Little Women Grow Up


Cristina Demaria and Antonella Mascio



Long life to new flesh![1]


1. This paper brought us up against a series of unforeseen difficulties.  Above all, we realised that the experience of videogames entails the acquisition of some sort of basic competence, without which it is hard to get into the schema of the game.  The use of technical instruments (“hardware” equipment) and of specific programmes (games “software”) only, in fact, become forms of real entertainment when used by people who are either mad about games or are experts.  On the contrary, coming into contact with these “entertainment machines” actually becomes frustrating if you do not know how to use them.  This primary factor made us – and allowed us – to look for information on videogames using other media.   We discovered that a real culture has emerged in the world of videogames (culture of play – pixel culture), made up of groups who share a passion, language and habit.    Those who belong to this culture sometimes create a virtual community -  gathered around several media (particularly specialist magazines) – which can be found on the Net.  Videogames are therefore not only a form of entertainment, but have some characteristics which indicate the potential to function as a medium in their own right, able to generate and diffuse discourse.

The world of videogames is a rather complex one, with a past (the generations of previous games), a present, and a future (the arrival of new versions, new technologies and new games).  The fact that stories are continued leads videogame users to think way beyond the end of any single game.  The tension is therefore transferred from the level of the game itself to the level of the overall subjects and the characters – of whom the heroines take up the most space and attention.   The sense of these texts is not expressed by the individual game, but through a combination of the discursive configurations which develop around it, and which define the world of the textual genres, the stories, the characters which inhabit them, and the storylines which they generate.  The flux of meaning which thereby emerges around videogames has strong intertextual elements: the individual videogame therefore fits into a fairly wide context: specialist magazines, comics, internet sites, films.

Given the complexity of this world, our original intention has been subject to some variations.  The idea of defining a typology of Lara Croft’s sisters – a task which would have required much greater knowledge, competence and skill at videogames than we actually have – has turned into a description of some of these figures, their identities and their bodies.  In fact, what is most striking, or better, what strikes us most (obviously not being the target of such games) in examining the female images on offer, is their transformation into – to quote the magazines in this sector – “sex symbols”, and therefore, the game of seduction that users are involved in.  What sort of cultural construction of sexualised bodies are we dealing with?  Can we call it a visible map of desire, a digital demonstration of lust shared amongst various communities and cultures?  We are proposing several directions for research, so far only ever hinted at, a series of questions and possible answers which are completely open. 

But before going into these matters, we need to take a brief look at the games and their environments/worlds. 



 2. Videogames constitute the realisation of a prototype of interactivity.    That is to say, the text requires that its ideal reader make choices during the course of the game.  Put simply, we usually define it as interactive literature as opposed to sequential literature, which anticipates the organisation of an articulate text in a linear fashion.  The interactive format of videogames, based on the player being continually asked to make choices, permits greater identification with the characters and stronger relationships with the images.  Thanks to technological advances, the videogame experience is no longer only audio-visual but now also tactile[2].

There are, however, different levels of interactivity: more or less ‘weak’, more or less realised.  Both in games in the third person and those in the first person (that is to say, when a player chooses a character and enters the game in that role), there is no actual acknowledgement of the viewer.  The user is not perceived or recognised by the characters, but he/she becomes a character in the game.  Especially when handling female images (as we will see later on, for example, in Kiseake – a doll you can undress), these images do not look at the player, but rather react to the stimuli sent by the console or the mouse.  There is, therefore, a particular superimposition of the levels of enunciation.  Along with the “here and now” of the game – and therefore along with the present of the enunciation referring to the situation during which the text is being used, we find the enunciated text in which the observed and manipulated figure remains trapped, so to speak.  Furthermore, there is no possibility of interruption and of reciprocal and simultaneous influence : conversation or moves are often predefined, and therefore non-negotiable in the interaction.  We are thus quite a long way from the interactivity of the Net, chat lines and MOOs.



3.  Still on the subject of the interactivity of the games, and to more precisely define the field in  which we are working, we must first make the distinction between videogames and computer games.  To play with the former type, which are the subject of this study, a PlayStation or other such console is required (for example, Nintendo), which has to be plugged into a television set.  Computer games are instead games which are played on an actual computer.  Many of these are today available on the Net, and can be played by several users at the same time, thereby exploiting the potentials of Internet: interactivity and synchrony.

Videogames belong to different categories: the logical course of the characters’ actions follows the rules of the genre the particular game is based on (adventure, horror, picchiaduro), slotting into a partly predetermined plot.  We have found that female protagonists are most common in video games pertaining to the following genres:

-adventure: adventure games are based on the accumulation of a long series of objects, which are in turn used to resolve riddles.  The game has a moderate pace.  The final adventures are based on an expert knowledge of cinema.  In some cases, the use of direction and subjectivity create the idea of an internal gaze of the videogame (level of enunciation).  Examples of this type are Tomb Raider and the world famous Lara Croft, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, with Claire Redfield.  Resident Evil is, in fact, considered the forerunner of a new genre, known as “Survival Horror”;


-picchiaduro: these are a lot like comics, and are sometimes even defined as “comics that move”[3].  They involve warriors who fight it out to the last in duels.  The games go at a whirlwind pace.  They are usually well-directed, and pick out a variety of camera angles (if you think, for example, about Tekken 3 with Ling Xiaoyu);


-role play: which are like adventure but provide action which is less repetitive and abstract.  The action unfolds in a series of long and complex epic stories of the exploits of a band of characters, and includes objects and events which belong to the world of magic (think of the Final Fantasy saga).  The competence necessary for exploration and acclimatisation is acquired throughout the course of the game.  Obsessive attention to detail and to the weapons available is required from the player.  The pace is quite slow;


-hentai: erotic games (erotic manga).  Considering the subject of our analysis, it seemed appropriate that we should add this group of games, generally absent from traditional typologies.  Search engines usually list these games in categories dedicated to eroticism and sex[4].  Hentai include images, cartoons and games based on mainly female characters.  They often use heroines who have already become famous through other games, thereby exploiting their fame and satisfying the curiosity of their public.   Think, for example, of the character Lara Croft, originally from Tomb Raider and then used with erotic valence in Nude Raider[5].


In the past, both videogames and computer games required the presence of male characters.  It was only in 1981 that Namco proposed Ms Pac-Man, a character with exactly the same abilities as her male counterpart, but who differed in her “feminine” look (she wore a red bow on her head…).  When one came across female figures, they were confined to the role of ‘object of value’, following the classic conventions of the fairytale: they were generally princesses who represented the trophy won after overcoming a series of obstacles and tests (for example, the games Prince of Persia and Double Dragon).  In other words, there was no female identity, either constructed or suggested: the characters had neither name nor history.  These digital stories instead actively exalted the fixed nature of the narrative structures and the thematic roles of traditional tales.  What is more, they were functional for the particular type of plot – deliberately simple and easily deconstructible – on which the games were based.  Before Lara Croft, according to some feminist theorists the female presence was actually carved into the very construction of the virtual environments: in their “uterine” architecture, full of tunnels, caverns and secret passages.

But the woman as an object of value has certainly not disappeared, even if today’s female characters are subjects with their own narrative programmes and their own objects of value.  An example is the videogame Toki Meki, which is extremely popular in Japan.  The aim of the game is to win the love of the beautiful Shiori Fujusaki – an aim, if you look closely, pursued by users ageing from 15 to 35.  Her role is, therefore, that of a prize to be won; in other words, to exist in function and as a conquest.  Each user has to go out with Shiori and try to start a relationship with her, based on a series of multiple choice questions and answers to which the user must suitably respond.  For example, Shiori might say, “Isn’t it a beautiful view?”: to respond to this observation, the player has three possible choices, but only the answer, “I hadn’t noticed, I’ve been watching you the entire time” will allow him to win the beautiful woman’s heart.

The first female protagonists came onto the scene with the aim of drawing girls towards this form of consumption.  In the course of time, however, these characters have worn increasingly scanty clothes, showing off bodies like super models, to attract the attention of a purely male public.  It must be said that within the games, the thematic roles carved for female characters frequently continue to mimic those of males (explorer-adventurer, warrior), based on physical attributes and values related to strength and agility, aggressiveness and determination.   One such example is Ling Xiaoyu in Tekken 3, who fights using Japanese martial arts techniques, and has an agile and nimble body which moves like those of her male companions.

But on thematic roles like these, others are superimposed.  Shiori, together with Lara Croft and many other videogame heroines, indeed exists in more than one guise: from the one just described – innocent and demure – to softporn and even hardcore versions.  Long before the advent of archaeologists or secret agents, policewomen and “cops”, some of these female characters – usually adolescents dressed in school uniforms – had, in fact, already started to migrate to soft porn videogames, thereby initiating a sort of interactive relationship with their fans.   Among the most common, is a programme called Kiseake, a real paper doll at the disposal of users.  They are in command of an image which they can slowly undress, choosing where to start from and the order in which they remove each item of clothing.  Alongside the soft porn versions there are also hard core programmes, where these images (image-bodies?) – often the same ones with minimal variations in ‘look’ – can be raped, tied up, humiliated and abused using dildos, ropes and used maxi pads.  In other words, users have different “levels of sexuality” at their disposal, from predetermined and platonic courtship to no-holds-barred torture and sadomasochism – always, of course, in order to “score”.

Female figures such as those in videogames are, however, migrating out of the games towards the Net: virtual idols, virtual models agencies, and now even anchor women, like Ananova – a digital product bought for 1 million pounds by the British mobile phone group, Orange.  Her face, similar to those of all female avatars (full lips, big eyes), will read the news 24 hours a day, “more quickly and efficiently than any flesh and blood newscaster could”.  The newspapers[6] are calling it a hybrid derived by “crossing” a Spice Girl with Lara Croft.  Is the artificial body imitating the human one, or vice versa?  In any case, the heroines of the videogames, together with their hybrids, seem to be consumer objects for a predominantly male public[7].  (N.B. in contrast with Japan and skim-reading of magazines where fans have generally been shown to be girls).



4. We should now take a closer look at the characters.  From a semiotic point of view, the same games can be studied as complex texts linked to more than one genre.  For example, Resident Evil does not function as a simple adventure (the genre with which it identifies), but presents a very articulate narrative structure – to such effect that some would even class it as the origin of a new genre.

In the same way, Final Fantasy has many elements linked to the dynamics of adventure and picchiaduro.  It  demonstrates its nature as a role-playing game through forms of  exhibited narrative - produced using dialogues similar to cartoon strips - which require the constant co-operation of the player, who has to choose which answers to give his interlocutor.

Interactivity is highlighted here and put into action: in fact, the player – by managing the character and making choices through him/her[8] – uses an established discursive tone, moves in certain environments rather than others, and encounters obstacles or help.  In general, the actual course of the game is chosen by the player through the moves made by the character they direct.

The fascination relating to the adventure is enhanced by a series of other elements, like setting, the use of direction, the presence of background sound effects or music.  In addition to the backdrops – which in 2D already offered a variety of interactive possibilities – 3D renders the game experience still more compulsive, by creating the possibility of frame movements in real time, and of following the action using subjective shots.   The introduction of depth indeed represents the most existential dimension, and is considered in semiotic terms “as one of the most effective tools in the potentiation/strengthening of an impression of spatial reality” (Cavicchioli 1996: 22).

In directing characters, the space becomes a place of experience of a dynamic nature, lived through the movement of bodies and gaze.  Within these settings, the view of what is visible is represented through the use of a cinematic grammar: so several points of view regarding space and time are used, resulting in the realisation of a sort of emulation of the effect of reality.  All this is continuously accompanied by a range of sounds comprising music, voices or noises.

One of the most interesting moments of the games is that of the introduction, which determines the starting point of the story and the presentation of its characters.  In some cases, (if you think about Resident Evil: Code Veronica) the introduction serves as a means to describe the plot, and consequently to drive the “crusade” of the character to be directed.  The characters are presented in this way in order to describe their personalities.   Claire Redfield, for example, appears right from the first introductory scene (in sequence after the prologue) astride a motorbike, wearing next to nothing.  The look in her eyes, the decisiveness of her movements, the way she walks and rides seem to pertain more to a male than a female role.  This same Claire, however, is feminised in the magazines, articles and images of her on the Net.  This is where characters are transposed from the stories depicted in individual videogames to assume alternative roles: the discursive configurations which evolve and circulate around the heroines ensure that they assume other roles.  It is in the broadest context of videogames that these heroines exhibit well-defined characters, and are significant in other ways.  In fact, they undergo a process of “personification”, whereby a clearer choice of gender occurs, together with the creation of  biographical elements and stories about their private lives.  These characters therefore begin to become part of a wider (possible) variety of worlds: not only do they belong to a setting which is pure fantasy (the videogame), but they also appear in other media, attracting the curiosity and attention of readers who possibly do not even know  of the videogames, or have never played them.  To us, this seems to be the fundamental moment in the activation of the process of transition from character to idol, just as has already happened to other virtual idols on the Web: from the pop singer Kyoko Date to the myriad of models (Aimee, Busena, Webbie, ecc.). The circulation of discourses, mainly via new media (web pages, chat-rooms, newsgroups, mailing lists)[9] has sealed the celebrity status of these characters.

At present, we are thus witnessing the phenomenon of contamination with other textual forms: both cinema and comics are starting to develop projects which translate the life stories of virtual idols.  As well as this, all the various forms of erotic literature (from hentai to Playboy) have already made space for their spicy adventures. But it is these texts which form a sort of character identity, almost completely absent from the games themselves, in which the subjects narrative programme (for example, Lara Croft or Claire Redfield) is basically to eliminate adversaries and obstacles.  So, we are mainly talking about empty figures, images which need completing with a past, present and future, with desires and worries – imagined by other authors, by the media which talk about them, but above all, by the fans who project their own worries and desires onto them.  An identity that is therefore completely malleable, which is not narrated by the subjects to be defined, rather by other voices who fill these image-bodies with a history.  And it is towards these very bodies that we now turn our attention.



5. “The opposition between dead, heavy meat and the ethereal body of information – the ‘I’ without body – is one of the dualisms which define cyberculture.” (Dary, 1997).  Cyberculture is often described as being laden with hatred of the human body – a hatred which originates from its imperfections, its dirtiness, its mortality.  A culture which therefore exults either an ‘I’ without a body, which is replaced by the net; or a “firm body” – more and more common among pop stars and actors/actresses – transformed into futuristic sculpture with well-defined edges and smooth surfaces.   When there’s no other way, the body is made metallic.  The feminine images which we have briefly outlined are also rigid and firm; every trace of vulnerability, softness and humidity has been banished.  If, in the various metaphysical examples of the body, there exists a division between a soft, fluid and liquid female body and a hard, organised, phallic body devoid of a womb – a body-machine – videogame heroines would definitely appear to favour the latter type.

Of the female body, the curves remain, but not the softness, removed like whale blubber, together with the womb.  Liberated from a very precise feminine mystique, Lara Croft and her sisters, however, represent another: that of the firm and indestructible body, above all that of a seductive but not ambiguous or ambivalent body, unable to give birth or transform, therefore devoid of mystery.

Might hatred or celebration of the body, and attempts at liberation from its weight, its fatigue and its vulnerability therefore translate, to quote an apparent cliché, as a widespread uncertainty about its destiny? Is it, quite simply, just about repressed anxieties looking for relief in the destruction of the bodies of others, or in the simulation of such destruction?  A lot of videogames are violent, and female body-war machines take part in this violence.  There are games in which splatters invade the screen and you can find weapons which, for example, if well-placed in the weak spot of an adversary’s head, can suck their brains out.   But in what terms can we attempt to talk about or describe the bodies of Lara Croft and her sisters? Lara Croft, reclining like a pin-up in a swimming costume beside the sea, to publicise the new version of her videogame – can we call that a body?  We are certainly dealing with images used as bodies, the meaning of which is a body, even though there is no referent to call upon.  Those that die and are reborn at the end of each game – are they bodies?  In reality, it is the user who dies and is reborn through the ‘body’ of the character.  Their vulnerability is therefore attributable to whoever uses them, and to the speed and dexterity of that person.  The character exists above and beyond the concrete game considered as a text, which actualises something virtual, and therefore always available and repeatable.  The player-protagonist can thus be hit and die (the words “you are dead” even appear on the screen), but they can constantly start playing again, relying on the integrity of the image-body with which they have “coupled”.

These bodies without organs are, however, even more distant from those described by Deleuze and Guattari (1980).  More than images referring to bodies without organs, they are images referring to bodies without flesh.  A body without organs is a non-articulated body, is flesh.  But a body without flesh, without cracks, without holes and orifices – to what “logic of sensation” does it refer?  These are image-bodies in contrast to the mass body (Marsciani 1999), intended as an example of collocation in the space and time of signs, language and discourse, “which traces and establishes, one by one, the constitutive difference between the self and other, here and elsewhere, and the here and now as presence, with respect to the real (that which has been) and the possible (that which is to come)” (Marsciani, 1999:301).  If there is an intrinsic corporeality to every articulation of sense, a layer which precedes, but at the same time determines the semiosis, maybe it should be sought in the bodies of the players, and in their syncretism with these images.  (But is that where it should be sough, or is it perhaps not a problem of corporeality?)

Indeed we know that the body, in its semiotic capacity, is not a mere surface, a sort of closed text, but rather a “modifier of sense, the site of the transformations which give life and effectivity to sense” (Marsciani 1999:303).  The body therefore does signify in a dense way, and its effects can apply to the enunciated body and the body of the enunciation, the written body and the body which writes.  In the videogames and in the interaction between user and female images, a body of enunciation is superimposed onto an enunciated body, and witnesses a language of specific actions – regarding, for example, mobility and immobility – the enduring and inchoative aspects of behaviour, in which syncretism between enunciated body and body of enunciation are fundamental.  Unfortunately, as we wrote at the start of this paper, such observations would need to be substantiated using a competence that we do not possess.

From a study instead based on an ethnographic survey, several interpretations of the figure of Lara Croft and her sisters, and of this standardised body with its minimal variations have arisen[10].  Such female creatures are monstrous scientific products, daughters of an alienating progress, malleable techno-dolls made by and for the male gaze.  Otherwise we are talking about drag queens.  In most cases, such characters are, indeed, manipulated by male players, who, in identifying with a female avatar, add to the confusion by blurring the gender differences further.  In other words, these “bad girls” – as they have been defined by specialist magazines – offer adolescent boys and adult men the chance to assume a temporary female identity, even if only for the length of a game.  The third possibility is that this is about femmes fatales, dominatrix figures who rouse the masochism in male players – attracted by the cruel and violent ways they unhesitatingly and tirelessly eliminate their adversaries.  Or perhaps another possibility might be that these avatars can offer female players subject positions, which are, if nothing else, considered redeeming, and no doubt an improvement on those offered by games expressly directed at a female public, such as Barbie-Dressup and Ms. Pacman, which continue to perpetuate classic stereotypes.  In the end, these bad girls give women the chance to experience through an artificial (voice and) body the abject desire which few will confess to but many actually harbour: fantasies of violence and bloody conflicts.



6. It is nevertheless true that Lara and her sisters do not have many female fans.  So we remain with the problem of how to deal with or try to articulate the possible seduction, when it is not a case of sexuality exercised and offered by these polygon-shaped bodies.  Could it be the distance itself, which exists between these “bodies” and the real ones, and at the same time the interaction – which in any case causes a real body, through game use, to enunciate a digital body – which represent the margin in which a certain type of sexuality is explored?

The heroines of manga and anime, and therefore to some extent the figures of videogames too, demonstrate anatomically exaggerated forms which are almost incongruous with the human body: the legs generally occupy two-thirds of the figure’s height, and the eyes are exaggeratedly large.  The human body is thus  deconstructed, some of its parts dissected, amplified and recombined to create an image which is totally artificial, but apparently seductive.  Even when we come across heroines or virtual idols whose features bear greater apparent similarity to “human” ones, they are still exaggeratedly perfect, smooth and voluptuous hybrids.  The bodies with which one interacts are, however, physically deformed images in terms of biological standards: representations without references in the ‘real’ world; figures of people who, not only do not exist, but who could never exist.  Physical deformation and artifice are, however, nothing new to seduction; and long before Lara Croft or Kioko Date came into existence, Baudrillard (1979) had placed artifice at the centre of every form of seduction, citing the example of transvestites: with their mannerisms and exaggerated figures and facial features.  This is not to mention deformation of the female body/women’s deformation of their own bodies in many cultures: from Japanese foot-binding to the shrunken wombs of our bourgeois culture.

To this remodelling of the body, is add its freezing in a state of perpetual youth, transcending the time-scale of the games’ narratives.  On the other hand, each game can be interrupted and started from scratch: its time can constantly be repeated and re-written.  Lara and her sisters can certainly become obsolete, lose value, but there is no visible trace of this deterioration: the image does not age, nor is it damaged or modified by being in the world, probably because its value is precisely that it does not exist autonomously, that it is not alive.  Do these female avatars, these silicon sylphs, represent the extreme synthesis of the “hybrid non-women” to which Naomi Wolf (1991) refers in The Beauty Myth?  For centuries, the female body has been reduced to reified flesh; have we then today gone as far as reified female image which no longer even has any flesh?

The declared, exaggerated and self-expressed artificiality of these images would therefore seem to constitute part of their appeal for the public[11].  Almost as if the impossibility of being touched, but at the same time, the possibility of being controlled, gives these bodies a passive innocence and virginity, which are apparently irresistible.  There is nothing under their clothes… All social pressure and every effort which any human interaction involves are absent from these figures.  At the same time, the fact of not being able to touch or penetrate these young and adolescent bodies gives the users (particularly the numerous adult men who play) the chance to transgress and break a taboo – which can be done without damage or harm to anyone.  The digital image would therefore function as a “site for affection … completely risk free … There is no risk of her character betraying the model that has been constructed because she  does not exist as an entity outside her function… There is no mechanism for satisfaction within these images, only the simultaneous perpetuity of sexual possibility and impossibility … and that’s what keeps us watching” (Hamilton 1997).

The seduction therefore arises from the fact that such images do not have material referents, real “two dimensional fetishes”, not necessarily flat, but  relegated to the screen.  On this subject, the “neopagan fetishism” (Formenti, 2000) of Mario Perniola (1994) comes to mind.  Derived from the concept of the sex appeal of the inorganic (Benjamin 1955), it states that the only real metamorphosis which can truly interpret our times is that of “becoming a thing” – in other words, agreeing to amalgamate and to “make love” with things.  Perniola, starting from a semantic shift of the term “fetish”, no longer linked with the Marxist concept of commodity fetishism, goes as far as to assert that today “the fetish does not portray or reproduce anything; it here and now surrenders to its being a thing, to its abstract universality, which is completely exclusive of any link with a spiritual or a determined form.  It is not the symbol, nor the sign, nor the code for something else (…) fetishism signifies the triumph of the artificial, which effectively occurs in its opaque and indifferent arbitrariness, in its being something sentient.” (Perniola, 1994: 68).  The fetish feels without being alive, and its existence brings us towards a devolution, which does not, however, necessarily represent an involution:  “no returning back to the primitive (…) the horizon opened by devolution is post-human, not pre-human” (1994: 88).  The sensuality of sentient and neutral things is not exhausted in with orgasm: it is the state of perennial excitement which “the permanent availability of things renders possible” (Formenti, 2000: 124).



7. We are, in any case, rather a long way from the myth of the cyborg, proposed by Donna Haraway (1991).  If such fetishes, in some way – but do they?- reconcile the division between body and mind, mechanisms and organisms, nature and culture, they do not, however, affirm differences (sexual, ethnic, racial) which refuse to be annulled or repressed.  If such a cyborg should ever exist, (she) is yet to come.

For now, it appears to us that the presence of a single stylised, standardised, and undoubtedly ‘fetishised’ body has been established, in which, however, the object-thing does have the semblance – albeit artificial – of a female body.  But at the same time, perhaps it is wrong to restrict ourselves to the condemnation of such figures and their ‘fetishization’, and to so hastily dismiss the question of our relationship to object-things, which may be considered as true “actants” which, together with humans, take part in the construction of the social fabric of life.  A possible direction for research could therefore be found in the concept, in turn hybrid, of “dispositif” – which can allow an interdependent re-thinking of the subject-object relationship, “non plus sur le mode de l’instrumentation ou de l’aliénation, mais sur le mode de la fréquentation, du contact ou même de l’experience affectivo-corporelle, voire du jeu.” (Peeters e Charlier, 1999: 17). 

But how can you then incorporate the differences in genre and sex in these relationships?  In the body-objects which we have examined, such relationships seem to put forward again values which belong to a society which is still, to some extent, patriarchal: involved in various thematic roles, they are warrior women whose identity, however – once narrated outside the games – is inevitably linked to the shape of their bodies.  And so it is no coincidence that a subculture of subversive game hacking already exists, which defines strategies to reconfigure the formats of computer games – inventing games patches which “predate” Tombraider, Resident Evil and Forsaken – exchanging the characters with avatars which rewrite their bodies and identity.




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[1] This is the exclamation made by Max Renn at the end of David Cronenberg’s film, Videodrome

[2] For example, the joystick and the  PlayStation guide the charchter’s actions using small, hand-held aid through which you can even receive vibrations

[3] Cf. Hertz, 1997

[4] one of the many examples is Yahoo Italia’s listing of hentai in the category “Business and finance”:

Affari e economia>Aziende>Sesso>Gallerie di immagini>Fumetti e cartoni animati>Hentai

[5] Cf. the article by Anne-Marie Schleiner, “Does Lara Croft Ware Fake Plygons”, available at the address:



[6] See “La Repubblica”, 6th July, 1999

[7] In Japan, however, manga has a large female readership.  The protagonists of video games and virtual idols, however, usually attract an almost exclusively male audience, not only in Japan, as a quick look at the scores of specialist magazines tells us, in which both the construction of the readership and the represented reader are clearly male.

[8] In practice, the player, through the characther, makes a series of choices regarding the route and the objects or weapons to take with him/her (role palying).


[9] In Italy a magazine called “Tomb Raider” exists which is entirely dedicated to Lara Croft

[10] See Schleiner’s article

[11] Virtual idols, especially Kyoko Date, have not been as successful as had been hoped.  Hamilton (1997) suggests the reason is that Kyoko is still too human, or at least, that it is a programme which tries to appear and act like a real human being; an amalgamation of traits and characteristics which in any case refer to an existing person.  She has a voice which belongs to someone, and she moves like a human being, thanks to a technique which allows the movements of a ‘real’ body to be recorded and then transferred into digital images.