Another thing not to study: how gender is performed and presented. Twisted pixel literally just announced a sequel to their "'Splosion Man" game, titled "Ms. 'Splosion Man" as a homage to Ms. Pac-Man. The picture announcing the release is this:
So, take a look at that. This is a female version of a male character (more or less) and despite being a freakish being of non-organic origin and thus without any meaningful physical markers of sex (as a creature whose sole purpose is to create violent explosions, it's probably wise to leave out a function for it to reproduce by), here we have a very clearly female character. Take a look (you probably already did) at dat ass. It literally bulges. You can also catch a glimpse of side cleavage. Clearly all of the scientists are madly in love with her/it (note little hearts) with the exception of the evil looking characters up top, who seem indifferent. Note the female evil character in the upper right (as marked by the pronounced lips and longer hair) appears to be angry. Jealous? Upset? Who knows.
Besides the very obvious assets of the character, notice a few other details marking her/its femininity. The bow on it/her head, the eyelashes long and curved, and her pink color. All additional and non-physiological symbols of femininity. More importantly, notice the fingers and the way her/its hands are splayed. That's a very feminine pose to put a figure in. When I was a kid in elementary school, I was subject to a somewhat absurd assertion that there was a "right" and "wrong" way for a guy to look at his fingernails. The correct way was to look at them with fingers folded over an upright palm, halfway to a fist. The wrong way was to view them extended from the back of the hand. Viewing your fingernails from this position meant you were gay, just as much as a limp wrist or a tongue in your cheek. I'm sure there are a bunch of interesting psychological reasons that having your fingers out and strangely arrayed is considered weaker. I think the simple fact hat it is not a fist probably suffices.
The teaser image isn't the only expression of femaleness, either. Check out the logo for the new game.
Notice how again, the character has her/it's fingers splayed in a strange and feminine manner. Also notice that her feet are, besides being more shapely than regular 'splosion man's, positioned like a ballerina doing a leap. Also note the cleavage and protruding butt. For proper comparison, here's the first game's logo:
Notice that unlike Ms. 'Splosion Man, regular 'Splosion Man's hands are balled into fists and his gait clearly denotes running in a fairly masculine manner. Even the angle at which he is viewed is different, as he's/it's demonstrated from a profile angle, while Ms. 'Splosion Man is viewed from a quarter angle, which according to this website with too many ads on it, is a more intimate and emotionally charged angle to view things by. Bonus thing to note, the shade of fuchsia or lavender or whatever that Ms. 'Splosion Man is is complementary to the shade of yellow that her bow is. Same with the logo.
Ultimately the result is otherwise perfectly enjoyable things becoming exercises in analysis where the struggle to understand a work supersedes the actual consumption and enjoyment of the work. I sometimes worry that if I learn too much about the world and its processes, I'll become completely unable to appreciate anything and only capable of recreating the exact creative steps that went in to building an expression. Eventually I will become so wrapped in referential icons and indices that I'll somehow morph into a postmodernist writer who can't write a damn word without referring to half a dozen other things within or without his own work.
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