Guitar Heroine or sexbot?

guitarheroine.JPG
Left, Judy Nails in a previous version of the game. Right, in the latest version.
When I picture guitar heroines, they’re usually sporting jeans and a tank top. Or menswear. Not the case in the Guitar Hero video game, apparently, where all of the ladies wear midriffs or bikini tops. Cara laments the sexing-up of her favorite Guitar Hero character, Judy Nails, in the latest version of the game:

Basically, I’m not sure why they bothered to put a shirt on her. There are copious amounts of cleavage, her entire stomach, and at least half of her bra hanging out. The shirt is really more of an accessory than an actual article of clothing. Even on stage with all of those bright lights, she still might get a little cold. And every outfit change I could give her doesn’t make it any better.
Even worse, I don’t have any other female options. There’s Cassie, who has always worn a bikini top in lieu of a shirt (which I was originally fine with, because there were other options and there is a male character with no shirt). And there’s a new Asian female character who, though she is covered, is dressed like she works for Gwen Stefani. And since I see it as pretty racist, I can’t go with her, either.
So. Apparently Guitar Hero now thinks that it either A. does not have any female fans or B. their female fans will, for some reason, not mind being objectified and forced to play with a character who is half naked, if they want to play with a woman.

Add to that Axe sponsorship (including the eau de asshole promotional jingle actually placed within the game), a guitar shaped like a woman’s disembodied leg in a fishnet stocking, and a guitar called “Lady Shapes” with an airbrushed blonde in a bikini on it. More from Cara:

And probably, I shouldn’t have expected any better. I mean, it’s a video game. And it’s aimed at rock fans. Those are two markets that are generally saturated in misogyny. But I did expect better. Until now, Guitar Hero had been different toward women (though, I will admit, not towards people of color). I trusted them.
I didn’t know how to explain this to my husband. Of course, he agreed that it is stupid and sexist. But he can’t really understand. He’s not the one being attacked. As a white male, he doesn’t have to worry so much about this kind of thing.
I’m sure that many of you out there can relate — have seen shows, or book series, music, etc. that you love and have been faithful to suddenly turn against you without notice, attack you with misogynist or racist imagery/ideas. It seems silly on the surface, but it is violating and painful. I genuinely do feel betrayed right now, like I’ve been handing my money and loyalty to someone who doesn’t want to admit that I even exist.

No wonder Cara has decided she’s not playing anymore. If you’re a fellow disappointed Guitar Hero fan, you can contact the game’s maker, Red Octane, to complain.
On a related note, check out Susie Madrak’s post on real-life Guitar Heroines.

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40 Comments

  1. Orin
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    You might want to contact Neversoft (the developer that actually made this game) or Activision (the publisher) instead. RedOctane makes the guitars.
    Interestingly, by the way, this is the first game in the series not made by original developer Harmonix.

  2. Orin
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    (Er, correction: RedOctane was the original publisher.)

  3. Posted October 30, 2007 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Excellent job posting on this. My boyfriend just brought home guitar hero III and I noticed this new trend right away.
    The female characters have become even more objectified! I choose to play with Lars Umlaut– a fat guy with spikes everywhere. I would love a huge, fat, female-Lars with crazy spikes but all I get are these pixie-looking, half naked chicks.
    Boooo small-minded video game creators.
    Also take note that many of the guitar hero set lists are weighed heavily to male rock songs– not female.

  4. Posted October 30, 2007 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I was just going to mention that this is the first in the series not developed by Harmonix.
    Neversoft is also the developer of the Tony Hawk series of skateboarding games which generally includes no female characters.

  5. rileystclair
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    man, not judy nails too! she was my favorite to play also. i mean, playing video games you sort of get over the fact that every woman (and really most of the men) have idealized body types and are meant to be attractive. however, it seems to me entirely feasible to generally populate video games with “attractive” characters without making them into sexed-up caricatures whose proportions defy physics. why is that so hard to do, really?
    i get that the target audience is male, but honestly most of my male gamer friends are weirded out by the hypersexualized female characters, too. do they really think that if they make a game with pretty but not grotesque women in it, that guys are going to stop playing? these developers need a reality check.

  6. marcyfight
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I ended up having a two hour discussion with my husband about this. We are both gamers generally of the Nintendo variety, and so are used to relatively objectification-free games. While I love Guitar Hero, this one is particularly hard to take. Also, don’t forget about the random gyrating girls always dancing on stage. When I saw them I was miffed, but it was the leg guitar that really set me off.
    My husband tells me that before we met, he used to just ignore all that stuff, rather than fight against it. That would be nice, except for the fact that as a woman I can’t ignore it. It’s about me and my entire gender. It’s like the game makers just gave a big ‘fuck you’ to their female fans, and its upsetting.

  7. Posted October 30, 2007 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    That’s so depressing! Judy Nails is the leader of my band (Bitch on Patrol).
    And I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed how skewed the songs are in favor of guy rocks songs. Because there have never, ever been any women in rock–you can ask Joan Jett, Excene Cervenka, The Distillers, Beth Ditto, Debbie Harry, & Siouxsie.

  8. Orin
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    As a game developer myself, this sort of thing makes me cringe every time I see it. Way to play up to (sadly, usually wholly justified) negative stereotypes about us and our industry.
    A big reason for this problem is, I think, the generally shortage of female developers in this industry. This makes me somewhat optimistic about the future, actually, because in my generation (I’m 25) and younger, almost everyone I know, male or female, has had a lot of exposure to games, and hopefully that’ll gradually result in a more even gender balance in the industry.
    As an aside, I feel really lucky to work for a major studio whose games tend to feature plain, ordinary-looking, and practically dressed characters of both genders.

  9. EG
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Question, ’cause I’ve never played the game: is the p.o.v. putting one’s eye level at the character’s crotch the same for both male and female characters?

  10. Theora23
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I was also greatly disappointed with GH3. I’m glad I got to play a friend’s copy rather than giving these guys my own money. Not only did they give favorite character Judy Nails larger breasts, they added the bouncing phenomenon known as “bewb physics” so that when the character jumps (often), her breasts bounce rather more than is likely. Casey Lynch decided to embrace her feminine side (according to her bio) and is also redesigned purely for sex appeal. The only other female option is a little Japanese girl who giggles behind her hands.
    I think this may well drive sales to women for the real sequel to the Guitar Hero franchise, Rock Band. It comes from the original Guitar Hero designers and you can make your own avatar. You pick the gender, the skin tone, the clothes, the accessories. I know that it sounds like the video game equivalent of paper dolls, but after the insult of GH3, being able to make my own character is suddenly far more important.

  11. Posted October 30, 2007 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Damn, Ann, you found better pics of Judy than I did!
    Thanks for spreading the word. It’s good to see that I’m not the only one who is PISSED OFF. Also (since it will inevitably be pointed out), I’ve just realized that I called the chracter “Cassie” when it should be “Casey.” :)

  12. Posted October 30, 2007 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I know nothing about gaming, so I’m probably hardly qualified to comment here, but the last time I played a video game (which was, I think, in the spring of this year at a friend’s house) it had a karaoke game which looked a bit like that. But the thing was, you could pick a gender and clothes and then adjust different parts of the character’s build individually: it was almost more fun than the game. My character, who ended up looking like some kind of goth version of Cass Elliot, was damn sexy and kicked ass.

  13. feisty_jenn
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I think this may well drive sales to women for the real sequel to the Guitar Hero franchise, Rock Band. It comes from the original Guitar Hero designers and you can make your own avatar. You pick the gender, the skin tone, the clothes, the accessories. I know that it sounds like the video game equivalent of paper dolls, but after the insult of GH3, being able to make my own character is suddenly far more important.
    i’m looking forward to Rock Band too, but i think its a mistake to put too much faith in the potential of “make your own avatar” technology in (most) games. Experience suggests that the parameters within which you can design your avatar will still have been set for you, resulting in female avatars being customized only within the normative range…

  14. feisty_jenn
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I think this may well drive sales to women for the real sequel to the Guitar Hero franchise, Rock Band. It comes from the original Guitar Hero designers and you can make your own avatar. You pick the gender, the skin tone, the clothes, the accessories. I know that it sounds like the video game equivalent of paper dolls, but after the insult of GH3, being able to make my own character is suddenly far more important.
    i’m looking forward to Rock Band too, but i think its a mistake to put too much faith in the potential of “make your own avatar” technology in (most) games. Experience suggests that the parameters within which you can design your avatar will still have been set for you, resulting in female avatars being customized only within the normative range…

  15. Posted October 30, 2007 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Very true, feisty_jenn. There’s also the fact that Rock Band is expensive. Guitar Hero isn’t cheap, but it seems like it by comparison. And women shouldn’t really have to pay 2-4 times as much to get a game that will show them some basic respect.

  16. androidqueen
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    A big reason for this problem is, I think, the generally shortage of female developers in this industry.
    Seriously. There’s a shortage of female software developers, period, but I hear it’s much worse in gaming.
    This makes me somewhat optimistic about the future, actually, because in my generation (I’m 25) and younger, almost everyone I know, male or female, has had a lot of exposure to games, and hopefully that’ll gradually result in a more even gender balance in the industry.
    It’s a pleasant thought. I hope you’re right. I’m not so optimistic, though.

  17. Posted October 30, 2007 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I have a gripe of a different kind about the Guitar Hero series: the lack of rock epics. I’m not playing until ultra lengthy songs are included.
    BTW, it isn’t just the women who are objectified on the game, according to some. Men are also seen as sex objects on the franchise, which gives players a third reason (aside from Cara and my reasons).

  18. Posted October 30, 2007 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    (Sorry about my earlier post. I’ll redo it)
    I have a gripe of a different kind about the Guitar Hero series: the lack of rock epics. I’m not playing until ultra lengthy songs are included.
    BTW, it isn’t just the women who are objectified on the game, according to some. Men are also seen as sex objects on the franchise, which gives players a third reason (aside from Cara and my reasons) to complain about the game.

  19. realityfighter
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    The thing that really made Guitar Hero great was the culture. You got the impression that the designers really wanted to focus on the guitar-driven rock concept rather than trying to dress it up with extraneous crap. The Judy Nails character reinforced that focus.
    It’s sad to see that all trashed by a bunch of clueless noobs. Especially since Guitar Hero has been such a popular party game.

  20. CannedLizard
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, when I first saw the Judy Nails redesign, I was pretty aggrivated. The thing is, Guitar Hero has become one of the ultimate casual games, which everyone can pick up. It’s their opportunity to get everyone to play, except they get their design staff to create sexed-up versions of characters that USED to look like normal.
    But yes, the fact that this game was developed and published by different people than the first two games probably has something to do with it.
    EG: No, camera angles don’t change based on what character you’re using.

  21. speakuponetime
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Nice shot of Carrie Brownstein, she is so amazing.

  22. Kamacys
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    this makes me so sad. i loved playing Guitar Hero so much (for the first time this past weekend) i finally agreed with my husband to purchase an xbox 360, along with Guitar Hero 3. if i knew how they “sexist up” the female character (whom I also like to play) i would have just asked him to get the previous version.

  23. Rach
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    How depressing. Itotally dug Judy Nails. Video games frustrate the hell out of me. It seems that if women are actally given a role in which they kick ass (or do masculine things), it has to be suplemented with a pair boobs the size of Texas. Seriously, I’ve seen games (World of Warcraft) try to sex up freaking Orcs (think Shrek).

  24. ponies and rainbows
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Rach, I just saw someone play World of Warcraft for the first time yesterday and was really excited at first because it looked supercool (my friend was playing a male character, some type of elf). I started asking her questions about how it worked and stuff, but when she showed me the characters I was totally put off because of the female characters. I was like, “Can’t you even control the crap they wear?!?” She said that might start happening soon, but even then it doesn’t change the fact that every female character who’s over four feet tall wouldn’t even have enough room for all their internal organs. Yuck.
    Also, it pisses me off that people will now point to the popularity of Guitar Hero and be like, “See, sex sells, and hawt half-naked women sell!” Even though the game didn’t get popular by being a misogyny-fest. It’s like when I was little and loved Janet Jackson because she was all about independence and saving the world and shit, and she was insanely popular. And then she decided, fuck saving the world, I’m going to take my clothes off instead. So, I ditched her for TLC, who also got mega-popular by being kick-ass, sexy and fully clothed, and then they did nearly the exact same goddamn thing Janet did.
    It’s not that I don’t think female sexuality can be expressed by taking one’s clothes off and gyrating — the problem is that that’s the ONLY choice that’s given to us. You can’t be considered attractive anymore by acting any other way. I think I’m going to go punch some walls now.

  25. kyzen
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 2:15 am | Permalink
  26. Theora23
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I just wrote a letter to Harmonix asking about the character generator for Rock Band, specifically in reference to the sexing-up of Guitar Hero 3 and discussions on feminist blogs about the games.
    Their rep said that the generator really was versatile, and that while you could tart up one’s character if you really wanted to, “there are so many options to just make cool, utterly badass characters”.
    While I understand that a rep would have to be reassuring this way, everything else I’ve read about the game’s art seems to back up the element of choices. Yes, it’s still expensive and no, we shouldn’t have to pay tons of money just to have games that respect non-white-male players, but I am still glad that someone is doing something positive.

  27. dave2
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    I know many other people have said the same thing, but it’s important to note this is Neversoft’s game, not Harmonix (who produced in GH1 and 2).
    There’s a video up of the Rock Band char creation: http://youtube.com/watch?v=a_H7JzGgaeE
    While the female forms are still on the very thin end of normative (as are the male forms actually), it is a whole lot better than GH3.
    Would be much better if the range for both sexes was a whole more more wide and realistic.
    I was hugely put off by the sexing up of GH3 as well. It dropped off my buy list as a result.

  28. Ellalthea
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    As far as video game characters go, I think a bigger issue is the roles that females play. Rarely do I pick up a video game that has a main female character, particularly one that isn’t a weaker magic user.
    World of Warcraft actually is one of the best games I’ve seen when it comes to physical characteristics. You can choose what your characters wear to make them as modest or revealing as possible. The different races have different physical characteristics, and while females will have large breasts, the males have huge muscles as well.

  29. Donkey
    Posted December 27, 2007 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Don’t you know that people can hack using simple shtml codes? I thought you knew better, oh wait I didn’t because you’re a fucking feminist, man hating club, who thinks you don’t already have equal rights, and complain about sex in video games. For Christ’s sake lady, It’s fucking life, deal with it, or get out.

  30. RandomHero
    Posted December 28, 2007 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe you people have NOTHING better to do than this…. It is sad how all of you ladies will talk trash about a Character model in a video game when you come here and the first thing you see is a Mudflap girl giving the finger. ALOT of ladies are speaking out not only on the Guitarhero website but other music sites as well about how your site and people on it are a group of hypocrite, scum. You preach one thing but then have pictures on your website of MORE than half-naked women not the mention the finger I get on every page. Here is a comment from another site, “haha, I agree rickyrebel! I dont understand some people.. I am a girl too but it totally does not bother me how the girls in the game are dressed! beside, it is not a fashion game!
    Probably the author of the article is just a very ugly girl who feels sad cause she cannot wear a bikini top!”
    You ladies need to start acting like ladies and not a group of self-involved low lives with nothing better to do then point out bad Character models in Video Games. There are ALOT of other issues out there that are FAR more important to bash.

  31. RandomHero
    Posted December 28, 2007 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe you people have NOTHING better to do than this…. It is sad how all of you ladies will talk trash about a Character model in a video game when you come here and the first thing you see is a Mudflap girl giving the finger. ALOT of ladies are speaking out not only on the Guitarhero website but other music sites as well about how your site and people on it are a group of hypocrite, scum. You preach one thing but then have pictures on your website of MORE than half-naked women not the mention the finger I get on every page. Here is a comment from another site, “haha, I agree rickyrebel! I dont understand some people.. I am a girl too but it totally does not bother me how the girls in the game are dressed! beside, it is not a fashion game!
    Probably the author of the article is just a very ugly girl who feels sad cause she cannot wear a bikini top!”
    You ladies need to start acting like ladies and not a group of self-involved low lives with nothing better to do then point out bad Character models in Video Games. There are ALOT of other issues out there that are FAR more important to bash.

  32. RandomHero
    Posted December 28, 2007 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe you people have NOTHING better to do than this…. It is sad how all of you ladies will talk trash about a Character model in a video game when you come here and the first thing you see is a Mudflap girl giving the finger. ALOT of ladies are speaking out not only on the Guitarhero website but other music sites as well about how your site and people on it are a group of hypocrite, scum. You preach one thing but then have pictures on your website of MORE than half-naked women not the mention the finger I get on every page. Here is a comment from another site, “haha, I agree rickyrebel! I dont understand some people.. I am a girl too but it totally does not bother me how the girls in the game are dressed! beside, it is not a fashion game!
    Probably the author of the article is just a very ugly girl who feels sad cause she cannot wear a bikini top!”
    You ladies need to start acting like ladies and not a group of self-involved low lives with nothing better to do then point out bad Character models in Video Games. There are ALOT of other issues out there that are FAR more important to bash.

  33. n00bsaib0t
    Posted December 28, 2007 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    the worst thing about this is that its not a one sided thing. this happens to male characters as well, you dont see guys getting all pissed off because triple h went from wearing full length tights in wrestlemania 2000 for the N64 to the trunks he wears now.
    the women here seem to be getting pissed off because of how the female characters are marketed in the game, but the fact of the matter is that the female characters in this game actually dress like these kinds of girls would in real life. hey, while youre at it, post an article about how konami made jenny wear less than they used to and shake her ass while dancing in DDRSuperNOVA for PS2 and arcade. oh wait, you dont care about that one do you?
    honestly, you complaining about a female rock star wearing clothes like this is like me complaining because yukes made randy orton, triple h, booker t, and all those other wrestlers wear trunks in smackdown vs raw. wrestlers actually wear that, so i cant really say its demeaning to men now can i? same applies to you. if you feel its a negative stereotype maybe women shouldnt dress that way. its not stereotyping, its accurate representation.
    i’ll bet the women here are the exact same ones that will try and say they should be treated just like men, then turn around and say “can you lift that for me, i’m just a girl”. as a maintainer, if a girl ever asked me to get her tool box for that reason i would laugh and walk away. and how about “guys shouldnt hit women”. i dont mean abuse, i’m talking about girls that will hit a guy and expect not to get hit back. personally, i’ve had my ass kicked in the ring by girls who are better fighters than me(i’m a 3rd degree brown belt in chinese kenpo) so i see no reason why that “rule” even exists.
    there is so much hypocrisy coming from feminists its unreal.
    and for the record, i was pissed when i saw how they changed judy nails from GHII to GHIII. just not for the same reasons as you, because i use that thing most males use, logic. i like to make sense of things, so i just decided that i didnt like her outfits and *gasp* picked another character.
    and stop talking about how there arent enough women in the business and thats why this happens. women are the reason the guitar hero controller wont work with rock band on the ps3, not the reason judy nails got breast implants. and before you all think thats a sexist statement, its a fact. source- http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2007/12/20/standoff_hits_a_sour_chord_with_gamers/?page=2
    kthxbai

  34. ForWomen
    Posted December 29, 2007 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Who let you women on the internet? You should be in the kitchen making your man a sandwhich.

  35. ParadoxSaint
    Posted December 31, 2007 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I too am outraged by guitar hero III. For one, I am a masculinist, I am just flat out offended that they show men with no shirts on!
    They didn’t even bother to give them the decency of a few polygonal shirts!
    Not to mention that there’s Lars Umlaut– a fat guy with spikes everywhere. I would love to see a fat ass woman aswell, as it would only be fair.
    And for gods sake, put some clothes on marilyn manson.

  36. ParadoxSaint
    Posted December 31, 2007 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I too am outraged by guitar hero III. For one, I am a masculinist, I am just flat out offended that they show men with no shirts on!
    They didn’t even bother to give them the decency of a few polygonal shirts!
    Not to mention that there’s Lars Umlaut– a fat guy with spikes everywhere. I would love to see a fat ass woman aswell, as it would only be fair.
    And for gods sake, put some clothes on marilyn manson. I’m tired of seeing his dangling cock on stage.

  37. ParadoxSaint
    Posted December 31, 2007 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I too am outraged by guitar hero III. For one, I am a masculinist, I am just flat out offended that they show men with no shirts on!
    They didn’t even bother to give them the decency of a few polygonal shirts!
    Not to mention that there’s Lars Umlaut– a fat guy with spikes everywhere. I would love to see a fat ass woman aswell, as it would only be fair.
    And for gods sake, put some clothes on marilyn manson.

  38. ParadoxSaint
    Posted December 31, 2007 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I too am outraged by guitar hero III. For one, I am a masculinist, I am just flat out offended that they show men with no shirts on!
    They didn’t even bother to give them the decency of a few polygonal shirts!
    Not to mention that there’s Lars Umlaut– a fat guy with spikes everywhere. I would love to see a fat ass woman aswell, as it would only be fair.
    And for gods sake, put some clothes on marilyn manson.

  39. Posted December 31, 2007 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    I too am outraged by guitar hero III. For one, I am a masculinist, I am just flat out offended that they show men with no shirts on!
    They didn’t even bother to give them the decency of a few polygonal shirts!
    Not to mention that there’s Lars Umlaut– a fat guy with spikes everywhere. I would love to see a fat ass woman aswell, as it would only be fair.
    And for gods sake, put some clothes on marilyn manson.

  40. Slippy
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I am a man and if I may I would like to comment on this topic.
    The female form has been abused for as long as I can remember, why…pure and simple…men still dominate virtually every commercial industry there is. And this has to change, it is changing but maybe not quickly enough…and maybe not in the right way.
    We are told that we live in a post-feminist age, mostly thanks to Bridget Jones and her fellow clones…if this is progress god help us all. They have created this myth that women now have equal rights…wish I could see the evidence.
    Some of the women joining the media are now just as guilty as the men are of abusing the female form. Granted, most are trying hard to kill male driven stereotypes but some are more than happy to live up to them.
    My favourite character is Judy but her costumes are getting worse…not the worst in the game mind you, that award goes to Casey for wearing even less.
    It would be interesting to hear what Judita (Scouts of St. Sebastian) has to say, after all Judy Nails is based on/inspired by her. She also performed the motion capture for the majority of the female characters in the game.

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