Well, as is always the case, I was wrong. To catch you up, because why not, voice actor Hellena Taylor made a few videos in which she accused — or at least implied — PlatinumGames of only offering her $4,000 to voice Bayonetta for the third entry in the series of the same name. She asked fans to boycott the game, which I’m sure a few did and a lot of others didn’t. I’m boycotting Bayonetta 3 in the sense that I still haven’t completed the first two Bayonettas and have to accept the painful truth that not everything that’s good is for me.
I’m fine with the games. If they’re great for you, have at it. We need more games that feel like they came from the year 2000. I respect Bayonetta is an important character for a lot of fans. I also respect some of those same fans have felt the new game has done some queer erasure through poor story choices. Again, I haven’t played it, so I’ll have to trust people who have. That said, I was wrong to completely trust Hellena Taylor.
I say “completely” because, as with any part of show business, the world of voice over acting is a labyrinthian maze of pain. Bayonetta is an iconic character and her voice is an iconic part of said iconic character. When she implied — she denies she implied it, but watch the videos and come the fuck on — she was only offered $4,000 to play Bayonetta, most people thought that meant the entire game. What she actually meant was she was offered at least $15,000, possibly more, to voice the character. She turned it down and then was later offered a smaller cameo for $4,000. So, yes, it’s true she was offered $4,000, but that was only after turning down more money for the main role.
When she got called out for this, she pivoted and asked people to donate to charities, including ones that promote taking away reproductive rights. Because if you’re going to turn heel, you gotta go full villain. I’m sure if there’s one thing Bayonetta herself would approve of, it’s making sure people don’t have the right to choose what to do with their bodies. Just perfect. No fucking notes.
This doesn’t mean PlatinumGames was completely on the level. Critics were right to point out that voice actors for games do destroy their throats for franchises that make hundreds of millions of dollars. Do I think actors in games deserve residuals? Why, yes I do. I think a lot of people in games deserve residuals. I think a lot of people who work on video games deserve residuals. That’s why I was ready to believe Hellena Taylor.
But I was wrong that PlatinumGames were the sole assholes here and not just because it turns out Hellena Taylor is also voicing Phyllis Schlafly in her head. I was wrong because I believed someone who sounded upset — which I’m sure she was! — talking about a deal that sounded legal, but awful. It’s not a matter of “well, in this world, you’d believe it” so much as having worked in entertainment most of my adult life and seeing people fucked from all angles.
Which is why what Taylor did is especially shitty. She played a lot of us. Although, to be fair, I get played all the time. I’ve already spent $20 on Marvel Snap for things that make no gameplay difference to that very free game. You can set a clock by me getting played by someone or some company in games. I bought a Virtual Boy on the first day of release.
But Taylor just set back other talent in other games who are trying to get better deals. Whether or not Taylor’s reported base deal of $15,000 – $20,000 is good or not, she implied a very different number by omitting a lot of important context. It’s basically the Price is Right, except instead of the right price, she came as close as possible to lying without going over.
Other talent are going to be hurt by that. When actors with more legitimate — or at least, more honest — issues speak up, a lot of fans and reporters and game companies are going to come back to this story. They’re going to be cynical and suspicious. Which, look, it’s good that idiots like me learn about looking for the story behind the story before being wrong as hell. But it’s horribly shitty that the other lesson for a lot of fans will be to not trust people talking about their labor. To assume they’re automatically lying or "forgetting" to mention important details. The next person with actual, honest complaints won’t receive nearly the warm welcome Taylor did for her bullshit.
Hellena Taylor played a lot of people, including myself, because we cared. We believed her because we’ve seen game companies nickel and dime talent — from actors to writers to artists to designers to musicians to QA people. I’m sure it sucked to be a hardcore Bayonetta fan hearing that one of their favorite franchises was screwing over key talent before a hugely anticipated release. Fans didn’t want to boycott Bayonetta 3. They just wanted to know PlatinumGames treated its talent with respect.
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