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Breaking the Narrative Episode 7: Analysis of Samus Aran, Is She Really a Token Female?

As we’ve seen so far in this series it is beyond easy to debunk the Video Games vs. Women argument we’ve been dealing with for the past 4 years.

“But Alex, #GamerGate has only lasted 2…” I’m starting from Sarkeesian opening her KickStarter.

So now as promised I’m making a full article based upon gaming’s most prominent bounty hunter: Samus Aran. I’ve been a fan of Metroid since 1989, so I think I know a few things about the character. What am I going to be using as source material? I am going to concentrate mainly on the core series of games. This means Metroid: Zero Mission which is the elaborated version of the original game, Metroid II: Return of Samus, Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Other M. The reason I’m not touching upon the Prime series is not just because it is currently considered non-canon but because it doesn’t actually show much development of Samus’ character. I am also going to include the prequel manga as a source because it shows Samus’ formative years.  I know people want to write off Other M because of its story but I’m going to show here better than an internet commentator playing ‘attorney’ in a skit why it is an integral part of the series and the character. The final purpose of this being how to properly analyze and critique a series through how it portrays its characters. Let’s hammer this in.

To begin, we’ll start from the earliest part of her life, this being the manga titled simply ‘Metroid.’ The manga itself starts as a flashback between missions for the bounty hunter. Laying in her bed curled up trying to forget the world, she thinks back to what the series calls Cosmic Year 2000. Presumably, that is 2000 years after humanity becomes a major player in galactic politics. Her parents were miners on Star Colony K-21, mining a mineral called Afloraltite which is fuel for lightspeed travel in space. We then see the parents of Samus named Rod and Virginia Aran. Virginia had taken some time off from the work to raise her daughter who is 3 at this time. She decided to go to the shipping site to take her husband his lunch because he had been working double, sometimes triple shifts to keep up with the fuel demands of sector caravans. This is not much different from treatment of many men in today’s age, Rod being prepared to sacrifice for the greater good and his family while Virginia asks him to consider resting more to stay healthy for the sake of his family.

So how does this affect what we know about Samus? Well at this point she is seen as a precocious and curious toddler who takes risks similar to her father and is shown to poke her head where it doesn’t belong. This leading to her literally running into the Chozo, namely Old Bird who is her later benefactor. Her father tells her she shouldn’t be where they are at right now and the elderly alien kindly states that there was no problem with the Chief’s daughter being there. In fact it is at that point in which he befriends the child stating they ‘carry the same heart,’ so there is nothing for her to fear from him. Then she asks him to go with her, to which he agrees, leaving negotiations to go on between Samus’s father and his own colleague Gray Voice. The negotiations fall through, and the Chozo begin to leave when the Space Pirates led by Ridley attack K-21, killing Samus’ parents before her eyes. They leave her as the sole survivor, to be rescued by the Chozo and brought back to their planet of FS-176, also known as Zebes.

From this point she is infused with Chozo DNA, making her into a hybrid of two diametrically different species. She kept her human form but took up Chozo vitality, strength, and dexterity. From this point, they trained the now halfling child in combat and how to traverse the planet’s harsh environments, giving her the bare bones power suit we see her in during the classic game/Zero Mission. She is trained as such due to the Chozo being considered protectors of the galaxy, and Samus taking up that mantle as well due to being raised on Zebes by them. Of course, she had normal teenager issues, being seen at the age of 14 as being a rebellious brat. After seeing the results of her finding, ironically named “Badger Clovers,” which are considered a poisonous plant, the plant and a benign butterfly species were chosen for destruction. Samus tried to prevent Mother Brain, who was herself benign at this point, from liquidating the butterflies by trying to settle the issue peacefully. However, issues occurred which led to her leaving the planet to become a true “protector”.

The manga goes on to cover her early years as a Galactic Federal officer underneath  Adam Malkovich, the next of her mentors. This, after witnessing the loss of her childhood home in Zebes to the space pirates. This leads to her becoming the hardened hunter we know in the main series. So far we’ve found Samus to have suffered three very traumatic events: The loss of her parents as a toddler, the modification of her body into a hybrid-warrior, and the loss of where she was raised, along with her benefactors. To suffer such hardship at such a young age one would expect PTSD to be a prevalent issue, and we’ll see this in the future. But for now, we move on to the main series.

After training for so many years and eventually leaving the Galactic Federal Forces she became a solo hunter and was given the mission to rid Zebes of the pirates – To avenge her ‘family,’ which she did eventually, leading to her severely damaging Mother Brain and the space pirate generals so much so they had to try to escape. Then, in the few years after that, she went to SR388 where the Metroids, who are another development of the Chozo to fight the X Parasites, were being kept in development. She destroyed the bulk of them to keep them out of the hands of those who would misuse them and not knowing about the X as well as the necessity for this predator, leaving with one final larva who saw Samus as its mother.

Whether this connection was due to the Chozo DNA used to develop both or a natural imprinting process is uncertain, but hours later the story of Super Metroid starts ,and the larva is abducted by Ridley, who Samus thought was dead. She then prepares herself and returns to her childhood home one last time, leaving after ensuring everything was finished…particularly after the larva sacrificed its life to save Samus, saving its ‘mother’ from Mother Brain.

From here we hit the events of Other M. Lets see if this game is worth its hate or if we just misunderstood the message due to poor delivery of the translation.

The Bottle Ship was overall developing organisms that were found from the remains of the exploded Zebes with what they could piece together of the technology there. Finding and re-developing beings like Mother Brain (accidentally) along with the several predators native to the Zebes ecosystem that are fought through most of the games, eventually leading to Samus fighting the reengineered Ridley. One of the prime criticisms is that Aran submits too quickly to Malkovich’s orders, despite being a solo Bounty Hunter. This is where they forget the legal standards she had been drilled with for over half her life at this point. He had dispensation to take command over her if the need arose. His being her final mentor solidified this, as he was literally the last living piece of her past.

As the mission goes on we hit the second criticism; her reaction to Ridley in losing control over her Power Suit which is normally controlled by her highly disciplined mind. This was actually shown to have happened once before in the manga right before losing the Chozo. Being exposed to Ridley under high amounts of stress or in a weakened mental state such as say, PTSD, would lead to her losing her suit. That’s right everyone, the event so many have criticized actually cements Samus as being human! Why did everyone do this, however? To this I direct at why everyone criticizes the Men’s Rights Movement: They expect Samus to be an invulnerable tool, despite being a female character they expect Samus to “be a man” and be the perfect soldier, an emotionless and heartless individual with no need to mourn, grieve, or have any form of ‘feminine weakness.’ This gets further cemented in the final chronological game of the series, Metroid Fusion.

In Fusion, she not only finally comes to terms with losing her entire childhood structure and defeats her demons for the last time… She also fulfills the Chozo’s final wish by demolishing the X Parasite and becoming one with the developed Metroids through the Larva’s DNA, becoming, in essence, the ultimate Chozo warrior and evolving into the protector they always intended. I’ve kept these parts purposefully short to encourage everyone to play all the games in this chronological order and to read the full manga for yourselves. It truly is a strong story that depicts within people’s reaction to it why something like the Men’s Rights Movement is a necessity. I think this is because it takes a woman and treats her like a man in the most literal sense. Anyone who has known a soldier, especially one suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, should relate almost instantly to this.

This is also why I think gamers as a whole relate instantly to the MRM because we’ve also been raised with such stories and hardships. As always I encourage everyone who has read this to put forth their opinions and research and add to it! We can only make something stronger. Please continue to Game Freely.

Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.
Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.

  • gush

    No one plays metroid for the story “but the story is awesome” but no one plays for the story.
    That’s why most nintendo games come with shitty stories, if the gameplay is good no one cares.
    So spoil away my friend, spoil away!
    lol!

    • Anime-Mun

      Perhaps, but if people tie the entire story together over the years Metroid’s story is one of the stronger ones.

      • gush

        Agreed.
        It’s better or at least just as good as legend of zelda.

    • Viredae

      I play it for the story.

      • Anime-Mun

        In that case do you think my particular analysis of the canon story makes sense?

        • Viredae

          Yeas, it’s fairly consistent and I definitely agree, it always struck me as odd that people criticized an aspect of Samus that would, at least conventionally, be considered character development, and I certainly didn’t mind it.

          I have also considered that Samus was treated as an “honorary man”, especially when you remember that, for the most part, the fact she was a woman was obscured for most of the original game, and the fact that it was a surprise until the end.

          Also, the fact that her features are primarily obscured may also help with that assumption, because it sort of pushes away the notion of female fragility and the need to constantly cater to it. It may also explain why she is often treated with contempt by Sarkeesian and her likes.