Games

Chun-Li’s Thighs

What is interesting about the way that Chun-Li has been eroticized is that her thighs violate typical beauty standards.

I like Chun Li. However, I am hard pressed to initially tell you why. Certainly, I know next to nothing about her as a character. After all, she is a part of a fighting game, not a genre known for its excessive interest in plot and character development. While I have beaten Street Fighter II as Chun-Li numerous times, I don’t remember what her ending was all about (then again, I can’t recall any of the endings of the various characters in the Street Fighter series). Mostly, all I know about her is what she looks like.

Chun-Li is an attractive enough character in my estimation. However, I wouldn’t say that I have the hots for her, though I know that there is a fan base that clearly does, especially (it would seem) because of a particular physical trait of hers (but more on that in a moment). However, if you asked me to name the more iconic female characters in video game history, I would likely include Chun-Li amongst characters that I tend to know something more about because they have been given at least slightly more personality than a fighting game character, women like Lara Croft, Samus Aran, Zelda, and even Princess Peach.

Indeed, amongst these five characters, Chun-Li might seem the least similar to the others. Unlike the other four, Chun-Li is a character from a game with more of an ensemble cast, whereas the others tend to be central protagonists or the main focus of the narrative of several classic games. However, Chun-Li is a rather significant figure in the history of the Street Fighter series and of the fighting game genre. She stands out as the first playable female character in the franchise as well as the only female playable character at all in Street Fighter II.

Of course, the overall significance of Street Fighter II is undeniable amongst fighting games. It is the game that is initially responsible for the growth of the mad popularity that fighting games enjoyed in the early ‘90s (Mortal Kombat would be released a year after Street Fighter II and did, of course, contribute to this popularity as well). Thus, Chun-Li serves as the initial representative of the female sex in the genre. In this sense, Chun-Li is the First Lady of fighting games, and she is unusual in some regards to how the genre has evolved in its representation of female fighters.

The evolution of the fighting game genre has seen a much greater emphasis on the kind of B-movie quality that this kind of game possesses. Certainly, it is a genre focused on violence as spectacle. These are games about people who beat each other up competitively. Much like B-movies, which are indeed more often concerned with what viewers see than with what they think about such a film’s plot or character development, this emphasis on providing banal and visceral pleasure through witnessing violence has only been complemented by the addition of developing characters that allow for additionally banal and visceral forms of spectacle, the explicitly sexual. Like the B-movie, fighting games seem to specialize in provoking a quick and dirty response to blood and breasts.

Capcom’s follow up series to the Street Fighter franchise was Darkstalkers, a game that largely used classic monsters and characters associated with the horror genre as models for its fighters (upping the potential for associations with violence) and a number of extraordinarily immodest female characters, like Felicia and Morrigan, that upped the potential for erotic spectacle. More infamously and more recently, the Soul Calibur series has included female characters of nearly impossible physical physiques, the sorts of women that if Russ Meyer were still alive, he would have certainly found the time to write scripts around should they also happen to be real. Other characters, like the ladies of Dead or Alive, have made even more explicit the impetus for presenting highly sexualized characterizations of women as part of the central spectacle in the fighting game genre. Not only are the Dead or Alive girls ludicrously endowed and underdressed, but they possess unlockable outfits, like bikinis, lingerie, and fetish costumes, suggesting that they are intended to be dressed up in order to be undressed by players’ eyes. The Dead or Alive spin off, Beach Volleyball, with its emphasis on voyeuristic activities, like photographing the posing and preening cast members, makes no effort to disguise the interest of the series in simply providing its fans the pleasure of leering at virtual flesh.

Taki from Soul Calibur

Seen in retrospect, Chun-Li is an extremely modest female fighting game character. While by no means a sexless character, Chun-Li has relatively reasonable proportions. Indeed, she looks practically pre-pubescent by comparison to Soul Calibur’s Taki for example. Additionally, Chun-Li's chest is also fully covered, not an especially common mode of dress for female characters in the genre these days. While she wears a modified qipao, the reason for it being slit up the thighs actually serves a functional purpose, one very much related to what Chun-Li does since such modification allows for movement that a more modest qipao would not.

Nevertheless, Chun-Li’s outfit does allow for the potential for voyeurism. This traditional Chinese apparel is made potentially more sexy because of its more contemporary modification, and indeed, players both then and now have focused on the exposure of the character’s thighs, resulting in many such players eroticizing them.

What is interesting about the way that Chun-Li has been eroticized, though, is that her thighs violate typical beauty standards. Certainly, a woman with thick thighs would not be one commonly acknowledged to be highly sought after in the United States for example. After all, the standard for the female body in America is most often the slimmest physique possible. Diminishing most parts of the female body is often much more desirable than building them up. That Chun-Li’s thighs violate this rule is additionally interesting because of what building the body represents in contrast to the traditional way that women have been fetishized often enough in both Western and Eastern culture, as fragile, but beautiful objects that are to be protected from things like effort. Chun-Li’s thighs, instead, seem to represent that she does something.

Other fighters in Street Fighter II are associated with specific types of fighting. Ken and Ryu are known for the ability to throw a kind of “fireball” and even more notably for their Dragon Punch. Dhalsim has those crazy stretchy limbs, and Vega is wickedly fast. Chun-Li’s special attacks tend to revolve around kicking.

The character’s most iconic move, of course, (and the easiest to initiate) is her lightning kick, in which she raises her leg and kicks so rapidly that her attack appears as only a blur of physical motion. One would think that such a move would require some fairly incredible muscular development in the legs and thighs, and indeed, most images of Chun-Li reflect this idea.

As a result, Chun-Li’s sexuality becomes something more than an incidental quality to be admired merely because she inherently possesses an extraordinary physical trait. Chun-Li’s thighs might be eroticized, but they represent an earned physical extraordinariness. To admire them is to acknowledge that she has done something. Unlike the outrageous breasts of most contemporary fighting game characters (which actually seem even more unlikely given that these women would seem to need to possess an extraordinary athleticism and muscular development to achieve the impossible physical feats that they do perform -- such athleticism would seemingly reduce the possibility of such body types, not result in a proliferation of them), Chun-Li’s outrageous legs have some rational connection to the outrageous acts that she can perform. Chun-Li’s thighs are not merely something like decorative objects adorning a body for no discernable reason. Instead, if her thighs are to be admired, they are marked as powerful and functional parts of a body that is useful and capable. They suggest that we might admire Chun-Li for more than her body’s existence but for what it suggests that she can do.

As a result, while I don’t count myself amongst Chun-Li’s thigh fetishist fans, I do think that I might begin to get what is appealing about them because their appearance does actually provide some insight on the character. Indeed, if I don’t fully understand why I feel that I like Chun-Li as a character, it is possible that it might have something to do with her thighs.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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