*Warning! The following blog will “trigger” SJWs. But that’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.*
Something that has recently become one of my great pet peeves is the idea of forced “social representation” and political correctness that is imposing its way into creative media. I know, I just made myself the enemy of the internet, since in this day and age everyone loves to brag up how “open-minded” they are, and yet have an entirely black and white view of people who agree and disagree with them (with the slightest disagreement resulting in utter vilification, of course). But here we are.
Anyway, the two main areas of this forced political correctness that really annoy me are the idea that any and all possible groups of people must be represented in any given work (because why care about the actual depth of a character when you can merely create a token?), and the idea that the physical appearances of animated characters are somehow “offensive” and “represent stereotypes” and “give people unrealistic body images” (it’s almost like they’re fictional characters or something).
I’ve already written a bit about the former in my blog explaining why Disney making Frozen’s Elsa a lesbian would be a poor decision from both a creative and social standpoint, so I’ll be focusing more on the second idea of appearances this time around. But before anyone gets the wrong idea (lord knows this politically correct age loves to twist people’s intentions just to give them something to hate), I have nothing against seeing diverse characters in fiction. In fact I welcome it. But the problem arrises when it becomes forced, and people start caring more about throwing in characters for the sole purpose of representing a particular demographic. I’m all for a character of any race, culture, sexual orientation, or whatever other category, provided they weren’t merely an afterthought that was tossed in for the sake of having a character of whatever category they fall under. It only turns movies, shows, games, or whatever else into simple political pandering, not to mention suppresses creativity for the sake of filling quotas. An actual character being created who happens to fall under a specific demographic is infinitely more meaningful than a character who’s just whipped up for the sole purpose of representing that demographic.
Now with that out of the way, let’s get to my main point. And that’s the appearances of animated characters. You’ll often hear people bemoan Disney princesses, for example, for being “too skinny” or that their appearances “reinforce stereotypes.” This is, of course, complete and utter BS.
Yes, Disney princesses are often slender, but why is that a problem, exactly? You’ll often hear people claim it gives girls “unrealistic body standards” and other such nonsense, as if these animated films are telling people to look like these characters, as opposed to the characters simply looking a certain way.
People seem to forget that caricature has always played a prevalent role in animation. If you want a character to appear goofy, you might give them an elongated torso and lanky limbs, so that their movements reflect the character’s goofy nature. Just the same, if a female character is supposed to be pretty and on the thin side, you exaggerate those features as you would any other. It no way, shape or form are they telling people to look a certain way.
Some people complain that Disney never has any variety in their characters’ appearances, which isn’t exactly an accurate claim, considering some of their characters, such as those in Lilo and Stitch, present less slender character designs. Of course, those characters also receive flack for being “offensive.” So artists like those at Disney are really just in a damned if they do, damned if they don’t situation when it comes to the politically correct.
I also have to wonder what is considered so offensive when female characters look feminine? Look, I get it, not every girl and woman is into traditionally feminine things, and that’s great. But why is it considered such a bad thing for female characters to be feminine? Femininity is, for obvious reasons, a predominantly female thing, so why is the idea of a female character exhibiting feminine qualities considered such a taboo in this day and age? Has our idea of gender roles really become so mind-numbingly simplistic that our idea of progress is simply “do the opposite because reasons?”
This of course doesn’t just apply to animated films and Disney princesses, but video game characters as well. A recent example would be, of all games, Overwatch. Despite the fact that Overwatch actually manages to achieve a genuine sense of diversity and representations in its cast of characters, the game received some pre-release flak due to the game’s mascot character – a spunky British girl named Tracer – having a victory pose that was deemed as being “too sexual.” The pose in question (seen above) was simply Tracer facing her back to the screen, and since she’s wearing a skin-tight bodysuit, it emphasized her *gasp* butt.
One of my main beefs with this non-issue is how the pose really isn’t that sexual. Is it sexy? Sure. Sexual? Not really. I mean, human beings do indeed have butts. I would assume that a video game character would also have a butt. That is of course unless developers are expected to give all of their female characters an anatomy reminiscent of Rayman, as a means to not “trigger” anyone.
What makes this whole thing worse is that Blizzard, the developers of Overwatch, actually caved in to the pressure and replaced that harmless pose with a less “triggering” one. Naturally, internet hipsters hailed this as a victory for feminism, when in reality it was nothing but a loss for free speech and artistic integrity.
Another example of a false “correctness” in video games occurred with Lara Croft’s redesign with the rebooted Tomb Raider series. Now, I fully understand that Lara Croft’s character design was becoming a little ridiculous, but when the developers stated they reduced Lara Croft’s breast size so that she “could be taken seriously,” I though that was a bit eyebrow-raising. So just because a woman has a larger chest, that means she can’t be taken seriously? I find that statement to be infinitely more sexist than any character design.
So long as the emphasis is placed on the character themselves, does it really matter what they look like? Aren’t these same critics always preaching that “it’s what’s inside that counts” (genuinely sound advice) and that “all body types are beautiful?” If that’s the case, why are they so offended by the appearances of fictional characters?
I can’t exactly say I’m one who rallies towards overly-sexualized characters (the primary reason it took me longer than most to get into Bayonetta was because of its emphasis on sexualization), but it is the creators’ rights to do whatever they want with their characters. If you don’t like something, you don’t like it. That shouldn’t mean that the artists and creators of the world should pander to your feelings and change their creations.
You’ll often hear people give the “argument” (I use that word very loosely here) of “it’s 2016,” as if the current year has anything to do with anything. You might as well counter argue with “the sky is blue” or some other blunt non sequitur.
Yeah, I understand that these people are supposedly arguing that times change, and modernization is in order. But it seems to me that telling people what they can and can not make is the exact opposite of modernization. Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t mean someone else can’t make it.
I know, saying all this would label me as a “misogynist pig” to the Social Justice Warriors of the internet (despite that I greatly value women and am all for female empowerment in media), but I believe the artistic integrity of creators is too valuable of a thing to just throw away just so some SWJs can get a false sense of self-righteousness.
The simple point is that creators should be allowed to make their characters look however they want. It’s their right as creators. They shouldn’t be shackled by political correctness. No one’s forcing them to like what creators make. Why should creators be forced to cater to people who whine?
Look, if a character is designed to be nothing but sex appeal, and has nothing else to them, you have every right to complain (but you also shouldn’t demand the creators change things just to appease you). But so long as the character has something to them, shouldn’t that be far more important than what the character looks like? It is possible for a character to be feminine and sexy and still be a deep character. This doesn’t even just apply to women either. But even though male characters receive similar caricaturization to female ones (would you argue that Disney princes aren’t also exaggeratedly attractive?), people are more conveniently hush hush on that subject.
No animator or game developer is telling anyone they need to look a certain way because of the way they make their characters look. That’s just how they make their characters look. So long as there is something to the character on the inside, why are people so focused on what they look like outside? Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge a animated character by her curves.