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Bayonetta: Feminist Icon or Chauvinist Fantasy?

Updated on May 18, 2013
The titular character. And no, that word does not mean what you think it means.
The titular character. And no, that word does not mean what you think it means.

She walks into a room packed with enemies. One by one, she swiftly and stylishly takes them out. The first two are on the right, they don't stand a chance. She's just too good.

Then, the next three are dispatched using a combination of guns, a sword and witchcraft. There's only one enemy left--in the middle of the room. It's time to take out the big guns. No, seriously. These guns are huge.

Shotguns to be precise and she has four of them. This last man standing is putting up a better fight than the others. No matter, she uses her lithe and agile body to out-maneuver him at every turn. He's been weakened. It's time. She uses her magical abilities to summon an iron maiden--not the band--and proceeds to drop kick this unfortunate soul into the deathtrap.

Damn, that was awesome.

What's the meaning of work if you can't stop to admi--OH GOD HIS HEAD IS SHOT CLEAN OFF.
What's the meaning of work if you can't stop to admi--OH GOD HIS HEAD IS SHOT CLEAN OFF. | Source

Heroine...

Bayonetta is one of the few female video game heroines that oozes style and confidence. While the game most definitely is challenging, her character never seemed to act as if she was in over her head. Calm, cool and collected, Bayonetta takes out Jubileus' (this universe's god) lackeys with finesse and breaks nary a nail while doing it.

She's the female equivalent of Dante from Devil May Cry but--I know I'll probably get internet crucified for saying this--I think she could kick Dante's ass. It's refreshing to have a woman in a video game that isn't a damsel forever in distress, a lovesick side-character in love with the protagonist ..or Ashley from Resident Evil 4. Especially Ashley from Resident Evil 4.

2013 saw Tomb Raider as well, another--perhaps the most well known--video game heroine. But even she seems feeble in comparison. Granted, Bayonetta and Tomb Raider are vastly different games, but Bayonetta comes out firing on all cylinders from the get-go.

Now don't get me wrong, Lara Croft's character development from rich girl to badass cave spelunker is done rather well. It's realistic, as the game is trying to be. As for Bayonetta, you're not playing this game for its story and character arcs. It's action, plain and simple. Beautiful, wonderful action.

She's an idol to those who strive to be confident in who they are. High self-esteem, strong, witty, taught physique and not afraid of her own sexuality. She follows a "flaunt it if you've got it" sort of mantra.

Oh come on. No one's legs work that way.
Oh come on. No one's legs work that way.

...or Pixelated Pin-Up?

Flaunt if if you've got it? That's such a guy answer. Bayonetta is nothing more than a masturbatory aid for adolescent males. Only a man would design a woman in a skin-tight leather suit and give this woman ridiculous proportions. We've seen it with the Barbie doll, so it's not far-fetched at all.

Bayonetta is interchangeable with Dante, Kratos (God of War) or Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden). The only difference is Bayonetta's ultimate techniques, shockingly called Climaxes, require her to be almost nude--for whatever reason.

She is a cool, confident character, but it's almost negated every time there's a cutscene with her sensuously sucking on a lollipop. Feminist indeed. She's hyper-sexualized lines of code, nothing more.

If that's not enough, all of her power-ups are essentially jewelry and her alternate costumes leave nothing to the imagination. Yes, in order to break gender roles, let's make a badass woman, give her weapons and amazing arcane abilities--but don't forget the bracelets lipstick and dresses!

A Happy Medium?

Let's take a different approach and say both are true. Crazy notion, I know, but bear with me. Yes, Bayonetta is what some would considered over-sexualized and no, that doesn't make her any less of a badass.

Heroes and heroines share a common factor: they're both projections of a "perfect you." Very rarely do you see a pudgy little man on the cover of an action game. We don't want to be the Penguin, we want to be Batman.

The same goes for female protagonists, but because of prevailing gender stereotypes, they seem to get more flak.

So let's put it simply: Bayonetta is for both sexes. Women who love action games and like to pretend they are her. Men who love action games and like to pretend they are with her. Then there's the rest--like me--who just love games for games' sake.

What do you think?

Is Bayonetta empowering or sexist?

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The crouching makes the bullets hurt more. It's science.
The crouching makes the bullets hurt more. It's science.

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      misscake 3 years ago

      *puts hand up tentatively*

      Uh...Bayonetta was actually designed by Mari Shimazaki- a woman. You can argue that sexism is rife in Japan and she was probably abiding by what the dudes wanted, but you've got to look at what games Platinum studios have previously made. They're blatantly aware of how much smut, innuendo and gratuitous butt/boob shots get packed into other games, and seem to like playing it for laughs.

      What I find so fascinating about Bayonetta is that she's actually empowered about her own sexuality- which is a shocking and sad subversion on behalf of other females in games. Bayonetta has chooses when to be coquettish and seductive; she's the one we can picture making moves on men, not the other way around. The developers have expressed their disappointment in a lot of fanfictions and art that people have made of her simply because they portray her as submissive. Also, the idea that her lollipop evokes fetishism is deconstructed in-game with a lollipop being given to her as a child. The thing is, that sort of thing normally shows the subject deriving pleasure from food. Bayonetta just...looks like she's simply enjoying it for what it is, and if anything, she appears to be doing the LOLLIPOP the FAVOUR!

      She's a confusing, multi-faceted character that's for certain.

    • ThatJaredGuy profile image
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      Jared C. Johnson 3 years ago from Florida

      Thank you for the comment. And for the record, yes, I am aware Bayonetta's design was created by a woman. I was simply using that as a--somewhat satirical--example on equalism and hypocrisy. It may have been a little close to the chest for me. When I wrote this, a friend and I got into a bit of a fight concerning feminism. Without going into too much detail, I brought up the "perfect you" idea that I touched on in the article. She then responded with the "oh that's such a guy thing. Only a man..." argument.

      Tangent aside, I agree with you 100%. She does things on HER terms. I can't recall a moment in the game--outside the player's own skills--where Bayonetta feels/acts as though she's in over her head. She's calm, cool, collected and always plays her hand well.

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