifs’ when those what ifs seem to always be put off and have excuses made for why they can’t hurry up and get here. Jiggle physics are just there to sexualize women for the benefit of the men in the audience.

                2. Yes I can blame the engine that’s just there to emphasize women’s breasts and yes I can blame the programmers who work on the same team as the designers. The entire team should hold responsibility.

            • Dude, jiggle physics are not “realistic”, because breasts do not work that way. I am a very chesty woman who studies martial arts, so I can tell you from first-hand experience that jiggle physics are incredibly unrealistic.

              Also? Women who fight tend to bind their breasts so as to avoid the whole issue in the first place! These days we have sports bras. In the good old days, they had to resort to breast-binding, but still. Even back before sports bras, jiggle physics would STILL be unrealistic because, man. Boob jiggle? Frigging UNCOMFORTABLE. And sometimes actually painful.

              • 1) I didn’t say that jiggle physics exist FOR realism. The very fact that they have that name instead of something else tells you why such physics were programmed.

                2) I said in my post that I haven’t seen them implements properly yet. I recognize that all uses of jiggle physics that I have seen have been unrealistic, but the potential is there, if tweaked and toned down quite a bit, to be something that adds to the realism.

                3) I also recognized already that the characters to whom these physics are applied are rarely, if ever, dressed appropriately. They are more often than not dressed impractically, not in clothing an actual fighter would wear. The clothes an average female fighting game character wears would allow for uncomfortable amounts of breast movement. I don’t think that them making the breasts move is the real problem, but rather the designs of the characters. If more female fighting game characters were designed more appropriately (the female knight/princess they added in Soul Calibur IV for example), then it wouldn’t be an issue.

              • Yeah, really. I know the first thing I do before I go for a run is make sure my jiggly bits are well supported, and I think I would do so in any athletic endeavour.

                On the other hand, your point is rendered moot by the fact that most fighting game women would never wear a bra(unless it was all they were wearing up top of course). As a fan of the genre, I’m frequenly disappointed with the female character designs. Some are fine, others are even good, but the amount of fan service in the genre is just appalling.

    • Ikkin was partially right wrt the fur. If Tiger Lady’s fur actually looked like fur and not like an animal print latex body-suit, then sure. That would be different. But posing is a HUGE part of it. Tiger Lady’s pose is designed to call attention to her boobs and bits. That is NOT the case with either of the Ajani cards – the figures on those cards are in very neutral, not-bit-emphasizing poses. Now if the Ajani cards had figures that were posed like the Frost Titan, I would DEFINITELY say that nope, the whole lack of pants is just to have some sexay tiger people. But that’s not the case here.

      Poses are almost more important than costumes sometimes when looking at this stuff.

      • While it now seems clear that it wasn’t your intent, what you wrote reads kinda like “These guys are buff and underdressed, but it’s not suggestive because they are primitive or there’s magic involved”. While I agree that(most) of them aren’t suggestive, you could have explained why better. The way you put it in the original post leaves you vulnerable to the kind of points I was making.

  3. The Knight Templar is pretty legit. She’s still lightly sexualized by her long, impractically flowy hair, but the other elements are wonderfully positive. Sure, she’s not about to massacre a zombie army…okay, that’d be a good touch. They should do another of her. She’s got character. I imagine people can get behind the killer female–what’s the movie…Serendipity? Serenity? It has the girl who goes berserk when she hears the cue words? Lots of fans behind that.

    I talked with a concept artist for a movie in pre-production. He was told by his director that the character he designed didn’t play to the woman’s “seductress character”, but instead on her “militarized nature”. We weren’t talking at all on sexism, but this was a harsh example. On top of it, the movie has one black guy who’s huge, bald and is a “demolitions expert”. I bet he dies first, too. Anyway, the director backed this up saying it would definitely boost sales–that the offices funding him need him to use the mass appeal to cover costs. Sure, immorality is immoral, but people shell out money to excuse themselves for liking it.

    I’ve been reading up on sexualization and attraction a lot lately. Most of it is based on tendencies. Practically all of the classic ‘evolutionarily’ (I dunno) developed attraction cues are based on women playing the submissive role, even while they are actually directing the interaction. There was a line from one book…”Men lead the waltz in romance, but women conduct the tune”…something like that. And beyond that, there are plenty of flipped relationships where the women dominates, which function as long as both are comfortable in the roles…I’m preaching to the choir.

    I’m very curious as to what you think of Monster Hunter. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a Japanese fantasy action adventure game. Look at the actual developer’s renderings of the characters–the fan art and fanservice highlights only the sex (It borders on the grossly overdone. And no woman has breasts that big in-game. It’s not even an option!)–they do what seems to be a good job of keeping a gender positivity. The most I see are some armors that expose belly, small cleavage and legs, but for the most part it’s relatively practical. And the armors that *are* suggestive have a mostly equivalent male counterpart. And on top of it, both genders are shown taking on HUGE monsters. I feel that it’s pretty positive, and a step in a good direction. Would you mind checking it out? I’m really curious about what can be done to present good entertainment without disrespecting not only women but morality.

    (Google search “monster hunter armors”. There’s not a very comprehensive or speedy place to get it all at once, so google is your best bet.)

    P.S. Big armed men aren’t sexier? I beg to differ!😛
    (But otherwise, I don’t know if I can talk about animalistic sexiness and jiggle physics– Okay, I can talk about jiggle physics. They should be applied to all things. Fat, muscle jiggle, hair wiggle. *That’s* realism. I know that in Shrek, Pixar pioneered realistic muscle animation and fat physics…but it’s rarely been applied to other platforms. Maybe it’s computation-heavy…)

    • Okay, I can talk about jiggle physics. They should be applied to all things. Fat, muscle jiggle, hair wiggle. *That’s* realism. I know that in Shrek, Pixar pioneered realistic muscle animation and fat physics…but it’s rarely been applied to other platforms. Maybe it’s computation-heavy…

      This! (…well, apart from the “Pixar made Shrek” bit — Dreamworks did that. 😉 )

      Soft body physics, if applied consistently, are awesome. If the animators pay attention to the fact that, hey, human flesh isn’t made of solid plastic, and all sorts of things stretch and bend when pressure is applied to them, and find a way to implement that, that will make things seem more realistic.

      But using “jiggle physics” that do nothing but make women’s breasts bounce around like water balloons won’t do that (in fact, making women’s breasts bounce like water balloons is a great way to destroy any semblance of realism, no matter what you do with everyone else). Even if there aren’t any fat characters, you’ll still have muscular guys whose pecs don’t stay perfectly still when they’re jumping around. And, even more importantly, you’ll have characters of all sorts whose muscles should flex a bit when they bend them.

      Of course, if it’s done right, very few players are going to notice, because it would just seem natural. =/ And even if it does happen, it’ll probably still get misused once someone notices the non-static breasts (I’m looking at the Kingdom Hearts fandom in particular here, because the game in question didn’t do anything to the girls that it didn’t do to the guys as well). So there probably isn’t any good solution there. =/

    • Serenity, though it was preceded by the show Firefly. Actually, River falls asleep with a cue phrase, and turns into a killing machine when she sees a subliminal octopus. Plus, she’s a psychic. It’s also worth noting that it and the show also have other strong female characters, like Kaylee (A mechanic skilled enough that she was the basis for a Technomancer archetype in a game I was messing with), Zoey (Another soldier-type) and Inara (Diplomat extraordinaire, and adds class and docking privileges on most worlds). Altogether by my count they’re half of the crew, in fact, unless you count Shepherd Book, who’s a special case.

        • I believe that hair blows all cool in the wind, but I imagine it’s an impediment when in battle =]! That’s the unrealisticness I mentioned.

      • I realize that there are some feminists who have problems with Joss Whedon, but personally I’m a huge fan of almost anything he does. Sure his work isn’t perfect (whose is?), but he has so many awesomely strong female characters in whatever he does. I mean, hell, he even said that the finale of Buffy was his love letter to female empowerment.

        • If we’re talking about who I think we’re talking about in regards to feminists who have problems with Joss Whedon…I don’t entirely “get” her. “Looking for an excuse to be offended” is usually a derailing tactic, true. But the way she nitpicked and generalized, I’d almost call such an accusation justified in her case.

          • Oh I wasn’t referencing anyone in particular; I’ve encountered more than one prominent feminist who dislikes Joss Whedon. Just so we’re clear, I’m not being passive aggressive or anything here.

  4. Sure the Knight Exemplar is pretty cool. And I feel like I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth when I say I want her to ride a frigging winged lion or kill armies of zombie orcs. I’m just kind of jealous on her behalf is all.

    Re: monster hunter, I have heard of it but that’s about my only exposure to the series.

    And as for big-armed men being sexier, emphasizing a man’s biceps does not convey the same sense of dehumanizing titillation that inflating a woman’s chest and putting her in ridiculous anatomy-contorting poses (like Crapping Frost Mage) does. Please read this post about why there is a difference about idealizing and sexualizing figures (and recognize that I was really mad when I wrote it, hence the strident tone).

  5. I wonder what you’d think of the angels in Magic, since they’re all women (except for maybe one dude in the mists of time) and mostly all armored.

    • I don’t mind the angels whose armor actually covers stuff. The new Serra Angel is okay, even if her plate mail does have Ridiculous Breast Cones. The Baneslayer Angel however is pretty irritating, since her armor verges on chainmail bikini. So I’m not a fan of her.

      • I’m a little confused about Baneslayer. Is it that her breastplate (which is boobier than it should be) stops at her armpits?

  6. Hi there!
    First of all, excuse my english, because I’m from Argentina, and i’m a little bit rusty in that department.

    Let me say I love your blog! You speak your mind about this outrageous subject, and have the honor of being listened to.

    I have always been a feminist gamer, and find that my avatar can’t fall in love with anything more than a gigantic set of boobs in tiny clothing. I think that videogames reflect in an uncensored way the cultural aspect of sexuality.

    Last year, a law was approved in my country allowing people of the same sex to engage in marriage. I cannot say how surprised I was to see how many people were against that law, and how embarrasing it was to listen to their primitive arguments. As male, heterosexual, and couldn’t get any sense out of their speeches. Is it that hard to read about a subject and inform yourself? Is it impossible to look at reality with objective eyes and work together to abolish the different ways of underestimating and discrimination?

    I believe games must grow not in size, or technology, but in depth and empathy with characters. Take Final Fantasy VII’s Aerith for example. She was a regular girl, with a big dress, no cleavage whatsoever, and everyone remembers her death as a really sad event. When the game connects with us in such a fashion, something was really well done.

    Thanks for reading, and keep up the good work!

  7. Interestingly, the day after your post went up, the D&D With Pornstars blog posted three of the exact images you posted. Not sure what to make of that, I guess it’s not really plagiarism or anything, but weird to (presumably) see these posted here and then decide to repost them, without mentioning you, and talk about how great they are.

    • There is at least one common reader of these two blogs that I’m aware of, so it’s not surprising to me really. Both of them focus on women in gaming, though clearly they approach the topic from different angles. It’s well within the realm of possibility that the post there was inspired by the one here.

    • You know, this is not the first time it’s happened, actually. And I know that the guy who runs that blog has at least visited this blog before, since he’s commented. It makes me wonder if I’m being argued with without actually referencing me? Or something? Weird.

      • I think that probably he’d just been thinking about the topic and decided those would be good images for it. He’s willing to argue with people to their… usernames(? What’s the phrase for that on a blog?) if he thinks it should be argued about.

  8. In their defense, though, the recent printings are getting reasonably better. Speaking of female knights, compare the old Knight of the Reliquary (http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=189145) to this year’s reprint (http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=243416). Definitely commendable.

    Then again, there are cards old (http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=3133) and new (http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=213766) that are absolutely indefensible.

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