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Other M: A View on Samus' Character


Other M does a great characterization of Samus Aran. There I said it. You may flame me now. But if you are interested to see why I say that, I will try to elaborate a little. Caution I will use spoilers. And also, while I didnít dislike the voice performances or the dialogue especially, I will set those low points aside and just talk about the character, not the presentation, which, alas, I think that needed a little bit of polish. (On the theme, Siliconera's Ishaan worte a good piece called Characterization In Metroid: Other M [Spoilers]).

One of the things Iíve read a lot about the problem with Samusí character is that she is portrayed ďwhineyĒ, or that she isnít strong anymore, that she isnít a stoic character as in every other Metroid game. I beg to differ. As Oxford Online dictionary is down, let me turn to Merriam-Webster dictionary for the word stoic, ď[Ö]2: not affected by or showing passion or feeling[Ö]Ē. Samus isnít a robot or a psycho, so let us turn to the other possibility. That she is showing her emotions. Is she? I saw her sallow her tears when the third and last father figure of her life knocks her and goes to die. I saw her in front of the man that killed a friend in front of her eyes. I saw her seeing the corpses of friends. I saw her doubting her friends, even her closest relationships, thinking that they wanted to kill her. I saw suffer a lot of things. And not once did she break her passive face. She is like the little Spartan boy.

The Spartan boy. Spartans yeah like Leonidas and the 300 thing, although in real life. This is a little anecdote that my father told me while walking in the center of Rome. There was a little Spartan boy that had a terrible training in the morning. He was starving and the strict regime that the adults forced him to keep didnít satisfy his hunger. So he decided to steal a chicken to eat. But stealing was a grave offense; even for a kid it could mean death. But he did it none the less. He stole the chicken and hid under his clothes. He was running away when a couple of adults saw him and ordered him to come closer. The adults only wanted to talk with him; they didnít know a thing about the stolen animal. Walking away was of grave lack of respect, so the boy followed the command. And he stood there answering the questions and inquiries of his elders. He stood there for so long that the chicken woke up and started to peck him, trying to get free. But the boy stood there, taking inquires and the pain of the pecking in, without flinching a single muscle. Pain, guilt, everything, he took it and stood firm in his ground. He let the pecking go for so long that it broke the abdominal muscles. That little boy was a stoic.

Yes, we as players, because of the form that the narration is done, saw the tribulation that she went through, all that is eating, pecking her mind. But she doesnít know that her feelings are public. To one of the people that she grew up with, someone that should know her better than anyone else has to ask how she is holding up. Anthony has seen her for years, even for a decade, and canít tell how she is feeling. She is a stoic character she doesnít show her emotions to others, she hides them and stays with a neutral face all the time. We are in a privileged point of view, where we canít see her mind. That is the main difference between Other M and other Metroids. We see her as Anthony does, as cold person that has to be asked directly to know what she feels. Here we know at last what is in her mind. She isnít a robot; she has feelings, but hides them from everybody. She is the very definition of stoicism (not the philosophy).

There is a single flinch in the game, one scene where she shows an emotion to the world. One scene that made her demise to the eyes of many fans. The Ridley scene. So I will dissect it. In this moment we donít know of the Galactic Federation experiment, as far as I can recall. So neither does Samus know that there were cloning her archenemy. Most fans cry, ďShe has faced him before and didnít react that wayĒ. That, we donít know. Although in the Prime series he saw him through her eyes, we donít know her mental reaction. And there is the other factor. She stated it before, many times, that she was sure he was dead. That is a first. So dear readers, I would like to walk en her shoes for a minute, no for the requested mile. You have battled for God knows how many years with this guy, at least beaten him 4 more times (Iím missing Metroid Prime 2: Echoes so I canít be sure if there is a Ridley fight there) and thought that youíve finally killed him. Him, that destroyed your family in front of your eyes. Your possible thirst of vengeance, or just your disposition for facing him, is gone because he is gone for good after all this time. You find him, the killer of your parents, appears form nothing, right before your eyes. Wouldnít you tremble? Wouldnít you freeze? I would, and most people would. Samus isnít made of stone, for once, her armor cracked, she fell for a moment. That makes her more human, even with all her toughness, she may flinch. But when someone she cares about is in danger, she jumps at that monster. She flinches but she recovers, that is what makes her a hero. (That aside from the interesting analysis that Samus may have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Also let me go a little literary. Let me change to Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Marlow is a tough man, a stoic according to his friends. But he talks about his fear, his doubts in the whole affair of Mr. Kurtz. He is disturbed by the events that he saw, but you can still picture him with a stern look. He mourns his lost friend in a moment, but he still throws him overboard. He suffers, but he endures. The literary skills in Other M is far below to Conradís writing, but it is a similar case. Marlow talks about his insecurity facing the heart of darkness; Samus faces her insecurities about losing someone and his father figure while blasting aliens. A part form the writing, why is Marlow still a great character, a tough man but with fear and insecurities in his heart and Samus is criticized for showing the same problems? Is it a case of Real Women Never Wear Dresses?(caution TV Tropes link). Because she is a woman she needs to be emotionless to be tough? Is she less of a tough character for receiving orders form a man, just as Master Chief? That would be sad. That would be sexism. (And let us not be asking for Conrad level of writing, the medium is well below that).

Yes, the story needs to be better written. And yes, the presentation needs to be better done. But Samus is still a great character, even more thanks to this game. Now, tell me how wrong I am about this topic (or show some support, it would be nice).
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About kurokotetsuone of us since 11:29 PM on 11.14.2009

Not much to say. A complete geek that studies math at college, that loves videogmaes and anime and sometimes want to say a couple of things about the things that he loves.