Monday, September 13, 2010

The Character Assassination of Samus Aran.



Samus Aran's character is destroyed..

The galaxy is in upheaval ....

While she still lives, everything you've ever known about her has been revealed in Metroid: Other M, and that  masculine feminine character you've grown to love over the years is now portrayed as putting up the mother of all facades to mask a helpless damsel in distress clad in walking suit of armor that doubles as an arsenal. This new information leaves me only to recite one phrase in response; "Samus, I am dissapoint".


Samus is certainly not the source of disappoint, either. It's clearly the fact that this isn't the first time a director has basically taken a character who has earned the respect of  their audience thousands of times over and broke them in some vain attempt to show their "human" side. Anakin Skywalker was reduced to an emo kid who force cut his own wrists whenever Padme rejected his advances, eventually he went Riot of the blood and force choked her within an inch of her life, only after cutting a class of kindergarden kids to ribbons! Honorable man, seduced by the darkside my arse! Indiana Jones, the archeologist badass of our youth, was reduced to a painful-to-watch geriatric shell of his former self in an effort to reunite alien skulls with their bodies, and prop up his greaser douchebag son who from the ending obviously wants us to believe he's as capable of taking up the reins of his old man (Ironically, Shia LaBeouf has also been on board for the Transformers sequels and now the sequel to Wall Street, which make me want to cast him in a movie called "Shia ruins everything").

The most notable offender, Bryan Singer, took Superman who was basically an analogous reference to a certain religious savior and his quest to save us all, and turned him into the creep-of-the-week from Law and Order SVU who's departure from earth at the beginning of the film marks the greatest example of absentee parent douchebaggery ever! But I digress. The reasons are all too common: "we wanted to explore a side of the character few have ever got to see!" or the equally preposterous  "wanting to explain everything you want to know about _____ and where they fit in their world."  The results of ventures like these are almost always disastrous. Movies or games that were once about action and adventure turn into these character pieces that focus on some sort of emotional baggage or issues that conflict with previously established events that show those issues were clearly resolved long before then. In Southpark's roasting of Indy 4, the characters basically said that this was a blatant rape of  Henry 'Indiana' Jones in an effort to cash in on a license. Yes, it's true that  most would say that what's been done to one Samus Aran, but I think this isn't exactly rape. this is more of a case of character assassination.

OMG indeed, Lana.


The difference between Character assassination and rape. 

Many people on the internet cry fowl when their beloved characters and heroes are tampered with, and in certain instances the word "rape" gets thrown around and the result of this causes the situation to escalate and the topic becomes derailed almost instantly. I thought about going this route, but after careful consideration I decided that this isn't rape. This is character assassination pure and simple.  In order to understand this better, let's look at the definition of character assassination. Wikipedia has this to say.
Character assassination is an attempt to tarnish a person's reputation. It may involve exaggeration or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person. It is a form of defamation and can be a form of ad hominem argument.
For living individuals targeted by character assassination attempts, this may result in being rejected by his community, family, or members of his or her living or work environment. Such acts are often difficult to reverse or rectify, and the process is likened to a literal assassination of a human life. The damage sustained can last a lifetime or, for historical figures, for many centuries after their death.
In practice, character assassination may involve doublespeak, spreading of rumors, innuendo or deliberate misinformation on topics relating to the subject's morals, integrity, and reputation. It may involve spinningincome tax during a specific year, without saying that no tax was actually owed due to the person having no income that year, or if a person was sacked from a firm, even though they may have been made redundant rather than actually fired.

I took the liberty of highlighting certain portions of this statement in order to further elaborate how relevant this term is to what i'm talking about. Naturally, when people are going about the business of ruining someone or something for the sake of some sort of personal gain, they do everything in their power to pollute the minds of people with their version of the truth about that person. In Sakamoto's case, "the truth" consisted of telling the fans that everything they knew about Samus or came to understand from their own adventures is a lie, and that he, alone knew the truth about her. It seems very ignorant that someone, who was partially responsible for the character's creation, and had even little input on Samus' gender, overall claiming to be the foremost expert on the subject (Oddly enough, If anything Makoto Kano would be more of a reliable source considering she's his creation, after all). However, Sakamoto had obviously seen the light, and decided to use his newly acquired ideas to push his vision of what Samus and Metroid was onto an unsuspecting fanbase that was already split when the words 'Maternal instincts' were used as a means of plot development.

Where does he get those wonderful Ploys?

The talk of 'Maternal Instincts' in metroid didn't come from thin air. In fact, nor did a lot of Metroid's original concepts and some of it's lore. In fact I can basically tell you the biggest source of inspiration for the game and it's characters..

above: one badass female.

 That's right, reader. Look no further than one of the greatest action sci-fi films of our time, Aliens. In fact almost everything in Metroid has some sort of tie back to this movie or the original Alien. Samus is bascially Ellen Ripley, who's fought a creature who destroyed any traces of a normal life as a space freighter jockey, and unknowingly sent her into a cryo-stasis sleep on a escape ship stranded for about fifty-seven years, which was long enough for her to miss out on her child's life and subsequent death   The 'maternal instincts' were her grieving over the death of her long-lived daughter, and the eventual discovery, relationship and rescue of the only surviving colonist of Hadley's Hope; Rebecca Jordan, AKA: Newt.

Right now you're probably thinking "hold the phone!". "You mean to tell me that the whole story of Other M is just a complete retooling of Aliens, and I am supposed to believe that Sakamoto and Team Ninja would deliberately do this to push some sort of agenda of exploring the woman under the suit?"  You know it's not really as far fetched as you think, reader.  The "Space marines" , the alien lifeforms that latch onto you, the android construct that turns on the humans. The sinister conspiracy to use said aliens as some sort of biological weapon. The return of a deadly enemy once thought to be out of the main character's life for good. Need I say more?

Just to clarify, I'm not condemning the fact that this game is a blatant rip on Alien or Aliens, in fact I love the fact that the Metroid series can take concepts from one of my most favorite movies and expand them into different contexts and themes. The problem, however is that the potential was there, and instead of following suite in giving Samus a chance to be as badass as her inspiration, Sakamoto seems to want to take the alternate route and do exactly the opposite which puts the main character in complete conflict with every game shes been in all the way up to the beginning. A very bold move, indeed, but a move that would pretty much shatter any image as well as any link between her and Ripley. A snippet from Wikipedia further explains why Ripley's character made such a difference in the genre and the overall medium of film.

Ellen Ripley is a fictional character and the main protagonist of the Alien film series played by American actress Sigourney Weaver. The character was heralded as a seminal role for challenging gender stereotypes, particularly in the science fiction genre, and remains Weaver's most famous role to date.
In 2003, Ripley was selected by the American Film Institute as the eighth greatest hero in American cinema history on their 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains list. Entertainment Weekly called the character "one of the first female movie characters who isn't defined by the men around her, or by her relationship to them".[1]
Incidentally, Samus had been perceived as cut from the same fabric as Sigourney Weaver's character. A tough no-nonsense woman who became one of the most feared bounty hunters of the galaxy for her daring solo missions. She took the space pirates head on  in their own base of operations on Zebes, not once, but twice, and lead a daring expedition to exterminate all metroids from SR-388 before they became a threat to the galaxy at large. of course in Super Smash Bros. Brawl there seems to be some indication that Ridley is responsible for the death of Samus' parents, but nothing pointing to whether the manga (which is where everyone seems to believe explains Samus' personality changes in Other M stem from) is canon or not. Still despite all of this even the manga has some interesting light to shed on this information.

The only thing she has to fear is.....

Of course I'm going to discuss the controversial scene in particular. Why wouldn't I? It's one of the crown jewels in the argument. Let's start by seeing the scene.



So now that you've seen this, you probably already have a couple questions floating around in your noggins. Firstly, why is it that a seasoned bounty hunter who had been claimed to be trained by an intelligent technologically advanced race of bird-people losing her composure after fighting the same enemy for the chronological third time in her career?

Furthermore, why is it that she can't even defend herself until one of her (token black) male supporting cast members decides to take pity upon her and seemingly throw his own life away in some effort to focus the character on the goal of defeating her 'arch nemesis' for the third time?

Last, but not least - how can you consciously defend such bullshit writing, and overly cliched tropes such as a token black male who speaks in ebonics, even far into the future, and a overly powerful female fighter who resorts to being the damsel in distress when grouped with the typical group of manly men?

exactly.

"Spiracy?" A hand goes up in the crowd of people eagerly awaiting to retort my argument. "You say the Manga isn't canon and all, but Sakamoto is actually making an effort to expand the manga into official canon through this storyline, by showing the fear she had when Ridley and the space pirates destroyed her home and family on K-2L"

That would be quite an interesting and valid point, if the manga didn't already portray Samus getting over her issues with Ridley to fight him.

Of course the whole PTSD issue tends to be thrown around for the sake of argument, and I call foul on that as well. I'll be glad to explain why as well in bullet points;

  • She was raised and trained by an advance species of aliens who gave her a incredible weapon of mass destruction. Why would they do this if they didn't already provide the adequate teachings and methods of ensuring that she wouldn't go 'Kerrigan' and try to rule the galaxy with her one-woman-army suit due to a psychotic break. 
  • Not only was she trained by the chozo to be a more effective warrior and the protector of the galaxy from it's worst villains, she had military training  which would of obviously meant she would of had some kind of psychological report to make sure she wasn't too batty and would have a 'Nam flashback' during a routine operation. 
  • If she were to have a PTSD moment it would of happened during the first fight on Zebes in the original Metroid game. This would have been the first battle between her and Ridley since the death of her parents many years ago. The problem with this is that she would have to overcome her fears of Ridley in order to successfully defeated him otherwise the story would have ended there, as there was no one there to save you from him.
  • It's the future. I fail to believe that advancements in science and medical technology haven't come so far as to provide ways to overcome such mental obstacles, and even then she's had years to deal with this and work through her issues before she even began to don the Chozo armor.
Granted, this is ultimately science fiction we're talking about. We see male figures tend to go through the same things only to become stronger because of them, why are well all of the sudden so quick to defend someone for not providing the same leeway for females? Have we somehow gone backwards in time, or are we just making excuses for what can obviously be pointed out as bad writing? I think it's more to do with the latter.

We have a woman who has done well for herself for many successful missions, only to be used as a walking contradiction who is told by a man she seems to respect, and yet broke away from some time ago, to use weapons only when asked. Not just weapons, but seriously critical items like the grapple beam and the Varia suit. A similar situation would be for you to be required by your commanding officer to do a space walk with all your critical functions of your space suit disabled until told to use them. At that point you would probably look similar to Quaid in Total Recall when he goes stumbling down that Mars landscape with Milena.

 Damn it, Adam.... Start the reactor, already!!!!!
So much of this story reeked of  "save me, mai big strong mens" mentality, on top of "mommy mommy mommy babies babies babies" double entendres that it comes off almost too difficult to take seriously. even the ending gives me faint flashbacks of Zardoz' exposition on the purity of guns versus the evil nature of the phallus. In this case the phallus totally ruined the purity of Samus' arm cannon, outright!



Where do we go from here?


 I've probably wrote one of the longest expositions on a fictional character and how she lost her integrity ever, but it's not all in vain. I can't even bring myself to believe that this game's storyline is canonical in any way shape or form, and yet here we are talking about it, and the repercussions of this storyline in games to come. There are so many female characters out there, but they are often either shown as damsels in distress like Zelda, Pauline or Peach or hypersexualized caricatures like Lara Croft, or Bayonetta. The thing that makes Samus different is because of the fact that she's not so much as shown as a female who happens to be a bounty hunter with a powerful suit, but a quite capable bounty hunter in a powerful suit who happens to also be a incredibly strong, and gifted female.

Perhaps it's when we start thinking about the latter instead of the former that we really begin to "get" who Samus Aran really is, and avoid making the mistake of using her femininity to define her. This is something that seemed to be understood very well by the team at Retro, and yet for some strange reason this seems to be disregarded completely in this offering. I wonder why that is....


oh yeah.. :(

11 comments:

  1. I do not normally comment but I love the Metroid franchise and Samus Aran in particular. I also respect your writing but I believe your analysis is plain wrong. The very fact that a child Samus is shown during the Ridley scene communicates that Samus was recalling childhood trauma. Childhood trauma can easily last into adulthood especially when you have a character as solitary and naive as Samus. It is unlikely that Samus would have seen a psychologist.

    In response to your point about Adam requiring Samus to authorize every weapon, firstly, this is still a video game so Samus needed to develop over time so I think it is excusable. It isn't sexist either. The other soldiers similarly required authorization for their weapons. Of course, Samus gets special attention because she is a walking super weapon. I felt that it worked.

    Anthony was a badly written and acted black character but the Japanese hardly ever do black characters any other way. I was unsurprised that Anthony ended up the way he did.

    tl;dr Sakamoto knows Samus. Retro's Samus = Master Chief with tits.

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  2. "Childhood trauma can easily last into adulthood especially when you have a character as solitary and naive as Samus."

    Samus naïve? She would be the LAST PERSON you'd call naïve! She has dealt with more threats across the goddamn universe than any other bounty hunter in her time, and accomplished more in the battle against the Space Pirates than the Galactic Federation themselves. And you're saying this person is "solitary and naïve"?

    Also, childhood trauma is much more difficult to apply to a situation that Samus has found herself in numerous times over. It's MUCH too late to start implementing crucial, previously unknown and nowhere-to-be-found characteristics to a well-established game character. Sakamoto should never have tried it. At best he should have just made another manga.

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  3. Wow, extensive military training makes PTSD unlikely? And PTSD is either instant or not instead of accumulating through progressive trauma? Hold on, I'm gonna call Nobel, we have a breakthrough here...

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  4. I agree with the first commenter. I've been playing Metroid since it first came out and I love this game. It was something different and I give it props for that. I know not every Metroid fan is gonna like it because we've all had this perception of how she seems to be, judging on how she is before she even had a voice. I don't think giving her a personality like this doesn't really change how she's always been because she still kicks serious butt in Other M.

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  5. It's sort of like how the Malstrom-humpers have partaken in the character assassination of Sakamoto, who they never heard of before "Other M" was revealed. Too, these dinks call for his dismissal from the company, though they have no idea how he otherwise contributes to it, nor could they be bothered to learn.

    This is especially odd, since these "freethinkers" label anyone who likes the game a "cultist," yet they gather on some obscure message board and spend dozens of hours, if not days, of their lives tearing the game apart over the course of countless threads - surely devoting more time to it than people who actually like and play the game.

    So who's the "cult" here? (Hint: It's you and your intellectually stunted pals, or you highly evolved "grown-ups," as you've mistakenly called yourselves.) How about doing a little introspective and rethinking of your "views" as they pertain to your crazy hardcore-casual holy war, of which "Metroid" no part? You've been taken in by a professional troll who ceased to be relevant more than a year ago when this became blindingly obvious to the members who have since left your board behind; he's a man who wishes to herd in a flock of saps for use as a conduit to spread his vile rhetoric, which in tone is absolutely no different than any of the epitaphs endlessly spewed by "hardcore gamers," one of which he is. Figured that out yet?

    Grow up and learn to think for yourself. Or, as you may, copy and paste this over on your little hangout and spend several pages along with your buddies typing "HAHAHAHA - them cultists be CRAZY!" before putting in thought one that you've become everything people hated about those intolerable hardcore jackasses.

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  6. I don't think they put the freakout scene in there just because Samus was seeing Ridley again. It seems more believable that even after struggling through childhood to get over her parents' murder, spending her youth training to be a warrior and defeat him, and finally, after two boss battles, defeating him and having her revenge, she was baffled that he should still return "from the dead" to torment her. Imagine Luke Skywalker's reaction if a few years after the end of Star Wars the emperor suddenly showed up again in perfect health. She probably felt suddenly small and powerless against fate, so for a brief moment her mind couldn't rationalize the situation.

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  7. the really funny thing is in the Novels the Emperor did return in (seemingly)perfect health in a clone body inhabited by his force ghost, and he took Luke as his apprentice, which I assume was Luke's way of keeping his friends close and enemy closer.

    Even still A Jedi is conditioned to not let his or her emotions control them lest they be seduced by the dark side of the force, so this is probably not a good analogy to use in this situation. However, I understand where you're coming from.

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  8. Other M does not contradict at all the story we have been hearing since forever if you bothered to read it.

    Samus first PSTD attack was at 17 the first time she saw Ridley in 14 years during a mission to Zebes before Metroid game.

    In Other M she is 24, after blowing Zebes with Ridley on it she though it was finally death and zomg he appears in front of her, also in a place she never though it was possible.

    But she recovered in less than five minutes and saved the day.

    Instead of rewarding fearless killing machines we should reward those who fight their fears.

    When a male character have PTSD (like Solid Snake): He is badass, he is deep, human, etc. but if a woman does then it's weak, whoever designed this character (Sakamoto in this case) must have been a sexist woman hater!

    Also, remember this is a japanese game: In Japan one of the greatest values one can have is being able to work in a team and respect their superiors. Japanese people don't understand why people on the west don't like the fact that Samus is doing it.

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  9. I response to the part where you talk about samus facing Ridley, she lost her composure because for all she knew up until then was that ridley was dead.

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  10. I think this is one of the most significant information for me. And I’m glad reading your blog, Thanks. I just ordered these military consoles (METROID other M) at PIJ! I’m excited! I’m going to have these in week! http://bit.ly/METROIDOtherM

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  11. How in the fuck does anyone defend Other M? I know I am one man with a simple opinion, but the game is a poor excuse for writing on the best of days.
    Plot lines that don't go anywhere, a strictly tell not show approach to storyline, arbitrary traitors and hints of further corruption etc... etc....
    Both the original metroid, metroid 2, super metroid, and the prime series managed a phenomenal story with little to no dialogue. They presented a character whom we glean a general idea of just from subtle cues alone.
    Stunted emotions, antisocial, revenge obsession, all 3 are obvious character flaws that don't make Samus look incompetent, and are portrayed well through-out the series.
    Looking at Other M, it's just a perfect example of how bad a creator can absolutely screw his own design. Sakamoto's meddling forced the abysmal control scheme in that game, the awful story, and sweeping character changes. He basically kept an iron collar on team ninja. The fact that there is debate sparked over this particular one when nearly every other metroid game is acknowledged as fantastic by fans is enough to warrant that it probably is not a very good game.

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