When Bayonetta is first introduced, the tall, slender woman is wearing a habit, the traditional conservative wear of a nun. But within minutes this outfit is ripped off her body as she moans, and a toe-tapping, sped-up electronic remix of “Fly Me to the Moon” plays. It turns out she’s a witch whose signature outfit includes a tight latex bodysuit and cat-eye glasses that make her look like the world’s hottest librarian. When she punches and kicks, she contorts her body into impossible positions, like the splits, before she spins her legs around like a helicopter, firing bullets from guns embedded into her high heels. When she’s done, she’ll top it all off by blowing a kiss (if we’re lucky).
Theatrical and flamboyant scenes like this one have made Bayonetta a bonafide icon for LGBTQ+ fans. This scene feels characteristic of many moments throughout the series, establishing Bayonetta’s flair, hyper-femininity, and unabashed confidence, and lending both her and the series a sort of campiness often popular with LGBTQ+ fans. Since the franchise’s debut in 2009, Bayonetta has become an icon to queer fans, many of whom are eagerly anticipating Bayonetta 3, which will reveal more of the beguiling witch’s story.
“I’ve been obsessed with Bayonetta since I saw the commercials for the first game in middle school,” said Ty Galiz-Rowe. “Aside from her being a gigantic, gregarious woman with gun high heels, she was also a character with big breasts who, while obviously an object of desire, was also the main character with her own game and her own narrative, who also wasn’t villain-adjacent like Ivy Valentine,” he said.
Galiz-Rowe compared Bayonetta to real-life queer icons like Lady Gaga or Madonna. Whether it’s her regular latex suit or special outfits, like a super short, puffy pink dress inspired by Princess Peach, Bayonetta shares an over-the-top fashion sense similar to that of a stage performer.
And while it’s not canon, fans have accepted Bayonetta as a member of the queer community, shipping her with her best friend, Jeanne. While the first game focuses more on their rivalry, in Bayonetta 2 Bayo literally travels to the gates of hell in order to save her. Creator Hideki Kamiya has even given interviews where he’s referred to Bayo and Jeanne being a couple. Additionally, Bayonetta character designer Mari Shimazaki has released art of the two together, depicted as lovers.
But it’s more than Bayo having a theatrical style similar to real-life queer icons, or possibly being a lesbian herself. The games depict her as a transgressive hero who can stand up to the literal angels of heaven. The Bayonetta series is steeped in Christian iconography and storytelling. She lives in a world where the followers of light, which basically stands in for the church, has supposedly won and destroyed all witches. Bayonetta stands out against the harsh, punitive world of heaven and instead chooses her own path and discovers her identity despite those who want it hidden.
In a culture where many LGBTQ+ people have been persecuted or marginalized by Christian faith traditions, Bayonetta’s crusade against the divine can resonate with certain queer fans.
“Bayonetta was ostracized at birth by her religious upbringing, and it was only far into her adulthood, moving away from an unsafe home to an urban sprawl, that she was finally able to give herself a new name, embrace her identity, and surround herself with supportive peers who’ve also faced similar hardship,” Christopher Blanco told Polygon via Twitter. “But even then, she’s still hounded everyday by folks (angels) who want to hurt her for being herself.”
Many of Bayo’s queer fans have ultimately chosen to embrace and interpret her design as empowering, while also acknowledging the broader context of her character. In an industry that has historically marginalized women and depicted female characters employing a variety of tropes, Bayonetta occupies dual worlds. Her character design conforms to beauty norms, making her an object of the stereotypical male gaze. She’s tall and slender. She has big boobs and a giant ass. Her hips sashay as she walks. But she also embodies empowerment — she’s this powerful woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and the other women in her life. To fans, both of these realities live hand in hand.
“It’s not a secret that Kamiya designed Bayo the way he did because he’s actively horny for librarian types, but that doesn’t change the way she made me feel as a teen trying to cope with the way my own body was sexualized by others,” Galiz-Rowe said. “Bayo’s design is probably rooted in a lot of sexism, but she’s also cool as fuck and the standard-bearer for camp in mainstream video games.”