Female warriors in unreasonable armor is a big pet peeve of mine. You may have noticed the link to Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor over there on the left (it is the left, right? Right, it’s the left); if you haven’t checked it out, you should. I get really irritated by the state of armor in a lot of fantasy/sci-fi art, video/tabletop/card games, movies, etc, etc, etc. More often than not, a female fighter’s “armor,” if you can even call it that, will afford about as much protection as a bathing suit. Sometimes it IS a bathing suit, just made of metal. Or leather. Or leaves or magic or unobtainium.
As an example from my most recent life, I’ve just finished playing Arkham City, and while I really enjoyed a lot of it (most notably Mark Hamil’s Joker–I never thought I could love him more than I already did, but he proved me wrong), the…well.
To give you a little background, the characters are all in a superprison called Arkham City (natch), which takes up a good portion of Gotham. All the supervillians are there, including Mr. Freeze, and it is generally agreed by every single character who speaks that it is 1) winter, 2) snowing, and 3) fucking freezing. Catwoman spends the whole game dressed in a catsuit–which, OK, she’s Catwoman, I can dig that. Her style is very fluid and graceful, right? She’s a cat burglar. Catlike, if you will. Except. The suit zips up the front, from her neck all the way to her crotch, which can’t be comfortable. And she wears it unzipped to the bottom of her breasts, which are, naturally, all out of proportion to the height and weight given in her profile.
So to reiterate, it’s freezing, Catwoman is fighting a bunch of enormous, bulky prisoners, mostly by doing flips and gymnastics and hanging upside down and shit, and she’s got her enormous tits hanging out. Well of course she does! She’s a lady, and ladies are there for fanservice. Because all geeks are men, amirite? Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy (who wears a button-down shirt and panties and that’s all, I am not making this up) are just as bad, if not worse, but since Harley’s entire existence is about making Mr. J love her and Poison Ivy primarily works by chemically seducing men (which, what), I’ll let it slide. Catwoman, though. I grew up on Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, who was sexy, but also fully clothed. I loved the shit out of that character. I was her for Halloween at least once. This bullshit costuming in Arkham City (not to mention the fact that when Catwoman gets hit, she makes a sound like she’s having sex) really hampered my enjoyment of a game I’d been looking forward to for a long time.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about the ridiculous clothing women fighters are put in by their creators. For a long time I couldn’t really articulate why it bothered me, or even what about it bothered me, only that it did. I grew up loving Willow, which, whatever its faults, dressed its female lead, Sorsha, for battle in the picture to the right.The picture quality is terrible, but the point is: there’s some curve here, but nothing’s going to come flying out in the middle of combat (and also, she’s going to fuck you up. Because she is awesome).
I even see it at cons. There amidst the Star Wars costumers will be some chick who’s wearing a Stormtrooper uniform that, for some reason, bares her midriff, or her midriff and her legs, and…whatever floats your boat, but I don’t get it.
All I want is for female characters’ clothing to make as much sense as male characters’ clothing. Especially if the characters are in uniform, or going into a situation where people will be trying to kill them. Feeling sexy is great, and I am in favor of it, but when facing an army of the undead, storming the Fortress of Doom, or flying around Metropolis saving people, there should be more important things on your characters’ minds. Ultimately, I want to feel like female characters are valuable for something other than T&A. I know. Shocking.
A lot of sources do not do this well. The art in the D&D handbooks, almost uniformly, does not. Zillions of games don’t do this well, most notably, in my experience, eastern-style RPGs. But a lot of things do! The Halo games I’ve played (to wit: Halo Wars, Halo: Reach, and bits of Halo 3: ODST) do this well. So does Willow. So do the Elder Scrolls*, and Fable, sort of. So did the most recent Alice in Wonderland, minus the hair thing. So do Robin McKinley and a lot of my favorite authors. So do a lot of artists and filmmakers and game creators and even comic books, in point of fact; you just have to find them. That’s not always easy, and it can be enormously frustrating. Since this is my 30th post, I thought about doing a long, well-reasoned, heavily researched post about why this bothers me, and what fans and artists can do to make it better, but then I thought, well, why start working hard now? So instead, I present a collection of links on the subject!
Fantasy Armor and Lady Bits – an armorer weighs in on the subjects of female armor and “”boobplate.” From the article: “This is just a plea for reasonable armor. So if you need to have a female warrior with exposed flesh, could you let her be in a state of undress rather than depict her default state as being mostly undressed?”
Female Armor Sucks – the folks at College Humor sometimes make my eyebrows do strange things, but they really nailed this issue.
Wizards of the Coast D&D Forum Thread: What Art Gets It Right? (Pt 2) – a thread on, well, art that gets it right! Not Since this is a D&D forum, it’s mostly fantasy art. Similar to Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor, but since it’s a forum thread, expect less in the way of quality control.
Chicks in Chain Mail – first book in a series of anthologies about this subject. I haven’t read it in quite some time, but when I was in high school, my best friend (also a giant geek) and I passed this series around like it was the only hypodermic needle we had left.
And finally, I leave you with Joan of Arc, a badass of the highest order, who had more bravery, smarts, and chutzpah in her little finger than the rest of us puny humans have put together. If I had a patron saint of my very own, she would be it.
*Skyrim is my Christmas present from mr. biscuit, and IF YOU SPOIL IT FOR ME I WILL END YOU.