Weekend flashback: chainmail chicks and boots galore

This movie didn’t do very well. Partly because this movie poster promised a lot more Conan/Arnie than was there (so the word of mouth was ‘what a ripoff’) and partly because they didn’t give Brigitte Nielsen exactly the costume the fans were expecting, which was more along the lines of this eminently practical warrior garb – the chainmail bikini:

My personal preference is for the moderately more sensible garb sported by Nielsen in the film. At least the chainmail wouldn’t have been driven bloodily into her flesh by the first blow struck by an enemy. But that wasn’t what the fanboys wanted, and not even most of the female fetishists either – they wanted a bloody metal bikini. That is still the gold standard for the character, as shown by these examples of cover art for the latest comics:

So what is it with the chicks in chainmail fetish? Nothing wrong with a warrior-woman in my book, so long as her clothing, armour and weapons make sense for the life that she leads. But type ‘warrior woman’ into a search engine for images and look at all the acres of flesh – has there ever been a soldier anywhere who doesn’t protect their skin?

I know it’s meant to emphasise that these magical-type warrior maids have unscarred naked flesh to display because of their unearthly skills with the blade. Particularly when it’s combined, as usual, with some sort of geas about virginity (Red Sonja vowed to never sleep with a man unless he could best her with a sword), which safely reduces the unbeatable woman to her sex class status again, it is the very lack or normal armour that makes the chainmail chick such a potent fantasy classic. Even the fabulous Xena, who thankfully eschewed the bikini and mostly looked fairly practical with metal armour over hard-wearing leather, still had to have the metal breastplate right against the flesh of her bosom:

There has been much mockery of this chainmail-chick cliche in recent fantasy writing. Mercedes Lackey had her much-loved Tarma and Kethry characters in one of MZB’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies want to whack a Sonja-esque caricature (fighting in spike heels as well) over the head for being such a joke of a warrior, and Jennifer Roberson has had a woman warrior who played against the Sonja cliché in a most rewarding way. (Both these writers have written so much fantasy that some of the later stuff is stretching to find new things to say, but Lackey’s Oathbound series is one of my favourite rereaders and Roberson’s first three Sword Dancer books at least are great fun – haven’t read the latest in the series, which I only just found out about at wikipedia).

Today I was able to get around in my summer sandals for the first time this spring. So next week’s flashback will be sandals, not boots.

Categories: arts & entertainment, Life

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3 replies

  1. Not to mention you’d need some pretty good nipple protectors to stop nasty chain mail rash or worse. And perky boobs, as there doesn’t seem to be much inbuilt support in those things, but I guess that goes without saying.

  2. Heh. Being unfamiliar with the Red Sonja comics, I had no idea about the bikini wars.
    Xena’s relatively sensible armor was, of course, undermined by Gabrielle’s ever-shrinking Bile Green Sports Bra, alas.
    Perhaps if they were wearing something more covering, there would be Crying Game fear?

  3. A bit like that episode of Futurama where Zap is disturbed to find himself attracted the man Leela is pretending to be?
    There were lots of pokes at the chainmail bikini taken in the Sword and Sorceress anthologies. Definitely worth picking up at a secondhand bookshop next time you’re wandering around one.

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