Samus: Is she intended as a reward?

Discussion in 'Metroid: Self-Destruct Sequence Activated' started by He Who is Without Skin, Jun 17, 2016.

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    My Potions Are Too Strong For You Traveller

    My Potions Are Too Strong For You Traveller Supermod Staff Member

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    Many people, myself included, will proudly hail Samus as one of the first solid female protagonists in video games. Slapping a bow and a beauty mark on Pac Man just didn't catch gamers' imaginations in the same way. Was that because nobody wants to identify with a sentient orb whose sole purpose is to eat and terrorise the dead, and look good while doing so? As on point as her Marilyn-esque lipstick may have been, for some reason, we the people tend to favor humanoids.

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    The accomplishments of Samus as a character notwithstanding, I am here to talk about the conception of the fictitious heroine rather than her motivations. We've heard before that Samus might have been intended as a trans-woman, which in itself causes a huge mire of sticky social issues. The quandary being that the designer responsible may have been thinking along less accepting lines and may have covertly inserting his own sexist disposition wherein he believes a woman born as a man to be inherently more capable as a hero.

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    Let's all leave that in the attic for the time being, and talk about what we can know about the character, though. First of all, there is no disagreeing that Samus appears at the end of the game as the lady in the metal husk, the Ghost in the Shell, if you'll indulge me. This has been much discussed, but there are two ways to read the actions of the designers. They had believed that others would be surprised that Samus was actually a woman, and they've said as much. Naturally then, the question must be asked, did they really think that was so surprising? Is that intended as surprising because they themselves believed it infeasible, or did they simply believe the mainstream would find it surprising?

    There is no question that the role may have been influenced by the iconic and brusk Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, as that is a matter of record.

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    The stumbling point with that narrative, however, is the arguably likely scenario that the developers simply wanted to reward their presumed, hetero, male audience with a vivacious woman in a bikini for having completed the game in minimal time. Does the reveal at the end then deserve description as a strip-tease?

    It is probable that these questions will rightly go on unanswered, left to be wondered at by fans for the ages. Much of Samus's character has been handled in secrecy, and stating with clarity may hurt the character's reputation. If the developers had originally intended to dangle a bit of cleavage in front of a young male audience as a means of motivation, it would serve them rightly to have it backfire as being considered a laudible and celebrated landmark in gaming equality.
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    SKELETOR

    SKELETOR Overlord of Evil

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    Idk if this is a serious topic or not but either way I was interested/bored enough to Google it.

    http://www.ign.com/articles/2004/01/30/metroid-zero-mission-director-roundtable?page=3
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    My Potions Are Too Strong For You Traveller

    My Potions Are Too Strong For You Traveller Supermod Staff Member

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    It's serious in that it is exclusively speculative. That's Sakamoto repeating the party line, essentially, and his fatherhood of the series is also not necessarily exclusive. Samus is understated for modern Japan, as I've been to Tokyo and seen panty-clad anime girls plastered massive across skyscrapers there myself.

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    From a design perspective, removing the helmet and eventually the entire suit for faster and better times clearly implies that more can be removed for faster performance. Having lived through the time when the original games were current, the idea that Samus, nearly nude, appeared at the end of the game as a reward was not exactly unconventional.

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    Last edited: Jun 17, 2016
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    I REALLY HATE POKEMON!

    I REALLY HATE POKEMON! Goku lives on the Sun

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    To answer one of the questions you pose, I think that it's clear that Nintendo thought most people would find it surprising that Samus was female. I also think that the reason Samus has a bikini reveal at the end is to both drive home the fact that she was a woman and also reward players with eye candy. I don't think either of these things are inherently bad, but possibly unnecessary.
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    Jere

    Jere Awesome Computer Gaming and Tech Co Mod Staff Member

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    It might have started out that way but i think it is still in the coin op and rental age where they wanted you to play the game over and over or put more money into it.

    and if rumors would start where they say you get people nude if you beat the game properly damn it would sell well.

    My favorite example here is Strikers 1945: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/strikers1945/1945_strikers_endinga.png
    Warning though people in varius amounts of undress
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    Marilink

    Marilink Sailboat to the Island of Your Desires Staff Member

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    That's an interesting point, AI. When I was a kid, I won't lie, I wanted to play Super Metroid fast because I thought seeing bikini Samus would be cool (because I was just a pervy teenager like most people). However, at the same time, I would always defend Samus's gender when my friends would play Smash Bros with me. They'd always default to "he" when referring to Samus, and I'd be the first to go "Actually, it's 'she.'" I always thought it was awesome that the ass-kicking space bounty hunter was a woman.

    Perhaps the designers' thought process was a bit like "What if we made the main character a woman and surprised people at the end?" And then that evolved into "Now what if we revealed more of her body as you do better in the game?" The striptease aspect of the win screen may have been entirely secondary. In fact, I'm not sure how the designers would have gone that route first without having already decided she'd be a woman.

    Another thing is that sexualization is not necessarily an anti-feminist notion. Characters can certainly be sexual in nature but still be considered strong female characters in fiction. If their sexuality is the only trait they exhibit and is merely a vehicle to pander to men or be expressed as a tool of men, then that is where the problem arises. This is why the Femme Fatale characters of Film Noir are not exactly laudible, while characters such as Marjerie Tyrell or Black Widow are much more well-thought-out. They're 3-Dimensional, they're strong, they're not just one-trick ponies that rely purely on their sexuality. [side note: I feel like this nuance is lost in a lot of "SWM vs. SJW" debates, even on both sides of the argument. Sexualization of a male or a female character does not have to be an anti-masculine or anti-feminine concept. It just has to be handled correctly.]

    Now I bring up that point to say that Samus has a lot of virtue as a protagonist that lies completely outside the realm of the fact that she is a woman. However, I realize that itself is a completely debatable point. I'd argue, though, that the very fact that you play as Samus for every Metroid game is enough to give her character intrinsic merit, even if she is, most of the time, a blank slate on which to project your own thoughts and feelings. But the fact that the blank slate is a woman is, I think, still significant.

    I once heard someone say about a non-Metroid franchise, "[The designers] heard us say that we wanted 'strong female characters.' What they heard was 'strong FEMALE characters.' What we meant was 'strong characters; female.'" If you ask me, I still think Samus falls into the latter category, even with the win screens being the way they are.
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    My Potions Are Too Strong For You Traveller

    My Potions Are Too Strong For You Traveller Supermod Staff Member

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    That was a thoughtful response. One of the things that I find a bit frustrating is not that the character was suggested to have a sexual identity, but that it is clearly not for the sake of character or story but the viewer's indulgence. I don't think there is anything shameful about desire or accepted sexual expression, but in most cases where sex would be considered acceptable and also benefit the player, it would be as the player is given a choice to guide the character toward their preference for the character's actions - as we often see in RPGs which stumble across that theme. The relationship here is solely to the audience, beyond any question of choice.

    In that sense, I do not think unnecessary sexualisation damages the character, but it certainly is a means to call into question the developer's motivation. I think it is easy to say that they may have decided the character was a woman first and then decided to sexualise her, but the obvious response then would be that of course they did - the default purpose of many characters in such scenarios is to be portrayed as a sex object.

    I respect the character and her own agency, especially as she has virtually no interaction with other humans in every game except the worst of the series, and her being female is not - at the height of the series - made into some clumsy narrative point when much more vital motives are at play. The odd part being how the rest of the games normally stands in contrast to this objectification. It is fair to point out that the moment Samus is originally revealed to be a woman, it is to show her in underwear as a reward for the player. In contrast to the rest of the game which treats this with little fanfare, that moment sticks out as a sore thumb.

    It is worth noting, however, the time at which the original games where made. It's possible that, lacking a decent artist, memory storage, and palette, they originally felt that they could only express gender by showing that she had breasts in the most obvious way short of actually making her topless. Certainly, the resolution is low enough that it is worth wondering how they might have visually done that. It's not as though long-haired men were in short supply in the 80s.
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