I’ve been reading a lot about this in recent weeks. There have been articles, forum threads and comment sections full of people arguing for and against Slaanesh’s status in the hobby and how there might be a few too many bare boobies going on with the Prince of Perversion for this particular Chaos God and its forces to ever see a release again. I can’t say I can solve this issue, but it’s high time I took a thorough look at it (though obviously sheepishly, probably wearing a dirty mac and dark glasses and referring to myself as ‘Mr Smith’) and find out what exactly the issue is.
As many of you will know, I’m a bit of a Slaanesh fan. From the first army that I created when returning to the hobby being 2000pts of 5th Edition Emperor’s Children, to Dios Toros, my abominable corrupted knight, I’ve always had a soft spot for these guys. My favourite ‘Miniature Focus’ article so far, has been the one on Noise Marines – I think it was also my first. So when rumours started circulating earlier in the year that She Who Thirsts would no longer get updates, I was obviously annoyed, but the more I think about it, the more I could see this happening, but only if a couple of small changes aren’t made.
Let us first put ourselves in the shoes (or in this case kinky boots) of the grand overlords in Nottingham. In order for GW to attract young fans who want to spend their parent’s money on plastic crack, they have to portray the hobby as something at least within 90º of wholesome. This means emphasising the social aspect of the hobby, the encouragement of artistic and mathematical skills as well as knowledge retention (seriously, these games are a great way to get your kid to discover his or her talents) while downplaying the deathgore grimdarkness of the whole thing. Parents know that boys in particular (though not exclusively or wholly) do enjoy playing War. They just do. I remember the plastic swords, laser blasters, green army men and airfix models of my childhood and I don’t think my parents worried one bit about it. Even video games like Mortal Kombat II and Street Fighter II weren’t that bad and have caused no issues in my adult life (occasionally I try to through Ice balls at people but it almost never works). Young boys (and some girls) tend to like a bit of rough and tumble, and playing war.
So violence has its place, but how about sex? If you’re a sane, responsible parent, you wouldn’t dream of letting your kids have access to anything pornographic in a sexual sense. There’s a reason why the nudey mags are on the top shelf and covered in opaque wrappers, and yet it is only recently that video game shops in particular, after a media-led shaming campaign, have started to enforce the age-rating system on some of the bloodier, more violent titles they carry. I remember being a young teenager and having no problem getting hold of gory, blood-filled games. It’s these attitudes that ultimately will be a problem for the continuation of Slaanesh in GW’s model range. Violence is acceptable, sex isn’t. Not my rules, but for GW to get those young spenders (and their parents’ credit cards) through the door, that’s what they have to play with. It’s ok for kid to shout “Blood for the Blood God!” but you wouldn’t give them a copy of Penthouse (at least I hope you wouldn’t). Now, I’m not for one minute saying Slaanesh is pornographic, but it’s probably the most risqué thing in the hobby.
Female Miniatures, And Their Pitfalls
To jump on to a tangent for a moment, GW has always had a problem with female-based models. It’s why you won’t see so many on the shelves. I heard once a story of someone quizzing a designer about this and his reply being along the lines of the following; When you’re sculpting female models, you either make them damsels in distress, or sex-crazed nymphomaniac psychopaths. If you make them ugly, people won’t buy them, and if you make them sexy, you get accused of being sexist. They cause too many problems.
Now, whether you agree with that or not (personally, I’m not sure, and I think it’s a little sad that this is even an argument), there is almost certainly a kernel of relevance in there, even if it’s not the whole picture. I dare say the reason Battle Sisters don’t grace their shelves is more down to profit margins than prudishness, though in fairness, the Adepta Sororitas were never exactly sexy – that’s something that has happened since with fan art and cosplayers, so I’m almost sure that’s more down to the demand not being there (despite all the internet shouting). Saying that though, the latest Dark Eldar Succubus is considerably toned down in comparison to Lelith Hesperax, so it shows you that the designers are starting to sculpt in a far more conservative fashion. There has to be a place for female miniatures in the game, and I think people are slowly getting better at representing them.
So Where Are We Going With This?
Let’s get back to our original topic – what has all of this got to do with Slaanesh? After all, the God of pleasure is both male and female, right? Well, that’s true, but the above paragraphs illustrate the controversy that sexualisation and ‘adult themes’ cause in the hobby. Unfortunately for She Who Thirsts, The Prince of Pleasure herself, she/he/it is the God of sexualisation and adult themes and that’s where the problem lies.
It’s fairly obvious that you can’t remove Slaanesh from the fluff of 40k. From Fulgrim’s antics in the heresy to the fall of the Eldar, the God’s influence is all over the place, and really I don’t think GW would ever try to get rid of one of the four main Chaos Gods in the same way that they chucked out the Squats. However, of all the Ruinous powers, Slaanesh has, ironically, had the least love from GW in recent years. Aside from a couple of chariots and a plastic herald, they’ve had nothing new, and when you compare that to the others, you can see that they’re not the big draw that Khorne, Nurgle or Tzeentch might be.
So if there’s less money to be made from the denizens of The Garden of Pleasure, and they already have an issue regarding how they look, what hope is there for a pinkish/purplish future? Well, it may not be as bad as I thought when I began writing this post. First off, we don’t need the bare boobs. The plastic daemonettes don’t have their’s on show anyway, and besides which, while having a certain female stance and shape about them, they obviously aren’t human, and that helps. The crab-claws, fang-filled grins and bestial feet set them apart, but what of the Fiends and Keeper?
Fixing The Beast
Fiends of Slaanesh are long (loooong) overdue a resculpt and it wouldn’t take much to drop the udders from these miniatures. There’s also nothing wrong with returning the Keeper to a more muscular and even male physique that could still have undertones without the need for half a wonder bra. The pinkish colour-scheme and bare flesh is probably enough to convey the unsettling sensuality of Slaanesh to older gamers while not being too grubby for the kids.
The rest of the arguments against Slaanesh, once you get rid of the knockers, then fall away really, at least when talking about the sculpts. I overheard one gamer saying the most unsettling thing he saw in Slaanesh were the tongues on the Seekers, but I think that says more about him than the models.
Does the fluff need cleaning up? Not particularly, though if you were really concerned, you might focus it more on the concept of ‘indulgence’ and less on the sexy fun times. Saying that, it’s never been overt or in-your-face. The novel Fulgrim painted a rather scandalous picture of the Emperor’s Children, but these books are geared more to adults and older teenagers so there’s no real danger of kids making it all the way to the more dramatic scenes in the last quarter of the book (and even if they do, they’ll be so messed up by what has come before they’re probably beyond redemption.
Let’s Wrap This Up
So it all really comes down to presentation, both in models and in the story. Get rid of the bare boobs on the miniatures, and play up the decadence and indulgent in the books rather than the grubby stuff. If you’re going to have barely dressed female-esque characters, up play the ‘esque’ part to remove a little of the sexism there. If that’s all it takes to fix, where’s the problem? You can still have a lascivious lust monster appear on the table, as long as it’s not got its bits hanging out. This may sound prudish to some, but if it keeps the hobby going with the money the youngsters bring in, and if it keeps Slaanesh in the game, it’s probably better to be a little more Mary Whitehouse, and a little less Amy Winehouse. And this writer can’t believe he just said that (or that he’s now referring to himself in the third person!). I sound like such a prude!
There you go then. There shouldn’t be an issue whatsoever. Case closed. Brandys and cigars all round. When you come to such a simple conclusion, you wonder why you spent an evening writing something this long in the first place to be honest. I guess I was just worried that the evil entity to which I have sworn my hobby soul to might one day become a thing of the past, and that would sadden me greatly. It’s part of the legacy of GW, and if all it takes to ensure its future is a few good rules and a few less breasts on show, that should be a no brainer. Onwards!