Pretty Boys: The Male Dandy in Games There's an interesting essay over at the Vorpal Bunny Ranch (a blog worth visiting for the name alone) on the issue of the dandy in video games, a character known for a few different things: 'his impeccable sense of fashion, his wit, and his distaste for rough physical activity.' They're also exceedingly untrustworthy, giving rise to an interesting stereotype of 'the dandy' as crafty (and with suspect morals) or an outright villain (e.g., Kefka):
It is curious how this occurs, though. Balthier in Final Fantasy XII is a pirate who is self-serving, and will work with the group for his fair share of the treasure. Setzer in Final Fantasy VI is a dashing airship pilot who kidnaps daring opera divas and will help the party if they happen to win in a gamble. Dante from the Devil May Cry series is an anti-hero with a devilish side. The feminization these men face sets to give them a bit of danger and makes them all slightly less than good—the rebel ... Therefore, the male whose foil the dandy plays is the stoic, quiet, restrained, and/or muscular type. So, with the two polar opposites being the effete dandy and tough, muscular guy, the metrosexual makes perfect sense as someone who toes this line, which is where I would argue a character like Dante actually fits. He resembles more a James Dean or Han Solo than an Oscar Wilde or Jareth, the Goblin King. It is even more curious to note how these dandies do fight, as they are bound to be included in some brawl. They sing, use tools, prefer using guns, and cast spells (the notable exception to this is the venerable old sage, who has earned his right to cast). Occasionally they may engage with a sword, but these are the fencers, not the brawlers (see: Raphael Sorel of Soul Caliber). Finesse, not strength defines their character—which lends itself to us distrusting them. Would you trust a man who would not engage you in direct combat? In a "man's world," this is seen as an affront to honor. Those silly effete duelers, chatty and unwilling to muscle through a problem. You certainly wouldn't want to wrestle with them!
It's an interesting conception of 'the dandy' character; do we ever see perfectly normal dandies who aren't suspiciously shifty? All of the VBR Friday essays that deal with sex and gender are worth a gander. Who you callin' macaroni? [Vorpal Bunny Ranch]