Last week, the Internet spent some time talking about Samus Aran’s newest outfit in the upcoming Smash Brothers game for the WiiU and 3DS. While some websites (I’m looking at you, Polygon) wrote dull, short blurbs about the character reveals, others noted the obscenely high heels Samus now wore and decided to take umbrage with this new fact of life. And while a lot of these articles kind of sucked and many were published for the revenue the clicks would garner them because this is a sensational topic, I am more ashamed of those who ignored the issue (or didn't even see it as an issue) more than those who used it for clickbait. It’s a sad day when I’m going to link Kotaku as a notable publication to show, quickly and easily, how fucked up it is to put Samus in stripper heels.
First, let me say: I’m a diehard Samus Aran fan, but I only got to know her brilliance in college. As a kid, I had very limited access to video games: it was all SimCity, Myst, and SimLife for this gal (although we did play Wolfenstein 3D, which was a weird juxtaposition). We never had a console until I was 15 (Nintendo 64 for lyfe) save for the GameBoy my father gave us and my mother constantly hid (although she always hid it behind shoes in the closet… You’d think she’d learn that we kept finding and stealing it, but I’m digressing here). In college, though, my friend Greg introduced me to the Metroid universe through the wonders of emulators and played through everything I could not. He also explained in detail the history of Samus, her back story, and everything else you’d need to know to become an expert in all things Metroid.
Samus Aran is a strong woman. She’s a fighter. Her armor is hardcore. She’s a protagonist anyone should want to play. Greg and I were worried, when Metroid Prime was announced, that going 3D would be the death of Samus and her platforming awesomeness, but we were wrong: Prime was a solid game. Unfortunately, after that, I fell off the Metroid bandwagon, and not because I was older and had other things to do. I didn’t like the direction they were taking Samus: I wasn’t a fan of the Zero Suit and I didn’t think it was necessary to focus on her femininity and bring to the forefront she was a woman. Great, we have better graphics now. Awesome, we can do voice acting and cut scenes. There’s a lot to Samus that you can explore. I think the writers were lazy and pandering, and the end result bored me and also made me mad.
BUT ELIZABETH, you say. WHAT ABOUT SPEED RUNS TO SEE SAMUS IN HER SKIVVIES? Yes. You are right. And if you don’t know about that entire situation, check out this synopsis. To everyone else: you are 100% correct that there were ways to objectify Samus (in ever-improving pixels) since the first title launched. Part of me likes this first reveal simply because it was the mic drop moment of the game when you realized you’d been playing as a girl all along! That aside, yeah, it’s kind of dumb to show off Samus in her underoos when you finish the game.
Okay, back to shoes, shall we?
Samus’ armor is a thing of beauty. That being said, stripping her of her armor, or changing up her suit, adds interesting gameplay elements to the Metroid series. Still, it makes sense to me that a space mercenary should have a suit that’s more than elaborate spandex – and that’s pretty much exactly what the Zero Suit is. Still, even in the Zero Suit, function is more important than form: you can convince me that spandex is easy to move in and would help her fight better in certain situations. You cannot convince me, though, that changing her from flat shoes to any sort of heel is at all reasonable given her line of work.
That’s exactly what happened to her, though. First flats, then a little bit of heel, then a hell of a lot of heel in the form of an all-blue platform in the atrocity that is Other M, and then, with Smash Brothers 4, the artists who drew Samus threw up their hands and said “FUCK IT. JET HEELS. MAKE THEM BRIGHT YELLOW. FUCK IT ALL.” I hope they then flipped a table and moonwalked out of the room backwards while giving everyone the middle finger.
So let’s all be straight with each other on this one: heels are sexy. So are boobs. And short skirts. And tight… everything. And lots of characters, in games and in film wear these ridiculous getups. (Beckett from the cop show Castle immediately springs to mind. She’s lovely to look at, but she wears platform stillettos every week as a New York City detective and that shit just ain’t sensible.) I’m not trying to start the revolution where we only put women in sensible outfits – much like I’m not about to harp on the ridiculousness of what men often wear in games (because capes are basically stupid no matter what the situation). I will, however, continue to bitch about the twisting of a fucking badass female character into nothing more than a blonde chick in a tight suit with jet stripper heels – especially when she’s taken out of her own story and put into another game altogether. All the other characters in Smash Brothers are showing up in their iconic outfits – why not Samus? Why not only put her in the most sexualized suit she’s ever worn, but also add stupid (and ugly) footwear?
I don’t think I should hold my breath while waiting for that answer.