Maybe We Should Just Have Fewer Butt Poses? | Vol. 3 / No. 22.5


It didn’t really fit with her character anyway | Photo: Blizzard


At some point, I’m going to just break down and tattoo “I just want a range of reasonable female representations” across my forearm, so that the next time I’m told that I’m a sex-hating, anti-female empowerment, anti-fun feminist, I can just say “Talk to the forearm.” (That’s what the kids are saying these days, isn’t it?) I swear that I’m not trying to take away every barely-clothed, big-breasted beauty in games and other media. I just don’t want that to be the only female body type that is available. I’m not trying to say that we can’t have femme fatales who use their sexuality as a weapon, and manage to somehow pose in a way that reveals their breasts and butt at the same time. Super-flexible women who have magic spines are people too, and that character trope is so enduring that it will never go away even if I wanted it to. But for me, it’s important for there to be a range of body types as well as character types in media. It’s great if you have a range of body types for your female characters, but if they all fall into the “femme fatale” character type, then you don’t get as many brownie points. If you have female characters with a range of interests and backgrounds but they just happen to all look like supermodels, again, not as many brownie points.

I’ve talked before about my high hopes for the forthcoming Overwatch in terms of fitting my criteria for character range and (somewhat) fitting my criteria for body-type range.  The creators have actually added quite a few characters to the lineup since I first discussed the game. They sadly lost the near-gender parity they had in their original slate of characters (of the nine characters that were added after the game was announced, only three are female), but they did somewhat expand the range of body types for their female characters (with one, Zarya, who I am pretty sure was specifically added as a response to criticism that the majority of the existing female characters were lithe supermodel types while the male characters had a range of body types).

But to the credit of the creators of Overwatch, they seem to fairly dedicated to the concept of “one sexy does not fit all” for their female characters (or at least dedicated to that concept after they’ve received criticism). One of the fan-favorites in the game is a character named Tracer, a sprite-like Brit who was an experimental test pilot and managed to get herself desynchronized from our normal time stream.  Most of her character design focuses on her speed and her time-travel powers, and her general personality seems to be somewhat cocky and ornery. Which is why a fan named Fipps who was taking part in the beta test was confused and somewhat annoyed to find that one of Tracer’s victory poses, called “over the shoulder,” put her in hip-cocked position that emphasized her butt.  (And remember, this is happening in the context of a medium that is so well-known for its tendency to focus on female characters’ butts, particularly in poses like this, that this trope earned its own Feminist Frequency video.)  James Kaplan, the game director for Overwatch, explained that the pose will be replaced, stating, ‘“We want *everyone* to feel strong and heroic in our community. The last thing we want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable, under-appreciated or misrepresented. Apologies and we’ll continue to try to do better.”’ After that response garnered everything from some general confusion and “it doesn’t seem sexual to me” to an actual petition to keep the pose, Kaplan posted a more extensive explanation:

I have final creative say over what does or does not go into the game. With this particular decision, it was an easy one to make—not just for me, but for the art team as well. We actually already have an alternate pose that we love and we feel speaks more to the character of Tracer. We weren’t entirely happy with the original pose, it was always one that we wrestled with creatively. That the pose had been called into question from an appropriateness standpoint by players in our community did help influence our decision—getting that kind of feedback is part of the reason we’re holding a closed beta test—but it wasn’t the only factor. We made the decision to go with a different pose in part because we shared some of the same concerns, but also because we wanted to create something better.

We wouldn’t do anything to sacrifice our creative vision for Overwatch, and we’re not going to remove something solely because someone may take issue with it. Our goal isn’t to water down or homogenize the world, or the diverse cast of heroes we’ve built within it. We have poured so much of our heart and souls into this game that it would be a travesty for us to do so.

We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision, and that’s okay. That’s what these kinds of public tests are for. This wasn’t pandering or caving, though. This was the right call from our perspective, and we think the game will be just as fun the next time you play it.

If it isn’t, feel free to continue sharing your concerns, thoughts, and feedback about this and other issues you may have with the game, please just keep the discussion respectful.

This, to me, is about as perfect as a response for something like this can get. Kaplan acknowledges that the player feedback did influence the decision to remove the pose, but also emphasizes that the larger underlying problem was that the pose did not fit with Tracer’s character. Removing the pose doesn’t water down the world, it actually makes the world of Overwatch less homogenous—when there is already a character like Widowmaker, who is obviously leaning hard into the trope of the femme fatale, it’s not really necessary to have additional female characters over-emphasize their sexuality in ways that don’t fit with their personality. It would be like having a mage and a barbarian have the same WWE-style muscle bearing victory pose; it works perfectly for the barbarian, but would seem silly and superfluous for the mage.

What I am asking for as a videogame fan is the same thing that male videogame fans have pretty much always enjoyed: to see my gender represented as if we are part of a spectrum, and as if individual characters are actually individuals.

(Also, I was originally totally going to have a section about Capcom releasing a patch that fixed the “two cantaloupes bouncing in a bag” boob physics of Chun Li’s character, and how the people who discovered the initial problem had to show a succession of large-breasted characters in order to prove that the problem was only with Chun-Li’s huge breasts, but I couldn’t get over the phrase “boob physics” and also I couldn’t figure out a place to fit that in. So there’s that.)


Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not working toward a brighter future in which women don’t *all* have to be sexualized, she studies gender in popular culture.

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