Newsflash: Both men and women have libidos and enjoy ogling a little scantily clad flesh from time to time. But while geek culture has more than its fair share of fanservice and scanty clothing designed to appeal to straight men (and possibly lesbians), there isn’t quite as much pandering to a straight female (or gay male) audience. We don’t really have many gender flipped equivalents to, say, the skimpy Theiss costumes in original Star Trek or the entirety of the Dead or Alive game franchise (though one wonders how bounce physics would work…)
But the good news is that, slowly but surely, geek creators are beginning to acknowledge that their awesome works are being consumed by more than just straight white males and, along with the more serious shifts in tone, content, and culture, are also throwing out a bit of fanservice for the rest of us. As such, I’m dedicating a column to celebrate some of my favorite “for the ladies” moments in “mainstream geek” movies, shows and games. More of this in our geekdom, please!
Note, however, that I have decided NOT to include anime and manga on this list; they are more a medium than genre and as such have a lot of shows filled with gorgeous men designed to appeal to women or gay men (e.g. Fushigi Yuugi, Story of Saiunkoku, Kyou Kara Maou, anything ever made by CLAMP). For some reason, Japanese artists seem ahead of the curve! I kept it more to specific *physical* moments (vs. emotional or geeky fanservice) in other geek media. Basically, I was looking for sequences which made me think, “Well, they didn’t REALLY need to strip that guy’s shirt off… but, uh, thank you anyway. *blush*” And, of course, this is but one woman’s list; ask another geek girl and she might have an entirely different collection of moments which make her go, “rwowr!”
Honorable Mention for Inadvertent Fanservice: Rimmer is captured and stripped, Red Dwarf
Considering that Rimmer is supposed to be the weedy, horrible member of the crew, I somehow doubt that a scene where he’s stripped nearly naked and oiled (for conducting the electricity!) was meant in any fanservicey kind of way. Except that apparently his actor, Chris Barrie, was pretty darned fit. Even his straight coworkers started looking at him in a new way.
5. Simon Tam talks to Jubal Early shirtless, Firefly
I could probably do a version of this list simply titled, “Why Joss Whedon and Bioware love their female audience” and just post examples from their catalog. Whedon already had excellent fanservice cred with the female audiences for A) having strong, intelligent, relatable female characters, and B) taking advantage of every excuse to have David Boreanaz take off his shirt (PS. Dear Joss Whedon: THANK YOU!) I decided to go for a Firefly example because it was, ostensibly, a gender neutral show, and while there was more than enough eyecandy for the boys, the showrunners seemed just as eager to have naked or half-naked men running around. For me, the ultimate moment of “THANK YOU JOSS” comes from Objects in Space, where Simon Tam wakes up, searches for River, and confronts the murderous Jubal Early… all while wearing nothing but sleep pants. Yes, there’s no reason for him to be bare-chested during the famous, “Am I a lion?” conversation… but I know I certainly appreciated the scene’s, uh, nuances a lot more.
4. Oliver Queen’s training montage, Arrow
The CW’s main demographic is teenage girls and young women, but they’re also more than willing to mix that up with some traditionally geek franchises and concepts, even those that used to appeal to a predominately male audience. Their current series Arrow, based on the DC Green Arrow franchise, seems to be getting good reviews from both comic fans and young women new to the superhero. The action is interesting, there are nods to the comics in subtle, fun ways (like Dinah working for CNRI – or “canary”). Oh, and Oliver Queen apparently takes his shirt off at least once an episode for a training montage or workout session. Because, you know, that’s necessary to the plot.
3. TIE: Jacob’s love scene, Mass Effect 2 / Fenris’ love scene, Dragon Age 2
As mentioned above, I could spend at least five articles gushing about all the fanservice and squeeful moments in Bioware games, and it was nearly impossible to pick just one scene in which Bioware screamed, “BEHOLD, hawt manflesh for your consumption.” It was doubly difficult because a lot of their hottest fanservice goes beyond “man takes shirt off,” territory and into “man has a voice that melts butter,” or “man directs sizzling look at hero/heroine” or even “man says something utterly sweet and endearing that makes you want to cuddle him forever,” kind of stuff. In the end, I picked two.
Jacob’s love scene is actually kind of a letdown for 90% of it… he has some of the cheesiest dialogue ever, not to mention the horrid THE PRIZE line. And… then he takes his shirt off, and the scene suddenly improves. Added points for the gorgeous predatory look on Fem!Shepard’s face. We know who wears the pants in that relationship! I nearly kept it off the list as it wasn’t my favorite scene by far – Thane, Garrus and Kaidan FTW! – but it certainly stood out as a fanservicey moment, plus it paved the road for all the hard-bodied men in ME3 to get their tops off (sometimes together) for great justice.
Fenris is the odd one out in this list as he is the only one whose fanservice does NOT come from shirtlessness or drooling over his body. However, his two potential sequences where he consummates his relationship with Hawke are scorching HAWT. In one, he shows up, all intense and husky, doing the whole, “Tell me to go and I will,” thing prompting all sorts of “shut up and kiss me” responses from Hawke. In the other scenario (as seen in the video above), what begins as a discussion of his past and his general ARGH EMO ANGST suddenly gets dialed up to eleven when Hawke accidentally causes Fenris’ magic markings to flare, causing a classic wall slam followed by mad, passionate kissing. Even if silver-haired emo elves aren’t your thing, you have to admit that the execution is pretty darned fanservicey.
2. Thor’s shirtless scene, Thor
I love Thor; it’s my second favorite Marvel movie next to the Avengers. One of the many things I loved about it was that it was clear that the director, writer, and everyone involved didn’t approach the movie with some preconception about how only boys and young men were going to be enjoying this. A lot of little details showed that they were trying to make a movie that everyone would enjoy on some level. The female characters were engaging, entertaining, and strong in their own ways without being stereotypes. Heck, the movie even passes the Bechdel test!
And then THAT SCENE happened. You know which one I mean.
I remember watching the movie with two male friends, one gay and one straight, and all three of us came out of the theatre clamoring about that scene; Straight Guy wanted to be Thor, I wanted to DO Thor, and Gay Guy wanted to be AND do Thor. Something for the whole family (though I suppose a lesbian would be somewhat let down!) It was a short scene and used partly for comedy and character development (Jane ogling Thor), but it also told me something important; that this movie wasn’t just “for guys,” and that feminine desire was something to be celebrated and satisfied rather than swept under the rug. Maybe a small thing, but hey, I could use more small things if they come in Chris Hemsworth-sized packages.
(PS Sorry, Chris Evans, but your attempt at recreating the magic in Captain America just didn’t do it for me. )
1. Sephiroth in the mako crystal, Final Fantasy VII
Oh, Final Fantasy VII… the game that created a hundred thousand panting, squeezing fangirls, of which I am definitely one. And I’m pretty sure this was the scene that cemented it.
Obviously, lots of guys like FFVII just as much as the girls, and the designers took it into account. But I’m sorry, I can’t believe anyone could look at Sephiroth’s character design and argue that he WASN’T designed to appeal to women. I mean, he’s parading around in black leather and bondage harnesses, for chrissakes. And if you still had any doubt, then THIS happens. Why is he naked? Why does the camera pan lovingly over his bare chest? Why is he the only character in the game that has pecs like that? What possible reason would you have him appear THAT way in a crystal other than to mess with the minds and libidos of a large section of the audience? Oh, and did I mention that they then immortalized this moment as a statue in the Square Enix store in Tokyo that somehow managed to be even more sexy and sexualized?
Don’t believe me that it’s fanservice? He gets his kit off AGAIN after the final battle and goes prancing around with nothing on above the waist. THAT then becomes an alternate costume for him in Ehrgeiz and Dissidia. They also cast a voice actor (both Japanese and English) for later games/movies that sounds like he’s having sex with almost everything in the room, the other room, and down the street. So we have a silver haired sex maniac with the body of a god who wears black leather and is allergic to clothes. NOT MEANT FOR WOMEN AT ALL, I’M SURE.
Well, Square Enix, I’m onto your little game. And I have only one thing to say to you.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU…
Ladies (and men!): what are your favorite moments of smutty fanservice in geek media?