Bayonetta: The Greatest Female Role-Model in Video Games
Bayonetta was originally released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2009. Following its moderate commercial success, the game received a cult following and in 2014, a sequel on the Wii U. This game stars the titular Bayonetta, an Umbran Witch who uses her magical hair, gun-heels and a variety of other weapons to slaughter angels and occasionally save the world.
Now, upon reading the title of this article, you may have wondered how Bayonetta could possibly be a positive role-model. After all, the common consensus is that she's a sexist character. Evidence for this claim includes the game's camera frequently focusing in on her butt, breasts or crotch, and the fact that she takes her clothes off while she fights.
Bayonetta is most definitely a sexual character, but is she really sexist?
No. Not at all.
Bayonetta is a character who is in complete control of her sexuality. She flaunts it, she uses it and she is completely comfortable with it.
The creator of Bayonetta's design was Mari Shimazaki. She didn't draw her the way she did so she could be ogled by horny teenage boys, but rather, she designed her in way that she'd be empowering to women
In the politically correct world we live in, people could stand to be a bit more like Bayonetta, and be OK with who they are.
In the book, The Ways of Seeing, by John Berger, he says this:
"To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others, and yet not recognized for oneself. A naked body has to be seen as an object in order to become a nude. Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. To be naked is to be without disguise."
Bayonetta fights like a dancer. Dancing is a form of self-expression. And taking off her clothes is part of that self-expression.
Continuing on from that, Bayonetta is just a very confident character all around. She knows she isn't perfect, but she doesn't care. She loves who she is, and doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. It's a good message for those who suffer from low self-esteem, who are trying to get comfortable in their own skin.
Other traits which Bayonetta possesses are her fun loving attitude, her snarky mouth, and between both games, it’s clear that she has a great deal of compassion towards kids, and her Umbran sister, Jeanne, showing that she’s far from being your stereotypical ice queen.
Of course, like all great characters, she has weaknesses. Not so much in Bayonetta 1 in which I can only really remember one or two moments where she showed any real weakness, but more so in Bayonetta 2.
Here, with her memory fully restored, Bayonetta clearly has some parental issues. And how could you not when your mom was killed in circumstances caused by your dad. Only for you to get to see your mom again and then WATCH her die again. Then befriend a past version of your dad, and then have to say goodbye to your dad as he sacrifices his free will to an evil god, resulting in all of this happening in the first place.
I never said that these games made much sense. I'm just saying that Bayonetta clearly wishes she could have her family back.
Bayonetta is also a very intelligent character. There are a few brief moments where she displays her intuition, and Shimazaki gave her glasses specifically to emphasize her brain power. Funnily enough, everyone in the game ended up getting eye wear of some kind because the higher ups at Sega didn’t like the glasses.
Now this next point is entirely hypothetical, but maybe she has something more than just a friendship with Jeanne, showing people that it’s okay to be any sexual orientation. For me, that’s just the vibe I got off of them based on their interactions with each other.
However, throw in the fact that they’re living together and the fact that in the page “Taboo” we see a picture of Jeanne, and how it talks about a loved one being taken away, and my theory has more credence. Plus, Jeanne is a school teacher, and it makes sense that as she is as an intellectual person, she’d be attracted to a smart woman like Bayonetta.
In 1987, Film Studies and Women’s Studies Prof. Jackie Stacey published an article entitled “Desperately Seeking Difference: Desire Between Women in Narrative Cinema." A major point made in this article is that the homosexual pleasures of viewers are generally ignored. If I’m right, and Bayonetta is bi- or pan sexual, than her detractors should remember she can be found sexy by both men and women.
Above all else though, possibly the most important lesson Bayonetta teaches girls and women alike is that you don’t have to sacrifice your femininity to be strong. She provides a nice balance of the two extremes that gives us a happy medium. Bayonetta is very much a girly girl, but at the same time, she can beat up you, as well as everyone and everything around her. Anyone, regardless of personality, can be strong.
Now, let's talk about what usually makes a good role model. Generally, people consider a role model to be someone whom others aspire to be like. This means, above being talented, attractive, or intelligent, the most important thing about being a role model is to be an admirable person in some way. You can be successful beyond belief, but still be an awful human being.
That's not to say those other traits aren't just as germane to this topic. A role model should bring something to the table to be admired, whether it's their intelligence, their body of work, their personality, how they approach life or for some, even their looks. However, it should be noted that you can admire someone who did things in their life that you don’t agree with if what you admire is their work or other actions rather than the actions that can be viewed as reprehensible.
Also, kids aren't the only ones who have role models. Everyone has someone whom they look up to, whether or not it’s a good idea to do so.
Among the best real life female role models are people like Rachel Carson, a renowned environmentalist, Madeleine L'engle, an excellent author and Gail Simone, possibly the most influential woman in the comic book industry.
These women are great because they embody the traits we mentioned before. However, you have to remember that even today, we live in a society that isn’t always the most friendly to females, so for female role models, it’s important that they show woman to be proud of who they are, and to excel at whatever they want.
At this point, I hope that at the very least, the majority of those reading this have come around to see that Bayonetta is far from just being eye candy, and is, in fact, an excellent person to emulate.
However, the question still remains: Is she the best female role-model in video games?
Personally, I'd say yes.
To justify this opinion, I'll compare her to the two figures most usually regarded as gaming's greatest heroines... and explain why Bayonetta is a better role-model in every way.
Samus Aran and Lara Croft are known by many as two of gaming's premiere leading ladies. However, more often than not, these characters fall into a trap very common in fiction.
Often, writers try so hard to make their female characters powerful that they forget to make them, well, characters. They have no weaknesses, no flaws, no struggles; all of the essential things to make a three dimensional character. I like to call these characters “strong independent women.”
Both Lara and Samus are hailed as icons to look up to, but in reality there's isn’t much to them. Lara is a smart and sassy treasure hunter but outside of several moments in the first attempt at a series reboot, she doesn’t show a lot of character.
Samus is a stoic bounty hunter who does show a lot through her body language and her actions, but unlike Lara, isn’t given as many opportunities to express herself because she needs to be “strong” for the audience. There's nothing to them other than them being strong, and you shouldn't be looking up to someone for just that reason.
There is an exception for each of them though. The 2013 Tomb Raider reboot and Metroid: Other M gave Lara and Samus more personality than we'd ever seen either of them with. Ignoring the obvious difference in overall quality between the games, it's fascinating to me that these portrayals have come under fire for having weak protagonists, just because the developers had the audacity to make them human for once.
Samus and Lara Croft are not good characters, and it's clear that the people don't want them to be good characters. Players just want them to be a method of enacting their power fantasies.
In contrast to them, Bayonetta, as I've established, is filled with personality, and traits worth emulating. Plus, for those of you who do think that strength alone is worth admiring, Bayonetta is quite possibly the physically strongest woman in any video game.
So yes, Bayonetta, is the best female role-model in video games.
NOTE: This article was written in collaboration with Red Angel.