Street Fighter V Mika butt-slap changes: not censorship, but worrying

Last week, certain sections of the internet started to blow up with accusations of “censorship” Street Fighter V, because Capcom made a change in the latest build of the game. Before the change, there was a moment in the animation for Rainbow Mika’s Critical Art in which the camera focused on her butt while she slapped it to taunt her opponent; after the change, this taunt still happens, but it happens off-screen.

Let’s get one thing clear – as much as the animated fedoras of the internet want to blame “SJWs” for ruining their games, this isn’t censorship, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a change to an in-development game; just one of thousands, because that’s how game development works, but because the focal point is to do with objectification, it’s decried as “censorship” and “pandering”. The Mary Sue’s Maddy Myers said it best:

Regardless of what the game creators decide, it doesn’t make sense to call their decision “censorship.” Game makers change their games based on feedback they receive from any number of sources and influences, including play-testers, staffers, friends, preview scores, etc. The only reason why this particular change is causing so much anger and betrayal is because it’s one that de-emphasizes the objectification of female characters. Other changes have happened throughout the beta, some of which have caused disappointment and frustration — but this is the first one I’ve seen that’s being called “censorship.” And that’s just not a criticism that makes any sense.

With all that said, I think the change is misguided. The actual reason behind it is unknown, but if – as many are suggesting – it’s to do with any sort of actual or perceived backlash from feminist critics, it’s a worrying example of a game developer struggling to differentiate between sexuality, sexualisation / objectification, and just plain old human anatomy.

Street Fighter V has, quite rightfully, copped a lot of flak for the way it’s handled the women in the game. The cheesecake character designs are one thing, but it’s the way the game treats these characters that’s really upsetting. Laura Matsuda is a really awesome character, in terms of both visual and mechanical design, but from the ridiculous jiggle physics to way camera takes every opportunity to leer at her, it’s clear that to at least some of the people at Capcom, she’s an ass and a pair of tits with some other stuff attached. The same is true of Chun-Li, of Karin, of Cammy, and of R. Mika. They all routinely have their boobs and butts as their focal point, contort their bodies in bizarre ways to have has much boobage and buttage on show at the same time, and are just generally treated like blow-up dolls gifted to a 12-year-old boy whose only concept of sexuality comes from reading Zoo Magazine.

Rainbow Mika’s now-famous butt-slap, though, always struck me as a refreshing pushback against this trend. It never struck me as being sexual in anyway; it’s just a silly, cheeky taunt that’s in keeping with her goofy, happy-g0-lucky character. As well as her arms, legs, and even her head, Mika fights with her butt. It’s her thing, that’s why she has moves with names like “Shooting Peach” and “Peach Assault”; it’s why the tag-team double butt-slam that she finishes Peach Assault with is so ludicrous, entertaining, and – dare I say it – empowering.

The butt-slap is just an extension of this. It’s a part of Rainbow Mika, both as a Street Fighter character and, within that fiction, as Mika Nanakawa’s wrestling persona. I love butts (as my Twitter profile will attest to), but I never saw anything remotely sexual, intended or otherwise, in Mika’s butt-slap. It reminded me more of an animation in Street Fighter Alpha 3, where she falls over and rubs her butt cheeks with a comically pained expressing after landing a Shooting Peach; only this time, it’s a taunt – a symbol of power, confidence, arrogance – rather than of goofy weakness.

Amidst all of the gross, exploitative hyper-sexualisation in Street Fighter V, here is the one animation in the whole game that subverts that. It’s the one time that the game acknowledges that a woman’s bum can have any other purpose or meaning than the sexual gratification of a presumed straight male audience.

The notion that this is what Capcom chose to focus on to avert “SJW outrage”, and not the myriad of other issues with Street Fighter V‘s handling of women (admittedly, one other change was also discovered, making Cammy’s intro cinematic less crotch-focused, but this issue is far more wide-reaching), is cause for concern. On its own, this change is minor and negligible, but as part of a trend of an apparent inability to distinguish between sexuality, objectification, and just asexual anatomy, it’s worrying.

Matthew Codd

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.