Today is the day that we celebrate halloween, a holiday that delights children and is often reviled by fundamentalist christians. One response to their dislike of halloween have been so-called "Hell Houses" meant to frighten sinners back to god. I can't say as they've ever been effective with me, but I suppose there may be those who are taken in by such theatrics. On the other hand, there may be some fairly interesting efforts at resistance... something like this.*
In any case, today is the day we reserve for all things spooky, scary, and horrifying, and boy do I have a winner for all of you in that regard! I have something so eerie, so disturbing, so horrible, that you will surely gasp in terror. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the trailer for Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball 2!
Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, for those who aren't in the know, DOA:EBV could charitably be referred to as a "sports game" but is really more of an "oggle fake girls in bikinis" game. It more or less revolves around the idea of putting inconceivably well-endowed women in skimpy bathing suits and having them run and jump. A lot. I mean a whole lot. So much that they don't really have much time for that "volleyball" thing in the title.
So what's so scary about this? Well, a lot of things. For one, the characters in this game are situated squarely in the uncanny valley. I've discussed the uncanny valley before but, to recap, it occurs when something is an extremely close mimicry of a human, but not quite perfect. It is sufficiently not quite perfect, however, as to be actually more alien-seeming and bothersome than something that is less similar to a human. Thus, a simple wireframe mannequin may show off clothing perfectly well, but a mannequin that is too human looking may strike observers as being creepy. By the same token, the animatronic bear that plays the banjo at Chuck E. Cheese comes across as far less disturbing than Lincoln does in the Hall of Presidents.**
My point here is that the girls of DOA:EBV2 are really and truly creepy. Why are they creepy? Well, let's consider their breasts for one thing. They're not merely improbably gigantic, they also bounce in ways that are frankly unnatural. And by "unnatural" I'm using the strictest definition: "In violation of natural law." In order for breasts to behave that way they would effectively have to be made of jello or come equipped with some sort of gas-powered suspension system. These breasts jiggle independently of each other, and in ways that look painful, at even the slightest movement. There's also the girls' hair, which looks... well... odd. Imagine that instead of hair someone stapled long strips of construction paper to your head and you'll have an idea of what I mean. So, frankly, watching these... things... cavort is a bit freakish.
There's also the issue of what they're doing. In the rather lengthy trailer I linked to above the game characters engage in a number of behaviors. They play in the pool, they chase each other around the sand, they play on huge swings, they throw crabs into the ocean,*** and so on. And all of this they do while lounging around in uncomfortably small swimsuits. Their actions are, in a word, bizarre. I have never seen real women act so utterly brainless in my life and, honestly, seeing them do so is a little disturbing. It's as though the Stepford Wives hit the beach and played some volleyball. Well, except that in the entire trailer the characters never actually play volleyball. Volleyball is, apparently, a very small part of Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball 2.
As you might guess, the major part of the game is devoted to the titillation of the player. There's a lot of effort put into this, too. For example there are half-naked**** girls rubbing each other:
There are underage (seeming) women in schoolgirl outfits for the borderline pedophile:
There's a scene with a girl on an inflatable whale toy that looks a lot like a similar scene in an actual porn videogame:
And, in an effort to avoid being too subtle, there's a sequence that prominently features a stripper pole:
About the only thing you can say for the game is that at least these women are computer generated and don't feel any shame over what their creators have made them do:
Um... then again, maybe they do.
So why does all this seem appropriate for a post about fear and terror? Well, not just because of the uncanny valley, although that's kinda creepy too. No, the reason is this:
This game is part harmless fun, but is also a reflection of how our society views women. These depictions wouldn't be "appealing" if they didn't fit, in some sense, with how we think women are "supposed to be." So, for women, this game is a suggestion of what you should be like: physically abnormal, brainless, and without meaninful occupation. For men, this game is an assertion of what you should want: something that exists rarely, if at all, in the real world. Thus, this game is a distillation of the gendered stereotypes held by both sexes which, ultimately, can lead only to repeated disappointment and relationship dysfunction. Yet, somehow, these are the stereotypes pressed on us by our society and we cannot help but be affected by them.
And if that doesn't scare you, I don't know what will.
* Read to the end of the series- it's worth it.
** Have no idea what I'm talking about? See here.
*** Seriously. She pitches a live crab way the fuck out into the ocean. I have never felt more sympathy for a crustacean. "Sorry crab! She was just playing! She didn't mean to rupture your shell with an impact from substantial height and speed!"
**** To be totally honest, I would have to admit that most of the characters are way more than half naked.