Yeah, Ivy's got em. Well, in 2010 in the United States alone, apparently over 318,000 women also decided to get them. Since 1997 that has been a 155% increase in the total number of plastic surgery procedures in the United States. The number one procedure was breast augmentation... followed by liposuction, eyelid surgery and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck). An estimated 5 to 10 MILLION women worldwide are now walking around with cosmetic breast implants... regardless of the cancer risks, the leakage/burst risks, the other health issues associated with this procedure. Our media shows us that apparently men find big breasts attractive... and many women are willing to pay a lot of money and disregard the health risks to become the fantasy.
(this is apparently a before and after picture of Ayumi Hamasaki, one of the best-selling singers in Japan)
The rounded, childlike eyes on the bodies of 20 year old women found in most anime... well, apparently many Asian movie and TV stars are getting blepharoplasty which adds an eyelid and visually "rounds" the eyes giving a more child-like look. With their media showing round eyed Asian women, the rates of blepharoplasty have sky rocketed among the Asian population. A straw poll of 232 Korean women in their 20's and 30's who went to a dating website responded to a survey and 90% said they would have plastic surgery. 58.2% of them stated they already had done plastic surgery, with eyelid surgery being the number one procedure. A slightly larger Gallup poll showed that 11.7% of female respondents in their 20's and 30's had undergone a plastic surgery procedure. This was back in 2007...the numbers have increased since then.
In addition to the plastic surgery, special contact lenses are being worn that make the iris of the eye much larger and much darker.
These are just two examples of how the media we consume (movies, TV, video games) can have an impact on culture. There are multiple references available... but the facts are that a very large number of women seek to increase their breast size and Asian women are increasingly seeking a more anime or western look. Men also undergo plastic surgery, but statistics show that the overwhelming majority of procedures are performed on women. There are abundant statistics that also show that increasingly women are dissatisfied with their appearance and simply feel "ugly" which has not only led to high rates of plastic surgery, but also anorexia and other issues.
The question is... can media also have the opposite effect? If TV, movies and video games started to show more healthy and realistic female images, would women be more satisfied with their looks and could they be happier? Could men start to define "beauty" as something other than huge boobs? Personally I believe "yes", which is why I do often speak up on this topic. Fantasy has it's place, but when images of fantasy become more prevalent than images of a healthy, realistic female - then it can't help but have an influence on our overall culture.
I believe that game developers have a societal responsibility to portray our video game heroes and heroines in a way that is more realistic and attainable for average people. With male heroes we have Old Snake and Dante with a slim athletic build, we have the heavily built, more muscular space marines in games like Gears of War, the more average build of the normal soldier in many FPS games, and we have Nathan Drakes. Most male video game characters are still fantasy, but there is variety. Where is this variety in female characters? The only playable female protagonist I can think of who is even close to "normal" is the character of Faith in the Mirror's Edge game. She has an athletic, healthy build and wears clothing suited to the environment of the game. Aside from her (and possibly Jade from BG&E), most every female protagonist that isn't created by the user, is impossibly slim with breasts often larger than the hips. The anime trend of large, childlike eyes in particular seems to be evoking a particularly dangerous mix of an extremely youthful face (often that of a 10 or 12 year old) with an impossibly exaggerated caricature of an adult female body.
The media we consume isn't harmless fantasy. If beauty is defined, then game developers should define it as healthy. Men and women should aspire to a healthy figure and weight - neither anorexic, nor steroid induced musculature. Variety should be the norm, rather than the aberration. The use of harmful unrealistic imagery should be reduced and if the developer doesn't personally know at least two non-plastic surgery enhanced women or men with the body they are drawing, then they should change the design. Women should aspire to be more than a set of giant plastic boobs or collegen-filled pouty lips. Asian women should revel in their own distinct beauty and not be influenced by cartoon drawings of a pedophile's fantasy. Consumers might enjoy a particular art style but should push for changes that are more beneficial to our culture.
There has recently been some debate on the imagery of Elizabeth from the upcoming game Bioshock: Infinite
. Some have described the image as misogynistic (a hatred of women), while others simply say that it's based on real fashions of the Victorian/Edwardian eras or alternatively they rely on the "harmless fantasy" argument. There is no need to harken back to an era where the reality was that women often broke ribs and developed health issues from wearing such painful and restrictive garments (including the swooning or fainting of women so often during those eras... it wasn't a 'delicate disposition' that made them faint, it was pain and lack of oxygen). The era of the corset and later the girdle was also the start of bulimia and anorexia. The thing is that games ARE fantasy, the developers could just as easily have retained the fashion but used a more realistic body image. In some ways it actually is misogyny to use an image so unrealistic from how real women look. It must be hatred of women to show such a tiny unrealistic waist with massive mammaries as any definition of "beauty", even if it's just in a video game. Could this impact fashion... well, if Madonna managed to bring back the corset in the 80's, it's not at all unrealistic to think that "Elizabeth" of Bioshock, might well bring in back yet again.
The image of Elizabeth in many ways sums up the issue. Throughout history women have abused their bodies to achieve a cultural image of beauty. I doubt that this will change any time soon. It certainly won't change when game developers, producers, models, actors, singers and those that create our consumer media continue to have an attitude that female imagery is simply harmless fantasy. The games we play may be entirely based in fantasy, but the media we consume has an insidious influence. TV, music and games influence how we perceive "normal", it influences our perception of "beauty", it delineates cultural qualities such as heroism or sexuality, and it re-defines our fashion. Before people start to talk about how any female imagery in a game is "harmless" fantasy, perhaps they need to walk a mile in the shoes of a woman... preferably 3" spike heels that are one size too small, with pointed toes. Then, and only then, can they be better equipped to speak about how harmless fantasy is.
... and as a final thought, think about if you had a young pre-teen daughter. What images of "beauty" do you want your children to aspire to?