Gaming

Glitter, Gore, and Lollipop Chainsaw (2012)

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lollipop-zombiessuck

Sorry for the missed Friday post, readers! Hopefully this will make up for it.

I put Lollipop Chainsaw in my GameFly queue because it… okay, I’m going to admit, I somehow was completely oblivious to what it was about other than there was a blonde cheerleader on the cover holding a chainsaw. I didn’t really need to know anything else. So when it finally showed up, I just let it sit there because I was distracted with Borderlands 2 and then school started and blah blah blah. I was going to send it back this early this week until I realized “wait, this could be a good PvP post!”

Fast forward to the next morning. Me and Revan sit down with breakfast before he has to leave for class or work or something to see what this whole thing is about. I completely forget the details, because I was too busy shrieking with glee while twirling around with a chainsaw to decapitate zombies.

So, for those who has only seen as much as I had previously due to the bizarre box art, I’m going to tell you about Lollipop Chainsaw and why it ended up being everything I ever wanted in a female protagonist.

Lollipop Chainsaw - Juliet's Info

Juliet Starling is a cheerleader. She is bubbly, has amazing boobs, wears her blonde hair in pigtails, and she just so happens to come from a family of kickass zombie hunters. She is Buffy on Glitter Steroids, and it is amazing. The game opens with it being Juliet’s eighteenth birthday, and she is going to go meet up with her boyfriend, Nick, so that she can introduce him to her family after school. Except zombies suddenly show up! And Nick gets bitten! Oh no!

Lollipop Chainsaw - Nick's info

Tearfully, they confess their love for each other. This is the end for Nick, the infection is spreading. Soon he’ll join their classmates as one of the undead. But before he passes, Juliet is struck with an idea.

An idea where she decapitates him and performs a ritual to keep him alive as a talking head that she keeps hanging from her belt loop for the rest of the game, and it only gets better from there.

Sorry, Nick.

Sorry, Nick.

Juliet and Relationships (Spoilers!)

Lollipop Chainsaw is a game made for the male gaze and flips it on its head. Sure, there’s an achievement for looking up Juliet’s skirt, and her stereotypical Japanese Pervert Sensei Murakawa makes a lot of comments about her underwear, but they’re done in such an over-the-top manner I can kind of forgive them. They’re making a point about how ridiculous oversexualization in video games can become, because even when Juliet is doing cheerleader spread eagle jumps from building to building and pole dances with her chainsaw, she is still mowing down more zombies than any of the Left 4 Dead characters can ever hope to.

Like I said before in my Drakan: Order of the Flame review, I love my female protagonists to be able to kick ass and be girly at the same time. Juliet really embodies these two things. Her chainsaw is bedazzled with hearts and pink, there’s a Sparkle Hunter mode (if you decapitate more three or more zombies at a time you get extra zombie medals to spend at the in-game store), and she is more than ready to mouth off at anyone who calls her a whore or a slut.

Lollipop_Chainsaw_Enemies_Mariska_01

Peace out.

Which a lot of the boss fight zombies seem to do. It’s kind of gross, especially since 4/5 do it. The only female boss, Mariska, doesn’t seem to care and is actually rather chill with Juliet throughout the entire battle.

Juliet also has two sisters, Cordelia and Rosalind, who she seems very close to, with the only animosity in the family coming from Rosalind as the baby sister who is jealous of her elders. This female camaraderie is always a sigh of relief for me, since it seems like such an easy source of drama for the only women in a video game, movie, or TV program to dislike each other for petty reasons for a cheap source of drama. Juliet’s relationship with her parents is also strong and loving, especially her dad.

Lollipop Chainsaw - Dad's info

DILF: Dad I’d Like to F… Friend on Facebook

My favorite line from the game actually comes from Gideon Starling. Throughout the game he has given Nick a lot of crap for dating his daughter, because despite the face she can hold her own with a chainsaw, she’s still his daughter and he is protective of her. Nick puts up with it fairly well, too, which Gideon rewards him with saying “[y]ou might not be the guy I’d pick for my daughter, but you’re obviously the guy she’d pick for herself. And she’s always been a helluvalot smarter than me.”

Gideon trusts in Juliet to make the right decisions for herself and let her choose her own happiness, even if it’s with a dude without a body.

Gameplay

It’s fun. Like, a lot of fun, but it is riddled with QTEs and a level of minigames that are really obnoxious. The camera is clunky more than 75% of the time and doesn’t pan automatically while you’re moving around, which leaves you unable to see a lot of what you’re doing if you’re trying to hit something. Juliet moves at one speed only until you can activate Chainsaw Dash, and she tends to repeat herself when using certain moves (Chainsaw Blaster). Because of these things, I can definitely see why it received a lot of the reviews it did, but not enough for it to have such mediocre scores. It’s not a masterpiece, but it isn’t irrevocably broken and has more than enough content to keep you entertained for awhile.

The Marketing

Lollipop Chainsaw - Regional Comparison

Image via Lollipop Chainsaw Wikia

Something I found while writing up this post was that Juliet is marketed differently in Japan than USA/Europe. Juliet is flipped for each region, with her hair falling either to the left or right depending on the region. But what’s more interesting is that, in Japan, Juliet is promoted as very cutesy, whereas in Western countries she is tough and her expressions are more mischievous. It’s not uncommon for Japan to feature super kawaii girls going on psychopathic murder sprees in their media, but Western societies cannot seem to reconcile the two in their own.

What most people probably know Lollipop Chainsaw from is Jessica Nigri‘s cosplay of Juliet and the upheaval one of her outfits caused at PAX East in early 2012. PAX had previously instituted a No Booth Babe policy, and cosplays are requested to limit nudity and be true to their source material. While the outfit in question (Juliet’s skin tight hot pink biker outfit that even in-game is joked as being “painted on“) certainly doesn’t leave anything to the imagination, it’s difficult to ascertain where Nigiri’s cosplay ended and Booth Babe began in terms of promotion for Lollipop Chainsaw. The cosplays are well made and accurately represent Juliet’s nature, and ultimately, it was the convention coordinator’s call to ask Nigri to not wear either outfit on the show floor.

Lollipop Chainsaw - Jessica Nigri

Jessica Nigri as Juliet

How much slut-shaming came into the decision, however, is always up for debate. Nigri was reportedly asked to change after the con received multiple complaints over her outfit, which is what lead to their decision in the first place. PAX East wants to maintain a Family Friendly environment, and while Juliet’s outfits are certainly meant to titillate, I personally do not find them overly vulgar. She showed as much skin as you would see on the beach in an environment already filled with oversexualization and objectification of women. The difference with Nigri and her cosplay is that she is a woman owning her sexuality for public display, and that is what makes people uncomfortable.

 

Purple-haired Pepper Potts.

2 Comments

  1. Kelly

    September 23, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    This is a really refreshing article to read. I’ve been super skeptical about Lollipop Chainsaw — where does true female characterization end and the male gaze begin?? But this makes me want to give it a shot!

    I appreciate that it’s a celebration of a trope that a lot of women hate, too: the perky cheerleader. I know that growing up (despite a brief cheerleading stint in 6th grade) I hated the cheerleaders because I was a ~smart girl~ who didn’t want ~to attract male attention~ like those ~clearly needy for male affection cheerleaders~. But that’s such an unfair view grounded in internalized misogyny. What we need in pop culture is a variety of awesome female characters who enjoy a lot of different pursuits and express themselves in lots of different ways.

    • Rachel

      September 23, 2013 at 5:18 PM

      I had a really odd experience in high school where I was a total social outcast but I ended up being on good terms with the cheerleaders because I would pass their notes for them in classes and never got caught. (Not for any reason either, I was just as bored as they were.) They’ve kind of always had a special place in my heart since then, because they didn’t care how weird I was.

      I’m really happy they made Juliet the way they did. She’s such a stereotypical California girl cheerleader, and I’m almost sad they didn’t show any of her friendships at school with other girls. She’s very much a Tsukino Usagi in how she cares for everyone.

      AND HER GPA IS HIGHER THAN HER BOYFRIEND’S I MEAN COME ON.

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