01 September 2015

Sometimes, I encounter things that I want to talk about. Things that require more words that a tweet would allow, but not as much to warrant a full “On the subject of” article. And I feel that OTSO’s definition has been stretched enough already, since we’re at a point where even meta articles and game reviews bear the OTSO mark.

I’ve decided to clean things up. OTSO will remain as the somewhat longer, slightly in depth, released-on-the-last-monday article of this blogs, and for subjects that require more than 140 characters, I have decided to launch a new category: quick shots. No real schedule for those: they’ll come out when I need to talk about something. Hell, it might even be my only one, even though I doubt it. Just a note: here, “quick” doesn’t mean “quick read”, it means “quickly written”, so there might be a few more flaws than normal

For my first subject, let’s talk about something that’s floating around Twitter right now: some people are claiming that Samus Aran, of Metroid fame, is a trans woman.

A bit of background first. Samus is, to put it mildly, a very big deal. She’s an incredibly rare example of a female protagonist in a video games. She isn’t (usually) hypersexualized, she kicks major asses, and unlike, say, Lara Croft, she isn’t a raving psychopath. She’s a beloved character all over the world, but especially in the West, and is without a doubt a major video game icons.

Samus’ original designer once joked she was a “newhalf”, which is a somewhat insulting term for a trans woman which did not yet had gender reassignment surgery. This is probably a snide remark for how Samus, despite being a woman, has a somewhat “masculinized” appearance: she’s tall and she does things typically associated with manhood, such as not crying and killing people. Japan is conservative, right, right, we already knew that. What’s interesting is that a portion of the Internet found that old interview and decided to spin it into a new interpretation: Samus is a trans woman.

Another section of the Internet got a bit defensive about it, for various reasons. Of course, there’s the transphobic crowd, who is opposed to any form of representation of trans people in the media, but I’m assuming it’s a minority. The most common reason being put forward is that Samus has always been described as a “woman”, with “cis woman” being implied here. But here’s the thing: all that time, Samus could have been trans. When she was a child on KL-2, she could have been a boy dressing as a girl. She could have transitioned some time later with no trace of her male heritage thanks to future sci-fi magic tech.

You could say the creators always intended her to be a cis woman, but then again they also made her into a submissive wallflower with daddy issues in Other M, and we all know that’s bullshit.

So it’s not really a fan-made retcon, it’s more like alternate character interpretation. There is never an official mention of Samus’ gender identity in the games or supplementary materials, so all of that hinges on what the player thinks of her. In a way, saying Samus is trans is like saying Gordon Freeman is gay, since after all, Gordon was never said to be not gay. Also, he’s quite hot already with that sexy beard of his. This goes with the basic idea that, for the most part, a character can be anything the audience chooses and that isn’t explicitly contradicted by canon. We just assume Samus is cis because it’s “normal” and as such is the default state. For the same reason, we also assume she’s straight.

So, is Samus trans? Maybe. Maybe not. Trans people are really looking hard for heroes in media, and they felt like this some what off hand remark in an old interview was the one thing they needed to transform Samus into one. Is it a good idea? I don’t know. I wonder how much it says about them if they feel that their mascot in gaming is a sexy chick who blows up planets and is probably dead inside.

As for me? I don’t really care, honestly. If she were, it would change exactly jack shit for the games themselves, but it would probably help trans people achieve some more visibility in the media, and I think that’s a good thing. My personnal headcannon is that she’s a lesbian who once had a relationship with Gandrayda. The fact that Samus is quite flexible and Gandrayda is a shapshifter would really make for some interesting kinky sex. That slashfic is practically writing itself.

But anyway, don’t be so serious with your characters, guys. If you don’t think Samus is trans, then just zone it out. It won’t affect your games at all. Of course, if you think this is another case of “the SJWs are comming for muh games”, then I don’t think this article can convince you, although I have to commend you for reading this far into something you entirely disagree with.

In related news, I’m still waiting for another Prime game.