By now anyone paying close attention to Street Fighter V has heard of some of the recent content changes. In an update released in November, the camera angle for R. Mika's Critical Art was changed to no longer show her slapping her butt before the attack. After a month of silence on the subject, Capcom has finally explained why. In an interview published on the 8th by UOL, Yoshinori Ono stated that the change was because "we don't want to have something in the game that might make someone uncomfortable." By itself, changing a game for more mass market appeal isn't a bad thing (although my tastes themselves tend to be niche), but this change isn't that. Ono's statement doesn't hold up to scrutiny though. This change isn't going to appease anyone who might be offended by R. Mika's costume (or those of Cammy of Chun-Li). Instead, by compromising their artistic integrity, they've only succeeded in watering down R. Mika's character design.
R. Mika is a female pro wrestler. Everything about her is brilliantly designed to capture the the spirit of pro wrestling. She has attacks that are wrestling staples (the Irish whip), and has others that are lifted directly from popular wrestlers (the Stone Cold Stunner). She wears an outfit that is not dissimilar to her real world counterparts. When it comes time to finish an opponent, many wrestlers will draw attention to their body part that they'll be using for their attack (such as The People's Elbow). Mika is no different here, as she slaps her butt before throwing her opponent into the air, followed by her and her tag team partner Nadeshiko flying towards the opponent and smashing his/her head between their butts. After Capcom's recent change, the slap is still audible, and the ending of the move remains unchanged (except for the opponent no longer being forced to do a split, likely changed to avoid clipping issues), but now the camera pans away from Mika's butt at the start.
The number of people who would be ok with all of that except for the butt slap is likely zero. I'm sure there are some pearl clutching moralists who would preach that Mika slapping her butt and hitting opponents with it is misogynistic and objectifying, something a male would never be subjected to. Of course, as any wrestling fan know, those people are wrong.
Here we see a real world wrestler known for slapping his butt before using it as his finishing move. Rikishi's move is framed as something disgusting, while Mika's is instead just shown to be painful. But because Mika is an attractive female, rather than an overweight male, she can't slap her butt because some people might construe it as sexual, or objectifying, and thus be made uncomfortable. To me, that sounds rather misogynistic, denying a woman something you wouldn't deny a man, merely because other people might misconstrue it as sexual.
By itself, the change is insignificant. It doesn't affect gameplay, and if it was never there to begin with only dedicated wrestling fans would think that Mika ought to do something (like slap her butt, for example) to hype up her move before doing it. It's the fact that something was changed and the shoddy reasoning behind it that have people seeing red. Let's face it, some fans would be angry at any change, but whereas many changes might have a valid gameplay reason behind them, this one doesn't. Instead, it's a half-assed attempt to "tone down" an attack's animation because some people may see it as sexual, or objectifying, or misogynistic. Even if it were sexual (which again, I've shown that it isn't), wouldn't this be a case of a female using her sexuality as a weapon (like Bayonetta)?
There is a fine line between censorship and good taste and moral responsibility.
Some are attempting to paint anyone who protests the change as horny perverts, or conspiracy nuts for calling it what it is: self-censorship. Frankly, those arguments don't hold water. If Mika had been first shown with a different critical art, one that no one could possibly feel uncomfortable about, would these "horny perverts" be shouting for a sexier move? Absolutely not. They didn't get angry when fan-favorite Karin was revealed to be wearing more clothes than her previous incarnation, so why would they get angry about changes to a character that none of them played in Alpha 3? They wouldn't. Instead, people are upset about a change made after the fact, revealing Capcom to as spineless, willing to diminish their artistic vision under the guise of "not making anyone uncomfortable." Limiting your art solely because it may offend someone is by definition self-censorship and is the first step to flushing one's artistic integrity down the drain.
Sex in art and entertainment is the most frequent target of censorship of crusades.
Ono admits in the interview that it won't be possible to remove everything that could make someone uncomfortable, and he's quite right. Trying to please everyone is a losing strategy. There are any number of things in SFV that someone looking for offense can be offended about, and changes to appeal to them may offend others (case in point ...). Some will call it misogynistic and objectifying if female characters are a dressed provocatively, others will call it misogynistic and demeaning to female sexuality if no characters are dressed provocatively as it suggests that women must be covered up. Here's a partial list of things in SFV that someone looking to get offended might find fault in:
- Ryu, Karin, and Chun-Li are all Asians who practice martial arts, perpetuating the stereotype that all Asians know martial arts.
- Karin is Asian, but has blonde hair, suggesting that she is influenced by western ideal of beauty.
- Ken, with his blond hair and easy-going attitude, is an American stereotype
- Birdie is a fat slob. This is a clear-cut case of fat shaming.
- R. Mika, Cammy, and Laura are all dressed in ways that appeal to the male gaze.
- Zangief is a both a stereotypical big Russian, as well as a common gay male stereotype, a bear.
- Bison is cartoonishly evil, which sends the message that evil is always readily apparent, rather than the more subtle ways it manifests itself in the real world.
- Nash seems to have been raised from the dead. Those who have recently lost loved ones may be reminded of their recent loss, and upset that they can't bring their loved ones back. Additionally, many religions view the act of resurrection to be sacred, something only deities are capable of.
- Vega and Birdie both use weapons, while the other characters are unarmed. This sends the message that cheating is acceptable.
- Similarly, R. Mika has her tag team partner assist in her fight, while every other character fights alone. Once again, a sign that cheating is acceptable, and may also suggest that as a woman she isn't strong enough to fight on her own.
- Rashid is Arabic, which may offended racist xenophobes.
- Rashid wears traditional Arab attire, yet another example of Street Fighter relying on sterotypes.
- Rashid wears an eyepiece similar to the scouters worn by the Saiyans in Dragon Ball Z, suggesting that he may want to destroy planets.
- Laura's hair is offensive to anyone with any sense of style.
- Dhalsim's use of yoga to stretch his limbs is a stereotype of Indians.
- The skulls around Dhalsim's neck are unnecessarily morbid.
- Necalli makes references to eating his opponents. This is a very stereotypical depiction of the ancient Aztecs.
- F.A.N.G.'s poison goes away after a short period of time. This sends a dangerous message to anyone who has been poisoned, as they should instead seek immediate medical attention.
- Street Fighter V allows players to play as both men and women, and it's possible for the women to lose. This encourages domestic violence.
- Street Fighter V shows characters doing impossible feats. This could result in children injuring themselves as they attempt to recreate the moves in real life.
I've seen it suggested that the real reason for removal was actually related to the ESRB rating. That if left unchanged, the butt slap would require "sexual themes" to be listed on the back of the box. I can somewhat understand Capcom making the change in that case (although I've made a clear case that the move is not sexual in nature), but Capcom still went about it the wrong way. By suggesting that the reason for the change was their own, they come off as spineless and weak-willed, unwilling to stand by their character design by self-censoring for fear of backlash. Instead, they could be seen as spineless and weak-willed because of pressure from a group of censorious jerks (or more accurately, an organization designed to serve the interests of bluenoses).