UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Becoming “beautiful fighting girls” : re-imaginations of women warriors in Chinese video games Li, Tianyu


This thesis investigates the re-imaginations of canonical women warrior characters in contemporary Chinese video games, with a focus on the persistent gendered motifs across different versions of the same character in distinct socio-politico-historical contexts. By demonstrating how two women warrior characters are gendered and sexualized through audiovisual representations and interactive mediations, this thesis argues that the idea of “beautiful fighting girls” (sentō bishōjo) in Japanese popular culture is critical to understanding the reconfigurations of women warriors and their aesthetic, political, and moral stake within the Chinese context. The first case study examines the representation of Shenhe in the 2020 role-playing game Genshin Impact by miHoYo as a post-socialist reconstruction of Xi’er from the socialist classic The White-Haired Girl. The second case study explores the reconfiguration of Mulan, a moral paragon of filial piety dating to the 12th century, in the 2015 multiplayer online battle arena Honor of Kings by TiMi. By tracing how the representations of these characters have evolved over time, This thesis showcases that Chinese women warrior characters have reflected the patriarchal ideals of womanhood in changing socio-political contexts and media ecologies. By bringing the Japanese mode of consuming sentō bishōjo into the discussion of the poetics and politics of reimagining women warriors in contemporary Chinese video games, this thesis aims to unveil a transnational, transhistorical, and transmedial subterranean world on how ideal womanhood in contemporary China is constructed and contested.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International