The Lady in Red and Why We Love Her

The Lady in Red and Why We Love Her

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 23rd Jun 2011

Mortal Kombat

In The Matrix when Neo is put through the Agent Training Program, Morpheus leads him down a busy sidewalk and, while he seems to flow through the crowd, Neo finds himself being buffeted by them, forced to twist first left, and then right, avoiding directly running into individuals. From out of the sea of dark and subdued business-suited pedestrians comes a blonde in a red cocktail dress -- and Neo's attention is drawn to her -- as would be that of any man -- for the choice of the red dress is not an accident.

The Woman in Red (or Lady in the Red Dress) was created by the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar to bring about awareness of the dangers of Agents to the newly awakened redpills; in fact she is the entire point of that training sequence -- because as soon as the trainee looks away, she changes into an Agent -- forcing them to understand that any bluepill is potentially an Agent. The use of the red dress is little more than a trope, but a very effective one.

A 'trope' is the figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression -- The Woman in Red has existed as a trope for film and TV going all the way back to the introduction of color in those mediums -- and presents not as a scarlet woman, a common mistake, but rather as the epitome of desirability, beauty, and sexuality. The idea is to communicate much information with the minimal effort -- in this case a woman wearing red -- and still make the point.

The use of this mechanism and symbol in film and TV -- and in gaming -- is a conscious choice made by the creator to manipulate the viewer and gamer, and force them to view the scene or the character in a specific and calculated manner. Put simply, you are being forced to engage the sexually-active side of your brain and, clearly, with good success. Have you ever wondered how that can be?

Before we get to that, how about a couple examples? Perhaps the two best known Red Lady's are from Resident Evil 4 and Mortal Kombat (2011)...

Resident Evil 4
The protagonist in RE4 is a classic Lady in Red -- and they did not even choose the usual Little Red Dress for her, but rather a nearly full-length slit dress that nicely accentuates her lithe gymnast body while making her look dead-sexy-cool doing things that, well, are not really all that sexy... Like jumping through a closed window, getting creased by a large ax, and using a shotgun to blow the heads off of zombies. OK, that lasts one actually was sort of sexy, but there is the point!

Mortal Kombat 2011
The first DLC for the newest entry in the Mortal Kombat series is none other than the female ninja Skarlet -- the proverbial Lady in Red -- who as it turns out has something of a story to her creation that differs radically from what you might be expecting... You see, she may have began as a bug in the code.

Longtime fans of the series will know that back in the days of the standup arcade machines, they just did a palette swap on characters whenever they needed to add multiple fighters to the game. In one such instance there was a glitch that caused the Jade/ Katana/ Milena female ninja to turn red, but because it was repeatable and consistent, was mistaken for a hidden unlockable character. It wasn't.

Despite that being the case, the gamers named her Skarlet, and began to speculate about her origins and her place in the realm. She may have started out as a glitch to be sure, but this is no longer the case -- as Skarlet went from random event to actual character, largely on the strength of fan desire for her.

Skarlet is sexy, lethal, and bigger than life, and has secured her position among the Red Lady's without ever having to try. It says something about her that she was the first DLC character for the series reboot, but that is all we have to say about that for now.

It's a Mind Thing
The publication of a research paper by Andrew J. Elliot, Ph.D. of the University of Rochester and University of Munich called 'Red, Rank, and Romance in Women Viewing Men' (Journal of Experimental Psychology 2010, Vol. 139, No. 3, 399–417) goes a long way towards setting the record straight over this whole Lady in Red mechanism.

Before we get to that, we should add that Elliot did not do the research or write the paper on his own, but with the help of Tobias Greitemeyer at the University of Innsbruck, Richard H. Gramzow, at the University of Southampton, Daniela Niesta Kayser, at the University of Rochester, Stephanie Lichtenfeld and Markus A. Maier, at the University of Munich, and Huijun Liu at the Tianjin Medical University -- a lot of very smart people in other words.

Elliot and Daniela Niesta also co-wrote the paper 'Romantic Red: Red Enhances Men's Attraction to Women' (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2008, Vol. 95, No. 5, 1150–1164) and we mention that because some of its conclusions contributed to the realizations offered here.

The first thing that we need to understand as a result of the research carried out above is that it is now an established fact that men find women wearing red -- and even women not wearing red but whose photo is displayed in a red frame -- to be more attractive than women not sporting red. They also demonstrated that while the color red has that effect on men, it has zero effect on women looking at women wearing red -- but hey, that does not surprise us.

Among other things, the study was based upon the responses of more than 100 men who, consisting mostly of college undergraduates, were shown pictures of women and asked to rate how pretty they saw them, how much they would like to kiss them, and how much they would like to have sex with them. Yeah, pretty much the same information going through most bloke's heads at the pub Friday but still...

The squints took a collection of photos that had been altered -- with versions that showed the same woman in a red, green, blue, and white shirt, as well as different frame colors and the like, and over a period of time showed them to the men, who invariably indicated that the ones in red were more attractive and desirable than the ones in other colors -- even when it was the same woman now not wearing red!

Your odd attraction for Carmen Sandiego may not be all that odd after all...

The blokes creating all of those valentines cards knew this instinctively, but having proof is nice, and besides now I understand my weird fascination with that girl in the red elf suit at the mall last Christmas... But maybe I am over-communicating here.

So here is the deal mates -- when your wife/girlfriend/SO starts giving you trouble about how much time you spend playing with Skarlet or Triss Merigold, you tell them it is not your fault -- the evil games developers, using incredibly effective methods gleaned from science and psychology, are totally pushing your buttons.

Besides, the research concludes that our uncontrollable fascination with the color red is actually one of the throwback urges we get from the reptilian brain -- or more specifically the upper part of the spinal cord and the basal ganglia -- which is also the bit that keeps us breathing at night when we are asleep.

You see, it turns out that back when we were primates and one of our monkey babes was ready to make a baby, their buttocks turned red, providing a visual indicator for us because hey, even when we were primates we were totally interrupt-driven. That certainly explains a lot. We're just saying.