November 8th, 2007

What’s the one thing that could save the dignity of the Beowulf franchise? Oh, I know: a naked, digitized Angelina Jolie.

Huh? Apparently, Angelina is doing the voice acting and mocap for Grendel’s mother–of all people/characters/things. Her nudie pixel likeness appears in the movie, and now it’s made its way into the game. Along with it comes “much sexual innuendo,” according to Beowulf‘s narrative designer Gabrielle Shrager. There was “no way around it,” says Shrager, “because the Faustian character who is Grendel’s mother goes about getting you to sign the dirty deal with her by using her extremely tempting body… It’s a very, very important part.

Shrager goes on to say, “There’s a feminist twist to it because she’s using all of her feminine wiles to say ‘look how easily I can wrap you around my finger.‘ What’s great about it is that in the game you can resist that… You’ll get heroic points for it depending how long you last. It can be very, very difficult.

Okay, let’s back this feminism bus up. Before we claim there’s something empowering in prepackaged, Hollywood-generated, Angelina-esque sexiness (a claim the game itself seems to deny, since it rewards players for fending off sultry female otherness), let’s look at the larger issue: when did Grendel’s mother go from a vicious ball of fur and claws to a naked temptress? Imagine Grendel. Not too pretty, right? Now imagine Grendel with eyelashes and a bra. That is Grendel’s mother. Weird, sure. But a grotesque force to be reckoned with. Not a naked beauty with digital nipples.

Granted, the choice to make Grendel’s mother a sexualized character is an interesting one. Remember, you’re in the presence of someone totally obsessed with femininity and monstrosity–so the idea that this monster of a literary character could carry a sexual (and sexually powerful charge) is kind of great. But, in my opinion, the movie makers–if the game makers–totally chickened out. To really push the reinterpretation, they should have let a hideous monster of a Grendel’s mother seduce Beowulf while slobbering out from between her razor sharp teeth.

Giving us Angelina Jolie makes everything super safe. We all know she’s sexy. There’s nothing daring or challenging there. But if we felt drawn in by the feminine whiles of something ugly, something base… Well, then we might really earn our heroic points.

Tags: new games, sex/gender imagery

11 Responses to “Angelina Would be Sexier with Fur”

  1. Corvus Says:

    Well, they did give her tentacles, which not only is a little creepy, but is a rather fun tentacle-porn role reversal. But you’re right of course, making her truly monstrous would have been an even stronger message.

    Besides, Tony Shaloub’s makeout scene in Galaxy Quest already did the tentacle porn role reversal.

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Tentacle porn role reversal. Excellent.

  3. John H. Says:

    If you ask me, the place where the Beowulf movie went wrong can be best summed up by noting the movie has a narrative designer.

    Somewhere in crypto-pagan Heaven, an exceedingly irate warrior-poet is right now banging his mailed fist against the door of the Karma Department.

  4. A. Bowman Says:

    I feel inclined to point out two things. One, the film is written by Neil Gaiman which automatically wins it many points and a gigantic pass on many issues.

    And two, we don’t actually know what Grendel’s Mother was supposed to look like, and in fact there are many interpretations in which she is believed to be quite beautiful.

  5. Corvus Says:

    What’s wrong with having a narrative designer? It doesn’t automatically imply the lack of a good script.

  6. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Wait a sec, the movie script was written by Neil Gaiman? Blame it on the fact that I don’t live in the US at the moment, or the fact that I don’t even own a TV right now, but I had no frickin’ clue. See, that even works on me. I automatically give it more props. Still, in my opinion, the trailers look just awful, writing included. I guess we’ll have to see…

  7. Corvus Says:

    Yeah, I’m not thrilled with the move towards “realistic” rendering. Monster House was such a great example of compelling visual design that I had hoped Zemeckis would be taking a similar approach to this project.

  8. Aaron Says:

    I’ve been internally debating about what exactly to make of the feminist twist of the movie (I have not played the game or heard much about it). One important thing to remember though, is that the teen boy fantasy form of Grendel’s mother is presumably not her true form. She is a shape-shifter of some sort, and presumably appears as a highly sexualized fantasy-woman because she knows that Beowulf is weak and will not be able to resist. So from that perspective, within the framework of the film, one might argue that the makers have put a truly feminist spin on the story. On the other hand though, come on now, the film-makers know that having Angelina Jolie strut her nude stuff is going to attract all of us real-world males, with all our weakness, to see this picture. So are they really saying that males are weak for being too easily seduced by nude, big breasted women? Maybe to an extent. But I doubt their real intent is to insult their main viewer base.

  9. jay demo Says:

    angelina you suck

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