Metal Gear Solid V: It’s Got Everything but a Damn Shirt

It’s time to talk about sexism in video games again! Oh goodie!

Nowadays I watch other people play video games on YouTube a lot more than I play myself (by the way, check out YouTube’s new gaming site). But Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain looks amazing enough to make me think about buying a Playstation 4. Hideo Kojima is like the James Cameron of video gaming: he’s a writer-director control freak with a passion for pushing the limits of technology. But unlike James Cameron, he’s got a big problem creating strong female characters.

Video games have a well-documented problem with sexualizing and marginalizing female characters, and being downright hostile to anyone who points it out. Overthinking It has been banging this drum for years. In 2013, Perich took on the ultra-busty sorceress character from Dragon’s Crown. In 2011, Fenzel fumed about Starcraft 2.

(Spoilers for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes follow.)

What I don’t say in the video is that Kojima also came under fire for what happened to the one female character in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, which was sort of an elaborate demo slash cash grab. In that game, the character of Paz is captured, and at one point you have to listen to an audiotape of her being raped. (Actually, it’s worse than that: you are rewarded with an audio tape of her being raped if you complete an optional objective.) At the end of the game, she’s killed by a bomb that’s been shoved up her vagina or anus. It’s not exactly clear which.

People have defended this brutality by saying the game has a right to be dark and gritty, and nasty things certainly happen in war. Okay, fine. Except that the bad guy who is doing these nasty things is named Skull Face. So here’s the deal: either the series should be judged as gritty and realistic, in which case Quiet and Skull Face are ridiculous. Or it should be judged as a cartoonish fantasy, in which case what happens to Paz is grossly gratuitous.

It’s a little disappointing that for a game that’s been racking up 10/10 reviews and being hailed as a masterpiece, it can’t do a little better for the sake of all the lady gamers out there. I’d like to think in two years we’ll be writing an article about the amazing female character we just played. Fingers crossed.

80 Comments on “Metal Gear Solid V: It’s Got Everything but a Damn Shirt”

  1. Pissed #

    Um, spoilers. Thanks for ruining a major plot point in the game. Seriously, if you’re going to have that big a spoiler you need warn people before they read it. There’s nothing whatsoever in the title that suggests this article has major spoilers.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      Are you referring to the thing about Paz? That was from Ground Zeroes, which came out 18 months ago. Isn’t there a spoiler statute of limitations?


      • Squin #

        I would argue that no, there isn’t, but regardless in this case I’m glad this was spoiled for me, I think I would rather just avoid that audio tape; that sounds gratuitous and in poor taste.


        • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

          Well hey, I don’t want anyone to be spoiled. I added a warning to the post. Sorry for the info-bomb.


  2. Crystal #

    I am a lady. I have larger than average breasts. And let me tell you– there’s no way to comfortably wear such a small and unsupportive top without a nip slip. These ladies must be using miles of fashion tape to keep their clothes in place. It would be more comfortable to wear pasties than to wear Quiet’s top.

    I’m not sure if designers don’t know how clothes and boobs get along or if they just don’t care. Either way, I cant tolerate it. It’s part that it’s sexist and part that it breaks the immersion. I don’t mind a character who dresses sexy, and I have no issues with eroticism (I write erom), but I can’t deal with clothes that don’t act like clothes. Maybe I’m bitter that I can’t be part of all the cool trends and cosplay things that work on less endowed women, but damn these game designers for the false impressions of clothing they’ve given me.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      I love that your objections have less to do with feminism and more to do with physics.


      • ScholarSarah #

        But those two things are not unrelated.

        The physics the programmers include reflects choices about how the audience will experience the game.

        If the game is programmed without taking into consideration the interactions between breasts, physics, and comfort, it becomes clear that the character’s programming does not reflect the lived experience of people with large breasts.

        This disconnect leads Quiet’s breasts to be less an aspect of her that the audience can relate to or sympathize with, and more notional breasts, put in to be lusted after. Revealing this choice and its effect on the audience is absolutely within the realm of feminism.


  3. jmasoncooper #

    I have a question Senor Belinkie.

    Is the problem of objectification a subset of the problem of author intentionality?

    Are we mad because Quiet is a male fantasy and we deserve a more well rounded, fleshed out, life like fantasy? Or are we mad because the artists intention all along was to give us a male fantasy and tried to mislead us into thinking we were getting a more well rounded, fleshed out, life like character?

    I would say that another subset of problems under the umbrella of artistic intentionality would be those concerned with Taylor Swift’s racism. Are we mad because Taylor might be racist? Or are we mad because her real intentions were not racist but what we actually saw in “Wildest Dreams” was racist?

    Or are all my concerns just to be thrown out the window because the author is dead? (See:


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      Thanks for the interesting questions! I’d say in this case, I am doubly annoyed with the situation.

      I feel like if you look up “Male Gaze” in the dictionary, you see a still of Quiet. If it’s a video dictionary (THEY EXIST) you see one of the many shaky-cam cutscenes in which the camera lovingly pans up her torso.

      I am also annoyed that her nudity has a biological justification. I think that makes it WORSE. If she’s supposed to be seductive and she’s dressing that way on purpose, then at least she has agency. She’s Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct – she WANTS you to see. Making her breathe through her skin has the effect of stripping away her power. She doesn’t choose to dress sexy, she MUST dress sexy to live. (ADDITIONAL SPOILER ALERT HERE.) Through most of the game, there’s also the strong possibility that she doesn’t have an adult level of emotional maturity. That is, she’s portrayed more like a weird animal than a woman (your troops are freaked out just to be around her). So there’s issues of consent there – she combines this childlike simplicity alongside deadly instincts. (Late in the game, she turns out to have more of an inner life than previous thought.)

      I am ALSO annoyed at Kojima’s evasiveness on the issue. On the one hand, he wants to say that she’s the antithesis of scantily clad female characters, and that anyone who doubts it should be ashamed of themselves. On the other hand, he posts images of himself caressing her doll boobs. I don’t even think that’s hypocrisy; I think it’s just cluelessness.

      Finally, I’m not convinced the Taylor Swift video is racist, because it’s a period piece and at that time (the 30s?) I can fully believe that black people were not working on Hollywood movie sets. But I think that’s worth a whole other thread.


  4. jmasoncooper #

    Another concern.

    Would it have made a difference if a woman had been the auteur behind Metal Gear Solid V? If a woman created Quiet, could we talk about objectification?

    And another thing. What if MGS V was created by a lesbian? Could we talk about objectification if it was known that the creator and designer of the game was attracted to women even if she herself was a woman?

    Are we concerned about objectification only because the game was created by a (I’m assuming because I have not checked) straight man?


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      I’d argue that neither of those considerations obtains. The character would still be troubling to us if she had been created by a five-legged chartreuse alien from beyond the Milky Way who reproduces asexually. (How’s that for a straw man? Or rather a straw extra-terrestrial?)

      This goes to your questions about the intentions of the author above. I’m inclined to suggest we look at the phenomenon of the work in its cultural context rather than putting the author’s soul (which is unknowable to us, however many interviews or diaries we read) under a microscope.

      I’d argue that this applies to admirable works just as much as troubling ones. Picasso was inarguably a real jerk to the women in his life. And Guernica is still a masterpiece.

      The idea that we can declare the work redeemed or sullied by the purity or impurity of the creator’s mind puts us in the position not of critic but of confessor; I, at least, know I am not suited for the job.

      Some further reading if you’re interested:


      • Stokes OTI Staff #

        Of course, there is another argument to make which is that the author is always culturally situated, and that therefore it’s impossible for any two people to make the same statement/produce the same artwork. This is obviously true in some circumstances. Take the phrase “I now pronounce you man and wife,” for instance. Not just anyone can say it.

        If this had been programmed by a chartreuse five-legged alien, it would not be the same game. I still would have some problems with the character… but my overall reaction would be less “Okay this is why we still need the word problematic” and more “Holy fnarp aliens exist call NASA.” To a certain degree this kind of thinking has shaped the way the game has actually been received. Hideo Kojima has a reputation as a provocateur and as a wild-eyed genius. When he says Quiet is supposed to be a satire, people at least take a second look. But what if Quiet was from a game by the people who make Game of War (you know, the one where the public face of the game is Kate Upton in a chainmail bra)? I find it hard to argue with a straight face that we’d receive it the same way.


        • jmasoncooper #

          I am going to geek out a little bit. First of all, thanks Matthew Wrather, and Stokes for commenting. I love this website! I found it because of Stokes’s Cowboy Bebop reviews and have loved just about everything published here. You guys think like me!

          Let me see if I can rephrase what I think Belinkie is saying in his video, and offer a few thoughts. He says that it is problematic to have female characters objectified in our modern pop culture landscape because feminism has been a thing for 50+ years. Women deserve to see characters that look and sound more like themselves, and less like adolescent fantasy objects. And men deserve to see women who they can respect, admire, and rely upon without also needing to see their underwear. (Correct me if I am misstating your claims, Belinkie.)

          My concern with Belinkie’s argument is that it is not explicitly founded where Matthew Wrather said it was founded, i.e. the cultural context of the release of MGS V. Belinkie references at least 4 tweets by Kojima and makes an unsupported claim at the end of the video about Kojima’s track record with female characters. To me, Belinkie is not arguing about the problems with Quiet based on the cultural context, but arguing that the problems with Quiet stem directly from the author (or auteur) of MGS V, Hideo Kojima.

          My previous comment about the problem of authorial intent is trying to drive at this conflict in Belinkie’s argument. It is fine and good to say that the author is dead and that we only talk about works of pop culture in their cultural context, but Belinkie has structured his argument around holding Kojima responsible for Quiet being an objectified female character. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

          If the author is dead, then Quiet being an object is no longer Kojima’s problem. It is your problem and my problem as “readers” of the video game. We have three choices as “readers.” 1. Participate in Quiets objectification by lusting after her pixels. 2. Recognize that the game has objectified Quiet in a number of ways (sexually, and literally because she is your buddy and you use her as a tool to accomplish your mission goals.) Or 3. Recognize that the game objectifies Quiet and complain loudly or refuse to play it as a message to the creator and publisher for your disdain. These three choices are not mutually exclusive.

          The responsibility is not in Kojima’s court to make his art better or different; we see the kinds of problems that can cause, ahhheeemm Star Wars. Yes, I am looking at you George Lucas. The responsibility is ours, to understand what we are looking at and feel the humanness of it. For some that humanness will be the raging hormones of physical attraction, and for others that humanness will be the sorrow of seeing a digital slave, objectified for entertainment.

          All of this is to say, I just had some thoughts about what you were saying and I hope I have been clear in my critique. I do not disagree that objectification hurts pop culture, I just think that there may be some problems with the way you got there. In my opinion the intentionality fallacy can be the downfall of many a well crafted argument.


          • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

            I think you’re a good fit here too, and I hope you stick around!

            See my other comment to you above. If it seems like I’m coming at this from multiple angles, it’s because I am. Putting the author aside, I think it’s too bad Quiet has to be dressed like that. That would be true no matter what Kojima said about it.

            But as a separate issue, I’m critical of Kojima because of his frankly ridiculous claims that he is NOT objectifying her, and in fact she’s the antithesis to objectification, and here’s a doll you can feel up. I felt that was worth calling out, because when these issues of sexism in video games get discussed you sometimes see people tie themselves in knots to deny the obvious. Her outfit isn’t about sex; she needs to have exposed skin to breath!

            Now, through a certain lens of cultural criticism, the author doesn’t matter. We only care about discussing the text. But in this case, I actually do want to advocate for a change in the culture, so discussing the author is important.

            Here’s where I disagree with you. You say “The responsibility is not in Kojima’s court to make his art better or different,” as if it would be sacrilege for him to have to listen to the fans. But I’d argue that he listens to his fans all the damn time, and he’s constantly asking himself, “How can I make this game more enjoyable for Metal Gear fans?” I don’t subscribe to this idea that you can’t be a real artist while trying to give the fans what they want; I would certainly hope J.J. Abrams is thinking about what the fans want, for example.

            In fact, I would say that Quiet only exists because Kojima is trying to create something that will appeal to the fans, as he imagines them. So what’s wrong with the fans speaking up and saying, “Hey, not all of us want that?” That’s not sullying the guy’s art; that’s the way this is supposed to work.

          • Rambler #

            Just chiming in that you’re not the only one who sees a bit of ambiguity in the whole “the author is dead” mantra.
            I’m not saying it can’t be a useful tool for prying value out of art.. but in a era where the author is live-tweeting events and recording synced audio commentary, his dynamic-living-interacting soul is part of the cultural context.

            We can choose to accept or not what the artist reveals… but if the critic has been raised to the level of artist, then we also have to accept that this also empowers the original artist to be a critic.

        • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

          Yeah, of course, sure, some general knowledge about the author is part of the knowledge about the work.

          But the thing I mean to challenge, I guess, is how extensive and how stable is our knowledge of the author’s subjectivity. Because a lot of the arguments from Author’s Intention rely on information that I’d argue is not well-established or even strictly speaking knowable.


  5. jmasoncooper #

    Thank you for your response @Matthew Belinkie.

    I totally see where you are coming from and I agree. Just look at Mad Max: Fury Road earlier this year. They had the sexy and hilarious scene of the “wives” washing each other after the giant sandstorm. But that was a “winky” little moment showing the audience what we thought the characters were going to be. Then the movie flipped the scrip and had one of them die being a hero, and the rest fought and struggled alongside Max, Furiosa, and the Grannies during the climax. That whole movie worked brilliantly to show women as agents, taking their future into their own hands. More of that please.

    Finally, let me reframe my comment about Kojima/fan interactions. My words are coming from a personal context where censorship is a big issue. So really what I was trying to get at is that Kojima should not feel obligated to change what he envisions based on people trying to censor his work. He should feel free to create the game that he believes in that will also satisfy his fans. Now if Kojima has illusions about what his fans want (female sex objects instead of real characters), then let us on the internet disabuse him of that notion.

    P.S. Kojima deserves criticism for putting his foot in his mouth, making unsupportable claims about Quiet as a parody of sexual objectification.


  6. aletheia #

    (Minor spoilers about Quiet, unsurprisingly.)

    One might wonder whether the real problem is that human beings, and in particular men, are unable to look at a woman dressed as Quiet is dressed, without immediately proceeding to sexualise her. For example, suppose that Quiet was in fact a real person, complete with her photosynthesis capabilities. In that case, it would be really, really problematic to say that she could or could not wear X or Y. In fact, whether she photosynthesizes or not would be irrelevant: she presumably ought to be able to wear whatever clothes she wants to wear. The problem, then, is with us, not Quiet. Just as in real life, the problem would be with us, not with Quiet.


    • jmasoncooper #

      @aletheia, I like your comment a lot.

      I imagine, that modern liberal feminist minded critics would not care if Quiet IRL decided to wear what she did in the job she has. (I think people would have a problem if she wanted to wear that as a flight attendant, or bank clerk, or elementary school teacher.)

      I am going to put words into Belinkie’s mouth and say that the concern is not with the outfit in itself, but with a person who created a digital slave, without life in herself, and chose to dress her in a way she has no autonomy over, and I imagine (as I have not beat the game) the player has no control over either. She is objectified by her creator and put on display for the world with no choice. Saints Row IV allows you to be a busty, sexy, scantily clad female character, or not. The choice is in the players hands. If you want to create an sex object of a character, the responsibility is yours.

      P.S. Experts in objectification studies would argue both for and against about men’s ability not to objectify women. Some say that the male gaze is inherent, others believe it is a choice. (Some feminists such as Naomi Wolf find the concept of physical attractiveness itself to be problematic,[32] with some radical feminists being opposed to any evaluation of another person’s sexual attractiveness based on physical characteristics. John Stoltenberg goes so far as to condemn as wrongfully objectifying any sexual fantasy that involves visualization of a woman.[33])


      • aletheia #

        But if the problem is that Kojima has created a “digital slave”, how is that relevant to real women? If the issue is that Kojima has perved out and created his personal 15-year-old fantasy, why should anyone else care? I certainly don’t. Shouldn’t it just be that we all roll our eyes, ignore the (lack of) clothes he has put her in, and do our best to treat his creation in a better manner than he has?

        It seems to me that a truly feminist world would be one in which Quiet’s character design was of no consequence, because it was a given that (a) women can dress however they want, without fear of being sexualised because of their dress, and (b) men had sufficiently transcended their appalling behaviour and thought processes such that no one would worry that Kojima had “perved out” in creating her, but had proceeded to her design just from the photosynthesis premise.

        Hopefully, with advances in genetic science, it will be possible to create a new breed of human, for whom such a situation will be a reality. A reality where sexuality is always, permanently and fully, followed through as a matter of consent: not just when it comes to acts, but when it comes to thoughts too.


        • Crystal #

          In your made up world, Quiet would need to be dressed provocatively because she wanted to dress provocatively. Which might make sense in the context of her bedroom. Or, I suppose, she could be a stripper, a prostitute, or a burlesque dancer (though that would present another set of sexual politics, which is a pandora’s box I’d rather not open). Real women often dress to maximize sex appeal, absolutely, and they have plenty of reasons for doing so, but NO ONE dresses like this for spy missions. If Quiet was dressed like this IRL, she would be scolded by management and sent home to change into something more appropriate.

          Personally, the reason why this kind of thing bothers me, is that it’s like a flashing sign that says WE DON’T WANT YOU PLAYING OUR GAME. Or at the very least WE, DEVELOPERS, DON’T CARE IF OUR GAME APPEALS TO YOU, STUPID WOMAN. I’ve pretty much quit video games because of it. The last GTA game with the not even an NPC bikini girl all over the posters sent me into a rage every time I saw it. And you have to see her staring at the camera provocatively as she gets arrested in the freaking loading screen! I shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable playing a video game. And I shouldn’t have to be reminded that, as a woman, I am only good for my sex appeal. Female characters literally have their spines broken so they can be sexier.

          (It seems the escher girls tumblr is down *ugh* You can read about that here or you can look at The Hawkeye inidiative for another angle on the same problem


          • aletheia #

            You’ve completely and utterly missed my point. The problem, as I espouse it, is in essence that there is such a thing as sexuality at all. We should all be capable of seeing Quiet – in whatever outfit, for goodness’ sake – without instantaneously connecting her with sexuality.

            In my view, we should _never_ be looked at with regards to our sex appeal. Sex appeal shouldn’t even be _a category_.

  7. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @aletheia – Respectfully, your first comment seems a tad silly to me. It boils down to, “Shame on us for looking at that poor woman in a sexual way – she’s got a medical condition!” Except for the medical condition is quite clearly a rediculous justification for dressing her all sexy. I know that because [spoiler alert yet again] she was horribly burnt, and the parasite that saved her restored her skin perfectly while doing absolutely nothing for her lungs, thus requiring her to be sexy all the time. I know that because the camera pans up and down her body constantly. I know that because Kojima came right out and said the goal was to make her very “erotic” so he can sell figurines. So you’re basically making an argument that we shouldn’t find her sexy, even though everyone involved is openly trying to make her sexy.

    Your second argument is interesting, and I think it deserves another argument or video at some point. That one basically boils down to, “Who cares if she’s a sexual fantasy? What does it matter?” I’d say it matters because culture matters. It matters when the girls aisle in Toys R Us is full of pink princesses and nothing else. It matters (in a positive way) when Murphy Brown becomes a single mom. And it matters when in the Game of the Year, a game that’s being hailed as a 10/10 masterpiece, the one female character is dressed like a stripper. (ANd to head off another of your arguments, yes, women have the right to dress however they want in real life. That doesn’t mean that depictions of women in the media have now moved beyond criticism. There is a big difference between a real woman showing sexual agency and a pretend woman being offered up as sexual fantasy. There are ways for a male creator to have a sexy female character WITHOUT being exploitative, by making her sexiness part of her character. Kojima doesn’t do that. If anything, Quiet has been stripped (ha ha) of the right to dress sexy by her silly medical condition.)

    As you say, Quiet’s outfit doesn’t matter to you, which is fine. It may not matter to most people. But it matters to some people, because they are video game fans and Metal Gear fans and they don’t like what they see. Why shouldn’t they complain? The worst that’s going to happen is Konami will say, “Sorry this game is for dudes, by dudes,” which they have every right to say.

    (Oh, and I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic about genetically engineering a new breed of humans that isn’t even capable of impure thoughts, but I’ve got some minor issues with that plan.)


    • aletheia #

      I stand by my first argument. The fundamental problem _with humanity_, and in particular _men_, is that if they see a naked woman, or a semi-naked woman, or _whatever_, they wind up sexualising her. My argument isn’t a _defence_ of Kojima (sure, he deliberately did this to arouse people, whatever) but an _indictment_ of _humanity_, especially _male_ humanity.

      And no, I’m not being sarcastic about genetically engineering humans to get rid of sexuality.


      • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

        Would the world be a more peaceful, happier place if we could stamp out some of our most primitive, biological drives? Sure, no question. But call me a romantic, but I have a certain fondness for human nature as it is, warts and all. I suppose that’s easy for me to say as a straight white male, benefitting from every privilege that there is.


      • Crystal #

        But she isn’t naked. Being naked has a lot of contexts that are not sexual. You take showers naked. You go to the doctor naked. She’s wearing lingerie, which only has sexual contexts.

        Sexuality is part of the human experience, and there is nothing wrong with that. Sexuality is great. Women are sexual and men are sexual and people who don’t fit the gender binary are sexual. There is nothing wrong with finding people attractive and thinking about them in a sexual context. But it’s a matter of context.

        There is a language of sexuality in our culture– it’s in clothing choices, it’s in camera movements, it’s in language. After all, c**k doesn’t just mean rooster, and p***y doesn’t just mean cat.

        I went to film school, so you’ll have to bear with me talking about the language of the camera. What the camera here says is “look at this sexy lady.” A more neutral camera would not be panning or tilting over her body lasciviously.


  8. liveAndLetLive #

    Quite frankly I am tempted to stop bothering with OverthinkingIt, much as I love many of the podcasts. What pray tell is the difference between religious conservatives who want to save women by controlling them and their sexuality and the people doing it under a more leftist label? All I hear is a bunch of people thinking they get to decide whether it is right or wrong for a woman to be a certain way based on how they feel. How can you impose your arbitrary notion of what women should or shouldn’t wear, not on your own art but on that enjoyed by others? Are you saying the women who love the franchise and cosplay as the characters in sexy costumes are victims who are not as smart as yourselves and can’t tell they are being objectified? You cannot police female sexuality and expression or speak for all women including the ones whose opinions you ignore or dismiss because they don’t agree with your idea of what is permissible and claim to do it in the name of feminism or being progressive. The obsession with the male gaze takes agency away from women and makes everything about men and how they view things, not about women and their choices, there is nothing empowering about that. Shall we cloak all female characters in a hijab for you? And what of people who find army uniforms sexy? Should we stop dressing female army characters in uniform because it might titillate them? You take things like big breasts and small waists and saw they are not representative of real women and are sex objects when human sexuality is diverse, people find all manner of thing sexually exciting, how are you going to block everything that any male might find sexy? And are you saying women who look that way or dress that way aren’t real women and are just objects because of what you personally feel when you look at them?

    Kojima has built a game universe in which Big Boss the greatest male warrior to ever live only beat his female mentor The Boss because she let him do so to achieve her goals. The greatest warrior in the series is a woman, one who doesn’t lose her femininity to achieve greatness, a mother, leader and fighter. The series abounds with complex, multi layered and powerful female characters. Kojima’s characters of every gender, ethnicity and sexual preference play with preconceived notions and show how shallow face value judgments are by having complex motivations and emotional depth that make them relatable. Quiet is a warrior not a whimpering victim and yet all it takes a flash of skin for you to reduce her character to an outfit instead of a person and somehow it is Kojima who has the problem? The idea that the moment a woman is attractive or has a sexual dimension that is all that defines her and there is something wrong with her or her portrayal is something you would be protesting against as nonsense if it were coming from the religious right but saying women shouldn’t be sexy because how they are seen by men is more important than how they see themselves is fine when you say it? The funny thing about all this is the character is supposed to look like that to rile you up and get you indignant till you find that she has a reason for dressing that way and it was you who projected your notions of victim-hood on a thinking female who made a decision to wear something that you don’t like. Kojima wanted to show your hypocrisy and lo and behold, it worked, you’re trying to desexualize women for their own good instead of looking in the mirror and asking yourselves why you are making female sexuality a bad, dirty thing.

    Need I remind that all manner of fuss was kicked up about Bayonetta’s sexualisation, a brilliant, fun game by a woman. A woman internet do gooders were accusing of sexism for portraying a female character in a manner she saw fit. What greater madness is there than saying woman shouldn’t make or enjoy things you don’t approve of and you’re saying this for their own good? Sex exists, women are sexual beings too and you need to get over your madonna/whore complex and see more in a character than whether they are chaste enough for you. Being sexy doesn’t diminish a woman, she is no less intelligent, driven or moral and thinking otherwise just shows how base you are, not how base the rest of us are. What you feel when look at her shows nothing about her and everything about your twisted view of women and your perceived right to determine what they should be. How do you not see your own hypocrisy? Critical thought people, it’s not that hard.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      Hi liveAndLetLive. I appreciate the well-written comment, even though you and I don’t see eye to eye on this one. First off, I hope you don’t give up on Overthinking It, because first off, I’m far from the only voice here. And second of all, people don’t always have to agree. I think we both share the same goals – entertainment that embraces sexuality in a way that empowers women, and breaks free from that madonna/whore complex you mention.

      You ask what’s the difference between me wishing Quiet would put on a shirt and the religious fundmentalists. Well, there’s a spectrum from repression to exploitation. Both extremes are bad. Both strip women of their agency and personhood. To me, Quiet is too far over on the exploitation part of the spectrum. Just to show I don’t think all sexy fictional ladies are bad, here is a partial list of characters I have no problem with: Catwoman, Black Widow, Mystique, and the aforementioned Bayonetta who can make her hair into a dragon. Quiet bothers me because of the extreme way she’s dressed, the reasons for it, the way she’s shown in the cutscenes, and some of her story elements.

      But I realize that exploitation is in the eyes of the beholder. There was an infamous Overthinking It post in which I argued that there was nothing wrong with the rape scene in Showgirls, and many others thought it was in bad taste. Others might go further and argue that ANY rape scene is exploitation, especially in a popcorn film. (It might be worth mentioning that Quiet is also the victim of sexual assault in this game. I didn’t even mention it in the video, but it certainly complicates things even more.)

      This is all to say, these issues are tricky, and I appreciate where you’re coming from.


  9. Count Spatula #

    Thanks for another great video, Belinkie.

    I find Quiet pretty alienating, especially as I happen to be immune to the effects of a naked female body on the libido. Her clothing, the camera angles, the sensuous movements she makes, the frickin’ doll with the squidgy breasts all exist because we are supposed to view her as a sexual character. If the creator is trying to enlighten us by pointing out our own hypocrisies and prejudices, then why the hell give Quiet an explanation for her behaviour that completely undermines that argument?

    In terms of both character design and writing, is boring and lazy, where are the women who aren’t so openly sexy, whose character is more attractive than their apperance, whose character is reflected through their body and clothing choices? And so on… They do exist but I agree that it’s depressing that such a game as MGS is rated so highly by so many people who seem to overlook the lack of imagination on that score.

    The above commenter is at least right that human sexuality is diverse, and people find all manner of things sexually enticing, but I do not see that reflected in Quiet, or indeed a huge number of female characters in games, at all. Why, in all the wide world of great human diversity, do game producers (and film makers) so often depict a specific kind of young, white, skinny, big-breasted woman? And why do they only seem to cater to that typically teenage-male taste when there is a much broader range of people playing their games?

    If we don’t complain, there’s no way that game producers will consider different choices. If we want to see change in the gaming industry, it’s highly important to point out characters like Quiet, not as strengths, but as flaws.


  10. Lun #

    I don’t know. I thought videogames were finally growing up. We’re getting more and more non-sexualized female leads in videogames: first in indie games, now they’re making their way up to triple A titles like Horizon.

    Then a supersuccessful game like MGS5 comes up and has Quiet as its only lead female character, and I feel that for one step forward, we take a hundred steps back.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      But another way to look at it is that everyone involved with MGSV, up to and including Kojima, heard the criticisms about Quiet. Maybe they just dig their heels in, but maybe they think twice next time. The Assassin’s Creed folks got dinged for sexism last year, and lo and behold the upcoming game has a badass playable female assassin. She’s still just the sister and sidekick of the male protagonist, but progress!


  11. liveAndLetLive #

    Matthew, thanks for your reply. I’m afraid we might not actually have the same goals, much as it may seem to be so. Entertainment that embraces sexuality in a way that empowers women sounds like a worthwhile and lofty goal. But if we look a little closer, we ask, if sexuality is subjective and diverse, what of the women who find the things you consider problematic to be empowering? Once we agree women are varied, like different things and find empowerment in a range of things, not just what you or I say they should, we find ourselves unable to say one thing or another isn’t empowering unless we claim to know what all women would feel or think some women’s perspectives don’t matter. If you said you wanted to create a game that you thought was empowering of women, that would be fine. But an attempt at calling out a game that many women love and characters they cosplay as unempowering completely overrules their agency to define what empowers them and why and supplants it with your subjective feelings.

    The allure of being one of the good guys that so enthralls many on the left comes with a caveat. You are the hero only if someone is a villain and someone else is a victim in need of saving, sometimes from themselves. I love how nobody cares how straight white men are depicted in games or media because men are strong, reasonable thinkers who can handle being sexualized or made into cannon fodder but oh, the weak women need saving from sexualization. Minorities, gays, they all need you to save them. The projection of victim-hood onto women and the cherry picking of women’s voices that tally with the preconceived notion of what they should be is in itself terribly sexist but gets to be cloaked in a air of heroism and fighting the good fight. If you’re imposing your idea of the ultimate correct way to be a woman, to represent women or what should considered offensive to women, you are definitely shutting out some female voices. In the case of male gaze theory and sexuality it is A LOT of women who are ignored for not feeling victimized when you’ve decided they should. How do you break free of the madonna / whore complex when you’re saying there is a right and wrong way to embrace sexuality that women? Aren’t the women whose portrayal falls into your right way madonnas and those whose portrayal doesn’t don’t whores? In this case you lay culpability for them being whores at the feet of the male creator of the narrative but you’re still casting moral aspersions based on a woman’s ‘excessive’ sexuality. Sounds an awful lot like you’d call it slut shaming is someone one the right did it. And if someone wore the same outfit to a slut walk aimed at perpetuating ideas about rape culture that you approved of it wouldn’t you suddenly see the same outfit as empowering?

    The thing people don’t like to mention about post structuralist thought is it’s focus on subjectivity always means your subjectivity. You get to pick and choose whose subjective experience is worthy of consideration. An outfit is not repressive or exploitative. To a Muslim woman who chooses to wear a hi-jab, it is liberating. But somehow why she does something is less important that what you decide to take from it and you get to ascribe repression or exploitation? I thought we buried sex negative feminism and puritanism ages ago. How is it not blatantly obvious that it is the person who is saying a woman’s outfit defines her that has a problem with seeing women as complex human beings and not the guy who put her in a scanty outfit? Both outfit extremes don’t strip women of agency and person-hood, acting like the only thing that matters about them is what they are wearing does. In your own words, Quiet bothers you, fine. Must we bring all our art to you for approval lest the unwashed masses be led astray? And why you? Why is your reaction not, “I personally don’t like it”, or even, “I would like to crowd fund something different”, but instead, “It is wrong and is demeaning to women because of I feel?”. Kojima is an artist, you either like his work or you don’t. Unless you hired him as an artisan, why should he be listening to your criticism about his character and changing his game to please you personally? Why is a lot easier to think you have the right to censor us all for our own good than it is to play what you like and let others of whatever gender play what they like?

    The issues are not tricky at all. You don’t have to like it, but you shouldn’t get to project your values onto it and hide behind a flawed idea of feminism that gets to choose one true way of depicting women. As a black woman, I am tired of white people deciding what black people are like and how we should be portrayed. We are not magical and wonderful, we are just as varied and broken as everyone else but the left seems to think it can obliterate all narratives about black people that it doesn’t like, including our own, for our own good, because we don’t know better than to see ourselves as they see us and to need them to step in and police the world for us. When the right is sexist, at least you get to call them out. When the left parrots things like male gaze theory to say I am so weak and powerless I can be dehumanized by a look, I’m supposed to be grateful to my heroes. Any rational argument I bring up against such thinking is dismissed as internalized patriarchy making me and others like me too stupid to see we are victims. A quick look at the vitriol hurled at any girl who dared to post to the hashtag #idontneedfeminism by people standing up for feminism by silencing and insulting women who want to distance themselves from third wave feminism shows the hypocrisy at play when some people decide they want to save us. Women do not all exist be victims who feed your desire to be the hero and save them.

    Video games are fantasy, art is fantasy. A look at the hero with a thousand faces or any history of myths across the world will show that myths and legends are chock full of powerful heroes, not realistically mediocre people. They may start of ordinary but their story arc, eventual attributes and their achievements are far from ordinary. That is the nature of fantasy, whether in terms of physique, wits or intellect, the major characters in fantasy are better than normal people in some way and you suppose this global, cross cultural tendency is going to change because it doesn’t gel with how you want women portrayed as average, realistic and mediocre? You don’t get to complain to Kojima, you either buy the game or you don’t. How hard is to wrap your head around the fact that you don’t get to dictate what other people have a chance to enjoy even if you think it is wrong of them to like it. These games sell like crazy and lots of women buy them or have they internalized the patriarchy so much they don’t to decide what they want?


    • Crystal #

      People can like MGS and still take issue with it. I love Death Note, but the sexism still bothers me. Sometimes it bothers me to the point where I turn my DVDs off. Sometimes I can tune it out. I’m a woman, a feminist woman, and I love Death Note– that doesn’t make it less sexist.

      Same for any video game.

      It would be cool if sexuality was addressed more in video games in an honest way. The Sims allows you to WooHoo with just about any adult, and last time I checked, no one was complaining about it being sexist. A hot chick in a skimpy costume parading around for no reason is not a way of addressing sexuality. I haven’t played this game, so I can’t comment on it. But say Quiet was dressed like this because she wants to seduce one of the male characters, then she gets him into bed and makes sure he meets her desires– that would be a female character being sexual.

      There’s a difference between sexy and sexual. Sexy is something another person perceives of you. Sexual is your experience of yourself. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but they don’t always go together either.

      You can’t slut shame a video game character because she’s made up. Someone decided how to dress her. She did not decide it for herself.


      • liveAndLetLive #

        Unfortunately the internet is a great place amplifying negative sentiments and drowning out positive ones. Notice how the video acknowledges some women will love the character and want to cosplay as her but ends with saying if you don’t like her outfit you should speak up and influence the industry? So the industry should be influenced by those who are offended and those who like her as she is should be quiet? A vocal minority getting to decide what we are all allowed to play and getting to publicly shame artists as sexist because of how they and they alone feel is tyranny in the guise of political correctness.

        As far back as Plato’s allegory of the cave, Western philosophy has sought to find objective truths and ethics that rise above the inclinations of the individual. The trend on the left towards post structuralism and placing feelings above facts and the resulting race to the bottom in the “I’m Offended Olympics” makes me glad I do not live in western country.

        I don’t think you should have to like a game or movie that you find sexist. But I don’t think your personal feelings should get to dictate what art other people are allowed to consume. There is much in the world of media that I do not enjoy for a variety of reasons and I try a bit of everything then focus on watching what I like, not obsessing over what others like and how wrong I think it is. If you have to turn your DVD off because Death Note offends you, that tells us more about your subjective feelings and reaction than it does about a much loved story which many consider amongst the all time anime greats. It isn’t a perfect story but it is a damn good one and we don’t throw it all away because it offends some people. Especially when it is people in a western cultural environment judging Japanese games and anime by their western values. You don’t get to condemn creative artists in Japan for having Japanese sensibilities or to project your notion of how women should be on how another culture tells it’s stories. You’re playing the western hero come to save the asian women from their backward menfolk instead of taking or leaving their art as it is and realizing they get to want different things from you. We keep coming back to this idea of your subjective feelings as more valid than those of others who enjoy what you are uncomfortable with.

        A kick-starter to support an anime that presented women or whatever group you feel the need to speak for the way you feel they should be presented would be great. I love variety and diversity, a broader range of themes and characters across media in well told stories would be lovely. But I hear nothing but “let’s pressure artists into not doing this or that for the sake of diversity”. But diversity comes from telling more stories not from shutting down the ones you don’t like. And the stories that survive will be the best ones, which may not be the ones that fall within your personal notions of political correctness.

        You’ve provided your formula for what Quiet being sexual would be, mine would be different. But I know I haven’t the right to say anything that doesn’t fall into my notion of what the best portrayal of sexuality would be is therefore objectively wrong or sexist as you are. I have actually played the game and I find the number of people complaining about something they haven’t actually seen in context yet really disappointing. I know some people like to pontificate from a high pulpit but until they have played the game, they’re discussing hypotheticals.


        • Crystal #

          I don’t really see it as all or nothing. Death Note is incredibly sexist. I don’t think you will find many people who will honestly debate that. But that doesn’t mean it is suddenly bad. It means it has issues. It has other plot related issues– the characters deduce things out of nowhere, the last 15 or so episodes can’t hold a candle to the first 25 (I won’t go into detail because of spoilers, but if you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about). Those things don’t make it bad either. It has flaws and strengths, like any other piece of art.

          If I write a blog about how ridiculous the jumps of logic are in Death Note, no one will accuse me of trying to keep them from their media. But it’s no different than me writing a blog about how Death Note is sexist. Either way, I am expressing my subjective opinion about a piece of art. I am not telling other people what to think. I am telling them what I think.

          I understand that some people are very aggressive about what they think, and sometimes it feels like they’re telling you what you should think, but that’s not the point of criticism. Art, even commercial art, is very subjective. There’s no way something can be inherently good or bad or offensive or not offensive. We all bring our experiences to it.

          I don’t think there is an offense olympics. People are really bothered by these things. I know, every time I watch Death Note, my heart sinks when Misa goes from being an impulsive bad ass who gets shit done to a whiny desperate woman who will do anything for Light because she fell in love at first sight. She was an awesome character and the writers threw her away. Which was sexist and bad for the plot (all IMO, of course). It’s not like I want to be offended. I don’t. I love Death Note. I have all the available Death Note dolls. I have an L keychain. I have yaoi fan art on my walls (started as a joke and then I realized I love it, but come on with the sexual tension between L and Light). I dressed as Misa for halloween three years in a row.

          The thing is– when you say people should just shut up and keep their opinions to themselves, you are telling people what they should think or feel. But Death Note and MGS and just about every AAA video game and hollywood blockbuster film are COMMERCIAL art. Which means they want to make money. Which means they want to please their audience. So the only way creators are going to change what they’re doing (because everyone is afraid of challenging the status quo) is if people voice their opinions. An opinion that nothing should change is just as much an opinion as one that everything should change. Either way, opinions are influencing art.


    • Stokes OTI Staff #

      liveAndLetLive –

      I think I understand what you don’t like about Matt’s post/video. But I’m curious: could you explain the appeal that Quiet has as a character for you personally? It would be really interesting to hear that side of the argument.


      • liveAndLetLive #

        I am loathe to give away any spoilers as it is apparent many have yet to play the game. Would it suffice to offer a take on Laughing Octopus from MGS4 instead? She was caught up in the whole beasts and the beauties fuss where a lot of western press were complaining about Kojima’s use of russian supermodels and dealing with themes that included rape as being sexist, exploitative and pandering to the oh so scary male gaze. There are some parallels between what happened with that situation and what is going on with Quiet that I think allow us to discuss the subject without giving away any Phantom Pain spoilers. Let me know if that would suffice.


      • Stokes OTI Staff #

        Couldn’t you just put a spoiler alert at the beginning of your response? I’d much rather hear what you find appealing about Quiet.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      I love this comment. I may not agree with you liveAndLetLive, but the fact that you took the time to write a great essay-length comment here is exactly what’s special about Overthinking It.

      Let me propose a thought experiment. Let’s say there WAS a piece of entertainment you believed was exploiting woman. I’m thinking of some of those 70s rape revenge porn movies, although you can imagine anything that crosses your own lines of good taste. Would I, as a dude, have a right to speak up against it? Would you as a woman? Your position seems to be:
      1. You should not dictate to someone what should be acceptable in art.
      2. Who am I, or anyone, to decide what is offensive or exploitative?

      But I feel like that leaves us in a situation where no matter what’s on the screen, we have to keep quiet (NO PUN INTENDED). You could, of course, run the thought experiment with a movie that was racist, or offensive to muslims, etc. Do we have the right to be offended there?

      I suspect that you’d say that people can get offended personally, but it’s presumptuous to get offended on behalf of others. But doesn’t that mean, for instance, that only black people should be bothered by racism, or even are allowed to decide what is racist? I happen to think that defending groups you’re not a part of is a good thing, even if it leads to some well-meaning overreach.

      I totally get the culture of hyper-sensitivity that you’re reacting to, and I have no patience for the lefties with their trigger warnings and safe spaces and whatnot. But it seems to me that while you believe I’m trying to curtail free speech by criticizing Quiet, maybe you’re also trying to curtail free speech by saying I have no standing to be offended?

      I stand by my earlier statement about this being tricky!

      Perhaps one of our philosophical differences is that you are viewing MGSV as a piece of art. Whereas I am viewing it as a piece of mass culture, heavily marketed towards me, the video game nerd. They have designed it in the hopes I will want to buy it. Kojima is actively engaged with the Metal Gear fans, trying to give us what we want, begging us to cosplay. Stating our opinions about the game isn’t some corruption of the artistic process – it’s how video game franchises work. Another thought experiment. Pretend this wasn’t about Quiet, but instead about all those fans who hated Raiden and wanted to get back to Snake. You wouldn’t accuse them of insulting Kojima’s art, right?


      • liveAndLetLive #

        Per your thought experiment good sir. If I found something offensive, that would say something about me bit not necessarily anything about the piece. Human emotion is complex and the exact same thing if seen under different conditions would elicit a different response from me. But if the thing hasn’t actually changed and I am just easier to offend that day, can we police it guided by the whimsy of my emotional state? If I found something offensive, I simply wouldn’t watch it anymore. What gives me a right to dictate what art others can enjoy? If you want to watch something I find deeply racist, knock yourself out. Don’t expect me to watch it with you, but I will fiercely defend your right to watch it.

        I am not trying to curtail free speech. People saying they think you’re wrong is not silencing you. I’m not even saying you have no standing to be offended. I am saying your offense doesn’t matter. You either show actual, objective harm has been done unduly or you let others go about their business. The world does not bend to the feelings of anyone, even you. And calling someone out for placing their feelings above others and attempting to limit others without good cause is not objecting to free speech, it is protecting it.

        Lets us look at the implication of what you’d be saying in the two situations, Quiet and Raiden. If you’re saying Quiet is sexist and exploitative, you’re clearly implying Kojima and his team are sexist. Possibly even by extension that anyone who isn’t as offended as you is also sexist or a sexist apologist. You’re making a normative statement that makes Kojima a morally bad person. If you were kicking up a fuss about Raiden, all it would mean is that you think Kojima is at worst a bad story teller and game designer. You’re making an argument about his creative talent, not condemning him personally as in way a bad person.

        As for speaking out on behalf of another group. I am deeply troubled by this wave of identity politics that means you can’t express an opinion about a queer issue without you yourself being gay. A statement’s validity is based on its content. The problem though is you’re not speaking, you’re speaking out, you’re calling people out and making moral judgements about them and their art based on your simplified view of what a group you are not a member of must all want. You’re living out your hero fantasy on your terms and selecting the issues as you see them. Whilst americans were kicking up a storm online about the casting of Exodus and how it ignored the black roots of the egyptian characters, actual egyptians were too busy struggling with a brutal american backed dictator sentencing hundreds to death at a time to care who plays which character. The real problems are too ugly and complex for a bit of clicktivism and a hashtag or youtube commentary to be all that’s needed to feel you have made a difference. So the urge to do something and set yourself apart as a good person is fulfilled by defining the problems as those you can relate to, where you can have some impact. Kony 2012 was an inspiring stand against a terrible human being and a culture of inaction that let him run rampant with child soldiers, so long as you drowned out the protests of actual Liberians. Americans got to donate to the cause, buy buttons and stickers and suffering africans would be magically saved. Nobody listened to the people on the ground who dealt with the real issues and it turns out the do gooders actually did a lot of harm in their efforts to offer one narrative about a complex conflict and a diverse group of people. You run the risk of using you media power and viewership to make things about you and your activism, not about a diverse range of opinions and a discussion about what the issues should be.


        • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

          You seem pretty down on the whole idea of activism. In your view, it’s egocentric to expect the world to change because of your personal opinions, and presumptuous to imagine you speak for others. Instead of complaining about media that offends us, we should ignore it and vote with our wallet, supporting media that is more in line with our values. Have I got it right?

          It’s a strong argument. I’m not backing off the idea that we should be vocal about what we want to see from the entertainment we consume, but perhaps that idea requires more of a defense. And perhaps the WAY we make our arguments about what we want to see from the entertainment we consume matters. (You don’t have a problem with people disliking Raiden because they don’t like him as a character, right? But “Raiden offends me” strikes you as irrelevant.)

          I was nodding when you talked about how no matter how carefully I couch my argument as a personal opinion, the implication is that Kojima is sexist and therefore bad. It’s a problem, especially on college campuses, where people seem to be at the mercy of the most easily-offended among us. It makes these discussions very black and white when they are anything but.

          You’re making me reexamine my opinions, so thanks!


        • Ben Adams OTI Staff #

          @letandletlive: I’m a little late to the party, but let me respond to two points you make here that I disagree with, because I think they go at least part of the way towards explaining our difference of opinion.

          1. “I am saying your offense doesn’t matter. You either show actual, objective harm has been done unduly or you let others go about their business.”

          I don’t agree with your iron-clad distinction between mere “offense” and “actual, objective harm.” Surely, at some point, mere “hurt feelings” rises to the level of “objective’ harm (whatever that might mean). The classic example is calling someone on the phone and telling them that you work at the local hospital and their loved one has died in a tragic accident. This harms the person only in the sense that it “hurts their feelings,” but I don’ think there’s any doubt that it constitutes a real harm. Indeed, it’s legally actionable as “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” (There’s a deep well of legal thought about what non-physical harms should be eligible for compensation, and under what circumstances).

          Now, does Quiet rise to that level? Surely not. But it demonstrates that there is no hard and fast boundary between “objective” harms and mere hurt feelings. You may disagree with Belinkie that Quiet is in fact offensive; or, you may think that Quiet is offensive, but not offensive enough to merit public comment; but I think it’s unreasonable to say that ALL actions which a person finds offensive are per se immune from criticism.

          2. “If you’re saying Quiet is sexist and exploitative, you’re clearly implying Kojima and his team are sexist…You’re making a normative statement that makes Kojima a morally bad person.”

          I don’t think that’s true. Surely, there’s room in our discourse for an attitude of “hate the sin, not the sinner.” Saying that a single element from a broad work of art is morally problematic in some way doesn’t operate as a blanket condemnation of the artist – just as pointing out a single factual error in a work of nonfiction doesn’t operate as an accusation of “Liar!!”


  12. Mike #



  13. Anthony A. #

    This is my first time seeing this site. I was looking for real discourse on this character, and I’m happy that I came here. The gaming media’s lack of real discussion about it is kind of troubling.

    I felt obligated to return my copy of the game today. Not because the gameplay is bad. But because of this character. I have a 9 year old daughter who’s really into gaming, and always checks out whatever I’m playing at the time. She, along with her brother, like to pretend play, and often use my games as a groundwork for their imaginations.

    A couple of nights ago she was glancing over and saw Quiet. She then asked me A) Why was she dressed like that? and B) Why she was doing that? (She was doing her sexy helicopter stretching.) I haven’t returned to the game since then. Because her questions were both simple, and loaded, as they tend to be from kids at her particular age.

    There was no honest answer I could give her that satisfied me. The truth, that a man created this character to be gazed at by men, was too unacceptable. So today I made a decision to simply remove this character completely. Not because I wish to ignore the topic, but because there are simply better examples of women in media that I would like her, and my son, to see.


    • Crystal #

      When I was a kid, my dad would only buy me and my sister video games with female protagonists or animal protagonists. There were so few good choices. The main one I remember was Portal Runner, this Army Men spin off where you’re a lady soldier traveling through time. Also you have a lion friend! It wasn’t a great game, but we played it to death.

      I never thought about it at the time, but my sister and I always played as female characters (or gender non specific characters). Even with Tekken, where there were three female characters and around twenty male characters. We’d play as those same three female characters over and over again! In Mario Anything, I was Peach and she was Yoshi. In Smash, I was Kirby or Pikachu and she was, you guessed it Yoshi. We never picked male characters.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      Anthony –

      I totally sympathize. However, I believe it’s entirely possible to play through the game without Quiet. You can get a cute puppy instead:

      That way you can enjoy the game without your kids seeing the Battlethong. But if you returned it as a gesture of disapproval, that’s another thing entirely.


      • liveAndLetLive #

        That’s where things get interesting. Instead of playing with the diamond dog which is an option and as a cute dog lover worth a relay to get to do, the inclination of the most vocal is to remove an option they don’t like so those who do like can’t take it. That is very far from commenting on the game, that is seeking to remove the choice to play a certain way from everyone because they, unlike you, are so immoral as to make the wrong choice and play the game the ‘sexist’ way. I’m pretty sure sexism removes options and limits women whereas giving more choices doesn’t strike me as anything but catering to a diverse range of tastes and inclinations.

        I find myself wondering if we are forgetting this is a game. It’s supposed to be fun. It isn’t an attack on anyone, it is a piece of art that many men and women enjoy immensely. The American and British left has destroyed itself by focusing on trivial micro aggressions when there are real social and economic problems people face everyday. It just looks like a bunch of comfortable middle class people making a fuss about something insignificant because they’re insulated from the big problems that affect most of us and thinking they can control everything about us down our games and choices because they’re so used to getting their way they haven’t learnt to live and let live.

        That’s how it looks from the outside. The people we grew up thinking were the heroes fighting the evils of the right have in recent years shown a moral arrogance and hypocrisy that leaves us in the awkward position of finding open and honest racism and sexism less restrictive and oppressive than being spoken for by people who know the one true way and impose it on every aspect of our lives for our own good.


        • Tower Cat #

          I agree with this comment completely. Far too many people are offended by the most trivial issues and it seems very few are concerned with the most important problems. Look at what you’re debating here: a busty, scantily clad beauty being sexualized in a fantasy action game? Really? I’m offended every time I hear yet another convicted sex offender has been let off with a suspended sentence. I like to think I have my priorities in order. By the way, care to think about where feminism might (or might not) be to today without all of us sexist men? We’re all sexist, men and women alike – get over it.


  14. jmasoncooper #

    @Belinkie, if I understand you right, the purpose behind your video and post is that when we encounter cultural artifacts that do not live up to our expectations/beliefs then we have the right/obligation to make our voices heard.

    @liveAndLetLive, if I understand you right, then your claim is that all people are entitled to having an opinion, but we must be careful in the way we share that opinion so that we avoid condemning/judging others with different opinions.

    I understand that I have oversimplified your messages, but it helps me understand. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    I thought of a way to re-frame the Quiet problem. I am not an expert in semiotics but it seems that the issue in play is confronting a signifier with a signified that is dissonant with ones world view. An important note is that the signified, or meaning of the sign is in fact a construction created as the reader interacts with the text (according to Rosenblatt’s transaction theory of literacy, as well as those like Barthes who argue about authorial intent). All of this is to say that there are at least three branches that could occur when one interacts with a text like MGSV. The first is that in the transaction between reader and text, there is no dissonance, i.e. they experience Quiet’s character with no issues or concerns. The second is that in the transaction they experience dissonance but it can be overlooked because of other qualities in the work, i.e. I play MGSV with Diamond Dog instead of Quiet because the signs built into her character do not align with my beliefs about representations of women, but I still want to play the game. The third transaction that could occur is that the reader is so disturbed by the dissonance between the character and their beliefs that they choose to send a message either with their voice or their wallet, i.e. by making a video/post or returning the game.

    I have only presented three of the possibilities, but I believe that reader response is a continuum with infinite variation. The take away from all of this is that no matter what your response is to Quiet, you are right because the meaning of Quiet is created as you and the text interact. In other words, If Quiet bothers you, you have the right to be bothered and to respectfully share that opinion with others. If Quiet does not bother you, you also have the right to feel that way and to express your opinion.

    What no one has the right to do is to declare that there is one right way to “read” Quiet’s character and to dictate to others that they have to follow the “one true” interpretation. That is what we call thought policing, and that is not OK. Belinkie has the right to be upset and to use his best rhetoric to persuade people to agree with him. Others have the right to feel differently and openly disagree with him. The power is in the transaction between text and reader, and between the conversants in a dialogue. We only learn when we are confronted with different ideas which make us reexamine our underlying assumptions. I have to give a lot of credit to Belinkie for saying, “You’re making me reexamine my opinions, so thanks!”


  15. liveAndLetLive #

    @jmasoncooper, thanks for your perspective. I am in agreement, but with one caveat. In your third transaction you say the reader can send a message with their voice or their wallet. And it here we disagree because the two are not the same. If you don’t buy a game you don’t like, you harm nobody. There are no externalities to this transaction not taking place. But using your voice to campaign, lobby, shame and control is a different thing altogether.Whether intentional or not, labeling something as sexist and calling for changes to things like it is a polite way of censoring expression to your personal whims. If you don’t buy something you’re showing you don’t like it, this is not the same as protesting its existence and making a moral judgement on public forum about it, its creators and by extension those who enable sexism by enjoying it. It attempts to stop willing consumers of the sexist product from being supplied by willing creators of such content, and to what end? Whose moral compass do we through social force regulate everyone by? Nobody has yet shown why they get to decide for others what is sexist. Or why even if it is sexist, instead of letting it alone and supporting a different narrative, they must go after that story and change it. The temptation to be the hero fighting evil and fixing the world is a strong one but that doesn’t make the actions it inspired just or reasonable. I’m not in rush to impose my tastes, feelings and moral lines in the sand on anyone or to call them out as bad people for making a piece of art that some people like.

    It bear pointing out this is a violent videogame for adults, is marketed as such and has a corresponding esrb rating. Anthony’s argument about his nine year old daughter’s reaction to it may be an effective appeal to emotion so we all rush to save the children but it is an adult game and his daughter has no place being anywhere around it in the first place. Are we to police all adult media to fit the sensibilities and boundaries of nine years old or to ask parents to do their job, manage what their kids consume and not blame an adult game for having adult content?

    I also find it particularly interesting that in a game with lots of violence (depending on your gameplay style), it is someone in a bikini rolling around in the rain that strikes some americans as a step too far. I have never understood how it came to be that americans decided brutal violence was more natural than sex and are happy with their kids watching decapitations just so long as nobody has their breast exposed. There does seem to be a national neuroses about sexuality that sets america apart from the rest of the world, with a lot of sexualisation hiding a thick layer of moral panic about anything sexual. I think the cultural aspect of this situation is overlooked. This a Japanese game marketed to a worldwide audience. Do most Japanese women share the same ideas about how they should be depicted as the people complaining about Quiet? Do most women worldwide? Is it not a mild form of cultural imperialism or at best cultural ignorance to only view art from your context, not the one it was made in or the plurality of cultures it is sold to and expect art created everywhere in the world to reflect your values? Even if most americans agreed that Quiet was problematic (which a vocal minorty doesn’t prove), would that mean they got to tell Japanese people what kind of games they can make and stop games being made that the billions of non americans on the planet don’t seem to be having any issues with?

    It is worth noting that brutal anti gay laws were put in place across africa by British colonialists exporting their values and it was africans who worked to remove them. In the worst places like Uganda, it is american christians funding moves towards even harsher laws, exporting what they see as a valid moral position. Death Note (which was written by a woman) was mentioned earlier and if you go through enough Japanese media and talk to many Japanese women, you realize their idea of what makes them happy, how they see themselves and what they see as sexist is at odds with the position of many on the american left. You can call the art they enjoy sexist but in the process you’re just dismissing them and their choices which I’m pretty sure makes you sexist.


    • jmasoncooper #

      @liveAndLetLive, Thank you for elucidating your position. I agree with you that it has become the default for many cultural critics to knee-jerk based on their own culture and beliefs instead of trying to understand the product based on its culture of origin. I also think that activism definitely has its dark side, where those with loud voices or power use them to silence voices that deserve to be heard.

      I do want to bring something up though regarding censorship. You claim @liveAndLetLive that, “Whether intentional or not, labeling something as sexist and calling for changes to things like it is a polite way of censoring expression to your personal whims.” What is censorship? It is the prevention or removal of artifacts from the culture. I personally believe that censorship is wrong (see my post above about how everyone’s interpretation of an artifact is valid.) But I do not see being vocal about ones feelings or beliefs regarding a text as censorship. The speaker has not removed the game from the shelves, the company has not stopped producing or selling the game, and people have not stopped playing it. Based on that speakers voice, some people may think differently, some people may choose not to buy the game, some people like you and me may post comments online, and the publisher may reevaluate the games it green lights and markets, but those things are not censorship either.

      Now the speaker’s voice may interact with others speakers voices to form online petitions, or write letters, or make phone calls, or march in protest, but all of those things can be ignored by the creator. The example I think of is Breaking Bad toys at Toys’R’Us last year. There was a vocal group of people who were upset that a store that sold toys for children carried figures based on an adult TV show that some would argue advocated for drug dealing as a good thing (I don’t think so, but some do). Well Toys’R’Us stopped carrying the toys based to some degree on the petition and news scandal it created. But I can still buy Breaking Bad figures online or at stores like Spencer’s Gifts if I want them. Was that censorship? To a degree yes but also no. Can I buy Breaking Bad figures at Toys’R’Us, no, but I still can find them and buy them if I want them elsewhere. The creator has not been prevented from creating their art, and the consumer has not been prevented from having access to said art.

      Basically I am saying that not preventing people from having problematic opinions and sharing them is more important to me than ensuring that all discussions are judgment neutral so as not to offend one group or another. I would rather hear someone try to defend their argument that MGSV is sexist, than end the conversation because it will only indict the speaker as a sexist. Progress only comes through dialogue.

      I think that people sharing their opinions and feelings is more important than worrying about who is offended by what message. I am less concerned about whether @liveAndLetLive is sexist or if @Matthew Belinkie is sexist, or even if Kojima or MGSV is sexist. What I am concerned about is what @Matthew Belinkie thinks and the evidence he uses to support that thinking, as well as what @liveAndLetLive is thinking and what evidence he or she uses to support that thinking.

      I really appreciate all this discussion. It helps me think about my own opinions, where they have come from, and what evidence I use to support them. So thank you!


      • liveAndLetLive #

        @jmasoncooper thank you for your well put reply. I think we should have more debate about things and I love to hear the perspectives of people whose positions are alien to me. The issue I took with the article and video was it was on the one hand a person’s take on the game, which is a valid and interesting thing to share but it also ends with a call for people who agree with him to alert publishers of their distaste and change the kind of games that are made. In discourse, we may agree or disagree that it is sexist. And in the discussion we may learn more about the other’s position and our own. In calls to change the art to suit one party’s sensibilities, we gain no such advantage.

        the most effective censorship isn’t state censorship, which at least gives us the luxury of knowing and saying we are being silenced. Censorship by social groups is much more insidious because it can so easily be done without being called out as such. It can so easily be done for the greater good.The call to accost publishers with complaints isn’t like pushing breaking bad toys to another distribution avenue. It is calling on publishers to only make games that reflect the norms we have chosen. Such a call may succeed or it may fail, but that is its stated objective. Not diversity by inclusion and a wider range of stories but the denial of some forms of expression of space within the public domain. Taking out the last bit about only the offended influencing publishers would change the tone of the entire piece. It would then be someone discussing his opinion of something and having to defend it in rational argument, not entering the realm of petitions and protests where the loudest voice wins and dictates the way for the rest of us whether or not it makes sense.


        • jmasoncooper #

          Thanks again @liveAndLetLive. That was a great way to clarify what you think about this post in particular and what you would hope from posts in the future. Your post immediately made me think of another article on this site ( where John Perish take apart a similar call to activism by a writer over on

          I think you are absolutely right when you say that public opinion does sway content creators. Even @Mattew Belinkie agrees per a comment above about Kojima attempting to cater to his own understanding of his fans, and how creators are listening more and more to the audience via social media and interactions at conventions, etc. We should all remember that on the internet our voices do matter, so we need to be careful what we say and how we say it.


  16. liveAndLetLive #

    P.S. A lot of the strange sexualised stuff in Japanese popular culture is influenced by the repressive obscenity laws put in place by americans when they occupied it after the second world war, which pushed sexual expression in all sorts of strange directions, especially in manga, anime and gaming which provided a bit more freedom. So it is quite funny watching seeing americans find Japanese anime and games offensive for how sexualised the depictions of women are in them when it is americans who played the biggets role in creating that situation in the first place by restricting other form of sexual expression and imposing their morality on a culturally different people.


  17. Stokes OTI Staff #

    I’d still love to hear liveAndLetLive — or anyone else, for that matter — explain what they find appealing about Quiet. (Just put “spoiler alert” at the top of your response if you’re worried about that.) If there is anyone reading this who likes the character, finds the character empowering, identifies with the character, wants to dress up as the character, or has anything positive to say about the character at all, please speak up and tell us about it!


    • jmasoncooper #

      Spoiler Alert!

      I like Quiet on two levels.

      1) She can do what I want to do. My personal favorite way to play all the MGS games is with the stealth camouflage. I can run around without being detected and kill the crap out of all the enemies without worrying about being spotted. She can turn invisible, travel super fast, and hide in great sniping positions so she is never detected. I wish that when I played MGS I was as stealthy as she is.

      2) She is an interesting meta-commentary on objectification. As your buddy, she is controlled by you or the games AI. You literally command her to do things and she does them. I have not had an encounter where I asked her (or my other buddies) to do anything and they just refused to do it. She is an object at your disposal to complete some of the most open-ended objectives ever seen in a video game. The fact that there is controversy about her sexual objectification just adds to the meta-discussion in my opinion.

      P.S. as a heterosexual male, I think she is attractive, and I don’t mind looking at pretty things.


      • Stokes OTI Staff #

        Thank you.

        Do you think that point 2 sort of feeds off her attractiveness? Like, if you personally were (as Count Spatula delightfully put it) “immune to the effects of the naked female body on the libido,” would the meta-commentary on objectification be as interesting for you? I don’t mean to suggest that you’re secretly just perving on her: rather, I suspect that the experience of being attracted to her would drive the critique of objectification home with greater force, because on some level you would start to feel uncomfortable about finding her attractive. No? Maybe I’m projecting.

        But suppose they’d made your buddy a faceless robot. (“Here’s your new sniper, Snake! We call her Quiet — she’s an M24 duct-taped to a Roomba. Doesn’t talk much.”) That would be commentary on objectification, of a kind, but it probably wouldn’t connect on the same visceral level.

        [Comment edited for clarity.]


        • Anthony #

          I wanted to hop in and comment on your point about finding her attractive. As a heterosexual male I also found her attractive.

          However, as evidenced by my earlier post, I reacted with total revulsion. For me it was so manipulative, and so exploitative, that it basically made me incapable of looking at her character. Obviously I know that a baseline of this occurs throughout general life.

          Specifically, there were two things that bothered me. The first was, as others have said, her literal lack of a voice. It seemed as if they were stripping her of the most basic expression of power. Second was the camera angles. For me they sank to the level of grade school boys trying to look up skirts.

          A final general note: This comment section had been among the most refreshing things I’ve read lately. Before this, I always wondered where all the smart discussions were about games. I’m so happy to have finally found somewhere.


        • jmasoncooper #

          Personally, I would not have considered her a meta commentary on objectification without her being attractive and wearing little clothing. This comment thread has been in my thoughts for the last 11 days. I teach school, and instead of researching material to teach, I am looked up “the death of the author.” I was waiting at the CVS drive up window to pick up my wife’s prescription and I borrowed her smart phone to check if there have been replies. For me to think of Quiet as an object, beyond the “she’s dressed slutty” level, took some thought. I don’t think I would have had the investment to think that hard without the level of controversy brought about by the debate over her outfit. But, all of this is just me. Others may be better equipped to think about think about the meta context of video game characters than me.

          After four drafts, I think I can answer your question about feeling uncomfortable. My mind keeps wanting to make parallels between Quiet and porn stars. But that is unfair because porn stars are real people who act sexually for money. Quiet is an imaginary woman, a digital projection. She is not an actor; she is not pretending to be anything. She just is what she is. She is more like a painting than a porn star. I don’t feel uncomfortable with feelings of attraction because art is beautiful and not exploitative. Art can definitely have a message, and what I think Kojima wants all of us to know is that the message is more than just, “she is so hot!” Maybe @Anthony you got exactly the message you were supposed to. Maybe that revulsion is what led you here and has helped you to expand your thoughts on the subject. That to me is beautiful. So to see Quiet as the facilitator in the transformation of peoples thoughts, that is beautiful. In other words, on a visceral level, Quiet is beautiful, and on a mental level Quiet’s raison d’etre (to make people think) is also beautiful. I cannot think of a reason to feel uncomfortable or revolted by her.

          @Anthony thank you for letting me insert you into this post. If you disagree with what I have said, please let me know. All of this is just my opinion anyway.


  18. Georgia #

    TBH, my only problem with Quiet is that she doesn’t get to talk. There’re a lot of anime and video games with really good female characters who wear ridiculous outfits (I’m mostly thinking of Kill la Kill right now, which has the same problem with the illogical outfits but somehow manages to make the female characters awesome), and at first glance my knee-jerk reaction is, “This is ridiculous! HOW can anyone enjoy watching this?!” But when I actually watch the show, it turns out the characters aren’t just T&A. They’re still unabashedly created for the same reasons as Quiet – to sell curvy, awkwardly-posed figurines; that’s nothing new – but because they’re allowed to talk and be charismatic and interesting in their own right, they become a lot easier to relate to.

    So IMO, the outfit Quiet wears isn’t the issue (or at least, it’s a separate issue to what makes the character empowering/easy to identify with). Her lack of personality is what’s dehumanizing. She doesn’t get an opinion, she doesn’t tell us how she’s feeling, so we can only speculate about what kind of person she is.

    I’m not sure if this is a sexist problem (I mean, in so far as this one game is concerned. There are wider issues with the video game industry as a whole that are definitely rooted in sexism, but that’s a whole other conversation). If there was a shy guy character who never said anything, would guys find him empowering? I’m going to go out on a limb and say probably not. Being cute and shy and – most importantly – silent is just not a recipe for an empowering/relatable character, no matter what she’s wearing. Fun to cosplay? Sure. But cosplay doesn’t always require the character to be easy to relate to.


  19. Ben Adams OTI Staff #

    This is probably a good time to bring in the common fallacy of a “privileged first speaker.” The argument that it is somehow “censorship” for a private citizen to criticize a work of art leads to the odd situation where only the “first speaker” gets the protections of Free Speech: Kojima gets to speak, and those who disagree must remain silent.

    To be sure, that’s not to say that any and all art which one disagrees with needs to be condemned – that would be impossible, and I agree would be detrimental to free speech. But surely SOME art is so offensive as to merit public condemnation by private citizens who disagree: if a major motion picture studio decided to do a shot-for-shot reboot of “Birth of a Nation,” would it be censorship if a bunch of people condemned them and asked them not to do it?


    • Stokes OTI Staff #

      On Birth of a Nation, it’s worth noting that when it came out, the NAACP campaigned hard against it on multiple fronts, including both the hearts-and-minds kind of stuff that Belinkie is engaged in here, and attempts to trigger actual censorship. (Major media markets at that time each had their own “film boards” who could ban films that they considered objectionable. The NAACP lobbied them to try to stop the film from opening, and did manage to get it banned in a handful of cities.)

      D.W. Griffith was NOT pleased by this. Having no access to the internet, he wrote letters to newspapers, and printed and distributed a pamphlet called “The Rise and Fall of Free Speech in America” in protest. Now, I haven’t read the editorials. But the pamphlet, for what it’s worth, is only protesting the idea of censorship by film boards, and seems to approve of 1) the public voting against a film with its wallet, 2) the press criticizing films that they don’t like, and 3) somewhat surprisingly, legislation that bans the depiction of immoral content in film. (The last uses basically the same language that pops up on the right in gay marriage debates: let the legislature sort it out, why should a handful of appointed officials get to make this decision!) It’s an interesting read.

      I have to say, the idea of lobbying the government to ban speech, even ridiculously offensive speech, is hard for me to get behind. But lobbying non-governmental entities to try to suppress speech is not at all the same thing. And hey, the brouhaha about the racism in Birth of a Nation inspired Griffith to make both Intolerance (as a veiled “screw you” to his critics) and Broken Blossoms (as a half-assed apology to people of color), and historical consensus is that these are two of his very greatest films.


    • jmasoncooper #

      Here is some rambling ideas. Some would say that Zach Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen is a shot for shot recreation of the comic book, but the most consistent criticism of the movie is that it misses the tone and genre critique of the book.

      Would it be possible to do the same to Birth of a Nation, recreate it shot for shot while undercutting the racist tone? Or is there just too much potential for it to be done wrong, and hence it ought to be censored?

      Or what about that crazy TV special and book that OJ Simpson was going to make about how he would have killed his wife if he had of done it? That actually almost made it to air, but was pulled last minute out of concern for the poor taste of the project. Its crazy to me that it was almost aired when many people believe that OJ got away with murder. The network pulled it, but is this something that ought to be censored, murder confessions by people protected under double jeopardy?

      Finally to address your point @Ben Adams, “surely SOME art is so offensive as to merit public condemnation by private citizens who disagree.” This idea gets back to the transaction between “reader” and “text.” My religious mother is much more easily offended than I am. Most people in the state I live in are more easily offended than I am. All those people can be offended that I like to play Cards Against Humanity (Apples to Apples for terrible people), but they ought not prevent me from enjoying myself with my friends in private. If my great grand father is a racist and loves to watch Birth of a Nation every Sunday afternoon, I don’t have the right to tell him not to watch it at his house, but if he comes to visit, I can definitely tell him he cannot watch it here.


      • Stokes OTI Staff #

        Wait, hang on, why wouldn’t you have the right to say “Hey great-grandpa, stop being such a big dang racist, and stop doing racist crap like watching Birth of a Nation over and over?” You obviously have the legal right to tell him that, so that must not be what you mean. I guess maybe you’re arguing that you have no moral right to ever express disapproval of anything anyone ever does?


        • jmasoncooper #

          After posting I thought about it more, and I think it answers your question. IMHO, Every person has a right to their opinion, and to express that opinion to anyone who will listen.

          I believe that when institutions embody opinions then we have problems. When businesses like hotels, or government bodies like schools or parks, or non-profits like churches take up opinions which are racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. we have problems.

          So in answer to your question, Grandpa has the right to be racist and I have the right to call him racist, but I think it is morally objectionable for grandpa to run for office and try to enact racist laws. It is also morally objectionable for me to run for office and try to enact laws that censor my grandpa’s ability to be racist. I should not be able to dictate if he can watch Birth of a Nation, or publicly protest civil rights, or invite his friends over to talk about how racist they are.

          There are a couple of problems with my idea that I have not worked out yet. Like web boards/forums like this one. It is a place where similarly minded people all get together and share thoughts and opinions. In some ways it is an institution. I don’t believe it ought to be legislated to maintain civil discourse. Another case is churches, because they are gatherings of like-minded people to share thoughts and feelings. I don’t think the government should dictate how and what and why people talk in churches. Maybe the solution is to ensure that their are stronger institutions with regulatory power which are not just based on opinions, and weaker institutions which allow people to gather and share thoughts and feelings.


  20. liveAndLetLive #

    Few things are as terrible as those done in the bathed in the light of righteousness. In every man’s story, he is the hero. Those two ideas a terrible combination. They force me to think twice before enforcing the ‘right’ thing, before condemning and changing those who are wrong. For in my own story, I am the hero, as they are in theirs. It is very easy to get caught up in passing judgement and fighting evil and not realize you have become a kind of oppressor yourself. the most oppressive people do it because they are right and they are doing what is best for everyone, be it thrusting communism upon them till they see it is good for them or ridding them of morally hazardous birth control, the bad guys see themselves as doing a social good.

    In all matters of subjectivity, the human condition is so diverse that none of us can speak for the preferences of the rest. We are quick to save people from the things we don’t like but demonize those who want to control the things we do, not realizing we are just as bad to others. I know this because I used to be such a good person before it became clear to me how much terrible harm is done by the people and the initiatives I thought were good and their attempts to homogenize people so that one solution would fit all women, all black or all gays etc. Unfortunately few take the time to self reflect and really question their positions in their exuberance to fight for us all.

    @Anthony, you mentioned you found her attractive and that you reacted with revulsion. That is personally relevant to you but has no bearing on the millions of people who are playing the game, should we remove the violence in the game because it repulses pacifists or is your revulsion righteous and their baseless? Why is over the top sexuality an oppressive and wrong thing in a game that has over the top violence, over the top storylines, delightfully over the top everything? Must we project your hangups on sex and those of people who agree with you? Are we seriously talking about limits to how sexually suggestive a woman/female fictional character can be ‘for women’s sake’? I do not cease to be amazed by american hangups about sex and how ‘wrong’ it is, especially female sexuality outside the preapproved. You get unnecessarily sexy advertising, music video and tv series but let a nipple slip out during the superbowl and the whole country shuts down.

    As for Quiet’s problematic lack of voice and us not knowing that she thinks and feels… There is worrying consequence of policing how a group of people are portrayed, everyone becomes afraid of breaking from the ‘right’ way to portray them. Instead of gay characters that are as diverse as straight character, we get ‘tv gay’, which is a whitewashed and lovable version of gay without any realism. Instead of realistic women who are all over the moral spectrum, we get totally in control mothers and hookers with hearts of gold. This is not doing anyone any favors. The fuss over something as unheard of as a female villain in “Gone Girl” who is evil and twisted without any justification for it is a prime example. Whilst americans were going gaga over that, the rest of the world’s cinema has had women just as messed up and responsible for their actions as men all along. Only allowing women to be portrayed the ‘right’ way is ridiculous especially since there are no real ‘right’ women or gays or blacks or asians. Real people are more complex and diverse than the limited forms you want to allow. There are real women who dress ‘slutty’ and love it, real women nudists, real women who love sex and being wanted, exhibitionists, all sorts. But god forbid we portray them because that would be oppressive, especially if some guy is the author or if some guy finds them attractive or repulsive. No, lets make it all about how some guys react and pretend whole swathes of women don’t exist, for their own good, because we know what is best for them.

    Quiet chose to not speak to withstand interrogation and save the venom snake and stays that way. In a white man, that would obviously make him a super cool damaged hero. But since she is a woman she must be being objectified and silenced by the author right? Can a woman be silent without it being oppressive? Can she be over the top sexual? Can she be downright unjustifiably evil? No, because people who want to ‘defend’ women do so by restricting how they can be portrayed. We can’t be any of those cool things because we would be oppressed, as would a silent gay or black character. So only a white male can be cast as anything close to being edgy and the same people will then complain that there isn’t enough diversity so your options are either write a story with cookie cutter characters or face a public campaign against you for being sexist, racist or some kind of phobic because that great ideas for a badass man with no name type character cast anything other than a white male, and there you were thinking you were being diverse. Basically, if you’re not a white male, you can’t be an edgy character because you will called some kind of offensive by people who support diversity? Think of all your most beloved male characters, how many of them would survive the PC chopping block if they were female? Suddenly the PC thing looks like it is holding women’s portrayals back and they don’t even get to complain about what is done for their own good by people who would rather impose their ‘natural’ notion of what is right than question its validity.

    Quiet is deadly on the battlefield, saves Snake’s life multiple times. Even after being set on fire, she keeps trying to kill Ahab. She is such powerful battlefield asset she can take out anyone who sees you before you can recruit them if you’re careful. She has a backstory that shows a determined, lethal woman but all it takes is skimpy outfit, some rolling around and an awkward camera angle for you to forget that. I imagine that may have been Kojima’s point. People can look at a woman who is a formidable ally of the Big Boss and only see her sexuality and their problem with it. They are ones who dehumanize her and can’t perceive the multiple aspects to her at once. Big Boss was not match for his mentor The Boss and he has his life saved multiple times by Quiet, a skilled warrior, but Hideo Kojima is a sexist… Hmmm.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      Hey liveAndLetLive, loving your arguments here. I’m thinking about making a video called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Changing the Culture.” There are obviously many people (on the left and right) who feel like the want pop culture to change. Less sex! Or more sex! Less violence! More violence! More well-rounded women! Less smoking! The attitude I went into this video with is, “Everyone is free to complain if they want, and the market will sort it out.” You’ve raised a number of good objections to that. Artistic freedom. The presumption of speaking for others. The outsized implications of accusing someone of racism or sexism, which can create a tyranny of the offended minority, a dictatorship of the person with the most easily hurt feelings. Your position (and I hope I’m getting it right after 20,000 words) is “Have whatever opinions you want, but don’t try and pressure people to change their art because of your feelings or agenda.” And this makes sense! Live and let live!

      And yet.

      I can’t help thinking of the days when all the African-American roles in movies were broad minstrel stereotypes. Were African-Americans wrong to complain about that? Even when the people making the movies were all white men?

      Also, how much does it matter if people refrain from asking creators to change their games if those people are still posting their opinions on the internet? Isn’t the effect of thousands of offended people posting on message boards about their personal opinions the same as the effect of those people telling Konami to change the game? I get that you don’t agree with my opinion in the original video, but I’m curious about what point you feel like I’ve crossed an ethical line – it’s right at the end when I suggest we should all pressure Konami, right? It’s that desire to change the culture that you think is dangerous.

      (But for the record, I still think popular culture can’t and shouldn’t exist outside popular opinion, pressures, biases, fanboy petitions, angry blog posts, etc. Absolutely, video games are art. But when you’re making art for the purpose of mass producing it and selling it for a profit, it’s foolish to pretend that the creators aren’t trying to please their audience, however they define that group.)


    • Stokes OTI Staff #

      Hi liveAndLetLive, thanks for weighing in on this!

      So, I think I’m totally clear on why you don’t like Matt’s video, and why you think people who complain about Quiet’s outfit are the real sexists. I’m trying to filter all of that out for a moment so I can figure out what you like about Quiet. Here’s what I came up with:

      [spoiler alert, btw]

      • She is really determined
      • She is really good at killing people
      • She is fun to use in the game because she can take out enemies before they’re anywhere near you
      • The reasons for her not talking — partially because of past trauma, partially to protect other people from the virus — make her a “super cool damaged hero.”
      • From elsewhere in the thread: she is a warrior rather than a whimpering victim.

      Is that about right? Is there anything I missed?
      Do you feel like the sexiness of the character (the outfit, the camera angles, etc.) enhances your enjoyment of any of these things? (i.e. “It’s fun to have a character that’s dressed like that be so good at killing people,” or something along those lines.)


      • liveAndLetLive #

        Thank you for that. It is mostly representative of my position and why I like her. I have always like damaged heroes and resent the idea that women or gays or black or whatever group can never just be, everything must be twisted into them being victimized if they don’t fit the predefined, boring character mold. I feel the sexiness of the character is shoved in our faces too much for us to ignore it and I love that. I admire risk taking in narrative and especially in game design where so many games are exactly the same and do not challenge us in any way. Games will never be a true artform without challenging conventions and shaking things up. I think she is fun and the ridiculous look just adds to it, it’s a reminder that Kojimasan for all the deep thought that goes into the writing and amazing game design still just wants to be silly and have fun. It is like still having the cardboard box in environments where it makes no sense, having the cute plush trap and the girlie magazine distractions. I love how it is all so stupid, silly, shallow, deep and brilliant at the same time.


  21. liveAndLetLive #

    Please forgive the shameful typos in my last post, clearly mobile auto correct/complete is not as good idea in practice as it is on paper.

    The primary purpose of art is to be beautiful. Matters of aesthetics are highly subjective and so long as something is beautiful enough to be appreciated by some, why should I get to change it? Don’t like Mein Kampf? Don’t read it. Don’t like Fuck the Police? Don’t listen to it. The truly moving pieces of art are often at the fringe, they may repel some but to others they are sublime. Once you stop seeing yourself as better than people you disagree with, even if you are sure they are wrong, once you realise you might in fact be a terrible person to others in your efforts to impose the right thing and not know it, you live and let live. I watched ‘The Gamechangers’ last night and it is funny how Jack Thompson is in the social consciousness a crazy old man but Hillary Clinton who pushing policies inspired and informed by him isn’t. Because she is a woman? A democrat? A leftist (well american left, which would be centre-right wing anywhere else in the world)? If you look at the ideas on their merits and the strength of their arguments, there is no real difference censorship by the christian right and censorship by the PC left.

    As for the whole censorship of private enterprise argument, we are in an interesting space. You want to exercise power without responsibility. You want the power to force a seller from providing a product to a willing buyer but won’t even be honest about the fact that you are censoring and impeding on a private transaction. And I do mean force. You are not being forced to buy the game. You in your activism, don’t have the right to shame and bully people into not making or buying games you don’t like. To argue that freedom to criticize is free speech is disingenuous because this isn’t aesthetic or gameplay criticism. This is forcing a narrative to be judged only from an anti sex, third wave feminist perspective that glorifies victimhood when there are many alternative viewpoints. This is proclaiming a one true way and casting moral judgement on any who veer from it. This isn’t a discussion about the game and its many themes and characters, it is singling out a female for victimhood status and making everything about that one narrative. Metal Gear games have always been complex, multi themed exercises in bombast but in the quest to position oneself a savior, all discussion is around female victimhood. Your criticism may not be as innocent as you may see it.

    Were any of the production team hurt by being so publicly labeled as sexist? How do the women on the Kojima Productions team feel? The cultural imperialist is always a savior and denies the savages who don’t share his inclinations their caring humanity. When you say African societies are patriarchal and oppressive to women, you might not realize you’re also saying that unlike civilised westerners, African parents don’t love their daughters as much or the savages are too stupid to know better. Those damned Japs or those crazy christians must not be as smart as you and most likely don’t love the women in their societies as much as you do, or they would treat and portray them all the exact way you do. People love their daughters, their wives and their mothers, across all races and cultures. How they show this love and what they think is the best thing they can do for them is different.

    As for the whole racist grandpa thing. I and many black people would stand in defense of your racist grandpa against your censorship and tyranny in our name. Bullying old men who say unpleasant things and hiding behind other people isn’t heroic or progressive even if you think it makes you one of the good white people. It is remarkable how often it is a cover to make up for the unease you have with your own thoughts about other races. Those quickest to police the sexuality of others and fight the gay menace tend to get caught with another man in an airport bathroom. Those quickest to police others as racist…

    In my personal experience, the worst racist experiences I have had were with outwardly progressive, liberal, left wing people. I have gotten to know lots of people who openly ‘hate’ blacks who it turns out treat you as well as you treat them once they get to know you. People whose fear of crime, of the disappearance of their culture etc is real and justified, whose only mistake is identifying it with only people who look like me. And they’re mostly pretty decent people, even the really nasty ones are at least open about it so you can steer clear of each other. The proper racist at least acknowledges my agency, if only to blame me for things, whilst the anti racist guy blurs me into a mosaic of faceless brown shapes, awaiting their savior and without reasonable thoughts of their own and needing him to speak out for them as the hero he has decided he is. Be thou not so quick to condemn those whose faults are on the surface. Statistics on unarmed black men being killed in the united states point not to isolated racist bigots in the southern states but a general bias against black males across the board, with officers of every race and political leaning. The DC cops strangling a man to death on camera for selling cigarettes probably think they’re better people than the backward southerners associated with racist violence but it happens everywhere. Policing what people can say doesn’t change it, it covers it in a veneer of PC and masks the underlying problems so we never understand them well enough to solve them. It is caring more about appearances than real people and real solutions, it is appointing yourself as morally superior savior and directing a people’s narrative the way you see fit instead of listening to them in their plurality.

    You mention African American’s complaining about racist minstrel movie but that isn’t what is happening here. This is a white male complaining on behalf of women and defining the discourse about them. This is pure hero fantasy. What did real African Americans do? They didn’t picket racist movies, they made their own, told their stories and from the blaxploitation days of Van Peebles Snr to tame urban sitcom the cosby show, the fresh prince etc made blackness normal, broke down many racial barriers in casting and viewership and did a lot to help race relations. They were not saved by the protests of non black’s who came running to the rescue. They made awesome movies and shows til everyone thought they were too good to be just for blacks and started watching them too, casting their stars and hiring their writers. No group is best served by unasked for activist intervention. In fact, it is a great tool often employed by imperialists to try to justify their selfish and often savage actions. The very idea that protest of the sort you are encouraging works can only be entertained by those experience of greater society is relatively coddled and protected. The disenfranchised are not being listened to and need to tell their own stories whatever they may be. They are not on Reddit or Tumblr playing at activism. And their voices are ignored even by those who claim to speak for them instead of listening.


    • liveAndLetLive #

      The question posed earlier about someone intentionally calling to distress someone is a bit of a red herring. There is clear ‘mens rea’, an effort to distress and harm someone. To equate that with the gaming situation under discussion is to say that when I enjoy a game at my own residence, I am intentionally doing it to distress someone who doesn’t like how one group or another are portrayed in the game. That is paranoid, baseless and completely irrational. People don’t enjoy things you don’t approve of to spite you. The very thought implies a belief in your way being so right and so universally accepted that any meandering from it must not be a difference in taste but someone being obtuse and malicious. Though how they are intentionally harming you by doing something in their own space is beyond me.


      • Ben Adams OTI Staff #

        That was my question, and I think you might be over-reading the claim I was trying to make with the example of a phone call from the hospital. I wasn’t at all intending to say that playing a video game with potentially sexist imagery is the equivalent of calling someone with a false report of a loved one dying. My point wasn’t about moral culpability at all.

        Rather, it was about the false distinction between emotional harms and some kind of “real” or “objective” harm: your “feelings” being hurt by a word or deed can be every bit as painful as a physical blow, and so there’s no cause to draw an arbitrary distinction between “things that offend” and “things that harm.” Offense is just a kind of harm.

        To illustrate my point, take away a culpable mes rea from the phone call entirely – if you get a call that says your wife has just died and it turns out she just has a broken arm, you don’t really care if the phone caller was malicious or if the phone call was just the result of an unforeseeable computer glitch at the hospital reception desk. You are still harmed.

        Now, to bring it back to the Quiet discussion, I am *not* claiming that an overly sexualized character approaches anything like the level of offense inherent in the false-phone call. But I am claiming that when someone says “I am offended by X,” they are entitled to have that claim evaluated on the merits – we can’t make a blanket statement that “your feelings don’t matter.”

        As I said above: “You may disagree with Belinkie that Quiet is in fact offensive; or, you may think that Quiet is offensive, but not offensive enough to merit public comment; but I think it’s unreasonable to say that ALL actions which a person finds offensive are per se immune from criticism.”

        I’m certainly not claiming that playing MGSV is an intentional act of offense against anyone. I don’t even think that the people who MADE the game intended to offend anyone. Which is *exactly* why it’s so important for those who are offended by a work of art to have the freedom to speak up and say so.


        • jmasoncooper #

          I want to chime in because I have been thinking about this issue a lot, ever since the conversation turned toward censorship a couple of days ago.

          I am not an expert, and if I am way off base, please let me know.

          I think the problem @Ben Adams is trying to elucidate is one about public vs. private discourse. What I mean by that is, private discourse consists of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and transactions with popular culture (art, music, movies, video games etc.) along with the opinions one shares with friends and family. Public discourse is the sharing of thoughts and feelings with others, outside of one’s own personal circle, in order to inform or persuade them about ones observations or opinions.

          If I am right, @liveAndLetLive is arguing for private discourse as public discourse. In other words, all communication should be framed as one’s opinion and above scrutiny or judgment. Also all of that communication should be shared in a nonjudgmental, non-persuasive way so that everyone is allowed to experience life on their own terms without trying to “save” or “be saved” by other people. People should be allowed to have thoughts and opinions that are their own, but no one should feel justified in elevating their opinion to the level of a moral imperative to be imposed or demanded of others.

          @Ben Adams and @Matthew Belinkie seem to be saying that there is a place for both public and private discourse. Private discourse is valuable because one can have thoughts and opinions that are one’s own and based on one’s personal context. Public discourse is also valuable because it allows people to have a forum to use ideas and words to affect change in the culture at large. Large institutions exist solely to promote public discourse like churches, cable news pundits, reddit, facebook, and all web discussion groups/forums.

          I would argue that part of the problem is the blurring of lines between what is public discourse and what is private discourse. There is a huge problem with this as is evidenced by people getting fired over facebook posts. Clearly, posting on facebook is commenting in public discourse because everyone can read and search for what you say. But people are confused when they get fired from working at a daycare after posting that they hate children. The person thought they were engaging in private discourse because they were sharing their opinion. But opinions are only safe when they are shared in private discourse. Opinions act as measures to judge one’s character and ability when presented in public discourse. At least that is how I imagine employers feel.

          Getting back to the debate, I would say that as long as @Matthew Belinkie is arguing about Quiet’s outfit in the public discourse of the internet, the internet has the right to criticize him. And also because he is arguing in public discourse he has the right to use his best skill and rhetoric to try and convince the internet that he is right, that we should listen to him, and that we should change our behavior based on his feelings. We as grown up, thinking adults have the right to analyze what he is saying and make up our own minds as to whether or not to agree with him.

          To sum up, yes @liveAndLetLive it would be an interesting world to live in if all public discourse were framed in such a way as to prevent judgment and moralizing on both sides (speaker and hearer). But we live in a world with a long history of rhetoric and argumentative speech in the public discourse. I do not see that changing and so we must consider @Ben Adams point, “they are entitled to have that claim evaluated on the merits – we can’t make a blanket statement that “your feelings don’t matter.”” One can disagree to the ends of the Earth in private discourse without any logical justification. But if one wants to opine in the public discourse, one must be prepared for all the criticism that that entails. Public discourse is by its nature open to criticism, and therefore needs to have rhetorical teeth to try and convince the audience of its points. To say that one cannot call to act in public discourse is to remove a major pillar of what public discourse is.


      • Penny L. #

        Everything you have said is spot on!


  22. jmasoncooper #

    @LiveAndLetLive I feel like this was a great conversation. I was still confused about how adamantly you opposed speaking out against a product. Now I think I understand. You oppose the rhetoric of destruction that strong left leaning and strong right leaning folks advocate. This video helped me understand: NSFW language btw. I think you are right to oppose destructive language. I don’t think thats what the overthinkers were intending, but that’s just like my opinion man.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      LiveAndLetLive was an absolute rock star in this comment thread. I would very much like to have some kind of Lincoln-Douglas debate against her.


  23. Penny L. #

    I know this is a couple of years old but I wholeheartedly agree with LiveandLetDie’s comments and I am a female who has been an avid video game player for over 30 years now. I’m beyond tired of people believing that things should be censored or outright changed just because you are offended. The PC/SHW/Feminist whining has become insufferable lately. Video games are deliberately being ruined for everyone else just to make these complainers happy and it’s not right. If the erotica seriously bothers you so much then don’t play the game. There are many other games available that you can play instead. MGS4 is one of my all time favorite games and I loved the Beauty/Beast bosses. They were beautiful, dangerous, crazy and you actually felt for them in the end. Yes Quiet is sexy, very sexy, but she’s also tough. She’s not a bimbo so she is actually quite likeable. P.S. A lot of us women still want to be found sexually attracted by men, and a lot of us definitely don’t get offended when we are found attractive and sexy, so we would appreciate it if you easily offended feminist types would not speak for all of us.


    • Penny L. #



    • Zephyr #

      “[Quiet]’s not a bimbo so she is actually quite likeable.”
      She brutally murdered an innocent doctor and nurse in the first few minutes of the game when they posed no threat to her.

      “Video games are deliberately being ruined for everyone else just to make these complainers happy and it’s not right.”
      I will take a character like Ellie from The Last of Us over a Beauty and the Beast unit any day of the week. I also can’t say I felt for the latter in the end, even as a teenager playing the game for the first time, because MGS’s writing is so, so campy. I was 14 when that game was released, and even then I recognized it as incredibly corny.

      Criticism and feedback have helped us to get more complex, human characters and storylines. We get better media through critique. Public feedback is observable to creators who, in turn, incorporate what they see, hear, and read into their future works, even if they weren’t the direct recipients of that critique. Do you think the newer Kratos is worse than the old one? I’ve yet to meet one person who thinks this. I doubt we would’ve gotten him if not for the increasing demand for better-written characters, characters who rose above primitive male power and sexual fantasies that were pervasive in games only a few decades ago. In fact, I believe God of War’s writer talked about how the character needed to grow up past this.

      “If the erotica seriously bothers you so much then don’t play the game. There are many other games available that you can play instead.”
      Your command also applies to you; if it’s erotica you’re after, there’s no shortage of it on Steam. It didn’t take long at all for me to find some very explicit content after loosening up filters and tags. Or, for that matter, why not just go look up porn? Besides that, nude mods are ubiquitous. I have to turn filters on just to save myself the trouble of wading through 3 pages of almost nothing but nude mods on Nexus otherwise.

      Why do video game characters need gravity-defying, jiggly DDD cups held in place by two (2) strings? Does the lack of erotic content in games where it’s not central to the game ruin the game for you? Would MGS5 be ruined for you if Quiet was dressed appropriately for her work? The lack of sex mini-games in God of War (2018) doesn’t seem to have hurt it one bit.

      Having a character like Ellie in a game takes a lot more manpower that modders realistically can’t be expected to provide for reasons I shouldn’t have to explain. It is easier to strip the clothes off a 3-D model than it is to write a compelling story arc for a character, so I would rather developer teams put funds into the latter.

      You might tell me, in turn, to download a mod that covers up scantily-clad characters, but here’s the thing: I want to be able to talk about my hobby with other adults. If the default is scantily-clad women, then that is the first thing the public generally sees, and that’s what is associated with me when I talk about games. I want to be able to talk others into playing games, and that’s harder to do when I have to convince them to overlook the childish depictions of women that were once the default. When gaming is brought up, I’ve found that the childish community is the first thing that comes to mind for adults—even other adults around my own age—who don’t game. It’s embarrassing to be associated with that. I care about my social standing, as most normal people do, and I don’t want to be pegged as some mentally stunted deviant just because I like games.

      Gamers decried critics for not considering games art before, but it’s hard to seriously call it art when it caters to the tastes of teenage boys who just discovered porn. If gamers want games to be considered art, then they must be willing to accept it being critiqued as such. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

      “A lot of us women still want to be found sexually attracted by men, and a lot of us definitely don’t get offended when we are found attractive and sexy, so we would appreciate it if you easily offended feminist types would not speak for all of us.”
      If you actually are one, you’re free to register an account on Tinder or OnlyFans if you want men to openly thirst for you. Nobody is stopping you.


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