I will admit this up front, I am essentially an atheist. One that has no problem ranting and raving about western religions. I normally mock Christianity and Islam for this, but the idea of whole societies holding the same rare taboo is less unique to the west than you may think. Everybody has heard the Christians rant and rave about well, everything. Everybody has heard about Islam getting somewhat miffed about Muhammad being depicted. But really, as a foundation every society has that one thing that thou shalt not do. For the religious, its either sinning or depicting gods in media.
For those not in the know, SMITE is the upcoming MOBA Tower Defense game depicting gods doing combat in third person. This concept if of course nothing new. One could argue Brutal Legend and Sacrifice did it already (But it has levels, so it's obviously like a million billion times better). There seems to be a large amount of controversy surrounding this. Specifically the Hindu Goddess Kali. She is the Goddess of TIME AND CHANGE
. Now, I find this all very interesting because as a non-religious man I simply do not understand why making fun of fictional characters is bad. On a logical level, this should not even actually be a problem.
This essay is more or less a further thought experiment on an existing MMOSite article asking if one is offended by religion in video games
which I have participated in the comments section quite a bit. My main question is why is it so bad to update depictions of a mythic figure. On the left is a traditional illustration of the Goddess Kali, complete with blood and gore. On the right we have the same goddess not covered in gore but in 3D. According to the Hindu people the right image is the bad one.
This of course is nothing new. There are tons of instances of the Hindu people asking companies not to portray their god in any sense of the word. There have been beers, mints, and other products depicting Kali that have been protested by the Hindu. The main argument seems to be we're making money off the religion they make money of. And white people are evil. Other than that, I can't see a damn other argument. Kali in SMITE is actually wearing more
clothes than the usual depiction of the often naked goddess, so the sexism argument can't apply.
Here are a few quotes from Zed, the leader of the Hindu controversy. This all started last week but Hi-Rez so far has refused to drop Kali as per their demands.
"Moreover, portrayal of goddess Kali, who was highly revered by Hindus, appeared like a porno star in the SMITE version shown on the company website, which was quite distressing for the devotees,"
-Zed, Hindu Leader (About Smite)
"game makers should be more sensitive while handling faith related subjects and no faith, larger or smaller, should be plundered. As these games left lasting impact on the minds of highly impressionable children, teens and other young people; it would create more misunderstandings about Hinduism, which was already a highly misunderstood religion in the West."
-Zed, Hindu Leader (Same article)
Ok, we like sex. I won't say you are wrong sir. But honestly Kali's chest in SMITE is only slightly larger than the other image provided in this article by Wikipedia. Every depiction I have seen placed Kali as a rather slender woman, and many images show her nude. The only difference I see is that Kali is in 3D in SMITE, which is hardly controversial. How would Zed want her portrayed? As for leaving impressions on young people, I don't have the heart to tell Zed that in a few decades its likely the west will wake up and renounce organized religion altogether.
Its interesting, and always has been; that people really like picking and choosing when it comes to aged works. The old image is "good" because its old and derived from the original stories but a newer depiction is "bad" because 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth' The Second Commandment. Despite how the new image is just newer yet derived from the original stories. Kali never really wore too much in the ways of clothes, and if she were to exist she would probably look pretty close to SMITE's depiction.
This is the same concept as getting murderous over seeing a image of Muhammad. We can talk about the gods, but not fantasize about their appearance? We can praise them but not portray them in the light of comedy? Why is it such a taboo to re-imagine a god that was originally just imaged into existence in the first place. While we do have proof of several great prophets at some point existed we have no proof they could actually do the things we claim they could.
The bible itself is a collection of stories that to date has been edited by various people over a thousand times. I dare not make any assumptions about the Hindu religion only because Zed would disprove. But so far I see a lot of people claiming that the original pictures are ok because they are old and the new pictures are sacrilegious because they already decided what the goddess looks like. Wheres the part of their book that says that if your picture is drawn past the year 2000 its heretical? Its a double standard common in religious structures. The fact the Hindu are so worked up about this really makes them lose quite a lot of respect in my eyes. Its a 3d model in a video game, a video game made fully in a fictional perspective with non-copyrighted fictional characters that don't actually exist in the mortal realm. Wheres the problem?