Mod Aria’s here today for another installment of Tropes in Gaming! This week, I’d like to talk about a trope I don’t really see discussed very often, but has been deeply rooted into the media. Particularly, this trope is rampant in Anime and Anime-style video games. It’s called The Reluctant Fanservice Girl.
The definition of an RFG is pretty basic if you understand the term “fanservice”. In case you don’t, I’ll elaborate briefly: fanservice is the term for when characters in anime, video games, television, etc are put in particular situations to please the audience and nothing more. More often than not, this is when the characters in the particular media are naked or half naked for no reason. It can also apply to moments between characters who are in a relationship or for characters who are shipped together frequently by the majority of a fandom.
Once you understand what “fanservice” is, the definition of the Reluctant Fanservice Girl becomes a bit more clear. It’s that girl you always see who is often put in those fanservice-y situations, but she absolutely abhors being there. The most common situation the RFG finds herself is in a position of undesired nudity or half-nudity. She’ll be wearing a sexy costume or accidentally trip and show her underwear, but she will blush and complain about how uncomfortable she is.
As for examples in gaming, I’ve actually briefly mentioned this in my article about Persona 5. Persona 5 is a feminist game, but as I said previously, this is one of the areas in which it underperforms. The heroine Ann Takamaki is absolutely a RFG. She herself experiences severe sexual harassment as an underaged girl from older men, but she is constantly placed in sexual situations that she does not enjoy. Her Phantom Thief costume is tight leather that exposes her cleavage, but she herself finds it a bit too sexy. When Yusuke asks her to pose nude for a painting, she is appalled and tries everything she can to get out of it.
Using her position as a model is also not something that absolved her from this. And that idea goes into what that trope can reinforce. I’m sure many people have heard of the joke “Why do women get upset when you see them in their underwear but not when they’re at the beach in a bikini”? I, too, agreed with this at first. But upon inspection, there is actually a reason why that idea is more logical than you might think.
The magic word here is consent. Most people consent to allowing their romantic/sexual partner to see them naked, but they certainly don’t want a random stranger to. The same applies to women and underwear vs bikinis, as well as Ann’s desire to model vs her desire to wear her Phantom Thief costume and pose nude for someone she barely knows. Just because what someone does and does not consent to might juxtapose each other does not make them a hypocrite, nor does it seem a non-sequitur. The difference in the situations, as well as the difference in viewer, can be a small enough change to solicit consent.
As a whole, the attraction to the RFG is somewhat disconcerting. Supporting the idea of having a woman in an uncomfortable situation just so the audience can enjoy her physically absolutely disregards the idea that consent is necessary. And when people start thinking that consent is not necessary, this can lead to some very toxic thinking. Victim blaming is rampant across the globe, and this trope does not help abate it.
If the RFG is a trope that plans on sticking around, we must teach those exposed to it the harmful behavior that it teaches. We must remind the viewers that a woman has the agency to consent and to deny consent in any situation she chooses, and that must be obeyed. I hope that you think about my words the next time you see a poor girl on the verge of tears because of the sexy cat costume she’s being forced to wear.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article, and please stay tuned for more great NWG content!
— Mod Aria/Sam