Does Metal Gear Solid V Objectify Quiet?

Does Metal Gear Solid V Objectify Quiet?

Last year, screenshots of Quiet, a scantily clad sniper, were released as promotional material for this year’s launch of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.  Kojima then stated via Twitter that Quiet’s character design represented an attempt to make Metal Gear Solid more erotic. He went on to say,  “The initial target is to make you want to do cosplay or its figurine to sell well.” This statement didn’t sit well with everyone.

After Twitter exploded with responses, he clarified,  “I know there’s people concerned about “Quiet” but don’t worry. I created her character as an antithesis to the women characters appearing in the past fighting game who are excessively exposed.” According to him, the controversy fit right into the game’s themes of misunderstanding, prejudice, hatred, and conflict. Then, an ominous promise:

“…once you recognize the secret reason for her exposure, you will feel ashamed of your words & deeds.”

For many, these statements piqued an interest in the character; Kojima had obfuscated his intent with two, seemingly conflicting, statements. As news came out and people finally got their hands on the game, red flags started going up. Quiet said very little and appeared to function merely as a tough as nails killer who doubled as eye candy for some fans. In the game’s opening, Quiet’s lungs are damaged and she is only able to survive due to a parasitic infection that grants her the ability to breathe through her skin.The “secret reason for her exposure,” within the game’s narrative seemed to be little more than a contrived excuse to justify her outfit. I doubt most people were feeling ashamed of their words and deeds at this point.

But what if the words and deeds Kojima was referring to weren’t regarding the controversy around the game? After all, his art is often seen as subversive, and the surface reasoning for Quiet’s exposure isn’t exactly serving as a proper antithesis to the nearly nude women of fighting games. I’m inclined to look further into how the character of Quiet is handled. Let’s see if we can get to this feeling of shame that Kojima was aiming for.

Let’s start with the earliest appearance of Quiet. She appears in the medical bay wearing full tactical gear, intent on assassinating Snake. It is safe to assume that, before her accident, this outfit represents her preference in combat suitable attire. She isn’t looking to appear sexy, she is just trying to do her job. In fact, aside from some blatant fan service where she stretches and poses in the helicopter if you idle too long, Quiet doesn’t really do anything at all to suggest she is interested in being sexualized. Let’s assume her outfits really are practical in nature, and she doesn’t mean for them to titillate.

Then what is it that is sexualizing Quiet, besides a portion of the gamers? What feature of the game is the primarily responsible for her apparent objectification?

The camera in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is careful and thoughtful in its direction. A wide array of artistic decisions are put into the camera work in this game, almost to the point of making it a separate character. This is important, because the camera represents our window into the world; our perspective. It is what we identify with the most, over any of the actual characters within the game.

In almost every scene with Quiet, the camera roams all over her body, before it remembers that she does, indeed, possess a face .Quite a few shots are from a low angle, looking up through her cleavage at her face as well. In this way, the player is forced into the role of a creepy, ogling pervert with a mind firmly fixated in the gutter, even amidst climactic action and a hail of bullets.

If the objectification in this isn’t apparent, think of it like this: if someone is focusing a camera on your chest, crotch and ass, it is likely that you will feel uncomfortable. I get that Quiet is fictional, but being that the camera is so clearly defined as, well, an actual camera, albeit with strange, magical properties, and often draws attention to itself, it’s hard not to make this specific parallel. A gaze can be very unwelcome.

The camera is starkly opposed to the other characters in the game, in that they, unlike it, don’t pay any attention to Quiet’s body at all. They seem to maintain eye contact and the hero, Snake, notably treats her with respect. It’s almost as if the game is placing the blame of objectification on us. This technique has a profound effect in a side mission that really seems to make that idea all the more emphatic.

Does Metal Gear Solid V Objectify Quiet?

The side mission in question tasks Snake with locating Quiet after she disappears from the base. When he finally catches up to her, she is fully clothed and desperately trying to escape from what is clearly an attempted rape. She does, however, break free and in a stunning display of her badass abilities, proceeds to eliminate her aggressors, taking care to gratuitously maim some man junk as she does so. It’s an impacting moment in the game, and as cringe worthy of a plot device as rape can often be, this scene seems to handle it tactfully. Snake is also too late to actually help, and Quiet manages to save herself, effectively subverting the damsel trope. The scene ends with Quiet stepping out of a worn out building, once again adorned in her bikini and thong.

The camera then proceeds to ogle her with a slow pan up to her face. It lingers and zooms during what is probably the least appropriate time to focus on a female’s chest in all of video game history. While we as the player do not control the camera, we once again realize how shameful objectification and an unwelcome gaze can be. It is a potential learning moment. But is it designed to provoke shame?

Honestly, it’s hard to say. With mixed messages from Kojima, a general distrust for publicity stunts, and the general ambiguity in all things Metal Gear, it’s impossible to offer any definitive interpretation. But with such care placed behind the camera movement in this game, and an undeniable attention to detail in most of The Phantom Pain ’s design, it is certainly valid to assume that Kojima aims to manufacture shame in this manner.  Regardless of his intent, though, the game opens up a dialogue and offers an opportunity for gamers to talk about important social issues within the context of our favorite hobby; video games.

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