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Discovery: Dispute over Faith of Mirror’s Edge

The recent E3 (a videogame expo) released some information about a sequel to the awesome PS3/Xbox first-person action/adventure game called Mirror’s Edge…which, unfortunately, I only just learned about and have never played. Mirror’s Edge and its sequel feature a strong female protagonist called Faith. And she’s Asian.

Mirror's Edge

For a great explanation of the premise of the original game, here’s an official trailer:

Awesome, right? So here we learn that she’s not only fiercely kick-ass but also passionate.

Here’s a different trailer that demonstrates more gameplay:

I totally wish I could do that.

And now, because there aren’t enough videos embedded in this post already, here’s the new trailer for new Mirror’s Edge game, which dives into Faith’s origin story:

My mind is blown. I have to live this game. Now. Too bad I will never own its console. Maybe one of my friends will get really rich and blow their money on one of those overpriced boxes so that I can go over and camp out.

So, what’s the dispute? Apparently, fans of the game are complaining that Faith is ugly. And apparently, these people are Asian.

What, then, would a Faith that meets their standard of beauty look like?

Behold:A new Faith.The Korean fan artist made three changes. He enlarged the eyes, he puffed out and lightened the face and he enlarged the breasts.

Before I address the meaning of these changes, let me say this: I think that the original Faith is kind of drop-dead gorgeous. The gamemakers didn’t mean to make her stunning but I think she’s really beautiful. (Here‘s a fun interview with Owen O’Brien, the senior producer for Mirror’s Edge. He cites Joss Whedon’s strong female characters as a base camp for where Faith’s strengths originate, and Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity-verse as inspiration for the dystopian setting of Mirror’s Edge. Go. Read.) By the way: I love her eye makeup, and that is a sweet tattoo. And I just realized that the fan artist took the face tattoo away. WHY?! It’s pure unadulterated fierce!

Enlarging the eyes: “Asian small eyes” are a pretty hot issue, and surgery to make eyes bigger or to create eyelid folds is the most popular type of cosmetic operations in Asia. There’s a huge mindset that the typical eyes of a person from Asia are very small, and that very big, wide eyes are more beautiful. (Articles from CNN and a California high school magazine, about this particular phenomenon.) What about big eyes is beautiful, though? One argument might be rarity; if a society is populated by smaller eyes, the sheer novelty of bigger eyes may be attractive. Another is that bigger eyes may evoke the sense of a younger face. I personally think that this “younger face” ideal may be a big factor in at least South Korea, where they have completely elevated the ideal of 동안/베이비 페이스 “baby face” (Although, seriously, wouldn’t you be completely creeped out by a body with a face that resembles a baby just a little too much?). It’s also a huge advantage to look young in China and Japan.

Rounding and lightening the face: Rounding seems like a counterintuitive change to make, but then you see that original Faith is pretty gaunt. Light skin has been a sign of status in many cultures for a long, long time, indicating that a person is of a high enough status to not toil in the sun all day. It’s also a typical modern beauty ideal in Asian countries including South Korea and China. The effect? A healthy, bright, and probably well-fed individual.

Now, what do these bigger eyes and bright, round face do to the character of Faith? I definitely see the sense of youth creeping in. The fan artist did a good job of keeping the expression on her face, so she still looks fierce, but the girl on the left (original Faith) definitely has a stronger fire to her. Based on appearance alone, fan Faith looks not quite hardened enough and definitely does not have the look of a tough woman who grew up traversing the roofs of a dystopia. These two changes are enough to break her character. If I were a client requiring the services of a Runner for couriering sensitive information across a dystopian city and could only judge by outer appearance, I’d feel more comfortable hiring original Faith.

(Tom Farrer, Mirror’s Edge producer, also thinks that the fan Faith looks like a twelve-year-old girl with a boob job.)

But the breasts, the breasts! For one, I doubt that a simple black tank is going to encapsulate her breast shape like that. As I have no background in the actual artistry of rendering larger breasts, I will leave any evaluation of how realistic or unrealistic it is to those experts.

However, as a person, I can confidently say that if you’re jumping and flipping and ducking and squeezing around obstacles, a smaller bust is definitely going to be more valuable than a larger one, to the extent that even a smaller bust may turn out even better if compressed. Large breasts honestly get in the way even if they’re properly contained and restrained, and are you seriously expecting this petite woman to find a well-fitting action bra where she lives? I THINK NOT. For the woman’s own comfort, and for the type of work she does, I think Faith herself would prefer her original-sized breasts. If she cared.

Since she’s busy saving her sister, she might not.

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