When Capcom launched a new trailer and demo for its forthcoming horror sequel Resident Evil Village at the end of January, the company probably didn’t realise it was about to have a global internet meme on its hands. But, as players downloaded and explored the short interactive trailer for the game, thousands were left equally terrified and spellbound by the figure who bursts in at the climax: a gigantically tall woman in a wide-brimmed hat and cleavage-hugging pleated dress, who then comes at the player with a Freddy Krueger-style knife glove.
Who was this giant woman? Why was she so alluring? Gaming Twitter lit up with speculation, screenshots, fan art and very quickly, barely concealed lust.
The woman, or Lady Dimitrescu as she’s properly known, has become a towering video game meme across social media and forums, with most jokes focusing on her height. Almost nothing is known about the character – or the game’s narrative – apart from the fact that Village sees Resident Evil 7 protagonist Ethan Winters travelling to a gothic castle in eastern Europe, where Dimitrescu and her ghostly daughters are apparently keeping his child prisoner. There has been so much speculation that the game’s art director Tomonori Takano posted her official measurements on Twitter.
This fuelled the viral interest, with other video game developers, publishers and even console manufacturers getting in on the joke. But why the heck is everyone suddenly so obsessed with this statuesque figure?
The fact is, this isn’t such a new thing at all. The terrifyingly tall woman is a familiar archetype of ancient myths and legends: the Amazons of Ancient Greece; Skadi, the giant Norse goddess of the mountains; Putana the Hindu demon killed by Krishna; and Grendel’s cursed, powerful mother in Beowulf are well-known examples, as is Hachishakusama, of course – the child-stealing 8ft tall woman of Japanese lore. In psychoanalytical terms, these figures seem to manifest Freud’s theory of the archaic mother (later explored by Melanie Klein and Jacques Lacan), a figure that represents the infant’s first understanding of its mother as both a nourisher and a seductive, all-encompassing monstrous presence.
In her seminal work of film theory, The Monstrous-Feminine, Barbara Creed positions the archaic mother, and the male fear of otherness and the female reproductive body, as the psychological root of all horror fiction. One of the most fascinating examples of this is in the Alien series of movies, with the female-coded xenomorphs and their endless images of violent birth, splattering fluids and bodily expulsion. Several Twitter users have pointed out that at 2.9 metres Lady Dimitrescu is roughly the same height as the Alien monster, and her eviscerating gloves resemble the xenomorph’s claws. (And let’s not even get started on how knives and heels can be read as phallic symbols reflecting male castration anxiety. Thanks again Freud.)
Video games greedily explore this terror and abjection of the female reproductive body writ large. We see giant female monsters, oozing blood and slime, as end of level bosses in Bloodborne, The Witcher, God of War and Devil May Cry – Capcom’s giantess is part of that cycle, eliciting both sexual appeal and mordant dread. So maybe we’re obsessed with Lady Dimitrescu because, like the xenomorphs, Medusa and The Witch, she represents primal fears; she is a mother and a seducer, towering over us with immense castrating power. It’s either that, or people just really like her hat.