by Danielle (guest writer)
After watching the demo of Bayonetta, subtitled First Climax, I did not come away with the feminist outrage I half-expected the game would inspire. The game seemed silly, pulling out old tropes about broken commandments and a femme fatale. I mean, the name of the demo is First Climax; it didn't really seem possible to take it seriously.
Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean the game isn't sexist - and here is where I point out that I have not played the entire game, so I cannot testify to any character development that may occur. Judging from the demo alone, Bayonetta uses her sexuality almost as a literal weapon, which I suppose does set her apart from her forebears. The femme fatale has for the most part been seen as a negative force, using her wiles to undermine the male hero. (The interest in retelling old stories that has soared lately has changed this somewhat; Lilith, after all, has gone from being a demon to being something of a feminist symbol.) In addition to all this, there is a heavy sadism theme in the demo. Bayonetta has "torture attacks," one of which involves an iron maiden and another which has Bayonetta spanking her opponent before guillotining them.
The opening cut scene does nothing in the way of hinting at any personality beyond this, nor does it forward the plot in any real way. It features Bayonetta sashaying down the aisle of a train, into a metro station, and out to a garden. Then you're right back into a crazy action sequence.
Speaking of fighting, I would be remiss if I did not bring up the hair. Bayonetta's hair forms her outfit - which is actually pretty modest, all things considered. Her hair also forms her attacks, though, leaving our poor heroine unclad when she fights except for a strip of hair/clothes down her middle. Another attack creates a monster out of her hair, leaving her nude and covered with a swirl of hair circling around her. It is basically a drawn-out striptease, promising that if the player does well, he'll get to see more. (I say "he" because, let's face it, this is a market advertised to and dominated by men.)
It is easy to say that Bayonetta provides an unrealistic depiction of women, but it's okay because the men are unrealistic too! The problem with this argument is that men are not held up to unrealistic standards presented in video games - or movies, magazines, television, etc. In fact, it's easy to find examples of shlubby dudes who get the attractive lady in the end. Women, however, are held up to these standards. So every example of a woman like Bayonetta - even in a silly video game - is another standard of beauty being imposed.
I get that this sort of game is not going to be everyone's cup of tea. Main character and sexism aside, I'm not super interested in fighting games like this. Honestly, it doesn't seem all that much worse than other games that are out there. If anything, it seems a little sillier. In a time when the video game medium is rapidly maturing and becoming more mainstream, there is no reason to sacrifice character for crazy action sequences. In a mature field, there is simply less and less room for adolescent titles like Bayonetta.