Metal Gear Solid and those little details that matter
- June 6, 2019
Valentina 'Raven' Lizama
Valentina is a queer Chilean anthropologist with a love story that moves between games and writing. In the remote place of the world that Chile is, her work as an anthropologist has focused on the relationship between cultural studies and gender. Being a queer latina with passion for all cultural phenomena gives her a fresh perspective when analyzing and writing about one of the things she enjoys the most; videogames.
The body hair that is everywhere and you don't know if that's normal. Something about genetics and being a mammal, you are not sure. After all, girls on TV don't have dark body hair. They don't even look like they have hair on their bodies at all.
But you don't think about this when your eyes are fixated on the screen, the controller in your hands and the spark of glee on your face because Metal Gear Solid 2 is so good. That's when it happens: Olga Gurlokovich raises her arms and her armpits have hair. Body hair.
Silly, no? And yet, those are the little details that matter.
Representation of women's bodies in videogames is a largely discussed topic and Metal Gear Solid is a flawed example. Hideo Kojima commits to a certain aesthetic that reflects on his characters, the bodies they have, and the clothes they wear. Greatly influenced by classic cinema, Metal Gear mixes magical realism with sci-fi and war movies. This translates into a variety of women characters, who usually have the sex appeal that even our beloved protagonist, Snake, shares.
And yet Olga Gurlokovich, the first Boss in Metal Gear Solid 2, has hair on her armpits. It's a short scene, her character introduction. It states that she is a woman who is pregnant but refuses to leave the battlefield because of her feeling of belonging there, with her unit as her family. The scene is not about her body, and nobody makes an impression of this. In fact, Olga having body hair isn't played for the laughs. Snake doesn't make any sarcastic comments about it. He doesn't mention it at all. He even calls her a "beauty" in one of his CODEC conversations. The hair is not a big deal; it is something organic and without importance for the characters. They don't pay attention to it because–of course!–she is a soldier, why would she worry looking for a razor in the middle of a mission?
I remember this making a big impression on me the first time I played the game, a little less than a teenager then. If a Russian woman had hair under her arms, my latina hair wasn't that weird, right? Because women's bodies are often homogenized under a clean and appealing look, I hadn't been able to fit my own body image into what I saw on the media. Latinas have more hair. That's a fact. But Metal Gear, with just a little detail in the character design of Olga, gave me the chance to breathe out in relief, normalizing something already normal with a design decision.
Olga didn't have a big arc about her body image or femineity. She was a mother and a warrior. The body hair was just a detail, but the kind of detail that makes sense and give you the impression that you are playing something different and important.