“You need to start taking better care of yourself. You need all the help you can get. Men don’t go for women like you.”
“What is ‘like me’?”
We are at a department store. My mother picks up a brassiere and hovers it over my chest as she closes one eye, sizing me up.
“Raped women. Women who have been used up. Here, try these on.”
I walk into the dressing room and I strip. I stare at myself in the mirror, cocking my head to the side as I trace the contours of my body, chalking an outline of the crime scene.
Juliet, the protagonist of Lollipop Chainsaw, is what you’d call “perfect” – as dictated by the most stereotypical features of western beauty ideals, anyway. Blonde. Blue eyed. Big chest.
She knows her place, and her role very well, too. She’s bubbly and airheaded. The camera pans around and she willingly bends over, or she giggles when a character says something crass or untoward.
I should dislike her and everything she stands for. I should reject such a flippant depiction of gender and sex in a medium I want to see grow, see mature. I should be repulsed.
I don’t. She’s the woman I’ve desperately wanted to look like all these years.
Growing up I was always the chubby tomboy the boys largely ignored. No hard feelings or anything. You’re a great girl, they’d say. Smart as hell. Funny – they’d compliment my sense of humor. Still, they’d dismiss me with a shake of the head as if saying oh you foolish, silly girl. What made me think I deserved affection or love, looking the way I did?
My body changed completely that summer as I dropped 80 pounds in a few months. Anorexia. Nobody batted an eyelash at the sudden weight loss – rather, it was taken as the natural outcome of a young woman who finally understood the way things worked. Womanhood, after all, means being prim and proper – make up, feminine clothes, pursuing sex appeal.
Juliet uses a chainsaw. My deadly weapon was my appearance. I knew this – that’s why I started picking clothes that would catch eyes, turn heads. Shirts unbuttoned slightly too low, sometimes enough to catch a glimpse of what was inside. Pants that were so tight it was difficult to raise my legs.
Clothes, you might say, that asked for it—
Weapons can be used against the wielders, I thought to myself as I picked up my clothes from the floor and my assailant left the room. I recall this moment as a zombie takes Juliet by force. Let me go! I mash the X button frantically.
Maybe the rape was unavoidable, I think to myself as I play. I developed anorexia months beforehand specifically to get guys like him to notice me. Well, they noticed me. I knew I started looking good, but the self-hatred they made me develop was so palpable, so tangible, resentment won out every time. I rejected all of them. You can look but you can’t touch. It was like some twisted form of revenge.
I get the zombie to unleash his vice grip, but then a slew of mindless zombies chase after me. Hands outreached, they call out to me, tell me what they’d do to me if I just let them. That horde closes in on me. I’m cornered, but this means the enemies are lined up, too. They’re all men. I chop off all their heads in a special attack – the screen sparkles in a rainbow. Juliet cheers. I feel nothing.
Still, Juliet takes some damage. Thankfully, there’s a lollipop in the room to replenish her health. It’s Juliet’s favorite food – ostensibly, because it’s light enough for her to feel okay eating it. It’s her “fetish” after all, and it implies that she’s self conscious about her weight: she likes being told that she’s not fat.
I pause. The ‘zombie cookbook’ comes up, which details the most lethal combos to use against my enemies. I try to memorize them, but I think I enjoy the game more if I just play it by feel, without worrying about the minutia. I’m not anorexic anymore, I still count every single calorie. It can suck the pleasure out of eating, but some things internalize themselves so deeply that you never let go of them.
My friend sitting next to me takes this opportunity to ask me if the game is fun to play, especially since they’d heard it was terrible – so why was I indulging in it? I realize then that finishing Lollipop Chainsaw is going to be a test of endurance, and all for what? The aesthetic? That superficial thing that shouldn’t matter but I care about so much anyway? Isn’t it the gameplay that should count above all? That innate thing about the medium that makes it special?
I start playing again, but I’m not really paying attention anymore. Juliet gets engulfed. She’s eaten alive. The game over screen flashes. It’s Juliet doubling over.
It kind of sounds like I dropped a plastic barbie doll on the floor.
About the Author:
Patricia Hernandez is the editor-in-chief of Nightmare Mode, a site devoted to writing critically about games, as well as a weekly contributor to Kotaku. She can be emailed at patricia (at) nightmaremode (dot) net.