Body Image

This post is inspired once again by the ever lovely and brilliant Amanda Palmer (whose song Guitar Hero I have discussed previously–actually, twice). It appears she’s having a falling out with her record label, Roadrunner, over her latest video, Leeds United. Apparently she is showing too much belly fat, which she refused to remove from the video. From the words of Palmer herself, she hardly saw herself as fat in the video and refused. This has seen quite the reaction from her fans. Here’s the video of which I speak:

If I dare speak my non-heterosexual piece of mind, Amanda Palmer is rather gorgeous and hardly fat. This is a move I would expect from the music industry, however (or with most industries, sadly). Considering how much ‘fat’ her belly is showing, we’re seeing an impossible standard once again being applied. But what if she was packing a few more pounds? Back in July my mother asked me about Fat Princess and the controversy which it inspired. I would wager to put forth that negative representations of people with ‘bellies’ are hardly sex exclusive to females, however (at least in terms of representations of people with more pounds–we still see less fatter females than males overall).

Fatter people of both sexes are generally not people we see in games as protagonists. This is for a variety of reasons of course: who wants to play fat? sex sells! we’re certainly not putting more fully figured people in skimpy clothing unless we’re going for a laugh. They exist as NPCs, merchants, and possibly a member of the party who probably obsesses over food all the time.

As it stands, those that fall outside of the culture’s weight expectations are often used as a prop for laughs. These are the people that play comedic relief and occasionally make us endear our hearts to them because of the prejudice they face (particularly in romantic aspirations). They will run and occasionally put their hands on their knees, gasping for breath, sorely out of shape, behind the chuckling protagonist who has remained a lifelong friend. It is hardly news that our expectations of beauty have changed in the past decade–for men and women both.

On another level, we’re also under the assumption that all people who may be overweight are out of shape, sloths, and incapable of the feats required in a physically active game. Those are the games we mostly play in fact, those that require our protagonists to perform awe-inspiring feats of physical strength, agility, and various other activities in which I may likely never engage. This would create a dissonance in playing against our expectations and the realm of the plausible. Expecting Lara Croft to perform acrobatics with an overly-abundant bra size is all right, but don’t add to her belly.

Iunno, food for thought at least.

Oh, and I support Amanda Palmer–going to see her this Wednesday here in Chicago, in fact. The writing is an allusion to her album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?:

(Writing on one’s belly backwards does funny things to handwriting.)

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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