The Courtroom: Liara T’soni Figure Controversy and A Look at Female Sexuality in Video Games

Whew.  This topic is one that has really piqued my interest.  A few months ago, I posted something about a Liara T’soni figure by Kotobukiya.  I thought it was great (despite my usual anti-love for Shunya Yamashita).  However, little did I know, that many Bioware and Mass Effect fans were less than enthused about this figure.  I first heard about the controversy a few weeks ago on the website Go Make Me a Sandwich, a video game blog run by a feminist named Wundergeek (here’s the exact post about the Liara figure which had a picture linked from MP which is how I found the site to begin with).  Let me just say I was intrigued with the site; I read through about half her blog in one night to gain a better understanding of her thoughts and feelings.  After reading through a good portion of her material, I was able to come to a fair conclusion.  I respect her opinions and her enthusiasm; however, I don’t agree with a lot she has to say.  And that’s fine. That’s why they’re called opinions.  But before I go any further, I would like to address the Liara figure controversy first.

Many people seem to have a problem with this figure.  Many didn’t like the “oversexualized” depiction of Liara (to be fair, the prototype was pretty bad).  Many didn’t like the anime style.  Many didn’t like the face (I usually hate Shunya Yamashita because of the way he does faces).  Just check out all the hate on Mass Effect 2 Facebook page.  Now let me step in and be the voice of reason: if you don’t like it, then don’t buy it.  Ok it’s not as simple as that.  There’s much moar I have to say.  First off, the single biggest complaint I have with all the naysayers is their use of the phrase “my Liara.”  I absolutely hate when people refer to any character as their own.  I’ve heard the argument that when you play a game, you get attached to the characters.  I’m sorry, I don’t care how attached you get.  The characters are fake; they’re not real.  They don’t belong to you no matter how much you want to believe they do.  The company has rights to that character.

People get so bent out of shape when “their” precious character gets portrayed in a way that they don’t seem fit.  “It’s not the way she’s portrayed in the game!”  No shit Sherlock.  It’s someone’s interpretation, and we have no right to say it’s a “wrong” depiction.  The majority of people don’t understand that all figures in the “Bishoujo” line are meant to look like that.  That’s Yamashita’s style.  To have the arrogance to say “she shouldn’t be portrayed in this style” is downright idiotic.  If you want “your” Liara, go play the game.  Just look at the backlash that the Toyota Miku got.  This character obsession is nothing moar than fan entitlement (I think Bioware fans have become moar entitled then most).  I am thankful that companies give me really memorable characters.  I appreciate them, but I have never once tried to take “possession” of one.  A company is free to do what it wants with their characters.

This brings me to the next point: business.  Companies are out to make money, one way or another.  I may not like the way some video game companies go out to make money (*cough*DLC*cough*), but there’s nothing I can really do about it.  If you don’t like it, then don’t buy it (which is what I said earlier).  I don’t like using the phrase “sex sells.”  It’s cliche and used as a rebuttal when someone really doesn’t have a well-thought out opinion.  I prefer to look at anything this way: if you buy something, you’re the target demographic.  If not, then you’re not the target demographic.  Simple but effective. There are obviously fans out there who will buy the Liara figure, which is why it’s being sold.

Totally unrealistic...wait a minute, this is a goddamn anime, of course it's not realistic!

That’s enough about the Liara figure; I think I’ve made my point clear.  Let’s move on to the broader topic of female sexuality in video games.  Actually as an entertainment industry as a whole.  That include anime, comics, movies, etc.  It’s very important to point out that Wundergeek isn’t against female sexuality; she’s not trying to judge your tastes or mine.  What she is against is the fact that companies use sexuality to sell (I already said I hate the phrase “sex sells”).  I went over this in my last point: companies will do whatever it takes to make money.  It’s the sad and simple truth.  Myself and two of my writers (Cheshire and Starshine) got together for a vlog to cover the topic of sexuality in video games (which will be up later).  The bottom line we all came to is that video games, like other forms of entertainment, are just that–entertainment.  Entertainment is meant to entertain us.  People don’t want to admit it, but we like looking at “pretty” things.

People who like anime are occasionally and unfairly stereotyped as “freaks who like hentai, big boobs, and tentacles.”  I like anime, and I find this insulting.  Sure I watch things like Ikki Tousen and Queen’s Blade.  They are my guilty pleasures.  And they obviously sell very well. They’re nothing but women in scantily clad clothes duking it out.  However, this doesn’t make me a pervert or think any less of women in real life.  Why? Because these forms of entertainment are fiction.  They’re not real.  I would find it pretty disturbing if I saw a person who looked like a character from Queen’s Blade (especially Cattleya) walking around.  All these things are fiction, and this is why I have a problem with people who complain about “properly proportioned” and “realistic” female characters.  Don’t expect “realism” in video games.  If you want realism, look out the window.  Too many people have a hard time separating true reality from 2D reality.  2D reality is still fiction.  So when you see a female character with giant tits walk onto the screen, take it with a grain of salt.  Laugh even.  Hell I do that.  Why so serious?

How the fuck does this guy stay alive? He's not wearing armor! Oh that's right, it's just a game. It's not REAL.

Even men in video games, anime, and comics are not portrayed in a realistic manner.  Even if they’re not physically over-the-top, many males are idealized (sans male protagonists 90% of harem anime).  Comic book superheroes are overly heroic.  Look at Batman and Superman in all their animated forms.  They literally have a humongous triangle shaped upper body.  Characters like Kratos and Dante are buff and running around shirtless (or in Dante’s case, exposing skin).  Which brings me to another point: women complain about the lack of proper armor for female characters.  As I mentioned in Queen’s Blade, all the women are wearing preposterous “armor.”  However, is this such a bad thing?  I wonder myself sometimes if armor does any good against some of these ridiculously powered foes featured in many video games and anime.  I seriously don’t think armor would help if the Human Reaper in Mass Effect 2 decided to take a big ole bite out of you.  In MMO’s, the whole “objectification of women/unrealistic women” idea is taken to a new level.  Bottom line, you can get hit a hundred times by a spear, but as long as your defense skill is high, it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing plate mail or a thong, you’re going to take the same amount of damage.  Once again, it’s fiction.  People need to suspend their imaginations a bit and take it for what it is. If I were actually in an anime or a game, I would prefer to wear less armor so I could be faster and avoid those oh-so-painful looking hits!

So they made her "hot" now...she could still kick my ass

Now to tackle the mantra that “there are no strong willed women” in video games.  Many people bashed Metroid Other: M.  They believe Nintendo took Samus and made her weak.  I think quite the opposite. I should mention that Metroid is my favorite Nintendo franchise; it matches my detail-oriented personality and insatiable desire of collecting things.  Anyways, I don’t think making her “moar human” or “moar vulnerable” was a bad thing.  I actually grew closer to her.  I hate the idea that showing vulnerability is a weakness.  No one is perfect. Not Walter Payton (*cough*Jeff Pearlman haters*cough*).  Not me. Not you.  No one.  Seeing the human side–the flawed side– of a character should only make you identify moar with said character.  On a side note, why do some people have a problem with Zero Suit Samus?  What did people expect her to wear under that heavy armor?  I honestly wasn’t surprised that she was wearing skin-tight clothes.  How else would you fit under armor like that?  Obviously, this portrayal of her has given rise to some questionable fanart.  But, it’s just fanart.  Her Zero Suit sexes her up indeed, but she’s still the same strong warrior to me.  One little change shouldn’t change the perception of a character.

If Liara were to appear in Mass Effect 3 in a bikini in one scene (Starfire anyone?), there probably would be outrage.  But to myself and other logical, mature people it wouldn’t make a difference.  Here’s a point I should have made eariler: it is ultimately the writing that makes a character, not their physical appearance.  Just a few other strong-willed characters (some which happen to be sexy): Catwoman, Yoko from Gurren Lagann, Saber from Fate/stay Night (gasp! she’s wearing armor! although it really doesn’t help XD), Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bepop, Tifa from Final Fantasy VII, and even Zoey from Left 4 Dead.  There are other examples my staff are sure to bring up, but this is good for now.  To be honest, I hate about half the male protagonists I play/watch.  I tend to gravitate toward female ones (not because of looks alone).  Many are moar interesting.  Maybe it’s just me.

Wow I’ve written an essay just about.  Looking back at it all, I hope I’ve made my points clear.  If you’re reading this Wundergeek, I hope you’re not offended.  I don’t think I was derogatory in any regard (sarcastic definitely).  I just disagree with many of your ideas.  To me, fiction is fiction, reality is reality.  Plain and simple. Entertainment exists to entertain, businesses are there to make money whatever mean necessary.  It’s the way of the world.  We have differing views, opinions, reasons.  I’m not trying to judge you, just like you aren’t trying to judge others.  To everyone else, I hope you enjoyed this editorial. Until next time people…

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  1. I wish moar people thought like you.

  2. As Demon's Souls taught me, I'd rather have less armor and the ability to roll rather than tons of armor. Taking hits is not fun, even if you're well protected.

    That being said though, Casca's (from Berserk) armor looks completely normal and practical, so I kinda wish people would look at her armor and implement that in some manner more often, but alas, c'est la vie.

  3. Dark souls with medium armor + dark grainwood ring = ninja flipping with knight's armor

    Nice post man, thanks for wanting to share links with yours truly

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  5. "Moar" is actually spelt "more", just for your information. I don't really listen to any opinion on this kind of subject. It is what it is. If a character is attractive, fine. What's the big deal. It isn't sexualizing woman. This subject is stupid. People making issues out of something that isn't an issue in the name of female extremism. Grow up girls. We don't complain about sexualised men who are ripped. I reiterate: Grow up.

  6. Pingback: The Courtroom: Hitman: Absolution Trailer: A Discourse on Sexuality in Video Games | Moar Powah!

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