Jim Sterling’s crowd funded endeavor, the Jimquisition, continues to tackle some hard subject matters. In his latest video, Sterling took Shadow of War to task on its completely unnecessary sexualisation of a Spider. Yes, they made a Spider sexy.
Titled “Sexy Shelob”, Sterling wanted to explore how the design decision in the upcoming Shadow of War symbolises a greater problem within the industry. Developer Monolith Productions and publisher Warner Brothers took a character from Tolkien’s seminal work in a very strange direction.
The spider Shelob has now been turned into an attractive raven haired woman. In her reveal trailer, we get a good glimpse of what to expect from the new direction. Seductive mannerisms, a sexualised look and a soothing voice – the design is pandering. It is important to remember, she was originally a scary giant spider.
Sterling took a more focused approach noting how the decision was not isolated but symbolic of a greater problem of representation. He referred back to a video he did years ago which still holds relevance. He argues that Primal Rage’s Vertigo (a giant cobra monster) is still one of the best female characters in Video Game history. The original is worth viewing and his recent one reiterates his reasons in relation to Shelob’s new groove.
Of course it is impossible to criticise the story characterisation without playing the game, but that is not the issue. The criticism is focused squarely on design that is the purest example of pandering. What could have been an interesting interpretation of a beloved part of LotR lore has been turned into the dullest form of sex appeal. For mass consumption, apparently even a Spider must be turned into just an attractive woman.
Sterling notes a very important fact: if Shelob was an antagonist, they would have used her traditional design. Female bosses often are made to be unpleasing while companions tend to be attractive. The general belief is that it is easy to like them when they are candy to the eyes. It is antiquated thinking yet one that continues to be a prominent part of media. It is a trope that should have died out long ago.
While Shelob’s new look was something that was with met ire from fans, it has been well over-shadowed by the more recent news. Just recently, it was announced that Shadow of War would feature micro-transactions. Loot Crates which provide random items are included which can be bought for real money. The publisher is facing heavy backlash in what many consider shoehorning in unnecessary and exploitative payment models.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is releasing on October 10th this year. It will be available on PC, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. All the missteps leading up to launch aside, the sequel to 2014’s surprise hit still looks promising.