In Defense of Bayonetta: It’s not blasphemous at all folks!
May 17, 2010 at 5:16 am by rosenqueen
The Platinum Games release ‘Bayonetta’ and its titular namesake has been the subject of controversy since her debut. The specific issue in focus at hand is the game’s ‘sacrilegious’ content owing to its bold portrayal of angels as the pawns and cronies of ‘Creator’ figure in the game; with said ‘Creator’ figure being the final boss of the game. To top it off, Bayonetta is a witch and happens to derive her beyond human capabilities from the depths of hell.
The interesting mix of these two is the perfect concoction to stir up the morals of the far more conservative branch, no doubt.
Indeed, they’re angels. At least by the company’s admission and interpretation. They have wings and have the ranks while carrying out the will of the divine. The game’s plot? It’s steered towards rebellion against God. But it’s not blasphemous.
It may seem like it, but isn’t.
This game is a work of art in terms of visuals, music and game play.
‘Bayonetta’ lives out the saying of ‘art imitates reality with its carefully selected ingredients to concoct the best possible universe for it’s bigger than life titular character. As a truly spectacular piece of ‘imitation’ it has managed to stir controversy owing to those said ingredients.
To start it off, let’s define blasphemy.
Blasphemy, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary is, “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.’
The world of Bayonetta, like many games, borrows elements from the real world in order to form its own universe with its own background, mythos and colourful cast.
It borrows the levels of existence (Paradiso, Purgatorio and Inferno) from Dante’s Divine Comedy. It is notable since prior to this, the concept of Purgatory was unheard of. Since then, the world has had every possible interpretation where and what purgatory could be with its divine and devilish counterparts. The religious systems of Christianity and Wicca inspired the two warring clans of the world of Bayonetta namely the Lumen Sages and Umbram Witches. Rich in beliefs in the divinity and holiness of light, Christianity also happens to be mostly a male-dominant religion with a masculine Creator God at its helm. With the use of the themes of light and resurrection as proof of their holiness. On the other hand, the Umbran Witches thrive on the beyond humanly capabilities of superhuman stamina and magic. They revere the moon. As a source of power and the icon of their unnamed religion, practicing magic arts you’d expect no less from witches (Double Double, Toil and Trouble anyone? It happens to be an achievement in the game!) But the source of their power is given a demonic treatment; such that they draw their powers from the depths of hell rather than from Mother Nature herself. The results of these derivations are fictional religious systems that are similar but not the same in name or in spirit. The unnamed religious of Lumen and Umbran have become independent of both real life religious. They may be similar in some respects but they’re not the same. Not anymore.
From that alone, we can see that it’s not blasphemy at all. These fictional religious system operate differently in terms of their pantheons, systems of worship and beliefs. The god-like entities at the head of their pantheon are women, polar opposites of each other as rulers of Paradiso and Inferno, for example, is anything like Christianity’s Yahweh and Wicca’s Mother Goddess at all.
The clash of the two clans was not driven by religion. It was a clash of morals and obligations: to continue to uphold the balance of things, remaining obscure for eternity or seizing the opportunity to become almighty and powerful. In this game, religion is nothing more than one of the elements in the backdrop to liven up the circumstances.
The concept of angels and demons were also of high controversy. Commonly, these two forces are known to be at war and are polar opposites. However as it came to be: in-game, angels are feared as harbingers of death while demons protect the masses. Quite a 180’ from what we know. This bold depiction of the divine and devilish caused an uproar thanks to its portrayal. But really now, in addition to this to be a work of fiction, angels and demons are concepts not unique. There have been metaphysical beings of heavenly and hellish alignments that predate the Christian times such as the Fravashi and Lilith of Mesopotamian civilization. The fravashi happen to be the ‘ancient’ angels, as they served as messengers to the gods with their curly beards and falcon-like wings. There are also angels and demons elsewhere in other cultures as well. The deconstruction of roles isn’t new either. Yes, there was deconstruction. It was even admitted that they were created such that the angels ‘are not what they seem to be’.
The player is made to control a witch to fight against the heavenly hoards in an attempt to uncover her past and unwittingly, save the world in the process. She has a retinue of demons, brews and other taboo under her disposal. Bayonetta definitely fits the archetype of the ‘evil character’ due to her dark character but instead she is given the protagonist’s role as she struts about in high heels.
I’d have to agree, the idea of fighting the heavenly hoards is uncomfortable because it’s never been done much since it’s often the other way. And for more religious, it might be a simulation for fantasy violence against heaven itself or worse. I can only imagine what else may think of the game play of Bayonetta.
Take it from me, it’s okay.
And you know why?
It’s just a game. It’s a work of fiction. It’s also a deconstruction piece, typical of the postmodern world, where we allow ourselves to view ‘the other side’ and open our minds.
Games are possibilities for us to explore things beyond the real world within safe boundaries.
Personally, I don’t think the idea of viewing ‘the other side’ is new. It’s one that many have used in their own works.
It just so happens that Platinum Games was brave enough to tackle something as touchy as the Christians vs. Everyone else are pagans, in this case: witches. And they just had to let the witch win.
Did they make evil win? It’s up to you to decide really. After all, that’s what deconstruction is about. It lets you think, to reflect.
At the end of the day: it’s a matter of perspective really.
In this one, it’s a witch’s perspective.
Through Antonio’s notes, we are able to read up on the nature of witches, their trials and triumphs. They are quite sympathetic to the Umbran witches as it explores daily routine, the difficulties of the dark arts, the war and the tragic Witch trials, which put an end to the Umbran Witches.
All in all, Bayonetta is nothing more than a game, rather interesting and even controversial one at that, to the point that it’s been labelled blasphemous on online articles and forums online.
What’s my say on the matter?
IT AIN’T SO.
Really, people. Get over yourselves.
It’s just a game.
No need to go that far.