Everyone laughs at this sexist Horizon Forbidden West fanart
If a female character doesn’t look like a Barbie doll, a certain group of male players will lose their minds. The latest example of this phenomenon emerged over the weekend, in reaction to new footage of Western forbidden horizon, the sequel to come from 2017 ‘ Horizon Zero Dawn.
This open world fantasy game is set in post-apocalyptic America, starring a hunter named Aloy. She’s a red-haired young woman with a vaguely Native American-inspired aesthetic, but while the game has already been accused of cultural appropriation, that is not what we are talking about today. No, apparently some people are upset that Aloy is not feminine enough, as evidenced by this viral tweet:
The tweet likens a frowning image of Aloy to fanart where she has perfect Facetune skin, shiny white teeth, and a face full of makeup. It quickly caught people’s attention because it’s such an absurd example of sexist complaints about video games. It’s also a sadly obvious case of Twitter amplifying the worst opinions possible, because while there is definitely controversy over Aloy’s appearance (she has visibly aged between matches), there is no general reaction.
A lot of gamers, especially women, are tired of seeing this kind of criticism aimed at female characters. But at the same time, sexist complaints like this tweet can be morbid hilarious. It highlights the childish, unreasonable, and ignorant underpinnings of misogynist player culture, which is part of why it went viral in the first place. This guy complains that a thin woman with styled hair and shapely eyebrows is not “feminine enough”, mainly because she is. do not wear makeup and smiling like a beauty queen. Absurd.
The phrase “hire fans” from the original tweet turned into a meme in which people shared other side-by-side images of pop culture characters: the image on the left showed the real character, the image of right showed a version of it nicely.
The original tweet also referred to The Last of Us Part II, which did face a concerted backlash around the design of its female characters. In particular, the character Abby has been criticized for being too muscular, which has resulted in a campaign of harassment against the game designer and Abby’s voice actor. Some male fans just can’t handle the idea of a female character who isn’t overtly sexualized, regardless of the context.
When that kind of criticism reaches a mainstream audience, it often inspires the same mocking response: Have these guys ever seen a real woman? Well, the funny answer is yes. There is no secret community of male gamers who live in vacuum sealed rooms, consuming an exclusive diet of Rihanna videos and Tomb raider 4 gameplay footage. They know what real women look like. They have female parents and coworkers, and they go to the grocery store like everyone else. They just don’t support the idea of video games aimed at a larger audience. The purpose of these complaints is to push the Overton window of game criticism back, promoting a misconception of what female characters “should” look like.
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* First publication: May 31, 2021, 7:38 a.m. CDT
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a writer for The Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in science fiction films and superheroes, she has also appeared as a BBC radio film and television critic. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor