I was not planning a running theme but given yesterday’s commentary and tomorrow’s let’s just run with the ball I’ve been handed and there’s something in the “filler video” stack that fits this theme. We’ve heard that in superhero comics and fantasy stories (oddly not as much in science fiction, at least lately) that the male character designs are based on a male power fantasy and the female character designs are based on a male sexual fantasy. Admittedly there are times this is true and I’ll be exploring that more tomorrow. However, is it always true?
Shad (no connection) of Shadiversity, a YouTube channel dedicated to medieval weapons, castles, and general life, plus the fantasy stories that come from that setting, has discussed this. In the three videos below he starts asking if the “bikini” armor even makes sense, follows that up with a discussion about male power fantasy versus female sexualisation and whether the critique really holds up, and then goes into what armor for women should actually be like to actually protect a woman warrior.
Barbarians from Conan to Thundarr to the earliest version of He-Man, as well as lady barbarians like Red Sonja are fantasies. They’re a bit more violent than something from a Tolkien or CS Lewis take on fantasy worlds but their wardrobes should reflect the world they live in, as should their bodies. Is the only difference between male and female wardrobes in these stories the fact that women wear a top? Is the depiction really sexist, just matching the type of fantasy, or somewhere between both? Shad took flak for not acting like the women depiction was sexist, meant only for the “male gaze”, and defended his off-hand comments.
Some of this will probably be brought up again in my commentary tomorrow. Can we at least admit that Red Sonja’s hoohah cover there is rather pathetic? It barely covers anything and just would fail as armor. What would good armor for women look like? Would it actually highlight the breasts the way bikini armor would, and how even regular armor for women tends to look in various fantasy stories and art? Shad loves his armor as much as castles, swords and kite-style shields so some time later he addressed this one as well.
Cultures change and genres have different needs and aesthetics. So taking all this fantasy versus historical armor talk to modern superheroes (some of whom actually wear armor like Iron Man or Ironheart) how do you design a proper superhero, male or female, that isn’t just based on looking sexy to the audience but actually serves practical function? And is the fact that he or she may be sexy to this or that group necessarily bad in and of itself, or is it simply a problem of intent? Can that intent still make sense practically depending on the character? This is what I plan to address in tomorrow’s commentary.
If you want to learn more about armor, weapons, the medeval period, and stories based on that period, check out Shadiversity on YouTube. And since he listed it as being in his description I’ll be nice and link to his teespring in case you want one of those shirts he advertised.