The late Frank Frazetta speaks the truth. How did we ever allow the dour puritans of Social Justice to shame us even a little bit?
Too often, art and photos like the above are blasted as “unrealistic,” causing harm to public morality. We should represent reality, they exhort, and not create male power fantasies or glittery princess myths. Deconstruction is all the rage; yeah, let’s show those fantasy-loving fools what their crap REALLY leads to! That’ll teach them!
But why? We are under no obligation to make art “realistic.” To make it drab. To make it gray. We go into the rich worlds of fantasy novels and video games to get something other than dull reality. We do it to explore ideas and to have lots of fun. We can have stories where everyone is attractive. We can have stories where children get super powers and save the world. We can have stories where a brave strong hero rescues a beautiful princess, and she loves him to death for it.
Art like this is larger than life. It’s what makes it interesting. It’s what makes it enjoyable. Going to the extreme brings out deep feelings, stirs the emotions, boils the blood! Some realism is necessary; limitations create drama, and the drama is part of what makes art such a joy. But every aspect of reality does not need to be perfectly represented, only enough to maintain dramatic tension.
I had to learn this lesson personally. A couple of years ago, I began a tabletop RPG campaign with some friends (OVA by Clay Gardner.) Though magic and powers existed in the game’s world, I insisted on hewing close to realism; powers had to be within certain limits, and you could only become so strong. It went well at first, but my friends quickly rebelled against the limits later on.
For a while I became annoyed with them, as I felt they were ruining my campaign. Didn’t they understand what I was trying to do? I was trying to make something different from all those anime-style explosion fests. I was trying to make something realistic! Those were my thoughts.
But as time went on and we played more campaigns, I warmed up to their perspective. I realized that they were trying to show me something important: that larger-than-life is part of the fun. That extremes in power and large numbers of characters create broad possibilities for drama. That those “explosion fests” had more depth to them than meets the eye.
That RPGs, like art, are about imagination and possibility.
I shed my earlier puritanism and embraced my players’ approach to the campaign. I found that I enjoyed the exaggerated aspects a lot, and when I attempted to play a more grounded scenario with a different group, it literally wasn’t as fun. My original gaming group had opened my eyes to the power of extremes, to the power of the unrealistic. They had broadened my mind.
And for that, I am grateful. Not just to my players, but to all artists.