My Quiet Shame
The following is a reprint from Unwinnable Weekly Issue Seventy/Seventy One, the Metal Gear Double Issue. If you enjoy what you read, please consider purchasing the issue or subscribing.
Hideo Kojima was right – I do feel ashamed after learning why Metal Gear Solid V’s mysterious sniper wears so little.
The Metal Gear Solid series has never been shy when it comes to women wearing impractical outfits. What started as an Easter egg where you could catch a glimpse of Meryl Silverburgh’s undies in the first game progressed to things like Fortune’s one-piece and those silly idol posters in Sons of Liberty and The Boss’ impossibly clingy bodysuit in Snake Eater.
And then there’s Metal Gear Solid V’s Quiet.
The thing is, I don’t find Quiet’s “clothing” to be all that offensive. Granted I’m also not a woman and don’t have to deal with objectification on a near constant basis, but I wouldn’t consider the outfit to be socially problematic. Except maybe at dinner parties.
In all seriousness though, I’m not fond of seeing a skilled and somewhat super-human sharpshooter traipsing around in a bikini. I think Quiet is a fascinating character and find her complete lack of verbal communication intriguing – along with her ability to move super fast, jump super high and vanish into thin air. Overshadowing all of that with what basically amounts to fan service and demographic pandering feels like a slap in the face. That’s not why I hate Quiet’s getup, though. It’s not what makes me legitimately angry. The explanation for it all is what really gets my blood boiling.
There’s a moment in Metal Gear Solid V – some time after an intense sniper battle and her subsequent capture – when Snake goes back to Mother Base and pays Quiet a visit. After much testing and observation from the medical staff, they’ve finally figured out what (some) of her deal is. Quiet breathes, drinks and “eats” through her skin. More specifically, she takes in oxygen and water through her skin while using photosynthesis for nourishment.
Such a ridiculous concept would be easy to roll my eyes at and move on if this were just some typical Metal Gear Solid weirdness, like how nanomachines are the explanation for everything, but Kojima himself built this up to be something profound. He stated that everyone who took issue with the bikini plus leggings plus boots plus big ass gun combo would actually feel ashamed once they learned the truth. It was supposed to fly in the face of skimpy videogame outfits everywhere and really get people thinking about why so many women in video games wear so little.
The truth behind Quiet is not profound. It’s not meaningful. It’s not even clever. It’s the kind of nonsensical bullshit a teenaged hormone sack would come up with and it makes me angry because I feel like my intelligence is being blatantly insulted.
Give me nanomachines. Give me a backstory about being raised in a different culture or one about surviving alone without direct human contact. Give me a big ball of “We’ll never know. Guess it’s just going to be one of life’s mysteries.” Anything but this nonsense about being a freaking plant person.
It doesn’t even hold up to scrutiny. Assuming for the moment that we can ignore the whole flora/fauna hybrid thing, her outfit still makes no sense even in the universe it was created for. If Quiet can’t breathe when her skin is covered, why is she wearing anything at all? If she can, in fact, wear a little bit of clothing and still breathe, why can’t she wear a tank top and shorts? Why not shave off her hair? Couldn’t somewhat loose-fitting clothing still allow her to breathe?
This isn’t the only time the plot of a Metal Gear Solid game called for specific clothing on a given character. In Sons of Liberty, Raiden was completely naked for a surprisingly long time. I mean completely and totally nude, with nothing but his hands to cover his bits when doing cartwheels. I’d consider it ridiculous, sure, and definitely a little uncomfortable, but it actually made sense within the context of the story. He had been captured, and they took all (I mean all) of his stuff away. Yes it was absurd, but it made a certain kind of sense. Guns of the Patriots had the Beauty and the Beast Unit, which was made up of four elite soldiers who each embodied an aspect of post traumatic stress disorder and all wore form-fitting catsuits. However, these suits were what connected them to their much bulkier (and far more imposing) robotic armor. Again, as eye-rolling as the silvery spandex might be it still had a legitimate purpose – but don’t get me started on that pervy photo shoot mini-game.
Quiet’s outfit just doesn’t have any of that. Yes, there’s a plot-driven reason for her to be dressed in such a fashion, but it’s far more contrived than the reasons we’ve been given for anything else in the series. It’s not a reason, really. It’s an excuse. It’s a poorly thought out excuse for having a woman run around in a bikini for dozens of hours. If game designers want to put revealing outfits in their games then that’s their decision, but at least come up with a reason for it that doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence. Or even skip out on the reason entirely if something like this is the best you’ve got to offer.
Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved videogames since the 80s and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them from time to time for sites like 148Apps, Gamezebo, Gameosity and Fanbolt. You can catch his occasional rants on Twitter @RobsteinOne.