Anthropomorphic Character Modesty (1 of 2)

March 27, 2010
In our normal world, there is a general standard where humans wear clothing and animals don’t. In the world of art and animation however, we mix the two in the form of anthropomorphic characters, and this complicates things. When does it become necessary to draw the line with clothing and modesty? Let’s examine this prior to a survey I wish to conduct.

Does it matter?

It’s likely that most artists don’t closely consider or even care whether what they present is modest or immodest. But if you’re targeting a mass audience, it becomes necessary to address this issue. It’s also likely that most people don’t care, but you need to consider your specific audience. As a Christian according to the New Testament and as an artist, I must be particularly aware.

Whether you’re a Christian artist/viewer or not, you likely have standards. But those standards are for humans, so anthropomorphic characters can be ambiguously sticky.

What are modesty and immodesty?

Before we can assess what’s “modest” and what’s “immodest” we need to know what they mean. Here are some definitions for modest: Here are some definitions for immodest: Key characteristics of modesty:
  • “disinclination to call attention to oneself”
  • “conventional proprieties”
  • “free from showiness or ostentation”
  • “having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.”
Key characteristics of immodesty:
  • “offending against sexual mores in conduct or appearance”
  • “indecent”
  • “shameless”
  • “unchaste”
  • “lewd”
  • “obscene”
  • “arrogant”

What makes an anthropomorphic character modest or immodest?

Animals don’t wear clothing and are generally modest. However, as an artist adds more human characteristics, we naturally perceive it more like a human. Therefore it becomes necessary to add clothing.

And vice versa, when the character is more animal like, clothing may be unnecessary if no “sexy bits” are present. Clothing may even distract the viewer from the main point of the subject matter. An unclothed character more animal-like than human-like isn’t generally lewd assuming the subject matter isn’t lewd.

Unfortunately, what makes a character modest or immodest is not only dependent on an artist’s presentation, but a viewer’s perception. Therefore, it becomes necessary to know the average viewer’s perception. The keyword is “average,” there are always exceptions. Some won’t find anything particularly immodest while some will find practically everything immodest.

There’s always some out there who will perverse

If you’re an artist that’s concerned about what you present, don’t beat yourself up when things seem to go awry. Even if you actually left nothing to misinterpretation, some people can still find a way to pervert it. Your work will sometimes be criticized and taken out of context.

Consider that even God’s work, the perfect Author and Artist, is sadly misrepresented all the time. Concerning modesty and clothing (for humans), these are Biblical standards I adhere to (see context for details):
  • Exodus 20:26 - “Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.”
  • Exodus 28:42 - “And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs.”
  • Isaiah 47:1-3 - “Uncover the thigh, Pass through the rivers. Your nakedness shall be uncovered, Yes, your shame will be seen;”
  • Nahum 3:5 - “I will lift your skirts over your face, I will show the nations your nakedness, And the kingdoms your shame.”
  • Matthew 5:28 - “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 - “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
  • 1 Timothy 2:9 - “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,”
Hopefully I’ll have some statistics to present before the Summer of 2010.