Character Agency

What does it mean, if even possible, for a fictional character to have agency? How can said agency be portrayed in  fictional characters like Bayonetta?

If you google “define agency”  some of the definitions you are given is “action or intervention, especially such as to produce a particular effect”, more specifically “a thing or person that acts to produce a particular result.” This definition can definitely be expanded on and when it comes to agency in people, one can delve into what it means to truly act on one’s own accord and have the power to choose. Talking about agency in fictional characters becomes tricky because well not only are they ‘not real’, there is always someone behind every aspect of their character design. I think Chuck Wendig talks about it well in his blog post. He writes,

Character agency is, to me, a demonstration of the character’s ability to make decisions and affect the story. This character has motivations all her own. She is active more than she is reactive. She pushes on the plot more than the plot pushes on her. Even better, the plot exists as a direct result of the character’s actions.

To me, this really captured and helped me process my thoughts on what agency looks like when possessed by a fictional character, or at least one form of it. A character with an agenda of their own. This is important to my research because I think this a a big step in how character’s should be designed especially when it comes to making positive representations of certain things, in particular sexuality in terms of owning your sexuality and not being ashamed of it, even if someone is sexualizing you.

When it comes to Bayonetta, one pretty subtle example that show’s that she does have some kind of agency as a character is her outfit. Ironically, her outfit is what cause’s a lot of stir and debate but when you pay more attention to it you realize that it is more than just a sexy outfit that was drawn on her. Bayonetta’s fighting outfit is made out of hair,  and if she did not want to be see in that, perhaps she would create a different outfit, or go shop for one. The designers did not simply put the outfit on her for her not to even notice but they actually made it so that there is a story to it and lies in her personality and power. The disappearing of her outfit during fights is not something she as a character does not notice.

There are other moments throughout the game in which Bayonetta is shown the possessing the character agency that Wendig describes. In the beginning of the game, she states “Heaven and Hell can tear each other to pieces for all I care. I’ve got my own problems to worry about”, showing motivation of her own. She continues with “I don’t go in for strange offers. Then again, I’m getting a little tired of these weaklings they keep throwing at me. Maybe I should aim for something a bit more… high class”.

There are ways that Bayonetta could have been stronger in showing character agency but there is evidence that there is not a lack of.

What’s Next:

Identity! I think this is something I want to explore because of all the talk on Bayonetta’s “unpropotional” limbs and unrealistic features. I want to research what people look for in relatable characters / characters they can identify with. What does it mean to identify with a character? Is a relatable character make them an empowering character?



By Monday April 9 – Answer what’s next, read Michel Foucault, read more on character design and design documents.

By Monday April 16 – Basic outline on strategy guide, analysis on Bayonetta traits and arguments

By Monday April 23 – More in depths strategy guide, basic outline of design document

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