Throughout my years as a gamer, I have seen plenty of over-sexualized female characters. My first “next-gen” title (after years of Tetris and Super Mario Bros. on the NES) was the original Playstation’s Tomb Raider. With improving graphics and technology, she was arguably gaming’s first female sex icon. With impossibly large breasts and miniscule waist, she was a character quite obviously designed by men for men. Despite all of that, as a young girl I idolized Lara Croft for her strength, intelligence, and sharp tongue.
Now put Lara in the tiniest bikini you can imagine, along with torn up tights, and take away her ability to speak. Does she still possess the same strength of character and intelligence? According to Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear Solid series, she can.
At this year’s E3, Kojima Productions revealed a gameplay trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Most of it is pretty standard Metal Gear: Snake speaking in a gruff voice, sneaking by armed guards (although this time, he’s on a horse!), smoking tobacco products, and hopping into the bed of a truck; but then there is this:
Series creator Hideo Kojima has recently faced some internet backlash for the recent reveal of the Metal Gear Solid V character, Quiet (the owner of the boobs pictured above). The character is a mute para-military sniper who clearly does not spend her paychecks on clothing.
The Metal Gear series is certainly no stranger to sexualizing its characters, especially the female members of the cast. Sniper Wolf and Eva apparently don’t know how to zip up their suits, and you can even control Rose’s breasts with the Sixaxis controls in Metal Gear Solid 4.
Responding to the negative criticism, Kojima had the following to say regarding his request for a more “erotic” character at a Q&A session on September 6: “Maybe the phrase ‘erotic’ wasn’t really [the correct word for] what I was trying to say. What I’m really trying to do is create unique characters. One of those is, of course, Quiet. She’s a really unique character, I wanted to add that sexiness to her. It wasn’t really supposed to be erotic, but sexy.”
I guess that asks the next big question: what is sexy? Kojima later clarified that sexy could also apply to a gun or a vehicle. You know, shiny inanimate objects without feelings or thoughts that also lack the ability to communicate verbally. Joking aside, it just strikes me as odd that despite him saying he wants everything to be sexy, Quiet stands out in the trailer as the only barely-dressed character, especially after seeing Naked Snake anything but naked and instead dressed in full tactical attire. He bypasses some fully-clothed and armed male guards, finds a male prisoner to extract, and then we cut to a screen full of boobs and a gun.
Giving Kojima the benefit of the doubt, Quiet could very well be a strong, capable, kickass woman. But even giving him that benefit, why does she need to be so underdressed as a combat sniper?
There’s also the implication here that in order to make Quiet stand out, she had to be in extremely revealing attire. It’s an unfortunate shortcut, and I feel it undermines a lot of the roadwork laid by strong (clothed) female protagonists. Aveline from Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, Jane Shepard from the Mass Effect trilogy, and Faith from Mirror’s Edge are three excellent examples of female characters who are capable, strong, and (most importantly) unique. Somehow, they even manage all this while wearing clothes!
So then maybe when Kojima says “unique,” it’s less about the fact that she’s dressed as a street-walker from Grand Theft Auto, and more about the fact that she may possess some supernatural ability. The Metal Gear universe is no stranger to characters capable of extraordinary feats. Telekinesis, telepathy, sword-fighting cyborgs, and near-immortality are all abilities that have made an appearance at some point. Kojima hinted on his Twitter (this link contains the English translation for Kojima’s tweets) that there’s a reason for her “exposure” in the story, and that after discovering it, we would be “ashamed of our words and deeds.”
My roommate and I have been trying to think of anything that could justify her lack of clothing coupled with her lack of speech. In the E3 gameplay trailer, there is a scene where the area around her eyes goes from darkened rings to normal. Considering the series’ history, we think it may be possible that she can adjust the pigmentation of her skin at will, which would be handy if you could darken the areas around your eyes to reduce glare when looking through the scope of a sniper rifle. It could also explain why she wears so little clothing, in order to more fully blend in with the environment. (Note: We are not trying to predict the story in any way; we are merely trying to think of any sort of justification for her character model, no matter how outlandish.)
However, skin does not stop bullets. Even with some magical camouflage ability, Quiet would not be protected from death by gunshot. Alternatively, if she also were to possess a similar ability to Vamp (of Metal Gear Solid 2) and can withstand gunshots, that still doesn’t explain the lack of clothing. From the trailer, it seems that much of the game takes place in the deserts of Afghanistan. So my question is, does she have an unlimited supply of sunscreen tucked into her thong for ready use to protect against the desert sun’s harsh rays?
My point is that even though Kojima intimated that there is a very legitimate reason for it all, I can’t imagine any plot device that explains both her lack of clothing and speech without being misogynistic. To me, Quiet’s character screams, “I was created by a man to be sexy, and even better if I can’t speak!”
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see whether there is truth behind Kojima’s assurances that there is a reason for her inability to speak coupled with her state of undress in the story. My prediction is that I won’t be impressed, and that I’ll still be left wondering why she couldn’t have been wearing a reasonable amount of clothing despite whatever strength of character she may display throughout the story. But maybe that’s just me yearning for gender equality finally being a reality in today’s society. Or maybe it’s just disappointment that yet another female character is depicted as boobs on legs, while every man around her seems to even be wearing EXTRA layers. After all, I’m sure I would have less of a problem with the thong bikini on a military sniper if it looked more like this:
(Special thanks to ZombieSandwich of DeviantArt for permission to use her FANTASTIC Big Boss bikini fanart in this article. Visit her DeviantArt page HERE for more amazing artwork! Also, special thanks to my roommate, Jason Stafford [the biggest feminist I know] for assisting me with this article and talking through our ideas together.)
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR MGSV (but if you haven’t played it by now, come on people)
In the game, Quiet possesses some sort of photosynthesis ability. It actually requires exposure to the sun in order to nurture her body; she doesn’t eat typically. There’s another character, an old man, who does the same, but he’s not sexy so he wears a shirt.
On her silence, the game contains a story about a parasite that latches onto the vocal cords, and is spurned into activity by the vibrations made when speaking. Different species target different language sounds. Quiet’s parasite targets English, so she doesn’t speak English. She does hum though, and it’s kind of creepy and enchanting at the same time.
Later in the game, she speaks a Native American tongue with the aforementioned male character.
I am a student of feminist theory and philosophy, and while you can pull these sort of themes from a work like this, the big thing to remember is intent. Intent is very important, because if we ignore it, we strip people’s control over their own words from them. Even when someone says something that comes off as bigoted to one of us, we must keep in mind that how they convey their thoughts is every bit a product of their socialization as anything else.
Honestly, Kojiima should have just kept her out of the trailer as you can’t convey anything positive about Quiet without spoiling crucial aspects of the story, as I did here.
Quiet (and all the previous female characters in the MGS franchise) exist as they do because Kojima is a self admitted otaku, and his games have the unfortunate habit of falling into design meant to appeal to the more fetishistic aspects of Japanese otaku culture.
Putting women in subversive and sexualised roles is unfortunately a large part of that.
I’m not saying its right, but that’s the sad truth of it. There is no justification for the characters’ design, no genuine reason for the way that she looks, beyond straight up chauvinism.