Lollipop Chainsaw and the Location of “The Line”

Suda51’s controversial hack-n-slash has been in my Gamefly GameQ since its release. A chainsaw-wielding cheerleader who fights off hordes of zombies with her boyfriend’s severed head at her side? That’s definitely not BioShock Infinite, but it seemed like something that would make for a satisfying rental.

When I received the disc in the mail this weekend, I gleefully put aside a few hours to give it a whirl. I wasn’t expecting much; reviews of the game had been a bit mixed, and I’ll readily admit that mindless brawlers usually aren’t my cup of tea. Still, I wanted to see for myself whether or not Lollipop Chainsaw was worth my time.

I should preface my reaction to the game with an explanation. I’m not averse to trashy, terrible entertainment. I’ve been a big professional wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen every episode of both Flavor of Love and Rock of Love. I’m not at all averse to toilet humor and I typically become more interested in something the stranger it becomes. Excess taken to excess holds my attention like few other things can.

Three hours later, I felt like I needed a shower. Not just any shower, mind you, but something involving bleach, wire brushes, and maybe a few shots of Jack Daniels. Holy shit.

Before Lollipop Chainsaw, I didn’t know that I even had a line that such a debauched game could cross. I thought I’d done it all in my gaming career: I’ve nuked whole towns, eviscerated countless monsters, rescued Japanese pop stars from strip clubs, ordered a wookiee to kill his twi’lek best friend, unleashed a hellacious white phosphorus attack, romanced amoral pirate ladies at the risk of starting a war–the list goes on, and on, and on, which probably says something about my favorite hobby that I need to ponder a little bit more. Regardless, no in-game event has ever made me stop playing because it just felt wrong. Many of the situations in the previous list existed to make a point, to cause the player to think about some facet of human nature. Think I did, and I dealt with those thoughts, and I moved on and finished the game.

The innuendo in Lollipop Chainsaw, however, was just too much for me to deal with. In part, I think, was that it was so blatantly stupid. Suda51 seemingly invested all of his available style points into the combat and left nothing behind for the dialogue or writing. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, given that “zombie-fighting cheerleader with a chainsaw” is right up there with “half-shark, half-octupus” and “giant robots that turn into cars” on the list of “Shit I Shouldn’t Expect to Be Shakespeare,” but man, it’s like the writers weren’t even trying to be clever. The game relies on blatant, misogynistic statements for a lot of its supposed humor, and that just turned me off completely.

I’m not sure what it was that pushed Lollipop Chainsaw over my proverbial line. The opening “this is my bedroom, don’t try any funny stuff!” scene made me shift uncomfortably and hope none of my roommates were around. The constant suggestion that the player should use the camera to try to look up Juliet’s skirt drove me nuts. And the high school students I rescued, who thanked me with such lovely pickup lines like “I never thought I’d be rescued by someone with nice tits!” or “I’m totally going to masturbate to you tonight!” just made me sigh and shake my head. The pole that fell down from the ceiling in one of the classroom levels just made me sad.

Really, Lollipop Chainsaw writers? Really?

I’m not here to completely shit on Suda51’s game. The combat was reasonably fun and interesting when the clunky camera didn’t screw me up, especially as I added more moves to Juliet’s repertoire. Lollipop Chainsaw is a bright, colorful game with a great soundtrack and high-quality voice work; although I don’t like what the characters had to say, I can’t deny the skill with which the voice actors said it. There was potential in Lollipop Chainsaw, but it’s lost on me.

At least now I know what my own tolerance is when it comes to controversial subject matter in a video game. I wish it was something I could quantify, a number I could use to determine whether or not something has gone too far. The line, however, isn’t something to which you can assign value; you only really know where it is when something barrels across it, and by then it’s too late to get out of the way.

What say you, dear readers? Am I making too much out of a game that never pretended to be anything other than trashy entertainment? Am I just another stupid prudish liberal New Englander who needs to get over himself? How do you know when something’s gone too far? Leave us a comment or drop us a line at

Check out episode 138 of the D Pad D Bags podcast, featuring Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite, Borderlands, and Pizza Hutt.

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  • shintek

    I always find it immensly interesting when someone has no problems with the ridiculous and excessive violence found in video games (as per your own admission), but starts getting prudish when sex is involved. I mean, it’s fine to kill hookers in GTA for instance, but god forbid a game dealt with matters of sexuality! This attitude, sadly, seems to be firmly ingrained in most people. Same when it comes to movies. Parents will let their kids play with M rated games if said games involves killing and violence, but most parents would scream bloody murder if the same kid saw some sex in that same game. And this doesn’t seem to be something that’s confined to kids. Adults react the same way when THEY play a game and get a little nugget of sexual content. “Whoa! THAT was something!”. Nevermind that I just totally murdered 55 innocents, THAT cutscene with the breasts was TOO much!

    How is it then that pornography is such a god damn profitable industry? Someone is clearly spending money to look at naked people having sex. I’d say A LOT of people are spending money or time watching sex on the web, given the number of sites and businesses dedicated to the sex/porn industry. Based on some very basic evidence, I’d have to say MOST people enjoy sex or at the very least, pornography.

    So what’s the deal here? Violence is ok, but the act of pleasuring oneself or others is wrong and should be hidden? It says something pretty bad about us when we’re still unable to be confortable with such a basic, fundamental thing as sexual encounters. Sex is a huge part of life, simply because we’re mammals and we reproduce by having coitus. We’ve evolved to enjoy it, so that the human race could endure. And safe sex between consenting adults is perfectly ok morally, despite whatever bullshit some people *cough religious nutbars cough* say.

    I love sex.I make it a point to buy games that have sexual content, or comics that talk about it. I want to support the whole damn concept of having sex be in the forefront of our entertainment , and having violence take a backseat for a while (mind you, I love “violent” games and movies just as much as the next guy).

  • YachtCaptainColby

    I’ve been pondering the exact same question since I wrote this. I’m not sure what the answer is, or why my line is where it is. I’d never steered away from a game, movie, or book because of sexual content before, but for some reason Lollipop Chainsaw’s innuendo didn’t sit well with me. Perhaps because it takes something that, as you say, should be a pleasurable act between two consenting adults and twists it into something I found crude and gross that diminishes the act. Perhaps it’s because all of the innuendo and exploitative content was aimed squarely at just one gender, which is something I’ve never approved of. Maybe I’ve got a severe case of White Knight-itis and I need to get it looked at.

    Regardless, you’re right that it’s interesting. It may merit a follow-up article if I can get all of my thoughts straight. Thanks for your comment.

  • shintek

    It is a bit of a conundrum. Don’t get me wrong, I have a young daughter, and I’m certainly not saying that it’s more ok for kids to be exposed to gratuitous sexuality then it is for them to be exposed to gratuitous violence. When kids are involved, I think most of us would agree that the industry’s M or Adult rating should be heeded by parents. It’s what I plan (don’t we all) to do when my kid reaches the video game age. I just find it sad that in an age of increasing violence, terrorism, hatred, bullying, intolerance, we still look at video game and movie violence as something quite banal and acceptable, and sexuality, the mother of all earthly pleasures, as something evil and repulsive (I should point out that despite this, I DO NOT believe that video game violence causes people to more violent, simply that if we can deal with violence in a fictitious context, when should most certainly be able to deal with sex and nudity, as well, in the same context).

    Overall, I’d have to say that I believe the north American attitude (on average) towards sex to be rather unhealthy. I’m going to use the age old cliché of European women sunbathing topless. It’s not shocking to most other Europeans. And it’s not because people don’t like breasts. It’s just that it’s no big deal. “Breasts. Nice. Whatever. What about that game last night…”. Around our parts, it’s more like “OMG, what is this devil worshipping, god-hating act! Hide the children! Call the cops! Bare breasts! Bare breastssss!!!”. Never mind that we all have breasts in our mouths after we’re born (I’m really not some kind of new age breastfeeding advocate or hippie, nor am I a nudist, just trying to illustrate the stupidity of the taboo of human nakedness and sexuality). As a species, we still seem to lack a certain ‘maturity’ (and not only because of the sexuality thing).

    It would seem that the Japanese attitude towards sex is really bizarre as well (at least to me, with their pornography somehow always showing women acting as if they were in severe pain, the used panty vending machines, the taboo on pubic hair in manga, not to mention everybody’s favorite: hentai and tentacle sex). I’m not sure why I bring this up, perhaps to illustrate the different behaviors that can manifest in the human race as a result of what I like to call institutionalized sexual denial. We all like it, but most of us can’t what we want, with whom we want, on a regular basis (I could write a 20 page article on that alone), so our art, games, porn, is going to be completely over the top to compensate.

    About the game: you may very well be right (actually, there is no way you CAN’T be right since we’re talking about perception here) that there might be something “wrong” with that particular type of sexual depiction. To be honest, I can’t comment on this with regards to LChainsaw. I played the game, but only very briefly, and I didn’t even notice the sexual bits, apart from the obvious visuals (I was playing at a friend’s house, and were we talking while I gave the game a try).

    I must certainly agree that sexual content of all types should be aimed at both genders. What’s good for the goose…

    Oh, and keep the White Knight-itis. Never get rid of that. It’s a good thing.

  • NICO. D.

    I bought the game, and I don’t think the game is misogynistic at all. Extremely gratuitous, yes. But not a women-hating attack on the fairer gender. I actually have a cosplayer friend on facebook who has uploaded an upskirt pictures of herself dressed in an exact copy of the titular character’s outfit. AND she personally chose that particular angle. It’s all in good fun. There’s two types of feminists. The old-school types who say that men are evil and that women need to cover up as a consequence. And then there’s the modern types, who think men are idiots, and that women should use what they’ve got to take advantage of that stupidity. I think Lollipop Chainsaw’s Juliet would fall into the second category. :)

    On a different note, here’s an article I did, on the videogame politics of Capcom fighting games, if anyone is interested:

    PEACE! ^_^