Published: May 19, 2016 8:37:00 AM


You will face a vicious argument from weeping baby-boy-men if you imply women unjustly endure an ultra-honed discrimination in all media formats. It's bad in movies and TV. It's bad in the technology industry. It's bad in the video game "industry." For every piece of advice dealt out to women to keep from avoiding harassment like "just wear a fake engagement ring," there's no mention that instead, men should stop being gutless monsters who probably hate and fear their own mothers.

How does a man engage on this topic? We need to be taught, sadly, how to write about women in games. Bayonetta is going to teach us.

Bayonetta Teaches Us How To Write About Sex-positive Women Characters In Video Games

Yes, this brings us to Bayonetta. What a weird creation. Bayonetta is:

  • A video game character
  • A witch
  • Middle-aged
  • Woman
  • Sexual
  • Bespectacled
  • Self-motivated

In truth, "witch" is the standout descriptor of those, considering that all the other things fit inside the witch-word-box in western culture. A damnable thing, that box. But, as it turns out, Bayonetta was designed by a Japanese woman.

Bayonetta presents a character who possesses minimal agency besides hanging out, being herself, dancing, and in the sequel, shopping with her friend Jeanne. It's the psychotic, antagonistic angel and demon crossfire that demands Bayonetta not fit quite right in the game's landscape. Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 have moronic plots. While visually-arresting and overflowing with brilliant character-action combat / design, their stories make no sense. It's doubtful this is by design to make some kind of statement that a rockin' girl like Bayonetta is above big, noisy, stupid video game plotting.

However, I will argue that the game perhaps knows how stupid self-seriousness is. That self-seriousness should tell us how to write about the difference between truth and parody.


Bayonetta's final boss involves Bayonetta and Jeanne locked in a dick-snapping deathmatch with God while in orbit around Pluto. It ends with Bayonetta shooting God in the head, execution-style, with a shaft of lipstick, then punting him into the sun. The player is given control of God's flailing body during this tumbling journey, guiding Him past the planets, lest we disappoint Bayonetta, and He not burn like a jerk at the center of our solar system.

To avoid any confusion, a witch has metaphorically just given five thousand years of western patriarchy a swirly in the sun like the common nerd he is.

Bayonetta 2 ends with Bayonetta punching God off a mountain into a dog-monster summoned from Jeanne's hair while she stands on a screaming fighter-jet strafing the trans-dimensional battle-crystal we've made into our boxing ring.

I'll warn that in both cases, Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 downshift so hard that they drop their stories' transmissions onto the pavement. We pivot from our heroes' desperate attempts to prevent the universe' unmaking at the hands of cosmos-clad heaven-beasts, straight into the villains' Looney Tune scrambles to keep from being incinerated, masticated, etc.

Both end with the games lifting their shoulders and stating, "it's a video game, why did you come here for subtlety?" Right now in history, dumb, obvious, and overt is what video games are capable of telling. Bayonetta snuck something in, though.

There's intelligent, backdoor messaging there, hidden in one of the dumbest video game stories ever told. It's subtle because it's so big.

Bayonetta Teaches A Simple Lesson: Videogames Are Boys' Toys, And Boys Are Idiots

How to write about Bayonetta? Ahem.

The protagonist is a powerful witch. She is cartoonishly-proportioned. She is sexual and the game's camera leers at her. However, if you look, she doesn't let this be about the viewer. She bats the camera away sometimes, breaking the fourth wall, reminding the player that they'd never know what to do with her if they had her. She rolls her eyes at the player through the display. Any male character that makes advances on her gets straight-up fucked-with.

Not playfully shut-down. Not flirted back. They are made fools. What is happening is up to her. Bayonetta feels no remorse. If she were meaner, she'd step on their balls with her gun-heels, but instead, she saves her bullet-powered tapdancing for the trash-talking boss-beasts. Much more deserving.


Bayonetta, despite her sexuality, through some understated animation techniques, allows the game's camera and viewership on her terms. She regularly asks male characters if they even know how to talk to women. This circles back on the point, like these stupid chumps would know what to do if they even managed to touch her.

Bayonetta is not real. Video games are not real. The game throttles the player with this lesson.

Since video games lack the technology and funding to produce a product that teaches the male gender a slow, thorough lesson about sexim, it shows us how to write about sex-positive women in a language we might understand. It does it through hot action combat, a big, giant, stupid story, and a woman having fun using her body to take apart the dead-serious special-boys club.

That is as far as we can go with videogames + women right now. There's nothing more to write. It's a stupid boy's club. Bayonetta has ended the conversation there. For now. Someday, the technology will advance, the audience will widen, and hopefully everyone will grow up a bit.

-- Alex Crumb
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