Cross to Bare

Boobs. I’ve talked about them before, and had argued the case for context providing legitimacy for nudity in video games. Critics and gamers alike are too quick to call foul and point the finger when the bare female form appears on screen, yet happy to look the other way in the case of the odd sex bonus stage; a quick romp amongst a few hours of bloodshed is just a bit of fun, right?

Can the medium of video games show a bit of skin without being criticised for immaturity? In my previous piece linked above, I posit the view that it is the gamers and critics themselves who lack the maturity and level of professionalism to feel comfortable with the mature themes increasingly penetrating the hobby. Indeed, we are so caught up with being taken seriously that we are far too reactionary and therefore seen as argumentative, exclusive, and bratty. How can an artist appease an audience of children?

Nudity can be done badly of course, and most often is. In film the horror genre is full of skin-flicks and a shower scene or torn shirt is par for the course. It is here in the horror genre of film and video games, and specifically Shadows of the Damned and Splatterhouse, that the topic has been brought back to mind. As both have their own flagrant propensity to sling the odd boob around and both, at first glance, with no reason to do so.

Shadows of the Damned sees Garcia ‘Fucking’ Hotspur attempt to rescue his love Paula from the clutches of demons and chase them all the way to hell. Here, Paula traipses around in lingerie teasing Garcia onward. Further, in one particular chapter a giant representation of her is the ground for which Garcia walks, topless, moaning and generally conveying eroticism.

Splatterhouse has Rick attempt to rescue his love Jennifer from the clutches of a doctor gone mad (though as a doctor of necrobiology that was never in doubt), and along the way collect parts of photographs depicting Jennifer nude. The photos will show her in various poses and attire, and are scattered throughout the mansion of which Rick journeys.

Why the nudity here? Is there a particular point this is attempting to convey?

As mentioned previous, horror has an affinity to nudity and there are valid emotional responses that the creator wishes to tap into, beyond the surface level titillation. I did specifically mention the common shower scene before, and many horror stories will feature something happening in at least a bathroom environment. Why? The reason is simple; it’s where we are at our most exposed. Clothes-less, defenceless, sight can be obscured by water, shower curtain or mist, mirrors provide windows into nooks and crannies in the periphery. It is very easy for a story teller to project urgency and unease in the viewer using these environments that we all understand and find ourselves in every day.

Another common tool used to create such feelings in the viewer is sex; two lovers engaged in the act of sex being crept up on by a would-be murderer. The victims here are utterly distracted, exposed, and defenceless.

Abstracting these concepts further, the more basic visage of a woman topless will again heighten the feelings of vulnerability as the heart lay bare. Innocence too, flagrant in the face of violence. The viewer knows there’s reason to be cautious – it’s a horror film after all – yet the victim openly displaying how unaware they are.

So there are reasons for nudity in horror; It’s not just a bit of fun, but a conduit of emotion from creator to viewer. But that’s not to say all attempts work.

Shadows of the Damned and Splatterhouse? Not so successful. Obviously Paula was exposed as she traversed her way through hell, but no sense of urgency passed on to the player. Likewise, the assumed attempt at projecting innocence and intimacy between Jennifer and Rick a more miss than hit affair. The view into their playful relationship providing little back story needed to foster empathy or connection.

Regardless of the quality of the implementation present in the video games highlighted, the approach can be reasoned. Instead of dismissing these as immature and throw away, there are lessons to be learned. One; that video games have a ways to go in maturity of technique compared to film. And two; boobs and horror are like spaghetti and meatballs – they work better together.

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7 Comments

Filed under digital romance lab, dirolab, horror, shadows of the damned, Splatterhouse

7 responses to “Cross to Bare

  1. I think nudity should be used more without any erotic intentions. There's too much bloody innuendo in games. Women are always very carefully not naked, wearing juuuuuust enough to floss the naughty parts. It's basic psychology. If a mermaid's wearing a skimpy bikini, she's arranged herself very carefully to appeal to someone. If she's topless, she doesn't give a shit about anyone.I would like to see more women in games who don't give a shit about anyone.

  2. "And two; boobs and horror are like spaghetti and meatballs – they work better together."Is the female audience/possibility of male nudity factored in to this discussion at all?

  3. Kate, that's a good point; and worth exploring in another discussion — my instinct (although I have to do more reading and thinking about this) is that the female gaze functions very differently than the male gaze; and for decades the male gaze has dominated film-making. Yet I also think about the surge of interest in horror films among young women, and that strikes me as something very interesting to explore.

  4. Kate, as Jane says, while there would be some differences depending on the gender, I believe it to be mostly the same. I've been thinking about writing on male nudity in video games actually, as I've noticed there are more cases of this occurring (we probably had our first penis only a year or two ago, showing how early in maturity video games are). Perhaps, if Jane doesn't beat me to it, that will be my next topic.Though I did focus on female nudity in this piece I hope that the overall message was not so specific!

  5. I don't have a problem with nudity ;)I do have an issue with a majority preference in most media for specifically female nudity. So Marc I'm looking forward to your male nudity piece, or similar. :)Kate I think you cut to the centre of my issue, and many other people's issue and thank you for the challenge which is absolutely right to make. I have known many women – let's focus for a moment on women as that is unproblematic – I have known many women express personal distaste at over-regular female nudity in films, comic, anime, and painting. This list is not comprehensive. All sufficiently enlightened people agree this distaste is for solid reasons, namely women should be represented as powerful agents in control of their own destiny to the same degree as men, and defined on their own terms and not simply as they interrelate with men. Hollywood fails with especially stunning regularity. I suspect video games have a similar scorecard but critical analysis is thin on the ground and the abstract or distanced nature of many games makes analysis harder. Not to mention much of the militaristic heritage, eg Chess.I am personally uncomfortable with the words "Boobs and horror are like spaghetti and meatballs – they work better together." (This is not a call for censorship, which I would resist).In Marc's defense I am certain he is using boobs to signify only 'nudity'. His word choice fits the interpretation 'female nudity'. But I absolutely do not believe his intent is to present an argument for specifically female nudity in horror.Perhaps we can consider the technical challenge of translating Marc's pithy end note from a man's viewpoint to a woman's? Or to a gay man's?Jane, my opinion on the male gaze/female gaze hasn't fallen yet, but I cannot help but feel that art, perhaps only Western art, has taken a wrong turn somewhere between Greek statuary and Early Renaissance painting, say, Lucas Cranach.These links are not safe for work.http://www.google.com/search?q=greek+statues&tbm=isch(Search shows greek statues of virtually or totally naked men and women equally or, if there is any majority, a majority of men)http://www.google.com/search?q=lucas+cranach+elder&tbm=isch(Search shows paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder of virtually or totally naked women and men, a majority of which are women).

  6. Thanks for your comments Martin.I remain uncomfortable with my closing comment too, and believe it was a mistake on my part to leave it in there. It kind of undermines everything said previous. My approach was to leave the piece on a lighthearted note, and yes, absolutely refer to all nudity, not just female nor 'boobs'. It was just an attempt to link everything back to my opening line.It didn't work so well. I'm relatively new to writing and still getting used to what works and what doesn't!Do I ultimately believe that nudity and horror makes the genre better? Probably, though not entirely. Some of my very favourite horror movies (Session 9 for example) have no nudity what so ever (I wonder if that's because it was an all male cast? Hmm… food for thought). But I'm still reaching for examples of horror without it.Other favourite films in the horror genre have nudity but with a different approach – instead of the victim it is the attacker who is sans clothing. The Shining for instance, or the Hellraiser series. Nudity here (just thinking out loud) could be a way to show the viewer that the attackers are utterly comfortable in their environment, creating unease. For instance, approaching the victim in an erotic way whilst danger lies all about – the bathroom scene in The Shining, or, any scene in Hellraiser. Nude, vulnerable, defenceless, yet surrounded by danger, blood, and weapons. The attacker has no care, as ultimately they are in complete control.In my answer to Kate, I said that 'I believe it to be mostly the same' – the viewers interpretation of nudity depending on genre. I don't think that is true either in the broad sense. But was talking in the sense of the piece I had wrote. In other words, whether it be female or male nudity in horror, it is still generally about vulnerability, innocence, etc. It is still a conduit of emotion from creator to viewer. But there's all sorts of other things you could look at there.

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