Horizon Forbidden West’s Aloy Is On The Cover Of February’s Vanity Fair

Córa-Laine Moynihan

Vanity Fair has selected the video game character Aloy from Horizon Forbidden West to feature on the cover of its February edition. Córa-Laine explores how this innovative choice challenges the stereotypical beauty standards of Vanity Fair.

December 2021 – Jennifer Lawrence dons a striped number, woolly and collared, all the while basking in the shade and sharing about her return to Hollywood.

January 2022 – Priyanka Chopra stuns in a strapless cascade of ruffled threads, spilling her hopes for the future.

February 2022 – Aloy stands stern and strong, wrapped in natural colours. Freckled cheeks on full display. AI in disguise.

What separates her from Priyanka and Jennifer, is what separates us from The Sims. An entire digital world, visual effects, and her story already planned ahead. Yet, Aloy stemming from a video game did not stop Vanity Fair publishing her on the cover of its Italian print edition.

Horizon Zero Dawn amassed a huge following upon release, even achieving a huge sales milestone of 20 million copies as of November 28, 2021, leading up to the release of its 2022 sequel, Horizon Forbidden West. A feat quite possibly ascribed to the franchise’s charismatic female lead. 

Aloy’s wild and courageous exterior is displayed on the Italian cover

Rather than demonstrating stereotypical beauty standards of old, Aloy’s wild and courageous exterior is displayed on the Italian cover, a homage to what lays inside Ofmario Manca’s article about her and the action-adventure role-playing game (RPG).

Delving into the make-up of the game and Aloy’s own journey throughout it, Manca began the feature article stating: “Aloy has faced a path of training and personal growth that has led her to become an intelligent, combative and tenacious woman… She has become a model for the younger generation of players, who see in her the archetype of tomorrow: a virtual – yet realistic – icon that carries with it the seed of a small revolution.”

And it is with this focus on Aloy’s identity and influence over young gamers that Manca continued and finished the feature – a refreshing change from the traditional emphasis on a female’s looks and fashion. Although Aloy is a fictional character, her character’s presentation could have easily become the subject of Vanity Fair’s feature, especially considering the controversy surrounding it when the first few glimpses of Horizon Forbidden West were revealed back in Spring 2021.

Multiple fans disliked her desexualised, realistic design

Wrapped in wolf hides, red-hair braided, and completely make-up free, Aloy boasts the appearance of a wild woman that fits the setting of a post-apocalyptic, primitive world. However, multiple fans disliked her desexualised, realistic design. They hated the freckles, her rounded cheeks, and her more muscular than voluptuous figure.

Twitter users even went so far as to share fanart of the character caked in make-up and with a thinner face, appearing happier. Ultimately, this raises a debate about whether female characters should be sexualised or not. One to which, Vanity Fair, a publication dedicated to the sharing of fashion and beauty, has clearly answered.

Should we continue to focus on appearance over identity? Manca’s writing indicates no.

Vanity Fair’s cover champions Aloy’s less sexualised and more practical design. Manca’s feature highlights Aloy’s character growth over gruelling over every inch of her appearance.

Aloy, a virtual being, is treated as a normal woman. Not a fashion icon. Not a sexual object for the stereotypical male gamer. Rather, she is displayed as a role model for young people and an inspiration for what female video game leads could be like for games to come.

Córa-Laine Moynihan

Featured Image courtesy of JESHOOTS.COM via Unsplash. Image use license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In-article trailer courtesy of PlayStation via @youtube.com. No changes were made to this video.

In-article image courtesy of @guerillagames via @instagram.com. No changes were made to this image.

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