Sunday, January 17, 2016

TTWBN Bonus: The fat the lean and everything in between...



In July of 2015, Bulimia.com uploaded an article depicting female characters from video games being arltered to match “Average American female” body types. As to not have to go to that particular site, I took the liberty of reposting the bulk (heh) of the article, below....


These days, there’s rarely a media type that isn’t criticized for its body image depictions, and video games are no exception.
Video games have grown increasingly realistic over time. New, immersive gaming styles are now somewhat true to life and even cinematic; the environments are richer and more detailed, and PC and console graphics processors are becoming more capable of handling the high-definition imagery.
Some gaming studios boast their hyper-realistic lighting techniques, touting natural cloud movements as the latest features of their games. And with that kind of attention to detail, it makes us wonder, why can’t they accurately portray the female body?
For example, plus-sized women are a rarity in video games, and when one does show up, she’s typically unusual looking. More often it seems video games are home to ultra-slim waistlines only.
If video game creators are going to pride themselves on accurate digital representations, then it’s time for them to get real about women.The difference between the original video game heroines and their more realistic interpretations is hardly subtle. In these images, unfeasible waistlines expand and arms and legs grow wider. Perhaps the changes are especially noticeable since most of these characters are so scarcely dressed.
Video game designers and their companies have complete control over the female bodies in their games. So why is it they so often opt to make these characters into unrealistically idealized versions of their human counterparts?

What are the consequences of such interpretations? The perpetuation of unrealistic body imagery in the media can have decidedly negative repercussions. One could argue that the social pressures to obtain perfection are reinforced even through the depiction of video game characters. Girl gamers – especially young ones – could develop a skewed image of how the female body should look. This might mark the beginning of obsessive thoughts about their own bodies, and self-questioning as to why they don’t align with their perceived ideal. When dangerous, compulsive eating behaviors develop alongside of these negative obsessions, young women can quickly find themselves struggling with an eating disorder. Whether it’s the drastic restrictions in food intake seen in anorexia, or the relentless purge behaviors of bulimia, all types of eating disorder are tragic end-points potentially exacerbated by body image issues.

The incidence of eating disorders is markedly higher in females. Furthermore, the average age of onset for various eating disorders spans from the late teenage years through the mid-twenties. The health repercussions of eating disorders are amongst the most severe of any mental health condition, with alarmingly high mortality rates if left untreated. If you are concerned that compulsive and maladaptive eating behaviors are negatively impacting your life, or know someone close to you who might be struggling with an eating disorder, help is available. Call Bulimia.com’s toll-free line, at 1-888-994-4036 for more information on eating disorder treatment – get started on the path to recovery and reclaimed health.

Before we proceed to the images, I would like to propose a counter-argument...
. Yes, Various forms of media have been under fire from special interest groups for the way they portray things. This has been going on for centuries. “Group A doesn't like how Group B has been presenting a particular subject in medium” may just be the longest running conflict aside from “The battle between Good & Evil”, and, in many cases, the former could easily be viewed as a trope of the latter. However, when people find types of media they don't like (for lack of a better word) “problematic”, one needs to ask themselves one simple question; “Why?” . In modern society, we find ourselves spending more time saying something is a problem or offensive rather than trying to figure out why that thing come across that way to that particular person. When we finally figure out why, their reason always falls in line with a little thing called subjectivity

                                                                           

Subjectivity can be summed up as
a means of judging something based off of personal opinion, and feelings rather than an objective truth. It's also something everyone does, whether consciously or subconsciously.

Not everyone sees art the same way. If we were to go into a museum and happen to come across a white canvas with a black splotch in the center, you could possibly see the piece as an interesting take on society's struggle with conformity, and I could just see a splotch on a canvas. That's basically how subjectivity works. What you're getting out of the image is likely the product of what you, yourself may be subconsciously or consciously putting into it.

In the above case, The view of the following characters are being presented subjectively as “unrealistic” because the writer, here is wearing their own preconceived notions and biases on their sleeve, and will present their argument from a point of contention. We'll finish this thought, later, dear reader. As we must get on with the show.
We have such sights to show youuuuu


Putting the Real in Realism

With realism in mind, we altered some of the most beloved female video game characters with Adobe Photoshop, shaping their bodies into images that represent the average American woman’s measurements. Check out the results below! “



The first image is Christie Monteiro from Tekken. Keep in mind that Christie is a Brazilian (meaning not American) practitioner of Capoiera, a highly intensive Brazilian martial art that uses upper and lower body muscles to perform quick and complex moves. As we've discussed in the “Pretender to the Throne” chapter of TTWBN, With Capoiera being such a movement intensive art such a touch-up photo would be considered unrealistic in context. But let's not let that nugget stop the writer from believing that in their own head canon, this would be the ideal portrayal of her character. 



Our second example is Cortana, from the Halo series, because we all know that the depictions of holographic avatars in the distant future are unrealistic, and by golly need to be changed! Silly question, I know, but wouldn't an Artificial Intelligence create an avatar of itself as whatever it would want to be regardless of the precious fee fees of whomever? (Edit: According to Game Informer's Halo 4 behind the scenes video, Frank O' Connor states that A.I. In the Halo universe can actually choose their own appearance) Maybe years of reading Science Fiction has led me into a false state of thinking, but I would imagine that would be the case. I'm curious as to whether the writer of this knows that Cortana's voice actor, Jen Taylor is pretty slim as well? 

 

Next is GTA V's “
Bikini Girl” who's realistically depicted proportions make her quite unrealistic to the writer of this piece. What makes her even more unrealistic is the fact that this image is based on an actual model, Shelby Welinder, who was hired by Rockstar through her modeling agency in 2012 to do some promotional work for their games. An interesting aside; When those GTA V promotional images first started popping up, many people thought that the model was Kate Upton, who also gets flack for having rather curvy proportions, but is also not a Realistic depiction of American women

Lindsay Lohan, who recently sued Rockstar Games, believing that the bikini girl image was in fact a depiction of her own likeness, is also not realistically depicted (for multiple reasons, of course). Fancy that...


Helena Douglas... A Frenchwoman (Again, not American) is a practitioner of the Chinese martial art known as Pi Gua Quan. The English translation is “Hacking and Hanging fist”, and the art itself dates back to the Ming Dynasty. The art focuses on wide sweeping motions of the arm and leg. This was due to the original users of the art wearing heavy armor. To properly make full use of your extremities, your shoulders back arms and hips are conditioned to move properly to channel power through them, hence the emphasis on these parts being toned and slender. There's so much more we could cover in this, (like how weight gain will only expand the bust line of an already busty woman due to proportion not shrink it ) but the notion of an already realistically depicted body type being “Americanized” for realism is just laughable in this instance. I thought all body types were beautiful?


Jade... from Mortal Kombat, who was so “unrealistic” that all the female characters in MKX had to be toned down into a more “realistic” body type, is now so unrealistic that she has to be adjusted in order to appeal to the Americanized standard of beauty.... Let's not consider factors like Jade is not even from this dimension, or may have different dietary habits other than the average American woman, or is a Ninja with a rigorous training regimen fighting in a dimension spanning civil war against a ruthless warlord. She's also a Scorpio and doesn't look half bad for being Ten thousand years old


Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.. A woman who spends the opening of her games going through an extensive obstacle course / tutorial level. A woman who backflips her way through ancient ruins, and guns down T-Rexes for fun and glory. In this game Lara is a London born, aristocrat, which means she has money and status, and is definitely not American. At the risk of being repetitive, I have to emphasize extensive physical activity!


Nabooru, the desert sage. Member of a heavily gynocentric race that only births a male every hundred years. From the outskirts of Hyrule which is definitely not America, and is brought up in a harsh desert environment where nomadic culture seems rampant and food seems difficult to come by. Certainly not “first world” enough for the Gerudo tribe to bask in the spoils of mediocrity. And again, does anyone on this team not know how proportion works?


Rikku.... From........Final Fantasy X..... Pfffff HAHAHAHAHAHA
(We are experiencing technical difficulties... Spiracy has to temporarily stop here due to dying of laughter at the hideous shop job that happened with this entry. Please stand by )

HAHAHAHAHAHA ..............

HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH......

Oh god HAHAHAHAHAHA....

Her head.. HAHAH.. doesn't even fit her body HAHAHA

Do you even anatomy , bro? HAHAHHA

I'm sorry, but the recast for “Mars Attacks” is in room B HAHAHAHAHAHA

Who let Minnie Driver in here? HAHAHAHAHAHA

Oh shit, they're remaking Legends of the Hidden Temple? HAHAHAHAHAHA

* clears throat *

I apologize for that outburst... heh That was unprofessional of me... hmm hmm
okay okay breathe..... Seriously, what the hell is that you're trying to pass off? Have you seen Facebook or Twitter? There are plenty of women who may be heavyset in the body but not in the face. This is why we see some women take angled overhead shots, which is obviously not a bad thing, but honey who the hell do you think you're fooling? Rikku may not even be on this planet. She's definitely not in America (If Spira were a futuristic Earth then the Al Bhed would technically be from the remains of the Middle East. ), so why are we trying to make her seem like a Realistic depiction of American women™ ? Not to mention that she's a character in an RPG who runs around the entire world 24/7 fighting monsters, deep sea diving, Sphere hunting and doing acrobatic Limit break maneuvers. Seriously, are we not even trying anymore? 
 


Sonya Blade... Remember when John Tobias drew that picture of Sonya Blade for Mortal Kombat 3 and then got Kerri Hoskins, who looked just like the drawing to do Mo-Cap work for the game? Yeah, me neither. That clearly didn't happen because unrealistic depictions of women in video games.
Above: clearly a figment of your imagination
Sonja is from Texas (So the “everything's bigger” comment could apply here....), and is a Major in the United States Special Forces. Her character is based on Martial Artist turned B movie action star, Cynthia Rothrock. You may remember her from films such as Undefeatable, which birthed the worst fight scene ever made. If you don't believe me, you be the judge..



Last but definitely not least. Tifa Lockhart. The first thing you notice, is that they slumped her breasts, because lord knows bras aren't a thing in Midgar. Just because you want gravity to take hold and turn your breasts into knee-pads earlier than life intended, doesn't mean that holds true for every other woman out there! 

Second – Every woman who's been altered for some reason has to have the same freaking jaw line. It's like facial shapes don't vary in this universe these folks are trying to concoct. “Diversity in body shapes” seems to not apply to the different faces that are out there. Jeez, you practically erased the obvious angular nature of Nabooru's face when trying to give her the makings of a double chin, Those angular features were there as a means of displaying her personality through her appearance. However we can't have that if it means making her seem like an unrealistic unattainable beauty standard, can we? I wonder how many little girls wake up and think to themselves, “Gee being a white girl from the suburbs is fine and all, but what I really want is to get a nose and chin job to look like an Arabic female version of Adam Driver” 
 
above: secretly Macklemore in disguise.
Getting back on subject, Tifa at the time of FFVII is only 20 years old, the peak of youth! Why does she have slumping boobs at this age when it looks like you've done everything in your power to give her a reduction down to at least a C cup? You gave her larger thighs, which isn't necessarily a problem in itself, since she is a bit on the thin side in the Dissidia art, but to top it off you give her love handles and a tummy. Dear reader, I'm going to do you a favor. I'll just put this image here and let you figure it out for yourself as to why this was lazy as hell.

Above: women who like to fight...

Real Body Positvity is realizing that everyone is different and celebrating those differences. Trying to force people to accept one size by pretending that yours is the only body type out there is not only misguided, but more damaging to adolescents than these perceived negative standards of beauty the writer is so dead set against. Maybe instead of whining about things, at least try to change those things. Granted, there are certain things that may not change how you want them to, but at least you're making a solid attempt to improve your health and with diligence you will notice the progress and positive changes to your health and body in the long run.






Not to be a sap or anything but Ray Stevens once did a song stating that “Everybody's beautiful in their own way” and that still stands true. Beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder, and I firmly believe that there is someone out there who will fully appreciate you for who you are. Looks be damned!



I guess what I'm saying here is that nothing is ever accomplished by telling someone else that these images are uncomfortable when you're really the one feeling uncomfortable with them. If you're the one with the problem, only you can solve that problem. simple as that. 

sorry, I had to do it....


Food for Thought  


So after this comedy of errors happens, we go on to be guilt tripped into believing that these subjectively negative images may affect female youth at the developmental stage; possibly leading them down the slippery slope of eating disorders. Might I add a different perspective? 

Yes, negative presentations of beauty standards can have a lasting effect on a developing child, however the threat might not be coming from Video games at all. Let's take the heat off of games for a second and put that lamp up towards your billion dollar Women's magazine empire. Those Cosmopolitan magazines, Glamour and rags that show celebrities in various phases of Photoshop editing who swear to god that this is “100% me”. Let's put the spotlight on Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian and her clan who are literally famous for banging celebrity nobodies, and do anything and everything to stay in the news. Let's point out reality shows that show the outright worst of humanity making complete buffoons of themselves just so you can watch them and think to yourself “hey, at least we're not them, right?”

Have you ever noticed that just about every issue of this magazine shows cleavage on the cover

After constantly being bombarded by that crap, the hypothetical adolescent girl who you think is being targeted, probably deals with being ridiculed by her peers in her academic facility, and wondering why her crush only has eyes for the blonde cheerleader captain with the washboard flat stomach who just happened to have started developing in 4
th grade , she mopes through the threshold of her suburban stately home, walks into her bedroom and after an hour of staring her reflection down and verbally abusing herself in inner monologue fashion, turns to the only thing that will take her mind off of her troubles long enough to finally reach a state of inner peace.

You see, Video games are an escape from an otherwise shitty life. In them you can be anyone you want to be. You can be the strong, sexy heroine with a personality just as fierce as her outfit! You can be the hulking-bare-barrel-chested Ahnold wannabe who runs through all four seasons just as half-naked as a pants-wearing jaybird.
But most of all, you can take all the problems that are bothering you, and put them on the back burner, and just for a few fleeting moments have something to smile about.

The people who are trying to make you feel bad about these characters don't understand that. Or perhaps they do, and are ignoring it in order to push the agenda
de jour, who knows for sure. What we do know is that just because they're unhappy doesn't mean you have to be unhappy. Enjoy your free time, embrace a little escapism now and again, enjoy your games, and don't let anyone try to guilt you out of things you like doing, whether it be art, writing, cosplaying or playing Vidya. Things will become more manageable as you get older, and you know what?

Living well is always the best revenge.

- I'll see you next bossfight!

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