Why I’m Not Offended By Sexy Halloween Costumes

Leg Avenue is a popular "sexy" Halloween costume designer in the US.

Leg Avenue is a popular “sexy” Halloween costume designer in the US.

Okay,  this is going a bit out of the usual range of topics for my blog, but bear with me, folks.

Please note that, if you are viewing Frag Girl at work today, this blog contains (linked) images that are not work-safe.

Googling "NSFW" yields interesting results!

Googling “NSFW” yields interesting results! Also, funny t-shirts.

This one goes out to the ladies. As a feminist and a woman who frequently criticizes oversexualization and objectification, I wanted to make it clear that there’s a difference between these complaints when they’re made in a legitimate format and when they’re just, well, egregious. For example, if I’m playing a video game and I see a woman in a chainmail bikini (in an environment that is otherwise serious), I’m going to roll my eyes and groan a little. In this case, the exposure is out of place and obviously meant for fanservice. It can occur in any genre, and, unsurprisingly, in real life – look at some of the women who dress up in about six inches of fabric for Comic Con, for example.

Pikachu, what are you doing!

Pikachu, what are you doing!

That said, sometimes you just have to have fun. To diverge from video games for a bit, I love the hell out of sexy Halloween costumes. Usually, they’re hilarious or adorable – just think of the little German barmaid costumes, for example. There is one day of the year where you as a woman (and hopefully of age – if you haven’t hit puberty yet, please dress as a princess instead) can dress up in something completely ridiculous and let loose, and that’s Halloween. Of course, if you saw someone in an outfit of this variety on any day of the week, it would be cause for frustration, but damn, don’t get your hackles up on a holiday that, in the adult portion of America, is celebrated with copious amounts of booze, candy, and bad taste.

After many long years spent in a coma, Link finally afforded the surgery he always desired.

After many long years spent in a coma, Link finally afforded the surgery he always desired.

In short, it’s fine to get upset when you see your gender exploited, but there are times when you can relax and just plain revel in audacity. It isn’t against the feminist code, so to speak, to dress up and have fun looking sexy for once. This is why you won’t see me complaining when I see a gal prancing down the street dressed as a “sexy” whatever on Halloween – as long as nothing illegal is showing.

As an unintentional bonus, sexy Halloween costumes also yield some hilarious results.  Go ahead and check out the Tumblr tag for Yandy, which showcases some of the best of the best.

Sexy Jane Goodall, I shit you not.

Sexy Jane Goodall, I shit you not.

PS -If you ever want a fun drinking game, play “Not A Costume” on Yandy.com (linked content is Not Safe For Work (NSFW)). The goal of the game is to go into any Halloween section of the site and see if you can find something that’s just plain lingerie mixed in, then take a shot. Have at it, persons of legal drinking age.

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Thoughts On Sexuality and Diversification in the Gaming World

Although interesting, Barret was a mixed bag when it came to the representation of African Americans.

Although interesting, Barret was a mixed bag when it came to the representation of African Americans.

The past decade has seen quite a change in the gaming industry. Whereas the standard hero was once a strapping white male with similarly archetyped comrades, developers have been exploring race and sexuality as of late. Little by little, video games are becoming more reflective of the real world and its populace.

One particular company that comes to mind is Bioware, which, despite recent losses (the outrage in response to Mass Effect 3‘s ending, SWTOR‘s decline), has become a key entity in the industry when it comes to diversification. Taking a look specifically at the Mass Effect series, Bioware created characters that were bisexual (asari may be monogendered, but come on), lesbian, gay, African American, Japanese, and finally, one individual of Hispanic ancestry.

That’s a hell of a cast. Typically, such inserts often have the feel of a Burger King kid’s club, where minorities and alternate sexualities are included solely as tokens. In Mass Effect 3, that isn’t the case – the universe it takes place in is incredibly diverse both in race and species, making non-white, GLBT members a natural addition to the cast. It’s a great step in the right direction for making video games more accessible to more people of all races and sexualities.

Furthermore, Bioware is to be commended for their defense of the GLBT community. They have, in the past, outright decried players who complained about homosexual and bisexual options in the game. Go ahead and read the whole post by David Gaider – it’s worth a look.

Final Fantasy VII was an earlier game that included an African American cast member, and though we all love Barret for the right reasons (his story was much more complex and emotionally involved than the average Final Fantasy character), he had a lot to work on. Square Enix made the mistake of making Barret’s dialogue stereotypical. Aside from Cid Highwind, who still had better grammar, Barret was one of the only characters in the game that had a colloquial (some would call it Ebonics) dialogue. It made him stand out, and not in a good way. Even so, he was one of the most unique and recognizable African American character of the ’90s (in regards to games), which makes him an important figure in this discussion.

Contrastingly, take a new character over a decade later – Sergeant James Heller, from Prototype 2. James Heller is a man who has goals, a past, ambition, and personality. When I played Prototype 2, I had a blast listening to Heller’s quips about his surroundings. It was also a relief to see a minority as the protagonist of the game, rather than a side character. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a mainstream game yet that does the same for the GLBT community, with the exception of games in which you can create your own avatar (mostly, courtesy again to Bioware).

It’s inarguable that the diversification of video games is a great thing for the industry. Racism and homophobia have a way of subtly interfering with any form of media, whether it be in the deliberate placing of a character fitting the “type” or in the distinct absence of any such individuals. Addressing race and sexuality well by putting thought and time into these characters is an excellent advancement for video games as a whole, and makes them feel much more true to life.

Now, what kind of character would you like to see starring in the next generation of video games?

Dwellings On the Revisioned Tomb Raider

Say hello to the new Lara Croft.

Say hello to the new Lara Croft.

Lara Croft was one of my childhood heroes. I absolutely adored her, and it’s not hard to see why – she’s beautiful, intelligent, rich, and most importantly of all, a brunette (represent). That said, there’s a lot of reasons not to like her. While I may have been able to look past these faults as a kid, she’s also a blatant sexual objectification of women, she destroys precious artifacts wherever she goes, and, depending on how you play, kills endangered animals without a second thought.

Needless to say, Lara and I have a complicated relationship. As an adult, I’m still terribly fond of her – I even dressed as her for Halloween in 2011. However, this maturation adds conflict to the matter; a girl can’t understand the many negative aspects of Lara’s character, but a woman most certainly can. It’s of little wonder, then, that I was thrilled to hear that Square Enix was pairing with Crystal Dynamics to remake the famous franchise with a new goal in mind: to make Lara Croft a dynamic and accessible character to all genders.

You go, girl!

You go, girl!

At first, this was purely delightful news, but it soon became evident that the new Lara came with a new reality. Every day, women face the risk of rape and sexual assault. Most of us don’t let it rule our lives, but it’s a constant presence in the back of your mind when you’re walking alone at night or stuck in a strange place by yourself. You have to be careful, and you have to be smart.

Lara Croft is not the former.

Kudos goes to the developers for taking on such a difficult subject. Rape and sexual assault are, unfortunately, a reality for all of us, but it’s rarely handled well in media. At best, it is a clumsily portrayed “gimme” used by producers to stir up emotional toil in its female audience, but, in actuality, mostly serves to alienate us, whether we are victims or not. To put it bluntly, it’s generally a bad choice.

The emotional weight tied to such a violating experience is something to be respected. I, myself, have never gone through such a thing, but one doesn’t have to be a survivor of rape or sexual assault to understand this concept. Thus becomes my wariness: I love Tomb Raider, but I don’t want to see the game ruin itself by mishandling an emotionally loaded scenario.

A screencap pf the infamous scene from the 2012 trailer for the newTomb Raider.

A screencap of the infamous scene from the 2012 trailer for the new Tomb Raider.

“But wait!” you say, “There isn’t actually any rape in 2013’s Tomb Raider!”

It doesn’t matter. The implication is there, the threat is present, and it’s something that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have both addressed directly. If you’re intent on disbelieving this notion, please take a few moments out of your day to view the controversial trailer below.

It’s troubling, to say in the least. How can a video game possibly cover something like this? Can it be done properly?

Tentatively, I’m going to say yes. I’ve mentioned before the rape scene from General Custard’s Revenge, which is what I think a lot of gamers are expecting from the newest installment of the Tomb Raider franchise, but perhaps a touch less cartoony. This is 2012. The game is coming out in 2013. Personally, I have high hopes for Lara Croft; Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have an admirable goal, and they’re trying to approach an underlying subject that was fumbled in the series’ past with insipid come-ons from male members of the cast.

There are going to be offended parties, regardless, and it would be incredibly insensitive of me to say that they’re wrong. Everyone responds differently to such emotionally charged subjects, regardless of sex and experience. Someone is going to be hurt, and therein lies an important dilemma – is it right to put this in a form of entertainment? It has been done well before in films (Deliverance, The Girl with the Dragon TattooIrreversible), which indicates to me that there remains a chance for this game to pull it off.

It’s all about respect and treatment of the subject matter. If 2013’s Tomb Raider can manage to handle the (very real) dangers that Lara Croft faces as a young, attractive woman alone in the wilderness, it may just set a standard for the industry that has yet remained untouched.

Upcoming Itinerary

Hello, readers!

First of all, thank you so much to all of you who have been reading and commenting on Frag Girl. I did not expect anyone to pay it much attention, and I am flattered that so many of you have been following my writings. On that note, if anyone would like to contribute a guest article at some point, please let me know – I would gladly welcome your opinions here on this blog.

As for the upcoming articles, the scheduling is as follows:

  • Tomb Raider Redux, A Woman’s Perspective
  • The Propriety of Guild Wars 2
  • Killer Vs. Killer: The Bleeding House Review
  • Frag Girl’s Top 5 Female Video Game Characters

Thank you for your patience. School is starting and I have been working two jobs all summer, so writing regularly is rough! I would be very glad to hear your opinions on scheduling, however. What days would you, the readers, like to see posts on from Frag Girl?

Psychosexual Terror, or Why Xenomorphs Are Scary

Hey kids, remember me?

Hey kids, remember me?

If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, you share a common fear with your peers: xenomorphs. The infamous aliens of the Alien franchise burst onto the silver screen in 1979,  and subsequently struck terror into the hearts of both men and women. HR Giger, known for his phallic art, really struck a nerve with science fiction fans across the globe – but why?

Surely, xenomorphs are frightening in their capacity for violence. The species is first introduced when a face-hugger violates one of the crewmembers, who later expires in a rather well-known scene, in which a fledgeling xenomorph bursts from his chest cavity. This alone would be reason enough to fear xenomorphs, but there’s more to it than that.

Hello my baby, hello my darling!

Hello my baby, hello my darling!

What truly sets xenomorphs apart from any other alien horror – aside from the obvious – is their ability to equally victimize women and men. It’s no secret that the means by which xenomorphs reproduce is, in itself, a rape motif. However, the motif differs from the norm in that sex is disregarded: it doesn’t matter who or what you are, you can be violated and impregnated.

In most creature-features, the antagonizing entity stops at death. At worst, you’ll suffer before expiring, but there is no prolonged torture beyond this. With xenomorphs, the individual is not only traumatized and assaulted, but, in seemingly random cases, is also forced to carry the monster’s offspring. The random nature of this selection adds to the terror, as one can never tell when the victim is going to be lunch or a baby (xeno)momma.

As far as similar examples go, Deliverance of 1972 explored rape as it applies to males as well, but without the potential pregnancy. Those of you who, like me, were traumatized by The Thing as children may draw similar conclusions to Alien; the alien organism in The Thing violates its victims in that it, too, prolongs death, but it refrains from truly fermenting the aforementioned rape motif.

The Thing is bringing sexy back.

The Thing is bringing sexy back.

All three films are effective as examples of media that tap into some of humanity’s baser fears, but it’s Alien that runs the full mile with the theme. As was mentioned earlier, a xenomorph does not care who or what you are – all it wants is to feed and, in the case of facehuggers, to reproduce. Man, woman, dog or otherwise, Giger’s xenomorphs are apex predators with no discretion: something you’d do well to remember if you ever find yourself drifting quietly amongst the stars.

A Fine Line: Sex Appeal vs. Gratuity

With the maturation of the gaming community at large, sex has become a much more influential factor in modern video games. Once upon a time, Colonal Custard’s Revenge was considered racey (and remains controversial to this day, for obvious reasons), but many games now feature sex scenes as cinematics – The Witcher 2: Assassination of Kings, The Secret World, and the Grand Theft Auto series are just a few of such titles. In terms of just how graphic these instances are,the scenes range from mere implication (the oral scene in The Secret World) to softcore pornography (every sex scene in The Witcher 2 – one of my all time favorite games, but the fact still stands).

Now, I’m not one to judge sexual content. Everyone likes sex. It sells. It’s fun. But what do we, the gamers, get out of having these racy scenes? Do they really add to the finished product?

Personally, I feel that there’s a very fine line between acceptable sexual content in video games and gratuity. A tasteful implication, which is difficult enough to manage on its own, can say so much more than a graphic cinematic. I have never found myself offended by sex scenes, but I feel oftentimes that the video game industry could take a hint from daytime television and instill limits on what sort of content makes it into their games. There’s a difference between sex appeal and fan service: the former can be subtle but powerful, whereas the latter is better suited for less mature venues. All that is required to make this transition is a little more effort on the developers’ part.

“Show, don’t tell,” is a cliche for a reason. We, the gaming community, don’t need our hands held to know what’s going on; treat us like adults, and the industry as a whole will benefit.

What do you think? Do you feel that graphic sex scenes have a place in games, or should we as gamers endeavor for a more conservative angle? Keep in mind that games with these scenes are rated “MA” and will not fall into the hands of a minor unless illegally obtained or through parental consent.