Bayonetta: Feminist Icon or Chauvinist Fantasy?
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.
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.
...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.