Home > Avatar (2009 film), World Of Warcraft > Fantasy League Round 5: Fashion Failure

Fantasy League Round 5: Fashion Failure

Sometimes, the clothes of the characters on the silver screen are awesome.  And sometimes they’re just ridiculous.

Straight to the Heart

This is one of my pet peeves, as it seems to ignore the reason why armor was invented.

To illustrate — which of these two characters is going to have more issues with projectile weapons and pointy objects aimed at their chest?

That’s what I thought.  The reasons for this from a media point of view are rather obvious: showing off a woman’s skin apparently attracts viewers’ and players’ attention.  Nonetheless, it’s obvious why armor like that was never used back in the real world.  The reasons for its use in media are, perhaps, just as obvious. Everybody knows that all gamers are straight males, and no women ever deign to touch a keyboard </sarcasm>.

Though it’s usually the women in the minimalist armor (consider Xena, Warrior Princess, or any number of other shows), they’re hardly the only ones.  Barbarian types especially are also subject to this.  (That’s even when you exclude things like Captain Kirk strategically ripping his shirt.)

Even if that’s their non-fighting gear, wouldn’t they get cold eventually?

Some of the Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan include some bodyguards with precisely this kind of armor to make people think they’re less skilled than they actually are.  It seems to me that you’d rather give off that aura of ineffectiveness by means other than making it easier to be injured.  At least when this shows up in the Belgariad books by David Eddings, the queen’s armor is deliberately ornamental — the better to look awesome while giving orders to the army.


Similarly, it’s best to have appropriate shoes for the task at hand.

I don’t think I’ve seen anybody in film wearing shoes this bad. On the other hand, these shoes may actually be real…

As an example, in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, our intrepid reporter spends the entire movie, except for a brief stint in the mountains, wearing high heels.  This is manifestly not a good idea.  At least in that movie, they make a point of mentioning (and demonstrating) how the high heels are a bad idea.  Given the number of times the lady characters end up having trouble running, or tripping over their own three-inch-heels…

In other cases?  Many of the women in Star Trek are only ever seen wearing high heels — most egregiously in the original series and Seven of Nine in Voyager.  Then again, maybe they’re trying to make a statement.  “She’s so awesome, she can outrun and outgun you despite the high heels”.

Of course, there are also alternative uses for high heels.  In most cases, I suspect using high heels as a weapon wouldn’t work especially well — they’re not made for handling that kind of stress, and given that most of them aren’t knife-sharp, it would take quite a bit of effort to impale somebody with them.  That said, stomping on somebody’s toes with them would work pretty well.

No Capes!

This is Stratogale, briefly mentioned in The Incredibles. Moments after this image was taken, the drag from her cape caused her to be sucked into the plane’s jet engine.

Capes are also on the list of fashion no-nos.  The Incredibles has a whole sequence of unfortunate superheroes who meet their doom via cape-related issues, courtesy of Edna Mode.  The fundamental problem with capes is that they get stuck in stuff, caught in stuff, grabbed by your nemesis and used to fling you across the room, and so on.

It’s not just superheroes, either.  The sorcerer and evil overlord types also frequently sport capes or long fancy robes, which film and novel even occasionally have be a demonstrable problem.  But most of the time, they manage to get away with it somehow.  Consider all the fighting in long, flowing robes that the Jedi do in Star Wars.  Darth Vader has a cape, too.  And, when Industrial Light and Magic was animating Yoda showing his stuff in the prequel films, the animators found handling his robes tricky — making sure they looked cool and like they weren’t going to get tangled and trip him.

Edna Mode knows her fashion.

I still think a detachable cape could be handy, though, given the utility of using clothing to avoid getting caught.


To quote the first item on the Evil Overlord List:  “My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.”

This is commonly done to the mooks in movies and so forth for the simple reason that, when we can’t see their faces, we can’t sympathize.  These are the faceless Legions of Terror, and thus morally acceptable targets, not people with a family who’re just doing their job as a guard.  It also helps in that you don’t need as many extras to portray your legions.

In practice, this means that the guards can’t recognize each other on sight.  A common heroic tactic is to knock out or kill an unlucky guard, steal his clothes, and bluff to get into the fortress of doom.

Nazgûl. Face-concealment is perhaps less relevant, since it’s not clear they have faces. On the other hand, since they can’t really see, it’s not clear why they have the big opening for their nonexistent faces. Smelling out his quarry, perhaps.  Regardless, that comes back to bite this guy later.

The other side of the coin is that, oftentimes, the hero doesn’t wear a helmet.

Avatar (with the blue aliens) actually manages to get this somewhat right.  The humans are always wearing helmets so they can breathe — with nice clear faceplates so we can identify them.  (The Na’vi don’t bother with them, though.  Or much armor, for that matter.)

Otherwise, our heroic SWAT team member is the only one without a helmet.  Real SWAT teams?  Everybody has a helmet, armor, and all the other appropriate gear.  Detectives without helmets try to stay back and out of the way when the situation goes south.  After all, dealing with the dangerous parts is what SWAT teams are for.

On the other hand, the best example of helmet fail is Star Wars.  The Jedi?  No helmets.  (Also no armor, but it seems that armor isn’t much help against lightsabers.  Personal force fields, on the other hand, would be nice.)  Stormtrooper helmets also fail badly on this front.  They’re face-concealing and, according to one character who… borrows… a helmet, it’s actually pretty hard to see, too.

Of course, they’re not terribly effective anyway.

And if you’re confused, you need to watch Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

  1. Chakat Firepaw
    2013/01/05 at 4:50 am

    You mention detachable capes but miss that this is also the solution to most of the problems with capes: If your cape getting caught on/sucked into something just causes you to lose your cape it isn’t that big of a problem.

    One superhero setting I came across even uses this as a standard: Every superhero and all but one supervillain who wears a cape has it attached either with Velcro or breakaway ties. (The one exception being an extremely high end flying brick who would barely notice most things that could grab his cape.)

  2. 2013/01/05 at 5:06 am

    That’s a good point. The main catch with a detachable cape is that having it yanked off, or releasing it yourself, may still throw the superhero in question off-balance a bit. Which could be inconvenient in dangerous circumstances.

    That said — what setting was it that had the detachable capes? It sounds like it might be interesting to have a look at…

  1. 2012/11/12 at 5:05 am
  2. 2012/11/17 at 4:19 am
  3. 2013/02/14 at 9:38 pm
  4. 2013/03/08 at 9:51 pm
  5. 2013/03/15 at 5:02 am

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