Monday, June 15, 2015

[DC012] Creepy Woody: Polymorphous Perversity

Previous: [DC011] Sci-Fi Revoltech Series No. 010 Woody:Plastic Databases

Disclaimer: My intention in this section is not to make light of rape/sexual assault, but to examine the evolution of Creepy Woody as an internet phenomena. Call it unfortunate or call it a necessity, but this means examining images that do make light of rape/sexual assault/etc. So trigger warnings and such.
                With two re-printings already under its belt, Revoltech Woody is one of the most successful Kaiyodo figures and certainly the most internationally well-known. Released in July of 2010, the figure, intended only for the Japanese domestic market, was by August already on its way to international notoriety under a variety of monikers. 

                The most widely used name in English is “Creepy Woody,” followed by “Hentai Woody,” “Revoltech Woody” and lastly, the name most antithetical to everything that Pixar's down-to-earth hero stood for, “Rape Face Woody.” While “Rape Face” is the least frequently used English name, consumer recreation and play using Revoltech Woody has, on the internet at least, very much centered on themes of rape, sexual deviancy, and all around “creepiness.”
                In Japan, the three most popular terms are (in no particular order) warudakurami uddi (悪企みウッディ/Evil Plan Woody), hentai uddi (変態ウッディ/Hentai Woody), and riborutekku uddi (リボルテックウッディ/Revoltech Woody). It is interesting that Hentai Woody” is used in both languages, though it is difficult to determine what significance to attach to this. Is the Japanese term popular in English because English-speaking consumers assign a Japanese identity to the toy or is the term used simply in imitation of the Japanese consumers who first had access to the figure? At most, we can perhaps use it of an example of the extent to which the term “hentai” has been adopted by English-speaking internet users.

                Where did this narrative of rape and sexual deviancy come from? It was certainly not from Pixar, and it seems unlikely that Kaiyodo, with their rigid adherence to accurate representation and the ideal of models as vehicles for cultural heritage, would intentionally distort Woody's character. Is this distasteful narrative purely the creation of an international group of morally deviant otaku?

                The roots of Creepy Woody, surprisingly enough, lie in the movie Toy Story itself, that is to say, with Pixar's Woody. In an early scene in the movie, Woody has some fun at Buzz's expense by pointing and shouting “Buzz, look, an alien!” Buzz, who still believes himself to be an actual Space Ranger, looks around Andy's room for the non-existent extraterrestrial, much to Woody's amusement.
The origin of the "Evil Plan" face
                Pixar's Woody's face of amusement apparently struck a chord with Revoltech Woody sculptor Matsumoto Eiichirō. It served as the basis for Revoltech Woody's alternate face, which came to be known as the “warudakurami kao,” the “evil plan face” apparently conveying Woody's “evil plan” to trick Buzz.

"Smiling Face" and "Evil Plan Face"
                The sense is one of a childish joke, a mischievous scheme. Pixar's Woody is perhaps taking advantage of Buzz's naiveté, no lasting harm is done – or so it appears. In truth, Woody's lapse of conscience has started him down a slippery slope of moral degradation, which ends in the troubling narrative of “Rape Face Woody.” As Sir Walter Scott warned, “Oh what a tangled web we weave/when first we practise to deceive!”

                In discussing the “Evil Plan” face, we must remember that it appears on screen for less than a second as part of a series of humorous facial contortions. But once the face is isolated from that sequence of rapidly moving pictures and cast into unmoving plastic, it takes on something of a sinister aspect. It looks less like a smile and more like a leer. No longer doubled over in audible laughter, Revoltech Woody now gazes silently at us rather than Buzz.

                Once the laughing face is taken out of its original context, the joke suddenly lacks a concrete target. It becomes up to the consumer to decide just what Revoltech Woody is laughing at, the direction of his eyes and the object of his scorn. Is he laughing or is he leering? What evil plans lurk beneath the eyes of Revoltech Woody? Only the consumer can decide.
Typical "Creepy Woody" image
                Consumers wasted no time in creating their own narratives with Revoltech Woody, narratives very much at odd with those of Pixar and Revoltech. These new narratives took two forms. First, Revoltech Woody was physically disassembled and combined with different parts from the Revolver Joint database. In some cases, consumers physically modified these parts and/or combined them with parts from non-Kaiyodo toys. Revoltech Woody was reassembled and placed into dioramas with other toys. 

                Second, consumers used cameras and image editing software to create electronic images which were shared via the internet with other consumers. It was this form of Revoltech Woody which became the nexus of a fan-created character: Creepy Woody.
                 Creepy Woody has a versatile range. His consumer-created narratives run the gamut from the amusing, the disturbing, the pornographic, the violent, and everything in-between. They take the form of still images taken with cameras, stop-motion animations created by continuously posing and reposing the figure, multi-panel comics, and Western-style memes made with images and text. He poses with other Revoltech figures, but also with Nendoroids, figmas, Western action figures, live animals, and with human beings.

                These increasingly outlandish narratives of social and sexual deviancy preserve elements of Woody's original database while combining them with new and bizarre elements. Many of the images reference Woody's identity as a cowboy by having him “lasso” other characters. Others, such as the one shown above, reference lines from Toy Story, only now given a sinister meaning as he accosts a Persona 3 figma.
                Space does not allow us to examine even a fraction of the Creepy Woody images which have proliferated on the internet. There are hundreds, if not thousands them, many of which can be found on both English and Japanese language websites. Many of them are shockingly inappropriate. However, there are a few common threads that can be easily picked out.

                First, Creepy Woody is most frequently used in conjunction with similarly constructed toys. Revoltech, Nendoroid, and figma action figures all come with multiple parts that can be assembled and reassembled in much the same fashion as Revoltech Woody. This wide selection of database elements makes it easier for consumers to construct original narratives in ways which would not be possible with “regular” toys. Even when non-posable toys or non-toy objects are used, it is the versatility of Revoltech Woody that initially makes the consumer's narrative possible.
Woody vs. Creepy Woody
                Second, Creepy Woody has a distinct personality from Pixar's Woody or even Revoltech Woody which emerged from these uncoordinated consumer narratives. His personality is extreme, offensive, and socially deviant, but it is also remarkably consistent despite there being no single authoritative “author” who defines how he should behave. Rather, there is an informal network of consumers which have collectively created behavioral patterns which transcend place, time, and language.

                Creepy Woody is a vile, depraved individual, but he has the same depraved personality in both Japanese and English. In Toy Story, a toy's personality is informed both by “official” corporate narratives and by interaction with the consumer. Andy's toy Woody has a distinct self-hood independent from the wooden puppet of Woody's Roundup. Creepy Woody is consumed as a new character, created by Revoltech database consumers and established by their collective social recognition.
                Third, Creepy Woody is consumed by both Japanese and Western consumers in a way that is compatible with Azuma's Database Consumption theory. The modularity of the Revoltech figure, already broken down into a number of moe elements, encourages disassembly and reconstruction very much in line with the process of breaking down visual novel data to create new narratives or breaking down the moe elements of anime characters to create the Tinami search engine. The moe, the emotional connection and affection clearly extends to the individual elements that make up Creepy Woody (i.e. the “creepy” face) even when completely divorced from the figure of Revoltech Woody and juxtaposed with elements very different from what the sculptor intended.

Creepy Woody beyond plastic
                The idea of Creepy Woody has even transcended the original Kaiyodo figure, the plastic physical object. The “creepy” face of Creepy Woody is referenced in images without any toys in them at all, and his facial expression has been transferred onto other characters. What began as an oddly contorted laughing face and became a particular plastic object has at last become a semantic shorthand for sociopathic sexual deviancy.
Cross-dresser? Transgender?
                In line with Allison's polymorphous perversity, Creepy Woody is gender-queer. He is portrayed not just as a heterosexual male deviant, but as a cross-dresser, as a female, as a homosexual, as a sadist, as a masochist, as an infinitely expanding spectrum of any and all forms of sexuality imaginable. Allison claims that the “money shot” for Power Rangers or Kamen Rider are the mechanical details of their trans-human forms, the “bodily secrets” that allow their perverse transformation (107). Similarly, the money shot for Creepy Woody images is that same power to transcend bodily specificity and transform into new, perverse forms.

                Perhaps one of the most interesting features of Creepy Woody is how thoroughly he has displaced the original narratives encoded in Revoltech Woody for Western audiences. Since the cultural and technical information on Revoltech Woody's packaging is written in Japanese, this information is lost to non-Japanese audiences. The First and Second Generation concerns are effectively no longer present, so Revoltech Woody is almost entirely branded as a Third Generation product.

                Since Revoltech Woody was not intended for international sale, non-Japanese consumers wishing to purchase it generally rely on online sellers to acquire the product. Searching Amazon for “Creepy Woody” brings up Revoltech Woody as the first result. Consumer reviews emphasize that, yes, this is “that Woody.” While some reviewers do mention the high level of technical detail, the most conspicuous reason given for interest in the product is that it is “Creepy Woody,” not that it is “Revoltech Woody.”

                This then, is the curious case of Revoltech Woody. While it would be difficult to argue that the international reception of Revoltech Woody “proves” that the world outside Japan has also moved into the Era of Animalization, it does at least show that Japanese and English-speaking consumers were able to recognize the same Database elements without reference to language. Though we might debate the relative databasification of Western and Japanese societies, there is at the very least a similar mechanism at work among English-speaking consumers.

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