Bayonetta Was Not Too Sexy, But Maybe Too Serious

From the first released trailer to the ending credits, my Bayonetta experience was a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, I scratched my head, and I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

The first glimpses of Bayonetta gave the impression that the game would be an immature sex-fest for the average young male gamer to play while locked in his room. For a while, I couldn't visit a gaming website without seeing Bayonetta's face, butt, or both, and practically developed migraines from my constant eye-rolling at every mention of the one-handed "Very Easy" mode. It was the epitome of lazy marketing: Using blatant T&A to sell a game.

Since I've learned not to judge a game by its trailer (which should be the new expression), I gave the busty witch a chance. The result both pleasantly surprised me and triggered more migraines.

Bayonetta, a character I initially despised for being such an in-your-face depiction of hypersexualisation, proved to me that her sexuality works in context. A ridiculous action game deserves a ridiculous hero, and the long-legged, sass-talking Bayonetta certainly delivers. When surrounded by magical guillotines, 3m long chainsaws, and weapons that double as stripper poles, the caricature that is Bayonetta fits in perfectly.

A popular topic of discussion is whether Bayonetta's flagrant sexuality is demeaning or appealing to female gamers. Well, I must admit that the idea of "The bigger the move, the fewer the clothes" is a truly stupid excuse to get a character naked. Plus, come on, the camera didn't need to zoom that close to her nude… ahem, pelvic area. But even the things I dislike about Bayonetta don't offend me in the least as a female gamer.

Not only did Bayonetta grow on me, she appeals to me. The way she works her curvaceous, ba-donka-donk butt actually makes me feel better about my own booty, plus she rides motorcycles, clearly sharing my obsession for two-wheeled speed. Bayonetta's elegance with her elongated limbs is also to die for. From tearing apart enemies (to what I assume is upbeat Japanese elevator music) to her développé of the leg when pulling levers, everything she does is graceful. As a dancer, I can''t get enough of it.

That being said, my approval of Bayonetta in context doesn't mean the game is without flaws that take away from how hilarious the character could be. While it's easy to wrap up Bayonetta's body, power moves, weapons and dialogue into a neat little package of nonsense, there's one major weakness that detracts from this cohesion: the storyline. The game's gaping plot holes and poor storytelling are what truly make it worthy of the term "mind-numbingly absurd".

Bayonetta seems to be another case of a game not entirely knowing what it wants to be. Is it a tongue-in-cheek comedy with a horrible, confusing storyline? Or is it complex, intelligent fiction with a preposterous heroine? The plot ends up taking itself a bit too seriously, and this hinders what could be hilarious satire. When you allow your main character to be flattened Looney Tunes-style by a falling object, you've just obliterated any hope of being taken seriously.

Take the "machine gun leg" in Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. It was hysterical because the story surrounding it was completely over-the-top; nothing needed to be explained. But Bayonetta's cast spends a painfully long time trying to explain the mystical prophecy of the "Left Eye", and it still never quite makes sense. With such a weighty storyline, Bayonetta at least needed more character development. She has solely two dimensions: magical ability and forced sexuality. It's disheartening that, in a world where video games are considered art, we're still getting shafted with shallow characters that would be rejected in any other medium.

But if "shallow" is truly the game's intent, then Bayonetta's sex appeal is no more outrageous than Marcus Fenix's beefiness. Surprisingly, most males I've discussed the game with don't find Bayonetta arousing, but do agree that the game is gorgeous and fun as hell. Using sex to sell games is nothing new, and thankfully, Bayonetta offers something more than just "hot chick with guns". Overall, I respect the boldness of Bayonetta's character, but wish the creators had pushed the envelope of comic relief even further.

…And seriously, I hope Frank Sinatra's undead zombie eats the brains of whoever is responsible for that "Fly Me to the Moon" remake. Sheesh.

Lisa Foiles is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as a graphic designer and writes for her game site, Save Point. For more info, visit Lisa's official website.


    "Shallow characters that would be rejected by any other medium"...? Have you SEEN a Michael Bay film...? Read a Dan Brown book?

    Despite those terrible film strip sequences I loved everything about Bayonetta. I could even just skip those sequences and be super happy

    Not arousing...? I must be different then....

    How can you not get all giggity with that writhing body with that accent talking sass!!! <3

    Bayonetta was the most over-rated piece of crap video game ever made, apart from anything Nintendo.

      Angry much?

      'Ngahhhh all I play is Modern Warfare 2 and its the BEST GAME EVRRRRRR ngaahhhh'

    Having played the demo, I have to say that the game didn't seem as truly one dimensionally awful as I expected it to be but it sure as hell wasn't what I'd describe as an interesting game either.

    The fact that the lead character made my skin crawl didn't help matters.

    I thought Bayonetta struck just the right balance between being completely ridiculous and having a story that I could actually engage with. Not in the same way I engaged with, say, Dragon Age, but it was certainly a fun and, I thought, largely coherent ride.

    I was not actually aware that Frank Sinatra was dead.

    ...I need to go lie down.

    Bayonetta is meant to be over the top.

    That doesn't have to mean satirical; satire implies ridicule. Bayonetta is simply aware of what it is providing to the player; extremely over the top fanservicey action.

    Just like Gears of War is a manliness fantasy for socially-emasculated and insecure teenage geeks (i.e. it allows you to be "bad ass" (because in reality, the target market is not) without either questioning or ridiculing your desires).

    I don't think that because a game is open about the source of its appeal that it automatically becomes a lesser game. There is nothing wrong with appealling to a frequently-held desire. Of course there is PLENTY of room for questioning, satirizing, deconstructing and analyzing these frequent desires and where they emerge from, but for any of these more questioning games to have a point, you have to have the games that know what they are and give people what they want in a guiltless manner.

    Games like Bayonetta are best enjoyed as you enjoy a Michael Bay film. Get the popcorn, turn off the inner critic (unless you are watching for something specific) and remember that it's just a source of entertainment, you should really just relax...

    Note, I'm not necessarily disagreeing with the reviewer. But the idea that video games will automatically reach artistic acceptance via self-analysis is flawed... Metal Gear Solid 2 did pretty much the best deconstruction of why (many) people play action games and yet even now, video games are still treated as the latest threat to the moral fibre of civilization. Just like comics and television and rock music.

    There is only one thing that will gain any newish medium artistic acceptance: time. No matter how many Mass Effect 2s, BioShocks, System Shocks, Metal Gear Solid 2s, Silent Hills and the like are produced, the medium will not be considered art until the moral panic over it subsides.

    It has nothing to do with games like Bayonetta, Gears of War, Doom etc. There is the relatively mainstream, and relatively bad (note that these are actually distinct categories!), stuff in every medium. For every Watchmen, there are thousands of generic boring cliche comics that do nothing interesting. For every great work of literature, there are thousands of works like Twilight. For every cinematic masterpiece there are countless Uwe Boll-level crappy films.

    Also, regarding medium acceptance, why should video games be judged on how their narratives stand up to films or books? They ARE different media and thus should be subject to different standards.

    But then again, we are dealing with what people think about a new medium, and we all know how rational people usually are around a new invention (i.e. not at all).

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