Warning, there be spoilers ahead. Earlier last month, the forums for the videogame website selectbutton.net hosted a conversation about the one game we would champion, if we could only champion one game for the rest of our lives. While there are lot of vidcons I like, my choice was easy–not because its perfect, but because its flaws don’t stop it from being one of the most affecting pieces of fiction I’ve ever experienced.
The facts are these: released in 2006, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was the sequel/spinoff to 1999’s The Longest Journey. While the original game was an adventure game in the traditional point-and-click sense, Dreamfall is more actiony; there’s some combat, there are stealth portions and in general, the game seems much more in your face than its predecessor. It’s also a lot more ambitious. Not that ambition helps make it a good videogame–it isn’t. Its action segments require more fluidity than a keyboard can provide, and its various puzzles are brain teasers only in the sense that they suggest a challenge that they don’t deliver. Large stretches of the game consist of walking from cutscene to cutscene, which is as close as you can get to a capital crime in any videogame. And yet…
In its thirty-something year history, videogames have become rather good at telling enjoyable stories. It’s not something everyone can do, but there’s a pretty established template of things to do vs. things to avoid. And thus, we have videogames with fun stories, entertaining stories, exciting stories, and stories that make you go “hell, yeah”. I would say, however, that there are very few stories that could be considered moving–stories that get deep into your soul (assuming you believe in one) and stay with you. Before Dreamfall, I could name two, and they belonged to the same franchise. Leer el resto de esta entrada »
(Content Note: Body Policing)
So yesterday I came across this picture, depicting artist Claire Hummel‘s indignation at a particular scene in the U.S. trailer for Pixar’s new movie Brave. In it, the film’s hero, Mérida, complains as she is laced into a corset. And while I don’t agree with everything Hummel says–or possibly how she’s saying it–my first thought after finding out about this scene was “this again?”
Scenes like this one should be familiar*–women complaining about their corsets have appeared from films as old as 1944’s Meet Me In St. Louis to more recent fare like Pirates of the Caribbean, where it was used as a set-up for one of its more quotable lines. Nowadays, its main use appears to be as shorthand to depict how women were oppressed back then, and the hero’s dislike of them as a sign that she is a Strong Female Character.
I’m a big fan of women in corsets–I’ve found the garment fascinating since my age was in the single digits, and feel that there’s very little they can’t make sexier. Thanks to this fascination/fetish, I’ve gotten to learn about, and interact with, women who have worn them and who have a variety of opinions regarding the garment. Some indeed dislike it and find it uncomfortable. Others find it comfortable, beautiful, even confidence boosting. In essence, they’re no different from mountain climbing or high heels…and yet somehow this never seems to come across in movies.
Now, does western society have a history of hostility female agency? Yuppers–still does, in some very significant ways. Is forcing women to wear clothing they don’t wish to wear oppression? Affirmative. Is it a good thing that movies acknowledge this? What bothers me isn’t the attempt at highlighting oppression, but the way repeated use of the tropes has stripped all nuance out of the issue and turned it from “body policing and forcing people to wear clothing they may not wish to wear is bad ” to “corsets bad, disliking corsets good”. It reminds me of people who insist that coverings like hijabs and burqas are inherently oppressive and would seek to ban them, while ignoring the fact that it’s perfectly possible to wear those while still having and/or demanding agency.
In Brave‘s particular sense, the detail doesn’t appear to even make much sense. Like the drawing states, corsets like the one she wears didn’t exist in the era the film appears to be alluding to. It feels especially lazy here, particularly since it’s not like there’s a shortage of examples of oppression they could have drawn from. Granted, from the previews, the premise of the movie seems to be precisely about a girl who fights gendered cultural expectations oppressive norms, but if that’s the case, why is this particular element required? Mérida is perfectly justified in not liking corsets, but I feel there’s no reason why this should be an issue in this particular movie, other than as an easy way to score feminism points.
Sometimes I think that the reason why this particular trope is used is because corsets are no longer something women must wear, and therefore depicting them serves as a way to highlight oppression without suggesting that it continues to exist. It’s safe in a way that say, highlighting the way society–including, yes, Hollywood– continues to police women’s bodies isn’t.
So what do I want? Basically, I’d like corsets not to be treated as something that would garner a monolithic reaction. I’d like an acknowledgment that just as women who dislike corsets exist, then so do women who enjoy wearing them, and that where one falls on that spectrum isn’t an indicator of their worth as a person. Maybe then scenes like the one in Brave would feel organic, rather than pandering.
* Obligatory TV Trope Link: Of Corset Hurts. Fun fact: The trope picture? Mine.
Note: This was originally posted on my Ninja Turtles-themed blog Monsters of New York, hence the general lack of context about characters and concepts. If anybody would like some additional information about just what the heck I’m talking about, feel free to ask.
On The Technodrome.com’s thread on the latest issue of the current TMNT comic, a discussion sprung up over the possibility of revealing that a particular character was gay in this latest incarnation of the franchise. As my contribution, I noted that given that as far as I knew, no a character in the turtles’ quarter-century history has ever been identified as gay* or as any of the other letters in the QUILTBAG** blanket, and that I really wished that this newest incarnation could include some—possibly someone like Baxter Stockman or Karai, who are historically major characters and whose sexualities hadn’t been established yet in this version of their tale. I found the general response…dismaying.