New Feminist Frequency Video Addresses Need for Body Diversity in Female Characters
In the newest Tropes vs. Women in Video Games video titled, “All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games,” Feminist Frequency takes on the lack of variety we see in playable female characters.
Anita Sarkeesian begins her video with the heroes of Blizzard Entertainment’s shooter game Overwatch, and comments that “for all the apparent variety and diversity in the heroes Blizzard showed off at the game’s debut, there wasn’t much diversity to be seen in the body types represented by the female heroes.” Sarkeesian dissects how the male characters can be big, small, or gorilla, while the female heroes we first met all seemed to embody a conventionally thin and attractive type.
Not unique to Overwatch, the video also mentions the female characters of Ultra Street Fighter IV, where “not one of them represents a notable departure from the slender body type that has been established as the standard of conventional female attractiveness,” as does the majority of the female heroes in Dota 2 and League of Legends (with some notable exceptions).
After visiting some other examples in Dishonored, Enslaved, Final Fantasy X and lots more, Sarkeesian then goes on to say that when different body types are included, they’re often played as jokes or degenerate, as in Fat Princess or Dead Rising.
The video also tackles ageism in these designs, as female characters are often young and attractive while it’s much more common to see an older, playable male character (the clip gives shout-out to Life is Strange, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II as having good examples of older female characters). “It’s as if male characters are free to embody whatever physique best communicates their personality or abilities,” she says, “but when it comes to the designs of female characters that kind of imagination and creativity often doesn’t seem to exist.”
The ultimate takeaway is that the lack of diverse body types isn’t just a wasted artistic opportunity, but an actively dangerous reinforcement of the idea that women become less valuable if they’re larger, older, or simply different from this template. The video revisits Overwatch, and points out that the addition of characters like Ana, Mei and Zarya are encouraging, but just a start. “This reliance on the same body type for so many female characters isn’t just boring; it’s harmful. It links our value as human beings within the culture to our desirability to men and it reinforces our culturally-influenced ideas about who gets to be considered desirable and who doesn’t.”
What did you think about the video? Do you have any favorite female characters that break this trope?
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