Editorial: Bayonetta Is New-School Feminism - News/ 7,187 Views
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With the news fortelling Bayonetta 2 and the upcoming Halloween season is my article on why Bayonetta, the game character, is good for feminism.
Much has already been said about the awesomeness of Bayonetta, so I won't repeat it. My focus today: Bayonetta is a feminist hero.
First, I'm a feminist. I honestly find it difficult to imagine someone who wouldn't be. I consider myself fortunate to have been surrounded by strong female role models and I recognize that not everyone is so privileged. My mother, in particular, is the finest human being to ever walk this earth. My mission here is inoculation against those who take issue with the game.
From the very start of the game, the viewer is so inundated with sexual imagery that the viewer can't help but ignore that aspect and focus on the important issues, like the mastercraft involved in game mechanics, and how much -fun- Bayonetta is to play. It teaches us to view the sexual aspect of femininity as . . . a veil at best, a distraction at worst. To paraphrase the Great Toni Morisson, "One day we'll get to a point where gender exists, but doesn't matter." Bayonetta says the same thing about sexuality, and about gender, but with guns strapped to her hands and feet.
Even in the areas of fashion, Bayonetta is an icon. A previously favorite quote by Sharon Stone, "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards while wearing heels." Seeming to mean that, in Hollywood, if Ginger Rogers wanted the same fame and recognition that Fred Astaire got, she'd have to let him lead and she'd have to wear heels. Bayonetta makes no such concessions. She wears cute shoes because she wants to, and she kicks ass because she wants to. If kicking butt while wearing cute shoes was more difficult, she’d just have to better herself. She seems like the kind of person who would have roundhoused Fred Astaire in the face if he tried to lead.
She also seems to . . . ignore this hyper-sexualized imagery of herself. She wears what she wears and looks the way she does because she wants to, not because she's seeking the attention of any of the male characters in the game. She and Rodin have a business relationship. She makes him talk to her as an equal. With the inundation of 'girlish' imagery, the butterflies and kisses, Bayonetta tells us to not focus on these cheap icons of femininity, and undercuts all those who use their sexuality and gender as a weapon. It points and laughs at beer commercials which try to make women seem infantilly susceptible to alcohol, hair products, and other pressures of men.
Bayonetta is taken seriously because, as a good friend gleefully said, 'This game will kill your face off.' Bayonetta is quite difficult, but you always seem to know what you did wrong, or you’re aware of another tactic to try. In the grand tradition of excellent educators, Bayonetta lets you make your own mistakes, and lets you figure out the answers. She wouldn't settle for a sloppy performance, but neither would she randomly screw you out of something you had legitimately earned.
Bayonetta is like the best romantic partner. You don't have to change yourself to be with them, but you want to improve yourself. She doesn't demean you for screwing up, but somehow inspires you to do better. She pays for herself. She makes her own money, and if you want to share in the experiences she's having, you may come along, and stay as long as you wish so long as you abide by mutually approved modes of behavior.
Bayonetta's enemies are oafish and slobbering. They're stupid machines which react emotionally and without thought. I submit to you, Gentle Reader, that Bayonetta's enemies are stereotypes of the male and female gender. The pawns and bosses are the oafish men. The female antagonists are trying to play silly mind games with Bayonetta. Our heroine is a problem-solver who can also kick ass, and even do it with some style that she herself originates. She fights them on her own terms. She dictates each fight.
Even the story of Bayonetta is a nod to her own perfect philosophy. The story is crap, and makes no sense, but at the same time, the game seems to say, "If you want story, read a bleeping book. If you want unparalleled excellence in gameplay, I'm your woman."
Bayonetta's character design is also a nod at feminism. No waifish size zero super poodles here. No chibi-girls. Bayonetta is shaped like a fully mature adult. It's almost refreshing. Instead of sexualizing another high school girl-woman, she's all grown up.
The witch imagery is also important. Witches were the outcasts who did what they wanted while needing a certain amount of anonymity to be able to hide from backward social thought. The witches did things for people. They were the midwives, the healers, the educators; they were instruments of societal betterment, and people feared them.
Alright, that’s enough for now; I think I've made my point. I'm actively trying to restrain myself from playing the game because I should be finishing this article, such is the extent of my love for Bayonetta, my over-sexualized, feminist hero.