Let’s Talk About Breasts, Baby
Somberwald Sage by Steve Argyle
Breasts are not offensive. Breasts are awesome. When you’re putting on that full-court press, breasts make the numbers on your jersey curve all sexy-like. When you’re a bratty six-month-old baby, breasts feed and calm your insatiable face. When you’re grown and cuddling on a Sunday morning, breasts are the adult equivalent of Pillow Pets. If you’re Meatloaf in Fight Club, breasts are a nice place for Edward Norton to dry his tears. Breasts rock.
I’m listening to the Sounds and admitting to you all right now that I have done my share of bosom ogling in my time. I’m also a thirty-three-year-old mother and have found out exactly what practical purposes those bosoms are really there to fulfill. I was breastfed until I was a couple years old, and being born in the 80s, I hit puberty in the 90s right when Lady Death was making herself known to the world.
Lady Death by rk post for Chaos Comics
I like breasts. I like killer women who use their breasts to whatever ends they see fit. I do not like disembodied, misplaced, out-of-context, or afterthought breasts in art. This is offensive. I hate when potentially cool art is ruined by the lazy or gratuitous slopping of ill-advised breasts into the picture. This is a tragedy.
Angel of Glory’s Rise by James Ryman
The purpose of this article is to twofold. First, I want to illustrate, for those who might be confused, why and where The Offense occurs. Second, I want to affirm there is a grey-area Safety Zone of fantasy breast depictions for all of us to enjoy while still being appropriate in a Magic context. It is not a call for a “ban on boobs”—it is a clarification piece.
The standalone rule is in play here since I’m talking about regular card girls, not planeswalkers. In general the ’walkers have narratives in which they benefit from us getting to know them better. Voice often mitigates the negative repercussions of exploitable traits.
Liliana Vess by Aleksi Briclot
Fantasy is about projections of grandeur, idealized bodies, and envisioning throwing lightning bolts into the sneering face of every bully you encountered in middle school. I get that. Female players get that just as much as male players do (though it wouldn’t hurt to see more “average” Jills depicted, just to increase diversity). The difference is that female players are concerned about being relegated to being signboards for boobies, treated as outlets for hormone-driven fixations, and thus dehumanized within our community and in the tourney room. MTG art needs to respect this this concern.
Morkrut Banshee by Svetlin Velinov
Morkrut Banshee is my personal line for Okay versus Not Okay. The fact that Banshee’s decaying in every area except her bosom is offensive. The fact that her breasts look obviously fake, as though she had major augmentation surgery, is offensive. The worst thing is that the laughable breasts distract from what otherwise would be an evocatively beautiful, serious art piece. And . . .
Imagine if Morkrut Banshee was a male.
Ridiculous. Easily identifiable as such. This would never be printed on a card. He belongs on an erotic novel cover . . . or on a fetish porn site, and certainly not in Magic game imagery. So why does Morkrut Banshee, the female equivalent of this ungracefully endowed minion, get a free pass into our coed (sometimes professionally competitive) sporting environment that is Magic: The Gathering?
Radha, Heir to Keld by Jim Murray
There is a time and place and correct context for skimpy clothing and bare skin—don’t get me wrong. So your whole tribe is berserkers? Great, you probably run around half-naked, shunning armor, declaring it “for cowards” as you smash your spiked weapon into everything in sight. Thus, Bloodbraid Elf and Radha, Heir to Keld’s rather sparse outfits are as plausible as those of Berserkers of Blood Ridge.
Precinct Captain by Steve Prescott
But what if you’re part of a human garrison in Ravnica, where all the males go fully clad? How then, does Precinct Captain’s soldier token compatriot make sense? Why on earth would she leave her heart vulnerable to attack? This isn’t an artistic metaphor for interpersonal relationships. It’s a practical matter. The answer is, she wouldn’t. She would have armor all over that lovely mahogany bosom.
Soldier token by Steve Prescott
Pictures speak louder than words. Below are the Okay and Not Okay card arts that fellow lady MTGers submitted when I asked them to volunteer their picks for Seriously Offending Boobage and Sensual-but-Nonoffensive Boobage. I think your gut (if not your brain) will be able to discern what the issue is.
The ladies submitting these choices are diverse—some are Spikey players, others are judges, yet others are writers . . . they are of varied orientations, colors, and ages. Of course, we don’t all agree on the controversy of every art piece. There are quibbles, but I’ve chosen a sampling that I’m confident is very representative of various offensive attributes in breast depictions.
As every good Vorthos knows, the bottom line is: Context matters. Scantily clad vampire courtesan is not going to offend like a scantily clad human soldier. Also matters: lighting, perspective, basic anatomical correctness, agency and voice of the subject, and proportion.
As you can see, there’re a ton of sexy women listed in the Not Offensive category. What the Offensive arts share is a disproportionate focus placed on parts. We don’t look at fantasy art to see disembodied boobs. We look at fantasy art to have our imagination stirred by a whole idea of flight and fancy, articulated in the artist’s careful craftsmanship. No one wants to have Garruk prancing around with a huge prosthetic manhood in our eye just to make things more equal in the art gaffe department.
Females shouldn’t have to feel like some cards rep us like this.
If you use this image in any way, I’ll know who you are.
It was created purely for educational purposes.
I hope this article helped illustrate the problematic moments breasts have had in Magic and what we’re looking forward to moving forward. For related discussion except from the posterior angle, see my article Baby Got Back. If you’d like to continue learning about the ways breasts are abused in art, check out the hilarious blog Boobs Don’t Work That Way. And now, a poll! I’m dying to know the breast thoughts of my readership.
Okay—excuse me, Lord Bolas, by now I’m used to you “photobombing” all of my articles, but in my meek and humble opinion, this is one poll of mine that you might not actually want to win . . . Know what? Nevermind. Do whatever you want. You’re an asshat.
’Till next time, may Magic be your shining breastplate.
P.S. from Nicol Bolas: I designed Jade Mage’s skirt. It is part of my new line for House of Bolas. You will all be wearing that skirt by this time next year. It is inevitable. Also, my breasts are sublime. Bolas out.
Lingering Souls by Bud Cook