“frenetic yet orchestrated ballet of sword slashes and bullet-speed art”
February 17, 2018 6:18 PM   Subscribe

You've never played a game quite like Bayonetta [GQ] “There’s also a pair of high powered pistols attached to her absurdly high-heeled shoes. Oh, and the game darts between biblical analogy and sexual innuendo quicker than Bayonetta herself can backflip into the air to shoot a horde of angry angels with her deadly Louboutins. That near-the-knuckle approach to sex and sexuality is often gratuitous, especially when you’re forced to watch the nth slow-motion crotch shot while you loudly insist to your girlfriend, “Really, this is not what it looks like.” But the game also takes the time to empower Bayonetta. She’s a fantastic female lead and it’s refreshing to play as her rather than just another one of the bone-headed muscle men that are rife in most action games. She’s absolutely the star of the show, and both games string together some of the most absurdly bombastic set-piece moments you’ve ever seen on screen, in a way that’s so audacious you’ll wonder how it continuously ups the ante.” [YouTube][Trailer]

• Bayonetta 2 Is Too Good To Have Stayed Buried On The Wii U [Kotaku]
“Bayonetta could save the world but she couldn’t save the Wii U, which wound up going on life support even before Nintendo officially announced the Switch two years later. Bayonetta 2 is the first of hopefully several major Wii U exclusives to get ported to the Switch. Given that the Switch exceeded the Wii U’s lifetime sales in less than a year, it’s safe to say a lot more people are going to play it. That’s a good thing, because Bayonetta 2 is terrific. It’s got well-tuned combat, brilliant animations, and feels unusually satisfying to play. (One downside is all those button-mashing finishers, though: my right thumb is killing me!) It’s also unexpectedly approachable. I am by no means exceptional at this kind of fast-paced fighting game, but once I get into a flow state with Bayonetta, I feel like a lord.”
• Why Bayonetta is still the brawler to beat [Eurogamer]
“Bayonetta in her secretary-cum-sex-worker attire reflects the broader character of a game that discards the dark, dry anime tone of Kamiya's earlier work for something more irreverent. The presentation teeters between whimsically exaggerated femininity (Bayonetta bleeds rose petals and, when executing a double jump, she momentarily sprouts exquisite butterfly wings) and icky objectification, particularly when it comes to those clinging, horny cutscene shots. The character was designed by a woman, Mari Shimazaki, who wanted to capture the vintage splendour of 1960s American models, but nevertheless, Kamiya has admitted that Bayonetta is something of a male fantasy, his "ideal woman". One of Bayonetta's best known and most controversial moves involves her clothes slithering up her body. To a point the characterisation counterbalances the sexist overtones: Bayonetta, whichever way you look at her, is a strong, inspiring lead. With its cutaway stylization and hammy voice acting, her story is ludicrous and often illegible. But what the approach lacks in sense it gains in sensation.”
• In Bayonetta, Hair Defies Everything [US Gamer]
“Her hair both clothes her, and helps her in summoning demons at her behest. In the first Bayonetta, the hair atop her head directly is orchestrated into a beehive. According to character designer Mari Shimazaki, the beehive was meant to stand in lieu of a traditional witch hat—since Bayonetta is a witch after all. In the sequel, Bayonetta’s look changes: her hair is cut short (and much more practical in the heat of battle, honestly). In Bayonetta 2, Bayonetta’s pal Jeanne towers as a strong contrast. Her hair is long and flowing. Bayonetta’s is short and unkempt. Together, they storm into the combat against angels and demons. “Thinking of how she would look side by side with Bayonetta, we decided to give her long hair,” wrote Shimazaki in a blog for Platinum Games. “I wish I was a witch and could just summon my hair into any hairstyle I wanted.” In media, folklore, and literature, when a girl cuts her hair, it’s often to symbolize a rite of passage. Like a princess embarking on an adventure. Or a girl shedding her old life away. Or, yes, even a break up. But Bayonetta defies all of these. Her hair grows long just as often as it’s cut short. Her hair emboldens her. It gives her magical powers (witchcraft, y’know).”
• ‘Bayonetta 2’ Is PlatinumGames’ Greatest All-Action Game Yet [Waypoint]
“But Bayonetta 2 is special for an abundance of reasons. It's a violent, voracious game, where cherub-faced enemies are kicked into torture devices and exploded into shimmering chunks of golden death. It structures itself as a sequence of gated combat encounters, but threads a needle through each to produce an absolutely bananas but nonetheless strangely captivating story about gods and demons, unforeseen monsters and motherly love. It's absolutely made with the battle-hardened hardcore in mind, players who eat up Devil May Cry-like action for breakfast. But its difficulty is neatly tiered so as to guarantee even the bluntest of button bashers has a ball throughout. But what I love most about its moment-to-moment play isn't anything immediately to do with attacking, at all. It's the game's dodge mechanic, its so-called Witch Time, activated with a last-second skip to the side of an incoming blow. ”
posted by Fizz (48 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I've been playing Bayonetta 2 again since rebuying it and the first title on the Switch (so far I've bought Bayonetta four times, and Bayonetta 2 twice) and I've almost finished it. I wish it wasn't so ridiculously '90's Japanese ecchi levels of sexist fan service along with the spectacle. Which is a shame because nobody makes such incredibly awesome games that make you feel like you're complete shit at them like Platinum can.

I'm hoping Bayonetta 3 can be a tad more woke to make it more accessible than "pervert gamer" but considering how stubborn Kamiya is I don't hold out much hope.
posted by Talez at 6:37 PM on February 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

that Eurogamer review describes her as "Sarah Palin-esque," so I guess she's not here to smash the patriarchy
posted by roger ackroyd at 6:46 PM on February 17, 2018

Maybe in looks? Bayonetta's dialogue is sharp and witty not folksy idiocy like Palin.
posted by Talez at 6:48 PM on February 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

The Switch version is my first real exposure to this game. I'm loving this wonderful fucked up universe of good and evil that we get to live inside of.

It is sad that this innovative gameplay and story is hampered by a fair bit of misogyny. It's problematic to be sure but still so much God damn fun.
posted by Fizz at 6:49 PM on February 17, 2018

Well it's all just a complete clusterfuck. Like Bayonetta's chief character designer, Mari Shimazaki, is a woman. She's incredibly talented but she's also under the direction of Kamiya who directs her to turn up the sexy to 11. So it's like, it's of feminine creation but also intensely objectified.

It's also disturbing to see just how many men try to excuse it with her as a "strong female lead" which is a fair comment because she is but they write it like it's an excuse for a game that at the same time objectifies that strong female lead explicitly for the male gaze and that's very wrong. Honestly, what men write about Bayonetta makes me more uncomfortable than that shot of her ass bouncing on the angel horse's ass (at which point I start rolling my eyes and skip cutscene).
posted by Talez at 6:56 PM on February 17, 2018 [18 favorites]

Hurrah, more art I can't enjoy because of misogyny. Honestly, it makes me jealous of people who don't experience it as a personal insult. It must be nice to be able to compartmentalize and ignore.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:58 PM on February 17, 2018 [32 favorites]

Honestly, what men write about Bayonetta makes me more uncomfortable than that shot of her ass bouncing on the angel horse's ass

Also, yes this. Thank you. The coverage of this game really encapsulates the middle-of-the-road misogyny of gaming culture as a whole. Not the seething hatred of men who've gone full redpill - but the men who are so accustomed to being pandered to that they think this is what a "strong female lead" looks like. They don't want to admit there's a problem. That might mean questioning their part in it.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:06 PM on February 17, 2018 [30 favorites]

I really loved the gameplay in both Bayonetta games - and this as someone who is not a hardcore gamer and is never going to try and S-rank all the ridiculous challenges - and I tried to buy into the "but it's EMPOWERING" line... but there's a lot of really bad shit in these games, and I can't recommend them and I regret having played through them.

I don't know if it's -the- worst thing, but the finisher attack against the only female-bodied enemy in the first game involves putting it on a torture-horse and essentially killing it via sadistic orgasm. It's pretty fucked up.
posted by curious nu at 7:19 PM on February 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

via: Female Gamers Speak About the Bayonetta Franchise
Emily Gitelman: “I think the female characters in Bayonetta are presented incredibly poorly, and certainly over sexualized. They're a male fantasy, completely. I'm going to focus on Bayonetta herself. To start with her physical appearance, Bayonetta is built like a super model, has a sexy English accent, and walks around in a skin-tight catsuit that disappears and basically gives her censor bars when she casts spells. It's practically a reward for the player: use a powerful attack; see a naked woman. As soon as Bayonetta displays power, she is stripped of her clothing and her dignity. When her health runs too low, her catsuit also disappears. The symbolism (lip marks, flowers, butterflies) used in her attacks is very stereotypically feminine in a way that box female sexuality into a narrow category. These are calculated ways of making her seem like a Strong Female Character, but they actually undercut her agency and power as the lead character of a franchise.

It's insulting to think that Bayonetta could be viewed as a positive, empowering character because she is plainly a sex object. When Hideki Kamiya, the director of Bayonetta, and Yusuke Hashimoto, one of the producers on the project, were making the interview rounds, they said really sexist things about women. In an interview with 1UP, Hashimoto said that Bayonetta couldn't be over sexualized because she didn't have large breasts (which is obviously not the only facet of over sexualization). In the same article, he said that Bayonetta isn't "all about showing skin," but she's constantly on display as a sex object because of her tight outfit, posture, and husky voice.”
posted by Fizz at 7:23 PM on February 17, 2018 [17 favorites]

Like, I held off on buying this game for awhile. I read commentary and critique only from women writers, who seemed to come down on it roughly equally as to whether it was empowering-in-some-way or just a mess. Finally went, okay, there's no clear consensus from writers I trust, I will go into this and try and engage with it both as vidya game and as artistic statement of some kind. And I really think the right choice is to skip it. I think this is one of the last games I bought where I went "...MAYBE it's okay after all?" when it came to content, and was pretty much my, nope, this is it, line -- start skipping things that are shitty. There's too much else in life to spend time with to make this worth it.
posted by curious nu at 7:24 PM on February 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

Bayonetta is so weird. The more the character becomes Nintendo's, the stranger the series seems to get. Curious what the promised third game ends up being and where it goes from the zany camp madness anime Divine Comedy yin to Devil May Cry's more dour faced yang.

I've never bought into the 'strong female role-model' or 'empowering' water cooler talk. It approaches the fan service self-awareness nadir and remains fairly goofy and you can chuckle with or at it, depending. The games veer towards ridiculous precision combo power fantasy, over the top pretty quick. She's a supernatural witchy thing with hair-clothes that become angry animals and stuff, and you outfit her with swords and guns on each appendage.

There's also an animated feature retelling of the first game, if you just want to mainline the over the top aspects with some mid-level production value and not wanting to have to finger blister it.

Now that Platinum has worked with Yoko Taro, I'd be keen to see a Yoko Taro deconstruction of Bayonetta. Nintendo's choice to commit to the series is one of their more recent peculiar things.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 7:57 PM on February 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

I also think that questioning your part in it does include questioning what kinds of games that you're supporting with your money and your positive reviews. The success of games like Bayonetta is propelled by mostly male consumers, and I do think that as the beneficiaries of the sexist gaming culture they have some responsibility. I don't think that playing Bayonetta, and enjoying it despite the worst parts, is enough.

Of course, there's no unproblematic art and you have to draw the line somewhere. But, like, I would feel pretty gross spending money on a movie that a large number of people agreed was racist, for example. I won't pay to see a whitewashed movie even if I'm otherwise interested, because it feels wrong to support whitewashing with my white dollars.

This isn't unusual on MetaFilter; it is, granted, a lot more unusual outside of our bubble. But it seems unusual even here to see men say that they won't support an egregiously sexist work. If the creator is an actual abuser, maybe - that will push some over the threshold. But there's very little, if any, sense that male consumers shouldn't support sexist works because they're sexist.

It's a weird thing. And yeah, it's one thing if you aren't sure before you buy the game - but for most men it doesn't seem to matter at all, even if they dislike sexism in games. There's no question of their responsibility. The only question is whether or not it's bad enough you can't enjoy the game.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:08 PM on February 17, 2018 [16 favorites]

Oh, and Frank Ocean dropped a Moon River cover and that timing is something.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 8:16 PM on February 17, 2018

The main theme song of B2 is in the trailer linked above, but deserves to be alone in its own link. It's choice!
posted by Groundhog Week at 8:21 PM on February 17, 2018

Of course, there's no unproblematic art and you have to draw the line somewhere.

I'm going to go out on a limb and be honest. This usually backfires on me and just results in people losing respect for me but what the hell.

This is something I wrestle with when dealing with a game like Bayonetta where it's not exactly hidden that the game is pretty openly misogynistic and made for the male gaze. I had a similar dilemma with Juliet Starling in Lollipop Chainsaw which had just ridiculously good writing from James Gunn who I'm a huge fan of. It's not like they're Annie Hall or Tess in terms of bad creators but if you can't draw the line at Suda 51's or Kamiya's open misogyny there's not a lot of sand left to draw it.

Ultimately it comes down to whether the quality of the good parts outweighs the problematic parts of it. For something as masterful as Bayonetta, for me I guess, that's a yes. For something like Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball? Hell no. There's nothing redeeming there.

Does this make me a less good ally for patriarchy smashing? Probably. I'm sorry but it's something I like to play, I 'm privileged enough to be able to compartmentalize, and circling back to the original line, there's no unproblematic art.
posted by Talez at 8:37 PM on February 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

Notable for being one of only six franchises to earn multiple perfect 10 scores from Edge Magazine in the last 25 years, alongside Mario (64/Galaxy/Galaxy 2/Odyssey), Legend of Zelda (Ocarina/Skyward/BotW), Halo (1 and 3), Half-Life 2 (plus Portal/Orange Box), and Grand Theft Auto (IV and V).

Bayonetta review:
Bayonetta is the kind of game you dream of playing, the kind of game every platform needs, and the kind of game any developer with ambition would fantasise about having on their CV. From start to finish its intricate and intuitive fighting system is a masterclass, and it even finds time to reclaim vehicle levels. This is about as good as it gets.

A third-person action game from the same school as Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden, Bayonetta has just memorised the best bits and burned down the building, its combination of seamless animation, sensory cues and riotous imagination setting a new standard. Bayonetta herself is perhaps gaming’s most capable protagonist, panther-lean, crushingly strong and irresistible in motion. From her first backflip out of angels’ reach to the last cosmic blows, the player is in hands that only rarely waver.
Bayonetta 2:
You never tire of it, but how could you? This is a game that begins with Santa riding a car along the side of a building, continues with you summoning a demon to headbutt a meteor, and ends with the most joyously cathartic climax of any game since, well, Bayonetta. When the pace does dip, there is more than enough charm, wit, and heart to take its place. It is a masterclass in combat design, in videogame variety, in the balance between accessibility and depth. Sure, it’s a sequel, but it’s a sequel to what has stood, for almost five years, as the best game of its type ever made. Until now, that is.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:59 PM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

As I was playing Bayonetta on a housemate’s PS3, I said “I want to be her”.

A year later I’d stumbled into taking burlesque dance lessons. A few years after that I was weaving a magic spell into the end of my graphic novel.

Bayonetta is powerful stuff. Problematic as fuck, but powerful.
posted by egypturnash at 9:01 PM on February 17, 2018 [21 favorites]

I'm sorry but it's something I like to play

Yes. You've illustrated my comment perfectly: What matters is that you like to play it. Your enjoyment is more important than whatever responsibility you have as a male consumer and gamer. The fact that you enjoy Bayonetta despite of its sexism, instead of because of it, doesn't make much of a difference.

So what now? I guess we're back at the original point, that men seem feel very little responsibility about supporting sexist works and how that perpetuates sexist media cultures. I could speculate on why that is, but right now I'm not up for that discussion. I'm too tired. (Literally as well as figuratively; it's my bedtime.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:16 PM on February 17, 2018 [27 favorites]

Notable for being one of only six franchises to earn multiple perfect 10 scores from Edge Magazine in the last 25 years

The first one also being one of the rare titles to pull a perfect 40 out of Famitsu.
posted by Talez at 9:18 PM on February 17, 2018

It always seemed to me that Bayonetta wasn't meant to be "sexy" in a straightforward way, like those DoA volleyball games (are meant to be). It's more like Shimazaki/Kamiya mashed together a huge pile of obvious signifiers of sexiness into a kind of grotesque parody which ends up being about as sexy as Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos. Was it deliberate? I don't know, but I find it pretty hard to believe the whole thing was meant to be taken at face value.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 9:20 PM on February 17, 2018 [6 favorites]

I got Bayonetta recently to see what the hype was about. I'm glad because now I can point to it as exactly the opposite of the kind of game I enjoy.
Bayonetta is the kind of game you dream of playing, the kind of game every platform needs, and the kind of game any developer with ambition would fantasise about having on their CV. From start to finish its intricate and intuitive fighting system is a masterclass, and it even finds time to reclaim vehicle levels. This is about as good as it gets.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm the same planet as other people.

Was it deliberate? I don't know, but I find it pretty hard to believe the whole thing was meant to be taken at face value.

I dunno, it seemed pretty obvious to me we were supposed to find her uber sexy. She's on the far end of the exaggerated misogynistic bullshit spectrum but it's the same spectrum, say, Widowmaker from Overwatch is on and not some sort of parody of it.
posted by Justinian at 9:35 PM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

It’s frankly quite hard to disagree with people who consider the series capital-P Problematic. On the other hand, Mrs. Fedora unironically loves the series and the main character, mainly because of how much the “sexy” aspects are played for camp, like a drag queen trapped in a woman’s body. She doesn’t seem to read it as “male gaze” so much as an unimaginably over-the-top parody of it.

The games are incredibly well made as DMC-likes, but the presentation is all sorts of YMMV. No two takes are completely the same, and really, everyone’s opinion on how they feel about it is equally valid.

(Personally, I thought the single most gratuitous moment in the series was the Space Harrier stage ; )
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:09 AM on February 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

I loaded the demo of this onto my Wii U way back when and played the first level and it
• is gorgeously animated in a way i've rarely seen in 3rd person 3D games
* has incredibly responsive controls and a deep combo system that rewards skill without punishing button mashing
* has an absolutely gonzo, compelling aesthetic for the enemies that could only have come from someone on the outside of Judeo-Christian culture looking in
* shackled all of this to female representation that makes a Boris Vallejo image on the side of a van look progressive

I played the demo, marveled at it, and immediately deleted it because I would only be able to play it when no one else was home and all of the curtains were drawn, and I would still be embarrassed.

It's like the stoner dude in your study hall who covered all of his folders and book covers with crazy-ass demons and chicks in chainmail bikinis made a video game. So much obvious talent in the service of a completely adolescent idea of what "awesome" is.
posted by murphy slaw at 12:18 AM on February 18, 2018 [11 favorites]

I'm not much of a gamer so I hadn't heard of these particular games before. After taking a look at the trailers etc I have a similar reaction to many here - these games exhibit staggering technical and artistic prowess but the presentation of the lead character does not work for me in the current environment, to the extent that I have no interest in playing them.

As a naive software (not game) dev it occurs to me that the skinning of the lead character probably represents a tiny percentage of the development cost. It would be interesting if there were an alternate version available, being an identical game in every respect except for that, shipped separately so you would have to choose with your money (rather than, say, an in-game configuration). OTOH a slightly less naive me is thinking about affirmative action etc - if the alternate version were available then this version should not be.
posted by merlynkline at 2:48 AM on February 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I played Bayonetta to completion and absolutely adored it. It's a genuine masterpiece. The more I played it though, the more it made me aware of how much I was prepared to excuse games industry misogyny for the sake of good gameplay, and that "does this affect me personally?" Was 100% part of the cold, hard maths I'd make when I picked stuff up, even though I liked to tell myself it wasn't. It may sound naive that I hadn't realised this, but hey - twenty-something white male at the time.

By the end, it was also the first game that made me realise that "but can't you see it's ironic?" Isn't a simple, absolute defence. I mean sure, I liked to think I was reading it that way but the vast majority of regular gamers certainly weren't. So even if that was the developer intention, if people weren't reading it that way then it doesn't matter.

I suppose in a wonderful, film world I'd say at this point that I've avoided playing anything vaguely problematic since. That's certainly not true though, although post-Bayonetta it's probably a list of games I can count on less than the fingers of one hand.

What I have most definitely tried to do, however, is not spend my cash on them (of the ones I can think of, they've been review copies).

As Kutsuwamushi says, money talks and no accountant at EA, Ubisoft or any other games publisher is ever going to read nuance into good sales for a problematic game. They're not going to say "oh, it's the irony that was shifting units!" Indeed they're barely even going to accept it was the gameplay.

So it is that every Bayonetta that claims (legitimately or not) to be subtle and gets great sales triggers at least five misogynistic knock-offs that aren't. Those games then get bought, consumed and contribute to the problem.

Which fucking sucks, because part of me wants to play Bayonetta 2 more than anything else. Same also applies to Nier Automata. But that's the world we live in, and me not being able to play a computer game I really want to play is one thousand, millionth of the inconvenience that the people on the receiving end of the cultures games like this promote suffer. So my leaving them on the shelf is a stupidly easy ask in the grand scheme of things. Especially as there are plenty of games out there these days that don't fall foul of this.
posted by garius at 3:20 AM on February 18, 2018 [10 favorites]

Oh man, yeah, irony works if the audience is in on it. Otherwise it just looks like you’re earnestly endorsing whatever it is.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:34 AM on February 18, 2018

They should have just called Elvira and asked her if she wanted to star in a video game rather than just ripping off her entire shtick. It would have been much cooler and much less problematic.
posted by sexyrobot at 3:50 AM on February 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

So her clothes are her hair, right? Her head hair? Including the hair that clings lovingly to her butt? I hope she washes that every night.

Bayonetta is something I've not been able to get into, but I'm not a fan of Devil May Cry either. The presentation excesses really annoy me. This isn't even getting into the character's ickiness in general. At least Viewtiful Joe was cartoony enough that I could get around it.
posted by JHarris at 4:30 AM on February 18, 2018

Does this make me a less good ally for patriarchy smashing? Probably. I'm sorry but it's something I like to play, I 'm privileged enough to be able to compartmentalize, and circling back to the original line, there's no unproblematic art.

Apologies if this goes on a bit but I've had some thoughts and I feel comfortable enough with this community to share them here. And I guess I have to just say that “Yes, I'm a part of the problem.”

Most everyone in this community knows I'm a huge fan of video-games. I like to play them and discuss them. I've made many many posts on MetaFilter about this subject. It's a big part of my life and it's a part of my life that is a mixed bag. I hate how the gamergate bro culture has infected so much of gaming (online abuse, racism/bigotry, sexism in game development/hiring, to just name a few of the problems).

I guess in my enthusiasm for wanting to play this game because I've not been able to in the past, I made some excuses in my brain, the kind that Talez also admits to up above. I compartmentalized my concerns about the misogyny and sexism baked into this game. I told myself that “The gameplay, that's what I'm here for.”

And that is true, but it doesn't change the fact that my dollars supported this game and that the gameplay I am enjoying so much, is filtered through a particularly odious male gaze. I should be better than that. I know I am. I voice concerns about my being a person of colour and how that often is a barrier in playing certain games, in seeing how I'm represented. So if I'm aware of that concern, I should be aware of this one. I'm 37 year old man and I still have a lot to learn.

To be clear, no one is pointing fingers in this discussion (there's no target on anyone's back for choosing to play this game) but I felt the need to just share some of my own thoughts/concerns and also try to work through some of my own complicity and guilt. I'll try to think more critically and do better. Thanks for listening.
posted by Fizz at 5:07 AM on February 18, 2018 [15 favorites]

I love Bayonetta. To my queer, trans eye she's a super gay, extravagant powerhouse sexy weirdo who fires up my heart. I don't deny that there's a probably equally valid read of her as problematic. I don't think the tension there is as simple as "It's not bad because it's ironic". To me, something rad and queer, and yeah, empowering is threaded through it in a way that gives it life despite its origins. Sometimes problematic things are still valid faves. This is that for me!
posted by Drexen at 5:53 AM on February 18, 2018 [8 favorites]

I guess I'd say that to me, B herself is not actually the apotheosis of straightforward male gaze and desire. It's off from that. It's kinda queered -- hell, it's really queered. It's too strong and confident and aloof, she too readily witholds and dispenses her sexuality, to really match that. Her thing is all about using megatons of magic to kick patriarchal ass and she throws herself into it to the hilt.

I would say that the game in a sense tries to control her by bringing maleness and possessiveness to the gaze it casts on her. That hold is strengthened by the nature and gross remarks of the male creator. But does it win? Does it succeed in capturing her and recasting her for its own ends, an act of misogynist ownership? It tries, I dare say. It fails, to me. She still rocks it gayly even under that male gaze. That failure is really important and rad to me. And I'm not the only one!
posted by Drexen at 6:05 AM on February 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

This comment from Justinian in a similar discussion and post from back in 2014 feels very relevant:
Eh. I think it's far more defensible to hold the position that its okay to sometimes like problematically depicted things than it is to try to hold that Bayonetta isn't problematic. Most of us do like some problematic things, whether they be books or movies or various TV shows. I can really, really dig the first season of True Detective without having to claim that it wasn't totally dude-centric (even if they were doing interesting things in the background with women.)

Similarly, it's okay to like Bayonetta without having to put forward the idea that no, really, it's not chock full of problematic imagery.
Also, sonic meat machine's comment:
Her character was written well. Her character was not designed well.
posted by Fizz at 6:06 AM on February 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

This is akin to the "I liked $ARTIST's work, but then found out they're $WHATEVER. Can I still like their work while hating them?"

And the answer is, "Whatever. You do you."
posted by mikelieman at 6:27 AM on February 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

One more thing. Her routine isn't perfect. Some of her lines are a bit cheesy, or even kinda racially cloth-eared (oof). Still pulling off the whole ultra bondage witch thing despite that also adds to the transy queery feel.
posted by Drexen at 6:43 AM on February 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty glad now that B2 didn't come out on a platform I own. I loved B1. I'm a different person than I was back then, but maybe I still wasn't enough different when B2 came out that I wouldn't have bought it if I could've.

So, thanks for saving me from myself, Nintendo. Twitchy combo thrills aren't worth that kind of pollution.
posted by gurple at 8:55 AM on February 18, 2018

I agree with past Justinian! He was a smart cookie.

Of course now that I've played Bayonetta I dislike the game for reasons entirely orthogonal to its character design and wish everyone else did also.
posted by Justinian at 12:04 PM on February 18, 2018

Because it requires you to be a 20 year old on adderall to beat ∞ Climax with anything other than stone ratings?
posted by Talez at 12:43 PM on February 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Same also applies to Nier Automata

Gaahh, so much. Nier is such a wonderful, fantastic game that's so violently kneecapped by the totally unnecessary design choice of having the initial main character dressed like a burlesque french maid. It doesn't make any sense, it isn't explained at all in the game, and there's absolutely no need for it at all.

The story I told myself was that these future murder bots were pieced together from derelict sex bots and people forgot how to make them any other way. I don't know if that justification helps or hurts.
posted by Philipschall at 8:36 PM on February 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

I wonder if these Strong Female Characters will get their own game?
More Strong Female Characters! Such action! Perfect video game material!
posted by happyroach at 10:25 PM on February 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

Someone paid me to draw her
as a kitty cat.


I love my work...
posted by ELF Radio at 11:50 PM on February 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Mod note: A couple comments deleted. Not sure what is up with derailing to recommend reading a couple of transphobic feminist writers, but if you are trying to troll, this is your one-time warning: Do Not.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:44 AM on February 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

As a woman I found playing this game embarrassing. It was such a disappointment for me because I found the game play so engaging. I just don't get why you can't make a game with a female protagonist and not have it hyper sexualized. Just seems lazy.
posted by teamKRL at 9:12 AM on February 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding merlynkline's point about swapping out the model. I don't think it's easy (possible?) in this case, but I'd love it if that became the norm going forward.

I'm currently playing through (and really enjoying!) Metal Gear Solid V, but the character Quiet just joined my team. She's a bizarrely sexed-up naked sniper woman that makes me very uncomfortable, and just knowing that there's a cut-scene of her writhing in the rain coming up has made me less interested in playing the game further.

But interestingly, there is a huge fan community dedicated to writing tools to de-compile the game's data files in order to replace the character models. And yes, some of these mods are ways to make her even more naked, or to use her model for the rest of your army and so on, but there are also a ton of popular mods like "Give Quiet Clothes".

It does raise some interesting questions about authorial intent (if you still believe in that sort of thing) when your audience can swap out your characters during the art piece. For example, replacing sexed-up naked sniper writhing in the rain with fully clothed Revolver Ocelot writhing in the rain.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 2:54 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm finding this post and the comments enthusiasticly endorsing this game problematic. However my response wasn't helpful, and other people are expressing their concern better. My apologies.
posted by pfh at 3:35 PM on February 20, 2018

As I mentioned upthread, it's Kind of Complicated because there's no subjective means by which to declare something Problematic or Not. The only reason I've played the game is because my wife immediately wanted it after seeing the trailer, for example (and she loves the character more or less completely).

Which is by no means meant to suggest that you can't or shouldn't find it distasteful (because, hey, there's a near-unlimited supply of reasons to, if you're so inclined!), but in matters of taste, y'know, different folks are going to feel differently about stuff, and you can't litigate taste.

My personal two cents is that, taken as a whole, Bayonetta kind of blurs the line just because everything is in fact so exaggerated and over-the-top that it potentially reads as parody, and the character avoids most of the worse tropes (looking at you, Something In Basically Every Metal Gear Solid Game), which is what makes the games so polarizing in this regard. But, much like RoboCop or Starship Troopers, if you miss (or don't enjoy) the irony involved, it just looks like it's being played straight as a kind of trashy, schlocky thing.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:56 PM on February 20, 2018

There's always Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance if you need Platinum style gameplay without the gratuitous T&A.
posted by Talez at 7:23 AM on February 21, 2018

My personal two cents is that, taken as a whole, Bayonetta kind of blurs the line just because everything is in fact so exaggerated and over-the-top that it potentially reads as parody

This game was pretty epic and over-the-top. I get why some people might find it problematic, but I also prefer to view it as empowering, with a wink and a nod to the player who is also in on the joke and perfectly aware of the absurd nature of the action on screen. Tomayto - tomahto, I guess.
posted by theorique at 9:24 AM on February 21, 2018

Right, it's kind of why I compare it to RoboCop and Starship Troopers. It does kind of the same thing with stuff that is, at times, so extremely sexualized that there is virtually no chance of it actually being sexy. The issue is, though, it also plays in the same sandbox as a lot of other developers who actually do just go for straight needless titillation. Bayonetta, as a character, is far from being in the same category as MGS5's Quiet, but it's easy to get that impression at a glance.

And I certainly don't want to give the impression that I think it's a fundamentally wholesome and defensible! It's quite arguably Deeply Problematic, but in a way that I personally feel is more akin to drag shows than pornography. Sliding scale, personal taste, etc.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:18 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

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