Everyone in Hades is incredibly hot. That is one of the most defining things about it. A game where you kill demons to escape the underworld all while befriending familiar gods across a ludicrously sexy pantheon. The fandom is a queer and horny bunch, always finding reasons to ship certain characters and depict them in more exciting – and often saucy – ways outside the established canon. It’s amazing, but its cast also remains in need of some diversity.
While also being gayer than ever, the sequel also stands to present a more inclusive cast of characters with varying body types and identities that go far beyond the range of herculean hunks and bodacious babes brought to us by the first installment. These aren’t bad things, but I’ve had a few friends and colleagues express disappointment in how Hades presents a more idyllic and stylised version of the pantheon, instead of opting for a more body-positive approach.
I’m a trans woman, and very much still coming to terms with the fact that I will likely never achieve the figure seen in my head. I’m quite tall, my shoulders are broad, and I need lasers shot at my face to deal with facial hair. All of these things are going against me, so I’ve sorta grown used to not seeing a character that reflects me in the video games I play every day.
Given this medium is capable of anything we can imagine, I shouldn’t really have to settle for nothing but conventionally attractive and cisgendered protagonists my entire life, even more so when this doesn’t accurately reflect so many of the players who see themselves in these adventures. Realised I just called myself ugly there by accident. Jokes on you, I’m gorgeous.
Hades is one of my favourite games of the past decade, but it clings to an almost envious vision of attraction with its ripped muscles and toned bodies. Men are muscular and women are slender, and there is seldom a balance to be found between them. It was pointed out to me that one of the few fat characters in the entire game is a gluttonous enemy fought in the first biome, who slides across the arena sipping alcohol with all the lazy traits you’d expect from such an archetype. Everything else is slender or exaggerated, without much room for trans people or those who fall outside other conventions to see themselves. There isn’t a single chunky Daddy in sight.
POC characters are well represented at least, and the sequel shows positive signs of continuing that trend, but it also runs the risk of turning its muscle-bound characters into women with hourglass figures for no good reason beyond it looks sexy and ticks all the boxes. It isn’t realistic. All of its relationships and other boundaries operate on similar tenets of inclusivity and diversity, so why shouldn’t body types?
I’m talking about Nemesis, one of the key characters seen in the reveal trailer being set up as a rival to protagonist Melinoe. She is massive. Towering, muscular, dominant, and strong from appearance alone, with her dialogue also displaying a clear confidence in her abilities. I love her design on the surface, but peer at her figure, and you’ll notice a tight waist that just doesn’t quite match the rest of her body. That armour can’t be comfortable, and Supergiant shouldn’t be afraid of creating women with bodies to match their physique, even if it results in thick waists that more ignorant players might view as blatantly ‘masculine’. Strength can so easily be feminine, otherwise we wouldn’t want a girl like Nemesis to step all over us.
Even from the few character portraits found on the Steam page, most of the characters right now are a mixture of slim, toned, buff, or ripped. Melinoe is a rather short and petite girl, which is a cool change for an otherwise strong heroine, but it seems the pantheon surrounding her will once again be idyllic instead of relatable. Diversity doesn’t need to be forced in here, and never will be if such things are naturally woven into
Supergiant’s world design. Depictions of pantheons often resort to lazy visual tropes to emphasise the characteristics of certain gods – and Supergiant playing into that implies that bodies outside can't also be ‘divine’.
Hades is often gluttonous and bloodthirsty, while Hermes is boyish and quick on his feet. We often see Zeus sporting a white beard with lightning bolt in hand, while Aphrodite is almost nude except for a few loose strands of hair covering her form. Supergiant leans into some of these accepted images, but equally subverts them or introduces lesser known characters with depictions we’ve never seen before.
Supergiant needs to double down on this new vision, turn the most famous pantheon in all mythology into something unexpected and nuanced, questioning the perception of figures we think we know so well with new bodies, identities, or even a top surgery scar or two. Nothing is off limits, so making every single character the epitome of physical desire with little to no room for experimentation would be a major-missed opportunity.
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