Video: Bayonetta: Innovative Advertising or Sexual Harassment Training?

This video, from Feminist Frequency, was making the rounds this week. It discusses an advertising campaign in Japan to promote the videogame, Bayonetta, to which we’ve devoted a few blog posts.

The video’s description reads:

The widely popular video game Bayonetta has had an advertising campaign that matches the on screen sexism of the game itself. In Tokyo a large billboard in the subway invited passersby to literally strip off flyers to reveal Bayonetta naked underneath. The campaign perpetuates and encourages sexual and physical harassment against women, an epidemic in Japan (and many other countries, including the United States).

Video (subtitled):

Link: Bayonetta: Innovative Advertising or Sexual Harassment Training? (full transcript)

After watching the video, I couldn’t help but think about all the parallels this has to last summer’s #EAFail incident, in which EA Games ran the “Sin to Win” contest to promote Dante’s Inferno. The contest encouraged the sexual harassment of female attendees at San Diego Comic Con, and given the fact that sexual harassment of women at fandom conventions is commonplace, it’s disturbing that a company would run such a contest. It’s stunts like this and the advertising campaign for Bayonetta that encourage a tolerance for sexual harassment, making it more difficult for women to go about their daily lives.

What do you all think of the points Sarkeesian makes in the video, and of the Bayonetta advertising campaign?

About Brinstar

Brinstar is an Editor (on hiatus) at The Border House blog. She is a cisgender, temporarily able-bodied, Asian, culturally-mixed woman from the United States. She is a longtime gamer and works in the videogame industry as a community manager. You can find her blogging about games at Acid for Blood and on Twitter at @Brinstar.
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14 Responses to Video: Bayonetta: Innovative Advertising or Sexual Harassment Training?

  1. Bakka says:

    I agree with Sarkeesian that one thing that makes this ad campaign troublesome is the encouragement to participate in misogyny (rather than just depicting misogyny). Depicting stereotypical, over-sexualized, and harmful views of women is quite common. Rather than opposing these views (which should be opposed even when just a depiction), the Bayonetta and #EAFail campaigns encourage active participation in perpetuating the view of women as objects. This seems to be a step in the wrong direction.

    • Brinstar says:

      One of the things that continues to baffle and disappoint is the fact that the men who create these promotions don’t even stop to think of the impact it could have on women. They use women all the time in their advertising, as parts of their promotional campaigns and contests, but when it comes to thinking about the personal experiences of women, they don’t appear able to even muster up any kind of empathy. If they did think at all, surely they would consider what it is like for women taking the train home, and the ever present threat of being groped by random men, or at conventions, the common reality that women are sexually harassed.

      • Cedna says:

        The reason they can’t see the impact is that any thought to our reactions are also part of the fantasy. Either that we secretly enjoy it, or they have a rape kink. Sometimes some of both.

  2. .tiff says:

    I still hold fast to the things I wrote about Bayonetta previously (http://bit.ly/7G6ZLm), and I agree that the marketing campaign is perpetuating the wrong ideas.

    However, I began to question the nature of Bayonetta a bit more in-depth when I actually went through and finished the entire game. What’s interesting (and what Sarkeesian does not note in her introduction of the game) is that when applying the Bechdel test to Bayonetta, it holds fast. Additionally as the game progresses, Bayonetta’s trademark inappropriate poses in the cinematics become less of a focus point, and the story evolves into a sort of sisterhood between her and her nemesis Jeanne.

    So now I’m torn. I still absolutely don’t agree with the nature of Bayonetta’s physicality and the way the camera objectifies her for most of the game, but at the other end of things, Bayonetta is one of the only games that meets the Bechdel test, so that *is* kind of cool. She has a mission, she carries it out on her own, she never falls for the man bait to distract her, and she ends up pairing up with her female nemesis to finalize the game. I can’t think of another game that does that.

    • Brinstar says:

      I’m glad that Bayonetta ends up being a bit more complex than the absurd game play mechanics and the gratuitous sexual objectification. There are too few games that are like that, and even fewer that portray women without objectifying them and have those plot elements.

    • 12Sided says:

      I’m rather torn about the game as well, the sexualisation is SO uncomfortable and omnipresent but I found the gameplay to be really fun and addictive, and little touches like the butterfly motif were appealing for me. I agree that Jeanne and Bayonetta’s interactions are some of the best parts of the game.
      I haven’t finished it, I only rented it to see what it’s like. On one hand I’m waiting for a real price drop and may buy it extra cheap in order to finish it but at the same time I don’t want to give money to the people who created it.

      • thefremen says:

        BTW the Butterfly thing is b/c she’s sold her soul to madame butterfly, Jeanne casts a different shadow (I think it’s a jungle cat) because she’s made a pact with a different demon altogether, I didn’t really notice in the first play-through but when you unlock Jeanne it’s rather blatant.

    • nanasuyl says:

      Happy to know she ends up pairing up with a female, that’s really rare, like you said. I’m happy, because I thought the game was quite nice and felt a bit bad for liking it. Hope it arrives on PC one day, since I don’t have an X360.

    • thefremen says:

      Also, thanks to a plot slightly less convoluted than Lost (and much better explained by the ending) Bayonetta is NOT a single mother, and if she were, she’d be her own mother which would just be really really weird.

  3. nanasuyl says:

    Gosh, I’m so shocked at this ad! I had no idea about it, thanks for posting the video. This is taking too far.

    I’ve played the game and tried to tell myself that she was only a fun video game character, but the truth is she’s really just made for male fantasy.

    People who come up with characters like that should be ashamed. I certainly feel ashamed for them. Why can’t they make a female video game character who is just a regular lady living an adventure, properly dressed for whatever job she has to do? It can’t be that difficult!

  4. Ultraviolet says:

    Ewww creeps, the campaign is megatacky, even if what i have seen from the game itself is not that much of an ‘improvement’ (in terms of objectification and teenage boy idea of ‘omgsexxxxy’) over dearest Lara C

  5. mecha-lolzilla says:

    EA’s ad campaign actually encouraged harassment of people. This is a poster. Equating the two actually reduces the appalling nature of the first.

    • oliemoon says:

      The OP didn’t equate the two, she noted the similarities between them and linked their existence to the greater culture of sexual harassment.

  6. thefremen says:

    I think it should be noted that if you haven’t already watched all the other videos in Feminist Frequency channel, it’s well worth your time. Her post on Veronica Mars touched on all the things that made that show so great, it’s a shame we will never see its like.

    I really didn’t like the Bayo ad campaign, and although it can’t possibly be as bad as one that actually encourages sexual harrassment, it is a further indicator of gaming culture’s sickness (the French Blur ad is further evidence).

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