Marketing for digital models at Daz, Renderosity, Renderotica, and the ilk trades heavily in stereotypes. For example, there are the stereotypes of empty, objectified, conventional white cis femininity. There’s also the perennial portrayal of WOC as primitive and bestial, as well as the broken English that appears along with ads for Asian characters. And there’s the sexism, racism, ableism, and transphobia built into the programs we use to make our art. In conclusion, it’s pretty racist out there.
That’s why FeralFey’s products attract my attention. This vendor specializes in realistic poses for figures and regularly does packages associated with particular cultures/ethnicities. To see what’s so refreshing and respectful about FeralFey’s stuff, check out their V4 and V5 Voodoo Magic Poses; compare and contrast this package with Capsces Digital Ink’s Madame Mojo Poses for Monique 6. Both sets are linked to WOC characters, V4 Mama Brijit for the Voodoo Magic, G2F Monique 6 for the Madame Mojo, but they each treat their subjects differently.
- FeralFey’s promo shots depict a WOC as active, confident, and powerful, while Capsces’ promo shots depict a WOC as dehumanized, lacking in power, and pointlessly sexualized. FeralFey’s product promos have Maman Brijit dancing, invoking, drawing, and tipping her top hat in dramatic, full-body poses reminiscent of dancing. Her intense gaze and the strong angles of her posture demonstrate strength; even in poses named Entranced and Enthralled, her stances remain solid, balanced, and compelling. By contrast, Capsces’ promo shots show Monique pretty much naked, with goofy body paint. The near nudity combines with the character’s arched back and high-heel foot poses to place her in the pinup category. More subtly, Capsces’ decision to roll Monique’s eyes back in her head and open her mouth for many of these poses connotes an altered state of consciousness that may or may not be orgasmic. Plus there’s a snake or two in there for some reason. In other words, with unintentional double entendres like “parent snake[s] to Monique’s hip before applying pose,” Capsces’ promos show the tired old conjunction between a WOC and a transgressive, excessive, bestial sexuality.
- FeralFey’s product shows the results of accurate research, while Capsces’ does not. FeralFey’s promo text uses the correct vocabulary of Voodoo, and the product even includes accurate veves [diagrams] used to summon various loas [interceding spirits between people and deities]. Meanwhile, Capsces’ product bills itself as “voodoo and witch doctor inspired,” which is code for “based on imaginary stereotypes.”
- Finally, FeralFey’s promo text describes Voodoo differently than Capsces’. Capsces’ text settles for evocation of a stereotype, with “Monique…cast[ing] some dark mojo,” blah blah blah “voodoo,” blah blah blah “witch doctor inspired,” blah blah blah. Note the equation of Voodoo with “dark mojo,” which most consumers will probably translate as “incomprehensible black magic,” and “witch doctors,” most readily translatable as “evil wizards.” Basically Capsces says that Voodoo = evil magic. By contrast, FeralFey says only that “…the magic of voodoo enthralls the curious and ensnares the imagination.” There’s a distinction made between Voodoo itself and how outsiders perceive it. It might seem like puzzling sorcery to the clueless, but the information in FeralFey’s promo text reveals that Voodoo contains, in part, rituals to call on intercessors and/or deities so that people can gain advice and help. In other words, practitioners of Voodoo do what many other people in many other religions do. In implicit rebuke to Capsces’ exoticizing portrayal, FeralFey’s text insists that Voodoo is a religion like any other. Sure, it’s not perfect; FeralFey does use the adjective “visceral” in the description, which is code for “primitive,” but, overall, FeralFey’s Voodoo Magic Poses demonstrate respect and realism in opposition to Capsces’ stereotyped, demeaning cliches.
I was so overjoyed when I noticed the distinction between FeralFey’s stuff and everyone else’s that I sent a thank you note to them, saying much of what I noted above. In a sea of lazy, sloppy, unresearched, and racist characterizations, their [much more] respectful illustrations stand out as an example of what people should be doing. I get so sick of calling out racist bullshit that I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to congratulate someone for respect and inclusivity. I can tell that FeralFey works meticulously on all aspects of their creations, carefully crafting them for realism and respectful portrayal. I wanted to let them know that I recognized and encouraged their efforts. They wrote back and thanked me, which made me happy.
At the same time, I have the same sort of meta-reaction toward FeralFey’s poses as I do toward Dead or Alive’s gender-unmarked love songs or Queen’s respect for women. In all of these cases, the respect and decency of the artists toward their characters is really rather basic. And yet, because we live in a societal cesspit of racism, heteronormativity, and misogyny in which people are denied basic humanity because of their race, sexuality, and/or femininity, a modicum of authorial respect is mind-blowing. I don’t want to be surprised by Dead or Alive’s gender-free love songs. I don’t want to go into raptures over the love and equality in Killer Queen. I don’t want to write a thank you note to a digital artist for treating WOC like people. I want gender neutrality and equality of the sexes and respect between the races to be the standard, not the exception. And yet they aren’t, so my momentary happiness is outweighed by a greater structural disappointment.