Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Postscript: Concerning Vaas Cheesecake

Two people said they wanted to hear me expound about something I brought up in the last post after all, so, here it is.

This is Vaas Montenegro.

Vaas is one of the villains in Far Cry 3, an FPS that Matt played during the last couple of weeks. Far Cry 3 was quite a good game (I daresay a great game, but I wasn't the one playing it) with some pretty silly flaws, and one of the unexpected flaws was that there was not enough Vaas. He was meant to be one of a couple-or-three villains in the game, but fans said they wished there'd been more of him.

The best phrase to describe Vaas in brief is "sadistic nutbag." He's the kind of crazy where you wonder how exactly he has followers at all, because you can't believe even a gang of murderers would be terribly comfortable following his orders (if he has comprehensible orders beyond "bring me more cocaine and someone to kill"). Vaas is not terribly attractive, in my opinion. He's not designed to be attractive, he's designed to be a batshit antagonist. So, fine. I thought he was interesting, but no more appealing than Hannibal Lecter.

A few days ago, Japanese artist Doubleleaf, whose stuff has been featured all over the place with good reason, posted this to DeviantArt:

Yeah, Doubleleaf is an anime person. Let's just deal with that.

This picture was posted on Kotaku, where it spawned comments that included "I'm not gay, but...damn" and straight-up "PANT PANT PANT".

I told Matt I thought this was possibly the best cheesecake-for-straight-women I've ever seen. I printed it out and put it up on my pinboard (below a picture of Ryan Reynolds, because apparently I am thirteen), partly to help me with inspiration for one of the characters in my book and partly because I just really liked looking at it. A lot.

In my limited experience, cheesecake for women seems to take the form of shirtless firemen, which I've never really understood, and weird scenarios with yellow dish gloves and vacuum cleaners, meant to arouse women by indicating that men will keep them from having to do chores. I read a lively conversation online somewhere about whether blatant pictures of organs* turn women on (I think this was after the Anthony Weiner thing), with about half the women saying yes, bring 'em on, and the other half saying nah, they're weird-lookin'. None of these three forms really matches up with the place and purpose of the old Vargas pinups, which were definitely wank material but were also gorgeous representations of feminine ideals.

This is a pretty demure one, but you get the idea.
Google Image search Vargas when you're on a home computer. You won't be sorry. 
I love cheesecake, when I can quit thinking about the oppressive aspects of it, but finding cheesecake featuring men that's real cheesecake, not steroidal firemen-themed bizarro shit, is damn near impossible. This picture of Vaas, though, is perfect, and I spent a lot of energy over the past couple of days trying to figure out why. I think I've got it, you guys.

This picture is scary. Dude looks like he wants to cut me up and cook me. He's lifting his shirt to wipe blood away from his mouth, for heaven's sake, and holding a knife (central to the game, fyi), and there's a slightly snarling tiger in the background. It's partly because he's a freaking cartoon that it's even fun for me to look at this picture, rather than just shuddering and looking away.

You find me a straight woman who hasn't had a single fantasy about the Bad Boy, and I'll pay you a hundred million dollars.

Humans like to be thrilled. We like danger. It sets our hearts pumping and makes us feel more alive. We're kind of stupid that way. The range of human personalities dictates how much danger we like - for me, rollercoasters are too scary, but a good ghost story movie is the best thing ever; for others, only skydiving naked will do. The Bad Boy definitely represents danger, sometimes in a really unhealthy terrible way, but he's certainly exciting. He's unpredictable. He's fearless and probably a little crazy. He can dominate and overpower, and that can lead to some, uh, worthwhile experiences.

I must disclaim that having a real relationship with the Bad Boy is not highly recommended, by me or by domestic violence counselors. I myself married a Good Guy and he curls my toes plenty, in part because he's a Good Guy. But this is what's so cool about fantasy: you don't have to worry about having an escape plan or what you'll do when he gambles away the rent money again, you can just hang on by your fingernails and fantasize. You can look at this picture and imagine what he'd do to you if he was real for about three hours.

I posit that what's sexy about this picture of Vaas (a sort of idealized Vaas who isn't screaming insanity at the player after tossing her into a cage) is more or less the same thing as what's sexy about Vargas girls: implication rather than explicitness. Vaas has the added element of danger, which maybe isn't something commonly desired by men,** and so doesn't appear in Vargas. Of course, with the range of preferences out there, maybe I've just set forth how I feel about cheesecake and this picture, and it really has nothing to do with the larger question of gender and visual appeal at all.

Thoughts are welcome in the comments. A brief plea: there's a lot to say about exploitation and the patriarchy, and I don't consider this the moment for it.

In closing, I'd like to bring you this picture, which came up in my Google searching and made me laugh and laugh:

Note presence of celery

And as a postscript, I note that Doubleleaf clearly has the same attraction to Brads that I and a pretty decent-sized sampling of other women I know do. In case you don't know to what I refer:

One of Brad's actual Brads. 

There's another scene in Fight Club where they're even clearer, but I was in a hurry. Surely this muscle in a male body has an actual anatomic name, but I don't care, to me they're Brads and whenever I see them well-defined like this in a picture or a movie I drool like a baby.

*The word I mean probably keeps this page from being part of a safe search, so, y'know, that organ. 
**I could write a long sidebar here about fetishes and gender relations, but that would be WAY off the point. Let's just leave it where it is. 


Chad said...

HAH! I could hug you for posting the Lileks link. I swear, I found that site by accident probably around the time Stephen was born, and I still love it to this day.

Generally speaking, I think you're spot-on. There's nothing wrong with fantasizing about something - edgy, possibly slightly over the edge into dangerous. For ladies, I think the strength is something that they're culturally drawn to even if they know on some level that there's no real reason for it.

The firemen in scrubbing gloves, I think it's something about "He'll risk his life to save others BUT he's also sensitive and won't spend all his time yukking it up in the firehouse with the boys!" In personal experience, that particular animal is virtually extinct.

I don't think guys like "danger" as much, because there's not so much cultural messaging about it. Although some people will tell you that sex with a crazy woman is awesome, most will warn you away from it.

(If you haven't seen Chris Titus's stand-up, Love Is Evol, DO. There's a few things about sexing Teh Crazay in there... http://youtu.be/pdWl0jvDXgk )

PS. The muscle name is "oblique." And yes, apparently women go gaga over good obliques. Often within 10 minutes of insisting "No, honey, you were too skinny back then, you're much more attractive now. HOMMINA HOMMINA LOOKIT THAT DUDE'S ABS DROOOOOOL"

I think it's the reverse of the "No, honey, your boobs are perfect just the way they HOLY SMOKES CHECK OUT THE GAZONGAS ON HER"

Katharine Coldiron said...

After all these years, some of the best stuff on the internet is STILL on Lileks.com.

To be clear, I meant firemen OR dudes with cleaning supplies, not a mashup. I don't really understand either one, though. The thing I woke up this morning wondering is why women are granted safe fantasy imagery - this guy will save your cat or do your laundry - rather than unsafe ones, which is kind of a central role of fantasy, to let you do the stuff you wouldn't normally do. Fantasy is an ideal milieu for the bad boy, which is I guess why he appears in scads of romance novels and on so many TV shows. (I still get a little breathless when I think about Eric McCormack on Dead Like Me, light-years from his nonthreatening Will and Grace character.) But I'm not sure you see him in cheesecake much, which is like, hello! Untapped market!

To me, unsafe fantasies for men are where things like crush fetishes and dominatrixes (dominatrices?) come in. But I think that's all too complex to go into here.

Chad said...

Yep, probably too complex, but a good possibility for the future.