Analyzing Cortana Art: Context and Intent

Note: Readers of my previous posts will know that I’ve talked about this piece of art before, and about portrayals of Cortana in art, and some of this post will be familiar to them. But, I’ve found that I have more to say about this piece of art.

Cortana Art59

This is fan art of the character of Cortana from the video game series “Halo.”

Now, you might be thinking that this is pornographic — Cortana looks like a naked woman. She is: Cortana is an A.I. who is made to look like a naked woman.

But I don’t see Cortana’s appearance as pornographic, and here is why: Cortana, in the game and in this piece of art, is not, I think, trying to arouse us.

In the Bible, in the book of Genesis, God called the body “very good.”* And in pieces of art from the Renaissance, the body was frequently a subject of works of art. The example that comes to mind is Michelangelo’s David. I don’t think this art of Cortana is on par with David, but the principle is the same: Portraying the human body in a way that is not meant to arouse, but to inspire wonder and respect for its beauty, mystery, and complexity.

A lot of people nowadays, it seems, think “naked = sex”: That the naked body can’t be portrayed in a way that isn’t sexual. And I don’t agree with this. The inherent goodness of the body, and examples of respectful portrayals of it in art, are the reasons why. This mentality of “naked = sex” has consequences: Puritan-esque dress codes that place more emphases on how women dress than on how men dress, and an ignorance of the human body and its purpose which can lead to an unhealthy fascination with it, and thus unhealthy habits — like viewing pornography. These are two consequences which come mind.

You could say that because in this art Cortana is smiling that she’s acting like some kind of temptress, and thus this art is pornographic. But that’s not how I see it. This art, I think, is being true to who Cortana is, and here is how:

1. She is a woman.
2. She is an A.I.
3. She is supposed to look like she’s naked.
4. She is blue.
5. She could be described as “easy-going” and “childlike.”

The art makes all this clear.

Why am I talking about the human body and how it is portrayed in art? Because in order to fight problems like pornography and the objectification of women, an understanding of the human body and its beauty, mystery, complexity, purpose, and value, is needed.

The thing to remember, too, is that this is art of Cortana: This art is portraying a specific person — Cortana — not a, for lack of a better term, idealized everyman, like Michaelangelo’s David. (From what I know of David, the art portrays not a specific person, but an idealized person.) As a result, the art will not only be portraying a naked human body — Cortana is naked — but Cortana herself: That means portraying everything else that makes her who she is. Everything else that makes Cortana who she is being qualities like “easy-going” and “childlike.”

It’s also important to take into account that this art is done in an anime style. Specifically, I think, a kawaii style.** The purpose of this art is to make Cortana look as cute as possible. Hence, for example, the big eyes and child-like complexion.

When looking at a piece of art, context and intent need to be taken into account. Even if we, the viewer, never know exactly what an artist intended with their work.

I think it is this rift between what the viewer sees and what the artist intends that gives art its power.

*Genesis 1:31

**From Google, the definition of “kawaii”:

1. (in the context of Japanese popular culture) cute.
2. the quality of being cute, or items that are cute.

This piece of art belongs to “AkageSensei.”

Where this piece of art comes from: http://akagesensei.deviantart.com/art/Cortana-507947577

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