The latest installment to Konami’s Metal Gear Solid franchise is drumming up all kinds of praise from the video game press for the title’s intelligent, thoughtful gameplay and its immersive story.
To a casual gamer unfamiliar with MGS, one aspect of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain that immediately stands out is the way it looks. Graphically speaking, the game is absolutely stunning to look at and Konami took every opportunity to show off just how powerful the Fox, the game’s engine, really is.
In particular, Konami’s developers seem to have spent quite a bit of time focusing on Quiet, a female assassin who was first seen back in 2013 when The Phantom Pain was first announced at E3. Quiet, like many of MGS’ characters, has a complex backstory rooted in murder and violence. Unlike many of the game’s other characters, though, almost all of Quiet's personality is built upon players’ ability to sexualize and objectify her body.
Quiet, as her name suggests, is rendered functionally mute after sustaining significant burns to her body while in the field. After undergoing experimental therapy, Quiet is healed and imbued with superhuman abilities…that come with a few caveats. Because her lungs are burned beyond repair, Quiet’s forced to breathe through her skin directly, requiring her to wear little to no clothing, even while in combat. Quiet’s also forced to absorb water directly through her skin in order to stay hydrated.
This leads to a number of scenes in MGSV in which Quiet sensually bathes herself in slow motion while the player is encouraged to look on. There’s an argument to be made that MGS V’s plot justifies the way Quiet is literally turned into a muted, scantily-clad femme fatale. But that whole theory falls apart when you consider that The End, another character who underwent a similar treatment to Quiet’s, doesn’t live in fear of suffocating from wearing sensible combat gear.
In an effort to highlight just how ridiculous Konami's treatment of Quiet was, YouTuber Rob Cram created a set of videos that replaced Quiet's character model with Ocelot's, a fully-clothed male character. Even if the mod was created for comedic effect, the videos highlight just how ridiculous the game treats its most high-profile female character.
The original featuring Quiet:
…and the Ocelot mod:
To count the number of times that Quiet's chest is gratuitously (and inexplicably) exposed without armor or protection, you'd easily think that she didn't live in a world where superhuman snipers were trying to murder her. The way that Quiet's body is put on display isn't exactly unique to her or any of MGS's other characters.
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One of the series's longest running gags (if you can call it that) has been the camera's inordinate amount of focus on Snake, the series's primary protagonist, and his rather ample backside.
While Snake's butt is a hallmark of the Metal Gear franchise, the way that it's sexualized is a far cry from the way that The Phantom Pain goes out of its way to turn Quiet into a sexual object to be ogled. Though his outfit may be skin tight, Snake's always fully covered and afforded the protection of his combat suit. Quiet, on the other hand, has to tough it out in her bikini and thong and pray that no one gets a clear shot at her.
The gross sexualization of women in video games is nothing new, but Konami's topped itself in terms of bending its own rules and completely ignoring plot elements to show off its uncanny valley-esque jiggle physics. There's no reason that Quiet can't be a sexy character, but at the very least, her creators could do her the basic courtesy of leaving her agency intact.