While writing last week’s Critical Role recap, I looked up the DnD 5e stats for a succubus. It was relevant to the story, and I wanted to have them for my own reference. I don’t think it was an official Dungeons & Dragons description, but I found a stat block for the creature that included her height and weight: 6′ and 125 lbs. The accompanying picture showed a creature who was most certainly not 125 pounds.
125 is what I refer to in my head as a “hot weight.” It’s a number that people find attractive, but doesn’t always translate to a healthy weight for many women. A woman six feet tall and this weight would be fairly thin. The picture, however, featured a very curvy woman.
I get comments from people arguing that realism should not be a factor in criticizing games, especially for fantasy games like DnD. The argument (as I understand it) is that, since games are a form of escapism and set in a fantasy world, it’s okay to have the characters be a masculine or feminine ideal. However, there are some issues with this logic: namely that it isn’t a general fantasy, it’s a male fantasy. Cultures like gaming culture are as prone to male influence and patriarchy as any other subculture, and it comes through in these ways.
Nathan Drake seems to be the default when comparing men demanding hot women in games to women demanding more representative characters. This further confuses me. I’ll compare replace Nathan Drake with Indiana Jones for this argument because Indy is more well known and the characters are somewhat similar. In the case of both Indy and Nathan Drake, they are still a male fantasy. While many women in various types of media lack personality beyond a cup size, men rarely get the same treatment. Sure, Indiana Jones is played by Harrison Ford, who is a good-looking dude. But the focus is on Indy’s accomplishments. He’s an archaeologist and great adventurer. That’s what the story is about: his adventures.
Indy runs through caves and finds treasurers and defeats bad guys. He’s a certifiable badass. And, at the beginning of the first film–after his cool action sequence–he has college co-eds fawning all over him, even though he’s their teacher and much older than him. I don’t understand what part of this is a female fantasy. Many women can take the place of Indy and envision themselves on cool adventures, but how many women can really relate to the lovesick college student? Essentially, the expectation is that women–even in the media that’s meant to be for them–are expected to be passive participants.
The other issue I have with this argument is that the only way to escape is through perfection. It’s not a problem to have a character that’s good at fighting, always has a one-liner, and is dashingly handsome, but that’s not the type of character everyone wants to play. And not everyone’s idea of “hot girl” will be the same. Insisting that others are wrong or lying when they want diversity in their fantasy is a particularly annoying form of gatekeeping. The only answer is to have the fantasy world be somewhat like real-life in that you have to just let people be. Fantasy and escapism are built upon real life, whether the abilities and situations are the same or not.
Does that mean that I’m arguing that all characters in gaming should be some kind of hideous woman? No. The issue is rarely with individual characters. Rather, the issue is with a trend. The “hot weight” myth is prevalent throughout our culture and has permeated gaming. This is simply an example of it. Weight is sometimes mechanically relevant in DnD, but this is evidence of obsession with a number for a person or group of people who are both cohorts in perpetrating and victim to this hot weight myth.
The real fantasy here is that a very tall woman can somehow keep to a particular number on the scale while having large breasts and a round butt. Neither of those two things are weightless. They contribute to a person’s total weight. For a succubus, who’s role is to be a feminine sexual ideal, this body type makes sense. It’s a societal default for sexiness.