Hey everyone, welcome to the 2nd post in my “Quest for the Hyper-Sexualized Male” series. Last time I discussed the core difference between “Idealized” and “Hyper-sexualized” along with discussing the recently released Lollipop Chainsaw.
This time we’re diving right into our search for just what would make a male character “hyper-sexualized”, and what kind of response he would elicit from the video game industry’s primarily male audience. And my first subject of discussion is Raiden, the protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Raiden also appears in MGS4 and is set to be the hero of MG Rising: Revengeance (which, incidentally, I hear is in the running for stupidest video game title of all time. If anyone can get back to me with what the hell “revengeance” is supposed to mean, I would really ‘ppreciate it.)
Just to prove I’m not making this shit up.
Now if you don’t know Raiden and don’t know MGS, never fear. I will give a brief background of the character and the series, considering the franchise he comes from and that franchise’s target audience play a big part in the upcoming discussion of what makes Raiden so interesting. Warning, this post will contain very minor spoilers (Honestly, very, very minor.) Also TW: slight hate language included below.
Metal Gear Solid is an action/stealth series that dawned on the PSOne with Metal Gear Solid and recently put out its latest (and supposedly last) installment Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots on the PS3. Solid Snake is the iconic hero of the MGS series, and is arguably one of the most recognizable/influential video game characters of the past decade.
Yeah, he stopped giving a rat’s ass years ago.
So if you couldn’t tell from the picture, Snake is your resident Caucasian, brunette, thirty-something (well, that’s debatable) badass. He smokes, he shoots, his gives no shits and will hide in a box or stick a grenade on you just for the hell of it. Gravelly voice and stubble that won’t quit, Snake is genuine hero worship material for adolescent boys everywhere. He was much beloved in the original incarnation of Metal Gear Solid, and, honestly, for good reasons. Snake is a deep and interesting hero. Kojima made sure to flesh him out beyond his stereotypical “You feeling lucky, punk?” persona.
So MGS2 rolled around and everyone was expecting the next epic adventure of Solid Snake, resident rugged, stealthy, special-ops badass.
The first mission of MGS2 does star Snake. It’s the prologue of the game, roughly two years before the rest of the story takes place. But once that’s finished, the game jumps you ahead to the “present day” and puts you in charge of a new special ops protagonist: Raiden.
How you doin’?
So Raiden is not Snake. Obviously. First things first: Raiden is a young man whose real name is Jack. He’s never been on a real field mission and has gotten all his experience through Virtual Reality. The “Colonel” has sent him on a rescue mission, his girlfriend “Rose” is his Information Analyst/Save Portal. (You call her to save the game). Jack and Rose…now how come those sound—
Wow I found the ONE funny Titanic .gif. Go me.
Yeah, they are blatantly named after Jack and Rose, star-crossed lover of James Cameron’s Titanic.
But what else about Raiden? Well, as you can see from the pictures above, Raiden has long sexy white-blonde hair, light eyes, and an objectively pretty face.
Kojima apparently received fan-mail from schools girls who had played the first Metal Gear Solid game and complained that they “didn’t like playing as an old man”.
Honey, if you thought he was old then.
Now getting past the hilarity of a little girl calling a guy who looked roughly thirty-five “old”, let’s quickly analyze this moment of consumer-opinion.
So MGS’ target audience is by no means school-girls. BUT. Enough girls obviously played the game to voice an opinion on its hero, write to its creator, and have him pay attention. Kojima listened to these girls and designed Raiden in order to appeal to female viewers. I heard somewhere that his dev team went to middle schools and surveyed girls about what they would like the hero of the next game to look like. Their responses? “Blonde, pretty, long hair”. And Kojima let it be so. (To be fair, this is internet conjecture and I can’t find a source for it right now, so, perhaps take that with a grain of salt.)
However, I can say for sure that Raiden was designed with females in mind. Kojima wanted to broaden the audience for his game, and thus, Raiden was created to appeal to those women who wouldn’t play a game with an “old man” as the hero. Not only is he reminiscent of a classic anime Bishonen, his outfit, the “skull suit” is so form fitting that his bulge and the contours of his rear are more than visible - they’re prevalent. Yoji Shinkawa, the artist for Metal Gear Solid 2 says that when he designed Raiden he “wanted something sexy…even erotic. A very unisexual sexiness.” And I think by “unisexual” he means “androgynous.”
Fun fact: one of these things is not like the other! (But only one.)
Anime aimed at females often has the love interests skirting the line of androgyny. It’s rare to find anyone who looks like Solid Snake in a shojo manga - in fact, I really can’t name one off the top of my head. For reasons that are way too psychologically interesting to tangent off to at this point, sources reveal that girls tend prefer their 2D boys slightly effeminate.
Back to Raiden: has stereotypically “attractive” traits, wears skin tight clothes, designed with sexiness and eroticism in mind. Now…who does that sound like?
Oho. The irony. It cuts deep.
There. I’ll say it. Raiden is just as much of an offender as any of the scantily clad, big-chested ladies you see in most video games. Well, maybe not just as much of an offender. I mean, there are things about Raiden’s design that are less than true to his character. (He’s a stealth-operative and he has long hair? his suit is so tight it’s crushing his balls? He runs around naked for a chunk of the game? (Eh, spoilers?)) But there are plenty of things about him that remain true to who he is and honestly, by the end of it, he proves to be an intensely dynamic character.
But is Raiden exploited? Absolutely. And I won’t skirt around that just because the instance of a male character exploited for sex appeal in this industry is so rare.
Now, onto what makes Raiden’s existence really interesting: the audience response.
It was similar to this.
I encourage you to peruse those message boards. A lot of people weigh in on why they hate or don’t hate Raiden. For those in the former camp, a lot of curious language is thrown around, including “pretty boy”, “too good looking to be taken seriously”, “whiny”, “effeminate”, “girly”, “pussy”, “fag”, “homo”. To be fair, a lot of the comments mention that they wanted simply to play as Snake, not a new character, and felt cheated with having to play this rookie. But…to be equally fair, there are WAY too many comments with the language quoted above to have anyone call those guilty parties “a few bad apples”.
Why is Raiden whiny? I’ve played MGS2 multiple times and to be honest, I can’t really see any reason why Raiden doesn’t have a reason to be sad. Raiden is not Snake because Raiden is vulnerable, plain and simple. We see his relationship with the woman he loves be called into question, we see his entire existence/purpose be deconstructed. We see a fragile human being - not a “whiny bitch”.
But as I see it, the target audience is not interested in fragility or vulnerability. I mean, Snake, their last protagonist, embodied neither of those qualities. He’s hard as steel. So Raiden comes along and upsets the mix. And they’re upset. Okay. I understand where they’re coming from, I guess.
You can still go suck a whole big ol’ bag of dicks for all I care.
Until criticisms like “girly”, “bitchy”, “whiny pretty boy”, and “fag” come into the mix. Going beyond the fact that these labels are obviously derogatory, why are these the words that are being used?
Honestly? I think it’s because Raiden is pretty.
Oh I’m so sorry, Officer. Please don’t be too rough with me - I bruise easily.
Raiden was designed for women. He’s pretty, he’s sexy, he’s got hair that flows in the breeze and penetrating bedroom eyes. His suit leaves nothing to the imagination and he’s so vulnerable you just know he’s actually gonna call you.
And guess what? That makes a lot of dudes uncomfortable.
Raiden is not their ideal, the man they’d like to be if they could. Raiden is a girl’s fantasy and honestly, they can’t identify with that. It is nearly impossible to identify with a character of your own gender who exists purely for the enjoyment of the other. A gamer, male or female, takes one look at a character like that and knows that he or she was not designed with him or her in mind, but instead, designed in order to objectify their sex for the viewing pleasure of the other. It is an alarmingly uncomfortable experience. And it happens to female gamers consistently.
So consistently that at this point, it’s a happy surprise for the girl gamer who finds a lady character fully clothed with reasonable proportions. At this point, we’ve become numb to it. We expect our fighting and action games to be full of token ladies with giant tits and tiny outfits. And we no longer have the energy to be disgusted by it. It’s the norm, so we sit back, roll our eyes, and go looking for the one character in this franchise that’s wearing a real top.
And lo and behold, along comes Raiden - the exception to a rule - and the fandom flips out?
Now one could argue “but c’mon! MGS is made for boys! That kind of character doesn’t belong in that game. No wonder the fans are pissed. I mean, wouldn’t you be pissed if your game made for girls had really hyper-sexy ladies in it all of a sudden?”
Uhh…well, in THIS, yes. Yes I would be pretty upset.
Do you get my point? There ARE no “games for girls” that have the same kind of industrial clout that MGS has. And what makes MGS “for boys” anyway? It’s got guns? It’s got blood? It’s got tough-as-nails special ops agents and no pretty boys—-oh. Oh, shit.
Well, according to those letters that Kojima received and my physical existence, girls do play MGS. So why shouldn’t there be something included that plain and simple, carnally appeals to us? Well I’ll tell you why. Because it actually hurts the whole industry, women and men alike, when Raiden’s running around naked for little to no reason, or wearing his hair in a style that doesn’t make sense, or having his tight ass be a frequent focal point in the game’s cinematics. It hurts everyone because it hurts the quality of the story-telling and it alienates a certain portion of its audience.
Because I’m sure the world needed to see this.
So that’s pretty much all I have to say on Raiden. Except in the interest of this blog’s over-arching purpose (that is, to identify and design the hyper-sexualized male), I’m going to start a little list of attributes that our hero is going to embody.
- Generally beautiful/effeminate as opposed to masculine
- Emotionally vulnerable
Next time we’ll be taking a little departure from video games and venturing into DUH DUH DUH - gay porn.
See you then!
THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. EVERYONE READ IT.Source: youbastardpeople
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