I’m going to take a look at the Borderlands games and the women therein today.
Borderlands and Borderlands 2 were released in 2009 and 2012 respectively. The games are first-person shooters with RPG elements like a level system, talent trees, and random loot drops. The games are extremely popular and a lot of stupid fun, but that’s not why I’m posting on this blog. The games also feature a handful of ladies prominently, moreso in the second game.
Borderlands had very little in the way of story and even less in the way of character development for any female character. But hey, the guys didn’t have any development either. It wasn’t a complicated game. Borderlands 2 decided to expand the story aspect of the game and create an actual plot that wasn’t just “Find the treasure”, and with this came actual personalities for the characters. So let’s run through a checklist of the ladies of Borderlands 2 I’ll be focusing on:
Lilith was the “Siren” character from the first game and the redhead pictured above. As one of the first four Vault Hunters, Lilith is a leader of the resistance in the second game, so she plays a major role. As a Siren, she has a powerful supernatural ability: Phasewalking. This allows her to disappear and reappear short distances away. Lilith is flirty, hotblooded and snarky. A good deal of the emphasis of her character is placed on how hot she is (literally and figuratively, she has fire magic stuff because Sirens are weird).
Maya is the “Siren” class playable character from Borderlands 2. She’s the blue-haired girl above. Maya is a Vault Hunter new to Pandora (the planet the games take place on) and joins up with the resistance after Handsome Jack (the antagonist) attempts to kill her and the other player characters. Maya’s Siren ability is Phaselocking - holding an enemy in place temporarily. Maya is more cool and collected that her redheaded counterpart.
A returning character from one of the DLC expansions from Borderlands, Moxxi now runs a bar in Sanctuary, the hub area in Borderlands 2. Moxxi is essentially fanservice incarnate. Almost everything that she says is some sort of double entendre. She flirts and makes passes at almost everyone and is generally a male fantasy character - her entire personality is based around being sexy.
Daughter of Moxxi, Ellie is a mechanic living outside of Sanctuary. Despite being rather obese and having many jokes made by other characters and the game at her expense, Ellie is still problematic in my opinion. She’s showing off a half-mile of cleavage, has massive boobs, and tries to get in the player character’s pants (no matter who they are) pretty much every time they talk.
So, by looking at all four of these women, one can immediately notice that they’re all rather objectified as far as appearance goes. Maya noticeably less so, but this is easy to explain: she’s a player character that almost never speaks. Since the game is in first-person perspective, the player almost ever sees her unless they’re playing multiplayer. All three of the remaining girls have swooping necklines, are flirty, and (save for Ellie) have practically ideal bodies. Even Ellie isn’t hideous - she may be fat but her waist is still rather trim for her size (Being about as wide as her shoulders), not to mention that all three girls have flawless skin despite living on a savage hellhole of a planet, Lilith initially living in seclusion with Bandits and Ellie living on a dust plain.
I’m not going to bother complaining about Moxxi’s outfit because I have a picture. it pretty much says all that needs to be said. And yes, you can see her panties from the side. And yes, her poses and animations are just as ridiculous and titillating as you’d expect.
The worst thing is that these characters aren’t even particularly strong as far as personality and agency goes, specifically Lilith. Ellie and Moxxi are minor quest-giver characters so I’m letting them slide. However…
Lilith was a player character in Borderlands, and arguably the most powerful. Her ability to leverage her powerful Phasewalk along with the elemental attributes of weapons made her a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, however, Lilith displays an enormous lack of agency in the sequel. Once she shows up (about 25% of the way through the game), she spends about half of the rest of the game as a damsel in distress, getting captured by the villain and being used as a hostage and then as part of his scheme to awaken an ancient weapon. For a character the game lauds as a badass (many times, Borderlands loves the word “badass”), Lilith sure doesn’t act like one. You see her fight maybe twice, and while she’s powerful, it’s only against low-level mooks.
Overall the Borderlands series has very problematic female characters and false action girl syndrome. Which sucks, because the games are still fun.