Thursday, 23 December 2010

Titillation red and pink

If your mind is still out on the red planet, Secure Immaturity has a review today of Total Recall. He's revisiting the work of Paul Verhoeven, and also covered Robocop recently. Yep, that means more nudity, and ultra-violence now too. But also sympathy for mutants. It needs mature reflection.

On the subject of nudity, I've been reflecting as maturely as I can. What follows some may find uncomfortable or even offensive - if so, skip this and the next eight paragraphs.

At The Book of Worlds at the moment are some illustrations by Thore Hansen, three of which feature female nudity. The images seem to me less garish, shallow and deceitful than they would be in a modern RPG or on the cover of a magazine today, despite being more revealing than we might expect nowadays. The sexuality seems matter-of-fact, projected as part of the experience of a living person, more substantial for it and fairer.

Compare these with the newer pulp images at Jasoomian Dreams mentioned in the last post, with Warlord of Mars #3 and the cover of Red Planet itself at top left, and with the miniatures a few posts back, here and here. In the first two images at least there's not much we haven't seen in Return of the Jedi, or elsewhere besides - and both women have a healthier-seeming, less gaunt figure than we might be used to - but the effect is, to my eyes at least, more exploitative.

Attractive yes - yes, indeed - but I'm left uneasy. A key point to make is clearly that these are only illustrations and not actual people - I realise that. But the images are an extension of the existence of women, and women are half of humanity.

In both the pulp and the Thore Hansen pictures the women are all seemingly tools for the stimulation of men, and women are arguably lessened as people as a result. That said, in the Thore Hansen the objectification seems more incidental to the nature of the women. This is subjective of course - maybe you don't see it? Whether or not you do, you might find this an interesting article if you've got a few minutes.

One way of getting around the problem in the pulp cases is to say the women are intended to be slaves. That narrative would definitely explain what we see, but internally consistent or not, couldn't it in some cases be a cover for what the audience is believed to want? I've used the argument about cultural mores being fluid myself enough times not to have thought of that already - I'm playing devil's advocate a little, as usual.

Digression almost over anyway. I should clarify I'm not holding this particular blog up as 'bad' - it's just the one that set the thinking off. No one is being picked out as guilty of having interests and behaviours a vast number of us certainly share. Unease over aspects of the images aside, I like Jasoomian Dreams plenty and enough to go back, and Red Planet looks a lot of fun. If anyone has played, I'd be glad to learn more. The cover is striking for its landscape and interactions, as well as the female form itself. 

My philosophy on this kind of thing can be summed up well by the conclusion George Orwell comes to in his famous essay "The Art of Donald McGill". Things may have changed since then, but change is not necessarily the solution of a linear equation.

If anyone can point out flaws in my thinking or add to it, you're very welcome to do so. Feel free to get any constructive thoughts on the subject off your chest. If you've been following Andrew Rilstone's thoughts on political correctness, you might well have a sense of the frustrations and dangers of not doing so.

Back to Total Recall then. There may be a remake of course, and on the subject of remakes and humanity changed, space1970 is trailing a coming post on the The Omega Man with Charlton Heston. For the novel on which it is based - I am Legend - and the Will Smith version, there's a to-the-point review at Books for Nerds.

For more mutants you need A Field Guide to Doomsday.

Or Skaven, who will probably soon have an official miniature for the Hellpit Abomination. Some ideas for uses at Dark Future Games.


Warhammer39999 said...

Hey Porks:

This post, like all your posts, just sails over my head. I'm not sure if you're just too cerebral for me to wrap my head around, or are you using some sort of auto blog software?

ArmChairGeneral said...

That scene from Return of the Jedi with Princess Leia is rumored to have been taken directly from the description of Deja Thoris from John Carter of Mars by ERB by Lucas.

ArmChairGeneral said...

or as my wife says... "How the heck can a girl hide anything in a chainmail bikini?"

Desert Scribe said...

Regarding the Hansen paintings, the color magazine cover strikes me as more about graphic design than nudity or objectification or sexualization of women. Sure, it's got the image of a nekkid woman in it, but that image is so stylized it seems that's the point of the picture. See works by Erte for a similar style.

Porky said...

@ Warhammer39999 - Man, if I'd only known about that software I could've saved a lot of time..! I'm not cerebral it seems, just pig-headed.

@ ArmChairGeneral - Didn't know that. Lucas certainly stood on the shoulders of stormtroopers. So when it said 'A long time ago...' in part VI it might have been for real.

@ ArmChairGeneral - Good advice!

@ Desert Scribe - I agree it's more about graphic design than nudity or objectification or sexualisation of women. That's really the point I want to make, that the nudity is secondary in the Hansen. Of course, they might have sold a few more copies because of it...

Harald said...

The magazine cover is from -71, so yes, I think all arguments presented here have value.

As for the mermaids, Itras by was published in 2008, so it is actually a "modern game". As for selling more copies due to the boobs, I would be surprised if that were the case. Our relationship to nudity (especially of a non-pornographic nature) is somewhat less strained than what we see in other cultures.

While the content of the book could be called mature, it is neither violent nor pornographic. Hence I would not be surprised at all if a copy of the game was found in a school library, and I wouldn't hesitate to lend the book to a teenager, of either sex.

Porky said...

It's refreshing to hear. Norway sounds like a haven of common sense, in this area if not others.

I should've checked the age of the book before I grouped the pictures as one. I'm glad drawings of such traditional approach are still appreciated and used. As I wrote at yours, the style is almost cartoony at times, but there's a sense of depth, a gloom and Germanic feel mixed with the exotic.

As far as I can tell there's no English version of the game, a pity because it sounds unusual. For anyone reading Norwegian or wanting to watch the teaser, there is a website. The sensitive beware - the film contains clips from Un Chien Andalou and may be shocking.

Porky said...

If you've read this far, you might well be interested to know that Harald has now put up a review of the game.