The lineup for the villains in the next Never Winter Nights game has gotten some press over at Joystiq. Despite neither of the female villains being the “evil hot babe[s] we’ve grown accustomed to in the role playing genre”, the contrast between their stances and that of the male villain are striking.
He’s hunched slightly, in a way that looks like he’s going to charge you; a very active stance, and not one that draws attention to either his sexual organs or his musculature (the former being the trope for “powerful” women and the latter being the trope for “powerful” men). Described by Joystiq’s Alan Rose as “a frenzied berserker”, this “bald dude” seems to typify the Brute; he’s not exactly a high class villain, but even so he’s only one of many types of villain archetypes that one can choose from.
Which brings me to the next villain in the lineup; the “blue chick”. In terms of body type, if you took away the blue skin, changed her head, and upped her breast size a cup, she could almost be the twin of the other female villain. Of course, the one-size-fits-all female body type isn’t an issue confined to NWN (or even video games), and I gotta give the company points for the differences that are there.
In some ways, the blue villain isn’t the ideal of beauty: most notably, she has an odd-shaped head. But, looking at her posturing and her outfit there is definitely an element of sexuality that isn’t there with the Brute. While, with her sword raised high there’s no doubt that there’s an element to power in the blue villain’s posture, she’s shown in a 3/4 pose that causes the lines of her arms form a V that emphasises her chest. Costume wise, though I’m not sure what’s skin and what’s fabric, she appears to be wearing a chainmail loincloth and a halter top that is open to cleavage.
Finally, we have the last villain. Though her face is the recipient of Rose’s criticism (“Seriously, if you take away the flotation devices, we’ve got some serious androgyny going on here.”), I rather like that her face is less feminine than the blue villain’s. No, it’s not because I hate attractiveness, but rather because it seems to be one step in the direction of portraying many different types of women.
That said, she, too, is sexualized for all of her supposed androgyny. Her hands-on-hips position is, again, one of power (in this case its’ the power of defiance), but it also emphasizes her hips in a way that makes it clear that she’s supposed to be read as feminine. Her costume, with the focal point being her cleavage, does the same.
Honestly, I feel bad for the female villains out there — not only do they have to contend with the sexist digs if they don’t fit the “hot villain babe” category, but they still can’t seem to get away from sexualization even when it seems that their characters aren’t there to be sexualized! Come on, video game companies, won’t somebody think of the villains?